Tag Archives: cheap

Frugal Friday: Dogs on the Cheap

I know that getting a dog was not the most financially responsible thing to do when I am trying to save for a house. I’ll be the first to admit that. But damn it, that little girl makes my life so much better. It is a true joy to see her smiling face when I come home from work. I don’t think anyone (human or animal) has been that excited to see me. Ever.

But I know that yes, dogs can be expensive. I’m trying to keep the costs of our new baby low by only investing in the “needs.” I bought her a nice collar and leash since those items will be used often. But I’ve skimped on toys and a bed. We bought her one toy from the Dollar Store. She doesn’t even like it. Instead she prefers a knotted up, old towel. We also didn’t invest in a bed. She loves to burrow so she sleeps on an old blanket and covers up with a towel. She couldn’t be happier.

She doesn’t eat out of a fancy bowl either, just one of the bowls we already had around the house. We did buy her a slightly more upscale brand of dog food that is made without any wheat since she had bathroom issues. But overall,  we’ve been trying to express our love in cuddles, not in things.

How do you keep your animals and still stay frugal? Let me know in the comments!


101 Free Or Cheap Things To Do This Fall

101 free or cheap things to do this fallYou guys. Fall is almost here. Target has put out their insanely large, insanely cute display of Back to School supplies. I’m trying desperately to stay away from it. I’m also preparing to teach a course this fall. So crazy. Feel free to refer to me as “professor.”

I’m also still on this saving money kick, but it hasn’t been much fun. I’m the kind of person who needs something to look forward to– like a trip! Since a trip is out of my budgetary reach and the summer is almost over (boo!), I created a list of free or cheap things to do this fall. I hope it will keep my spirits up, give me me something to look forward to and maybe even get you inspired and excited for fall?!

  1. Set some fun fall goals
  2. Donate school supplies to a child in need
  3. Volunteer
  4. Donate your gently-used winter coats to someone in need
  5. Enroll in a class at your local community college
  6. Take a hike
  7. Admire the foliage
  8. Sprinkle pumpkin pie spice in your morning coffee
  9. Get up early to admire the sunrise
  10. Learn to knit!
  11. Get an early start on making Holiday gifts
  12. Host a pot-luck Friendsgiving (a Thanksgiving with friends)
  13. Put pumpkin in everything!
  14. Visit a pumpkin patch (or do what my mom did and tell us we are visiting a pumpkin patch, but really just go to the grocery store and play on the pumpkin display)
  15. Go on a hay ride
  16. Visit a corn maze
  17. Carve pumpkins
  18. Don’t forget to roast the seeds!
  19. Rake the leaves
  20. Jump in the leaves!
  21. Winterize your home (or your Airstream!)
  22. Visit the library and check out Autumn-themed books
  23. Bake a pumpkin pie
  24. Share the pie with your neighbor
  25. Camp in your own backyard
  26. Chop wood
  27. Find the perfect walking stick
  28. Build a fire pit
  29. Make hobo packets
  30. Roast marshmallows
  31. Tell ghost stories
  32. Enjoy a pumpkin beer
  33. Go on a bike ride
  34. Go on a fall-themed picnic
  35. Learn to can vegetables
  36. Plant winter veggies
  37. Or plant bulbs for next spring
  38. Do lots of autumn-themed crafts
  39. Donate or sell the summer clothing that you didn’t wear
  40. Pear down your winter wardrobe
  41. Host a clothing swap
  42. Or swap online on Swapdom
  43. Sell your wares at a flea market
  44. Go apple picking
  45. Bob for apples
  46. Make candy apples
  47. Learn to make apple cider or jam
  48. Pop popcorn and drizzle it in caramel
  49. Drink hot apple cider
  50. Drink hot chocolate
  51. Break out your crock-pot
  52. Make pumpkin chili!
  53. Don’t forget the cornbread!
  54. Eat your weight in fall veggies– squash and Brussels sprouts and cabbage, oh my!
  55. Get excited for fall fashion
  56. Break out the flannel
  57. Pull on those wool socks
  58. Don’t worry about bad hair days, just put on a beanie!
  59. If you are a lady, pull on those thick tights (and don’t worry about shaving your legs!)
  60. If you are a dude, grow a beard!
  61. Cuddle up in your oldest sweatshirt
  62. Wrap up in warm blankets
  63. Watch It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
  64. And A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
  65. Go to bed earlier
  66. Visit the fair or a fall festival (save money with these tips)
  67. Host a Halloween party
  68. Make your own Halloween costume and challenge yourself to use only stuff you can find around the house
  69. Dress up your pet!
  70. Craft creepy snacks like this Slimer Smoothie
  71. DIY candy
  72. Watch your favorite scary movie with a friend
  73. Read scary stories under the cover with a flashlight
  74. Listen to the Halloween station on Pandora
  75. Make spiced nuts
  76. Slurp on some soup and grill up an old-fashioned grilled cheese sandwich
  77. Make beeswax candles
  78. Discover your local farmer’s market
  79. Slowly sip a cup of hot tea
  80. Pretend that you like candy corn
  81. Discover the real meaning of Thanksgiving
  82. Be more grateful by creating a gratitude journal
  83. Make turkey hands! They’re still fun, even when you’re almost 30!
  84. Simply sit outside and enjoy the cool weather
  85. Join a local foraging group and forage for wild edibles
  86. Make acorn soup
  87. Or mushroom soup from the forage
  88. Make real cranberry sauce and put it on french toast!
  89. Pour maple syrup on everything!
  90. Enjoy the Harvest Moon on September 8th
  91. Invite your friends over and create fall-themed cocktails
  92. Make a pine cone bird feeder and keep those birds fed all winter
  93. Paint your nails an autumn-colored hue
  94. Celebrate Dia de Los Muertos and honor your deceased loved ones
  95. Break out the board games and your favorite jammies
  96. Give your mum some mums!
  97. Attend a high school football game
  98. Join a sports program for adults
  99. Participate in a zombie crawl
  100. Or a Turkey Trot for charity
  101. Take lots of pictures to document your memories!

Are you ready for fall? I’m feeling a little more ready and hopeful after this list.

What are your favorite fall-themed free activities? Let me know in the comments!


Easy Spaghetti Squash Recipe

spaghetti squashI wasn’t going to post about this week’s spaghetti squash. Spaghetti squash when it is cooked, really isn’t so pretty. It kind of looks like a big pile of mush. So forgive the pictures. But I mentioned that I cooked it for my lunches this week, and well, the people have spoken ;). So here it is by popular demand, my recipe for classic spaghetti squash.

spaghetti squash 2Ingredients

  • 1 medium sized spaghetti squash
  • 1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce (alternatively, you could make your own)
  • 1 lb of lean ground beef
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 dashes of oregano
  • 1 dash of red pepper
  • 2 dashes of garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Roast spaghetti squash whole for 15 minutes. While squash is roasting, salt and pepper your beef, then brown it up. Sauté the onion and pepper in olive oil. Turn burners to low. Take squash out of oven and cut length-wise. I am use an Ove Glove for this part. Best invention ever. Roast squash for another 20 minutes or until squash easily peels out of the skin with a fork. Scrape the squash out of the skin with a fork and add to the beef. Add in the onion and pepper, sauce, oregano, garlic and mix. Salt and pepper to taste.

Congrats! You just conquered the illusive spaghetti squash.


Frugal Friday: How to Keep New Hobbies Cheap!

Knitting is one of my hobbies.

Knitting is one of my hobbies.

I can be a bit of a hobby addict. I love learning new things, exploring new crafts and discovering ways to use up all that free time I have ;) But learning and exploring new hobbies can be expensive! I recently took up gardening and I was intimidated by how expensive gardening supplies can be. Here’s some tips I’ve learned to keep it frugal while exploring a new hobby.

  1. Don’t buy any expensive tools until you know if you like it!
    I’m all about buying quality items, but until you find out if you like the hobby, borrow a friend’s tools or buy used supplies.  Thrift stores, for example, can be a treasure chest of knitting supplies. After all, you might end up hating underwater basket weaving!
  2. Pick a cheap(er) hobby
    Let’s be honest, some hobbies are cheaper than others. I recently took up hiking which is good for my body and completely free! Something like horse riding on the other hand would be a bit more pricey. I’m not saying that you should totally give up on your more expensive hobbies, if you can fit it in your budget, but if you are looking to take up a hobby, I’d seriously consider a free hobby over a pricey one!
  3. Make your hobby useful
    My favorite kind of hobbies are those that are useful. I recently learned how to knit and I love giving my knitting as gifts. If your relatives are sick of getting scarves as gifts, consider selling your wares. A little side business could actually help your wallet and help balance out some of the expenses of your hobby.
  4. Lost interest in your hobby?
    There’s always those hobbies that we think that we’ll love and we end up hating. If you’ve lost interest in your hobby, consider selling your supplies to friends, family or through Craigslist. There’s no need to have that weaving kit taking up room in your closet!

Hobbies are important. They give us an emotional and creative outlet that reduces stress and keeps our minds sharp! But there’s no need to spend an arm and a leg on hobbies either. Let’s keep it cheap!

Got any ways to save money on hobbies? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!


How to Create a Budget for a Road Trip

This isn't my actual budget, but it's a good start!

This isn’t my actual budget, but it’s a good start!

Yesterday I went over 20 ways to save on a road trip. And today I’m going to take you through the details of creating a road trip budget. Creating a budget for a road trip is a little nerdy (what?! nerdy? who? not me!) and maybe a little too Type A for some folks. But I’d highly recommend it. We don’t want to come back after a relaxing trip to a mound of debt. Am I right?!

To help you figure out costs, I recommend the following:

A Travel Budget Calculator
Travel budget calculators are quick and convenient. I like to use online travel calculators like this one and this one for the initial and estimated cost of my trip. Then, I get real nerdy and create a more official budget in Google Drive. With a spreadsheet in Google Drive, I can see the hard numbers, including money I spent before the trip. If I have wifi, I can also update the costs along the way! If you’ve never created a spreadsheet in Google drive here’s a video on how to do that.

A Fuel Cost Calculator
Paying to fuel up your car is no fun– especially if you drive a gas guzzler. With the app and website Gas Buddy, pump prices are no longer a surprise. Just put your route and vehicle information into the calculator and Gas Buddy will pinpoint the cheapest gas on the route, so you know exactly where to fill up and the exact cost!

Don’t forget to factor in costs for:

Tolls can be one of those unexpected and bummer costs on a road trip. To avoid an unexpected toll, or even worse getting caught without the cash to pay the toll, put your trip into Google Maps before you leave. Google Maps will warn you if there is toll on your route. You might be able to go around the toll, but sometimes tolls are unavoidable. Most states with tolls will have some sort of prepaid quick pass. Florida has a “Sun Pass” that makes travelling through tolls cheaper and quicker. Just a little bit of Internet searching should bring up the costs of the tolls in the states you are planning to visit.

To me, food costs are the most difficult thing to budget for on a trip. I don’t know what I’ll want to eat tomorrow, so how do I know what I want to eat three months from now?! Unfortunately food costs are more of an estimation. To even attempt a budgetary number, I look at the price range of the restaurants in the area on Yelp. I know that some days a mom & pop diner will do just fine, but other days I’ll want something a little more fancy. It’ll usually even out, but I always give myself a little more wiggle room in this department.

Don’t ever forget to budget for experiences. Experiences, like parasailing in the keys or seeing Cirque du Soleil in Vegas can really make your trip. Just do your research before you go! You might be able to find online coupons or discounts for ordering in advance.

Lodging will probably be the most expensive part of your trip. Remember, you can ask to stay with relatives or friends, couch surf or even camp. For this trip, we’re planning a combination of budget hotels, a couple days in the lap of luxury and a couple of days camping! That way we get the best of everything! Lodging costs are fairly easy to calculate if you book all your hotels in advance. Remember to always check for discounts and shop around for a hotel. Start your search early and you could save some major buckaroos. Experts recommend booking about 6 weeks out, but for some travel locales (like the beach during the summer) I’d recommend booking much farther in advance.  My favorite hotel deal site is Kayak since it searches all the travel deal sites at once!

It’s the law of the universe. Something is going to happen and you’re going to need a little more money than you thought you would need. It’s always better to over budget and come home with money in your pocket than come home with pockets full of sand and regret.

How do you create a budget for a road trip? Let me know in the comments!



Frugal Fridays: Keep a list of expiration dates on the fridge to prevent food spoilage

list expiration datesI hate, hate, hate wasting food. Every time I throw away expired food, I feel like I’m throwing away money. I know most food can last a little longer than the expiration date, but I don’t like to risk it. It also seems that every time I open the fridge, my brain wipes clear, I’m suddenly the class dunce and I have no idea what to eat.

Since I’ve started to make a quick note of the expiration dates of my easily expired food, I’ve wasted practically nothing and it reminds me to go ahead and eat those eggs or drink that milk before it expires.

It’s a little lifehack that can make a difference. Check out more ways to save money on food here. And here.


Frugal Fridays: Use brown lunch bags to wrap gifts

Drumroll please! I’m starting a new feature on the blog. On Fridays I’m going to post one frugal tip!

I would usually take Friday off from the blog, but one of my New Year’s resolutions goals is to hang out more with ya’ll! But don’t worry. On Fridays we’re going to take it easy. Doling out those tips out — easy and cheap. Just how Fridays should be.

Up first is one of my favorite DIYs from my wedding and a project that I used again over the holidays to wrap gifts: Use brown lunch bags to wrap gifts. 

The bags look rustic and you can even print stuff on ‘em with your home printer! Check out that post for a how-to.

How did you creatively and frugally wrap your presents this year?

let me know in the comments!