Thursday, July 7, 2016

Saving for a Trip

I went in to this a bit before, but here are some small ways we save money daily. These can add up to big savings over a full year:

No cable. We've been without cable for over 10 years. It's become easier and easier with free online content. We do pay for a Netflix subscription, but otherwise watch free Hulu, YouTube, and sometimes take advantage of free 30-day trials of YouTube Red, Hulu Plus, and Amazon.  We have bunny ears we drag out if there is something we really want to watch with the rest of the world, such as Nyle DiMarco on DWTS or the Super Bowl.  Savings: $120/month or $1440/year

Ken has even started getting in
on the haircut action.
Haircuts.  While living in Vegas, a friend taught me some haircutting basics, then I used YouTube to help me do a halfway decent job.  I don't trust myself on the girls' haircuts, but I can use a razor.  I DO color my girls' hair.  That has saved us hundreds of dollars I won't even factor in here.  If they wanted it done professionally, they'd have to pay for it themselves.  For all the cutting we do, we bought a small haircutting cape so the boys don't get itchy.  We're using the same razor I purchased over 10 years ago.  Savings: $270/year

We borrow books from the library.  Now, mind you, I end up paying some hefty fines for overdue books, but it still can't compete with what we would pay to buy them.  For example, I to plan for our trip, I borrowed PassPorter's Disney Cruise Line guide.  I would have bought it, but they are getting ready to publish the 2016 edition, so I didn't want to buy an outdated guidebook.  Austin has an excellent library system, so they had the 2015 edition!  Any new book I hear about, I check our library first.  Savings: who knows?!

Cheap dates.  Ken and I went out to a super-nice restaurant for our anniversary.  It was special because it's not something we usually do.  We used to have Barnes and Noble dates where we would go to the store, pick out a few books and magazines each, then find a comfy chair to sit, read, and chat.  This reminds me, we are overdue for a date!  Savings: $2000/year

We drive paid-for cars and purchase used cars with cash.  Savings: $7000/year

Conservative clothing budget.  I'll admit, I would love to just go clothes shopping with no budget factored in.  I think I have great fashion in my mind, but when I get to the store, I can't stand to pay more than about $20 or pants or $10 for a shirt.  Seriously.  For my little kids' clothes, even less, because they grow out of them so quickly.  We buy good shoes, but still look for major sales.  I can count on one hand the number of times I've paid full retail price for clothes.  We shop Old Navy, Goodwill, Once Upon a Child, Kid2Kid, Ross, and Target clearance rack, but only once it hits 50% or more.  I also lived on hand-me-downs when all 5 kids were preschool aged.  We liked sharing the love and passing down the girls' clothes.  My boys have all worn their clothes down to a thread by the time they are done with them.  Ken has transitioned into the "Steve Jobs" fashion standard. He bought 4-5 pair of blue jeans, 6-7 grey tee shirts, a few khaki shorts and a few athletic shorts.  He wears the same thing every day.  I may do that soon since all I wear is black anyway.  Savings: $3500/year

Major Craigslist win!
Furniture.  We shop Craigslist and Goodwill for any major furniture purchases.  Our beautiful dining table from last year, our first Austin couch, our office desk and chair, Kenzie's lovely bed.  We recently bought our new reclining couch from Costco for $1300.  A few weeks later, Ken saw it on sale for half price!  He went to customer service to ask if they would honor the sale and they did! They gave us $650 back in cash! Major score!  Lesson: After making a major purchase, keep your eyes on sales and ask if it can be honored after the purchase. (Usually within 30 days, but it depends on the store's policies.) The worst they'll say is no.  We also know when to buy new. We buy new mattresses (Costco or Ikea) when needed, and we even used a friend's talents to build the boys' custom 3-level bunk bed. Savings: I can't even guess.

Travis and his bird friend at San Antonio Zoo, wearing
a super-awesome shirt we found at Once Upon A Child
Entertainment.  We take advantage of season passes when it makes sense for us.  Six Flags this year has been wonderful.  Season passes become Christmas gifts and keep giving all year.  The advantage is that it's paid for in advance (no credit cards, ya'll!) and on our third visit, it's like we're going for free.  I think we've gone to Six Flags about 10 times since late November.  Around the holidays, you can purchase a Season Pass that is good for the following year.  Our 2016 passes were good November 2015 to January 4, 2017!  It's really pretty around the holidays, the weather is mild, and the crowds are thinner.  We can go spend a few hours and not feel obligated to stay all day.  This year, we splurged and, over the period of a couple of months, bought the dining plan when it was on sale.  The big kids and adults have a dining plan, which means we get lunch, snack and dinner each time we visit the park.  It's been a nice entertainment investment for us this year, but isn't something we do every single year.  We also purchased a San Antonio Zoo year membership because it was actually less than buying individual tickets!  Now, if we are really bored and don't want to spend money, we just need gas to get us to San Antonio and back and we're golden!  We use Groupon and Living Social to find deals on things like glass-bottom boat tours, Jump Street, and Jellystone Park.  We keep close eyes on Free Fun In Austin and jump on events that look interesting.  Since we are in Austin, there is a lot of free or cheap fun to be had outdoors! Savings: $1200

Food.  This is a struggle for us, because we go through seasons of buying pre-made food, but on a weekly basis, we use emeals to plan dinners for the week.  HEB, Trader Joe's and Costco are my favorite grocery stores because the prices are good and they have a great selection of whole foods.  We also buy quality coffee and brew it in a French press at home.  Ken still buys coffee out, but mostly drip coffee for a couple of bucks.  We splurge on Summer Moon special drinks now and then.  Drinks ($1 from McDonald's) are certainly a place our family could work on saving more money.  The older kids like to get drinks while we are out.  I figure if we bought drinks twice a week for just 5 of us, that ends up costing $11 per week.  That's $572/year, which equals one kid on a week-long Disney cruise!

These are just a few things we do to save money.  We do choose to pay for top-high-speed internet, send the kids to a private school, and pay for a housekeeper twice a month. Again, it's all about your family's  priorities within your budget.  You can find savings almost everywhere, so keep your eyes open!  Pay off debt first, then start saving for something fun!

When you find savings, put what you would have spent back in a vacation fund (or car fund, or nail fund...whatever you're looking to do) and watch it grow!  If your family starts heading to Amy's for some ice cream, maybe decide to stop at the grocery store to make your own sundaes.  Figure your cost savings and throw it in your vacation fund.  Getting ready to spend $35 on your nails?  Invite a friend over and have them bring their favorite polish.  Do each others' nails and put back the $35 in your fund.

Dave Ramsey uses the phrase, "Live like no one else so you can live like no one else."  Delayed gratification.  For a short time, give up some stuff.  You don't have to drive a new car just because that's what everyone else is doing.  Don't live like everyone else so that later, you can live like no one else!


  1. I love having a housekeeper come twice, too! Great blog post. :)

    1. Isn't it fantastic? We can't "do it all," so I'm glad there are professionals to take over for us there!