Tag Archives: cheap

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
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.

Food
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.

Experiences
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
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!

Incidentals
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!

love,
melanie

 

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.

love,
melanie

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!

love,
melanie

Handmade Holiday Challenge Roundup

Gorgeous handmade socks by Hedgehog Fibres on Flickr

Gorgeous handmade socks by Hedgehog Fibres on Flickr

I didn’t finish my holiday challenge or stick to my strict budget of $100, but considering everything I had going on, I think I made a commendable effort. Let’s take a look back, shall we?

  1. Mom: This year, I gave my mom homemade vanilla extract. I think she’ll enjoy using it in her baking. $1.49 for the bottles and $2.99 for the vanilla beans. I already had the bourbon and the vodka, so I didn’t count it towards the budget.how to make vanilla extract
  2. Dad: I didn’t get anything for my Dad because he told me not to, and well, I didn’t really have time. I still love him though and he knows it. Handmade Circle Scarf
  3. Sister: I made this imitation American Apparel circle scarf for my sister. It cost $16 for the fabric. A little steep, I tried to get cheaper fabric online, but my order was cancelled. handmade cat toy
  4. Sister’s cat (weird, I know, but we always give our pets gifts in my family): I made Franklin, my sister’s cat, this toy with stuff I had around the house and out in the yard! He loved it and it was free. Animals and children always seem to love the presents that don’t cost anything the best.
  5. Mother-in-law: For my mother-in-law, I ordered a book of our wedding photos. Our wedding was a year ago and I have yet to print out any photos. I suck sometimes. And although, I’m not considering it homemade, I did get a good deal on the book through Groupon. ($10!)
  6. Father-in-law: We just ended up getting him a gift card to a local gun store. He has done a lot for us this year. He’s helped us to fix up the trailer and let us live on his land. ($50)customized ukulele
  7. Niece: This was probably my favorite project of the challenge. We customized this ukulele for my niece. She may be too young for it. She’s only 2! She wanted to tear off the strings when she opened it! :/ But it’s cute enough to  just sit on a shelf until she’s old enough to learn to play. I can’t find the red model that I purchased on Amazon. It was $29.95. But a similar model is sold on Amazon for a bit more.
  8. Brother-in-law: We bought him wool socks. It’s what he wanted. $20.
  9. Sister-in-law: Like my mother-in-law, I also purchased a Groupon and ordered a large canvas photo of her daughter from our wedding. $12.
  10. Husband: My poor husband didn’t get anything from me this year. We decided not to exchange gifts. We combined our anniversary and Christmas gifts and right now are on a relaxing trip to Austin, Texas! Priceless.infused liquors
  11. Friends: Our friends all received infused liquors this year. They were pumped. To make it, I used ingredients we already had on hand.
  12. Co-workers: My lovely co-workers didn’t get anything from me this year. I just couldn’t do it all.

I ended up going over budget at $142.43, but all considering, I’m proud of the work I’ve done. Next year, I’ll start on my projects earlier, so I’ll have time for unexpected things to pop up.

I hope everyone had the best of holidays. I’ll see you all in the new year!

love,
melanie

Cheap and Easy DIY Holiday Crown

winter berry crown There aren’t very many occasions in my life that I get to wear something fancy. Weddings, our anniversary, maybe. I mean, a library doesn’t really call for glitter or even heels. But during the holidays I get the urge to spice my ensembles up a bit without buying anything that won’t be worn more than twice a year.

I’ve been seeing some adorable holiday crowns on Pinterest. Gah, so many of my conversations lately have started with, so I saw this thing on Pinterest… Anyway, I wanted to recreate the look without spending more than a few bucks. Enter this pearlized branch stem from Michael’s. It cost me a whopping $1.49 and would have cost me less if had I remembered to pull up my Michael’s coupon on my phone. Michael’s always has coupons. It’s kind of awesome.

berry crown close upWhen I got home, I just bent and fashioned it into a circle that fit my head and voila! I’m totally fancy.

I can’t wait to wear this on our anniversary trip to Austin! It’s coming up so fast!

Have you made anything festive lately? Let me know in the comments!

love,
melanie

Handmade Holiday Challenge: Vanilla Extract

how to vanilla extractFirst up on my handmade holiday challenge we have (drumroll please!) vanilla extract! I know, it’s not super exciting, but it is actually a thoughtful gift for my mom. My mom is an excellent baker and cook. She has intuition in the kitchen like no one I’ve ever met. She could take some peanut butter and beef jerky and turn it into a four course meal.

The last time I was at home we popped into “William and Sonomas” (as she calls it) and I caught her buying a 12 dollar bottle of vanilla extract. I was worried that some baking kingpin was making her run all of his errands. A 12 dollar bottle of vanilla? That’s extortion.

vanilla extractAnyway, for Christmas I thought I’d make real vanilla extract for her gift. It’s amazingly easy and way cheaper than the William and Sonomas version.

Wash and thoroughly dry bottles with a tight fitting cap. I got these from Michael’s for $1.16 a piece! Split your vanilla beans with a knife and put them in the bottle. Pour bourbon, rum or vodka into the bottle. Swig a little of each. I chose vodka (left) and bourbon (right) for my extract. The vodka version shouldn’t have much extra flavor, but the bourbon will add a bit of smokiness to your baking. Rest in a cool, dark place for 1 month. Enjoy or gift!

Are you getting to work on your holiday gifts? Join my challenge and let me know about in the comments!

love,
melanie

 

Easy and Cheap Halloween Costumes from Halloweens Past

The Blues Brothers

The Blues Brothers

I love Halloween. I love all holidays, but if someone held a gun to my head and asked for my favorite holiday, I’d probably say Halloween. Can you imagine an attacker jumping out from a dark alley with a gun and asking you their favorite holiday? That’s ludicrous. And Halloween is a bit ludicrous, that’s why I love it.

Although it may be my favorite holiday, I still manage, without fail, to procrastinate making my costume. And I always make my costume. Because I’m cheap and I like to have clever costumes.

Last year, George and I scavenged our closet for our Blues Brothers costumes. Below are a couple more of my favorite costumes from year’s past. They’re all cheap and easy.

Voodoo Doll costume

Voodoo Doll costume

This voodoo doll costume was super easy. I made it a couple of hours before we had to go out. All you need is a burlap sack, hot glue, felt, pipe cleaners and pom pom balls. Then draw Xs over your eyes and stitches around your lips. Super easy and slightly scary to boot!

Cat Lady and Sugar Skull Costume

Cat Lady and Sugar Skull Costume

For my true self, I mean, Cat Lady costume, I just got a sweatsuit and glued small, stuffed cats and random bits of fur all over it. George also kindly painted a cat on my sweatshirt and wrote “Cats are people too” on it. Not only was this costume easy, it was also warm!

My sister, pictured right, just rummaged in her closet for random bits of scary attire and painted her face to look like a sugar skull. That costume is super easy too and spoooooky.

The Internet has a million easy and cheap costume ideas, it’s all in the execution. Before you go out to buy a lame, polyester costume check around your house and get creative. The best costumes are homemade.

What has been your favorite Halloween costume? Are you dressing up this year? Let me know in the comments!

love and spookiness,
melanie