Classy Frugality

Making the most of life while living on a budget

Month: July 2015

How to Travel on a Budget (Part 1)

Photo 2015-07-20, 5 27 12 PMThis month, my husband and I went on a 23 day road trip. And we only spent $1,535 for our entire journey.

We had been wanting to join my family for a vacation in Yellowstone, and we decided that driving would be the most cost-effective way to go. Then Fred decided that since we were already driving across the country, we might as well stop and see more family and some friends on the way. This week-long trip morphed into over three weeks over three provinces and eleven states.

I could chronicle our whole trip in this blog, but I won’t. Most of our close friends have already heard our whole saga. What I want to do instead is share some of our money-saving tips with you.

Here is what I learned from our trip:

1. If you can get somewhere by driving (and you have the time), then drive. It’s not always feasible, and for us we are in a sweet spot in life where we have no kids and Fred has the summers off. I know that sometimes time is a factor, and kids make it hard to travel in the car.

For us on this trip, it was an easy decision to choose to drive. In addition to it being less expensive than flying, we had family and friends along the way, which helped a lot with my second tip.

Photo 2015-07-15, 1 12 24 PM2. Stay with friends and family if possible. This saved us so much money on our trip! We only paid for one hotel our whole 3.5 week trip. It’s a great way to spend time with those you don’t see often, and so helpful for the budget.

However, don’t just be a free-loader. Help with the dishes. Buy some groceries to share. Bring a little gift and card to say thank you. Just because they are friends or people who have to like you because they are related to you doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t treat them like gold!

3. Pack a cooler and buy groceries for the car. Eating out every meal on a road trip gets expensive quickly – even if you’re only eating fast food. We tried to eat at least one meal of homemade sandwiches/salads during our long driving days. Not only did this save us money, but it helped us eat a lot more healthy!

Photo 2015-07-09, 4 04 47 PM4. Do something fun. For us, visiting our family and friends was the main reason we went on the trip. However, we also made time to do fun things for just the two of us – our top outings were going to the beach and going to Disneyland for a day. It helped us to feel like it was a real vacation where we could relax and enjoy – without breaking the bank.

5. Make a budget. For us, we made a budget for our whole trip so that we planned ahead and stuck to the amount we wanted to spend. We used a combination of cash and debit cards, and this helped us to stay on track. If we had been charging things as we went, it would have been so easy to overspend. Having a debit card helped us to track our purchases each day, and know how much we had left.

Here are some things that we put into our budget:

  • Travel insurance (we were in the states, so this was a must for us, even though we didn’t end up using it)
  • Money for fun with friends (we planned for this, and were able to have a great night on the town with a close friend)
  • Gas (obviously)
  • Food (mostly for groceries, with some eating out)
  • Buffer (we carried some “emergency cash” just in case)

Overall, here’s how our budget played out (in CAD):

Travel insurance: $132

Our time in Canada (6 days): $400

Our time in the U.S. (17 days): $1003

Total : $1535*

*We also had a small fix that we needed to do on our car (replace our right axle as well as do an oil change), which we hadn’t budgeted for, so that came out of our budget once we got home as an emergency. This was a $373 surprise, but was quickly resolved by our savings.*

Stay posted for part 2 of this post – how to travel on a budget when you need to take a plane to get there.

Do you have any advice for traveling on a budget? Leave me a comment below to share your tips. I’d love to read them!

How We Went to Disneyland on a Budget

Photo 2015-07-23, 11 19 10 AMTwo weeks ago, we were in the magic kingdom.

In my last post, I mentioned that we went on a road trip (which I will share more about in my next post), and on this trip we had the privilege of going to Disneyland for a day. I wanted to share with you some of the ways we saved money and how we were able to go while in this season of paying off our significant amount of debt.

We were traveling to the Southern California area to visit family anyways, so that automatically made our decision easier. We didn’t have to buy plane tickets, which is a huge factor for most people in going to the park.

We were going to be less than 30 minutes away from Disneyland, and Fred and I had been wanting to go for years since we were both children last time we went to Disneyland. We decided it was worth it since it was a dream of ours, we had family nearby that we could stay with and we were already going to be so close. It seemed like a no-brainer, even though we are on a budget and still have around $27,000 in debt to pay off.

Sometimes, even when you are on a budget, you sacrifice for the things that will make a dream of yours come true. (Click here to tweet that.)

In order to go, we knew we had to budget and plan for the day. We learned a few things and gleaned a lot of wisdom from people, and I wanted to share some of our money saving tips with you! Here they are:

Photo 2015-07-10, 11 35 45 PM1. If possible, stay with family or friends who live nearby. My grandparents are literally a 20 minute drive away from Disneyland, so we were able to stay with them for free and drive in and out easily, without having to book a hotel. I realize this is not an option for everyone, but for us, it helped save a bundle.

2. Snag a discount ticket if you can. Now, tickets will rarely be more than 1-10% off, but if you have some kind of discount, only if it’s a few dollars, take it.  MouseSavers is a great website that outlines tons of discounts. We were blessed to receive a large portion of our tickets as a gift from someone, who generously paid for the bulk of our tickets after we had some unexpected car repairs on our trip. Another option would be to save up Christmas/Birthday money for a ticket.

Photo 2015-07-10, 7 55 55 AM3. Stay as long as you can. The park opens at 8:00am and closes at 12:00am. Since tickets are $99 USD each, we wanted to make the most of our day there. We arrived before rope drop (opening of the park) and stayed until the park had officially closed to ensure that we made every minute of our 16 hours there count!

4. Don’t buy meals in the park. Now, this may seem obvious, but it is a huge money saver. We had breakfast before we went, and brought sandwiches for lunch and dinner. You are allowed to take food in, so we packed our backpack full of sandwiches, crackers, fruit, and granola bars so that we didn’t have to buy any food there.

If we had bought meals, we would have easily spent $8/meal per person (at least $32 total). Every dollar counts when you’re on a budget! The one exception we made was splitting an ice cream in the heat of the day ($6.15 USD). A small treat that was worth every penny.

5. Parking can be free. We didn’t do this, but I have heard that you can park at Downtown Disney for free for 3 hours. If you want to pop in and out to move your car to save the $17 USD parking fee, you can. For us, it was more worth it to spend as much time as we could in the park, but this is an option.

Photo 2015-07-22, 8 15 17 AM6. Think about souvenirs ahead of time. There is literally so much stuff that you could buy at Disneyland. Some of the rides even exit through a gift shop. For me, I wanted one small souvenir to remember our day, so I used a Starbucks gift card to buy a Disneyland mug. This  was exactly what I wanted, and I didn’t actually spend any of my own money. It was the perfect token to take home!

We don’t have children, but if you did go with children, I would suggest that you allow them to either have a price limit (ex. $15) or allow them to buy only one reasonably priced item so they walk away with something small to remember the day, but not something from every store.

A friend of mine said that as a child, her parents gave her “Disney Dollars” that she could spend on snacks or souvenirs in the park, and once they were gone, that was it. This option gives children a limit while still allowing them to walk away with something special. You could also give yourself Disney Dollars if this would help you really stick to your budget!

Overall, it was a magical day, and was definitely worth it for us to put this in our budget. Below is a breakdown of what we spent in the magic kingdom (a bit more than it would be for our American friends, since we live in Canada and the exchange rate is 1.30 right now).

Photo 2015-07-09, 4 04 47 PMTotal spent in CAD: 

$259.78 (tickets)

$22.10 (parking)

$8.00 (ice cream)

$1.34 (postcard)

Total before gift: 291.22 CAD

– $200 (gift towards tickets)

Total we spent: $91.22 CAD

Totally worth it to make our dream come true!

Do you have any tips on saving money in Disneyland or any other theme parks? Leave a comment below and share your wisdom!

Things I’m Into – July 2015

Photo 2015-07-14, 4 33 54 PMSo…it has been a while since I have written a blog (3 months and a few days, to be exact).

I often have really good ideas for my blog, but life has been so busy with travel and work that I haven’t had the time to sit down and actually type them. I have two awesome blog ideas in my head for traveling on a budget (stay posted!) but today I will be sharing the things that I have been into this month.

Food

Fred and I went a road trip this month and our favourite snack food was Chicago Mix. This is a beautiful blend of cheddar cheese and caramel popcorn. So incredibly delicious.

We seriously ate it almost every time we had a long driving day, we had some at Disneyland, we ate some on the beach…you get the idea. If you’ve never had it, you should pick up a bag as soon as you can. You won’t regret it!

To Wear 

Photo 2015-07-19, 9 53 49 PMI’ve always wanted to find ways to wear things that are super comfortable that make me feel good. Fortunately, jumpers (a.ka. onesies that are socially acceptable as grown-up outfits) are in fashion right now, and I bought one when I was in Edmonton this month.

Love it. I’ve worn it at least twice a week since I bought it 3 weeks ago.

Audio

On our road trip, we spent a lot of time in the car, and we listened to music, an audio book, and lots of podcasts. My favourite thing that we listened to is a new podcast called Mystery Show. I used to think that podcasts were just sermons, but there are hundreds (well, at least dozens) of interesting podcasts out there that feature a broad range of topics.

Mystery Show has 5 episodes so far, and every one is a winner. Download the first one to listen to, and you’ll want to listen to them ALL.

Television

Photo 2015-07-19, 10 11 44 PMA few months ago, Fred checked out the last season of The Office from the library. I know it’s been two years since the show ended, but we really enjoyed watching it.

I loved it so much that I went back and I have been watching through the series lately. It’s so funny, and has been the perfect background noise for my current hobby.

Hobby

Photo 2015-07-19, 11 39 54 AMWhen people get married and have babies, I like to crochet something for them. For weddings I make potholders, and for baby showers I make baby blankets.

It’s fun, frugal, and personal, but it does take a lot of time, so it’s nice to be able to have something else to do/watch/listen to while I am working. The Office has been great for that!

So that’s a little glimpse into my life this month. What things have you been into lately?

Leave me a comment below and share with me. I’d love to hear about what you’re into!

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