This is a new series in the style of The Frugal Girl’s Five Frugal Things, where I’ll be posting weekly(ish) about what I’ve done lately to save money and make things stretch in order to further our financial goals, which currently include us paying off a decent hunk of debt. I encourage you to play along and post your own weekly frugal wins in the comments section below!
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We went for a Vrbo option on our vacation so we could have use of a kitchen
This last holiday weekend, we took a little 4-day trip down to Southern Utah to get out of the cold a bit and enjoy some family time together for kind of one last hurrah before the flower farming season starts and the baby comes in the spring. We always make sure we at least book a hotel with a microwave, but this time we decided to look at the cost of a Vrbo to see if getting a place with a kitchen would save us enough in food costs to make up for the likely higher accommodations cost.
We did budget for one meal out, but my mom and stepdad ended up covering the cost of that for us, which meant that other than a few little treats here and there on the drive (like McDonald’s $1 sodas or some Wendy’s frosties), we didn’t really spend any money on food. Calculating that a meal out will cost around $35-65 per time, that was a savings of around $300-$350. We also didn’t use any special money in the budget to pay for the food we did bring, either — we just used the money in our normal grocery budget for the month to cover the groceries.
We split the cost of the Vrbo with my mom and stepdad
Now, a Vrbo still might not have been worth the extra cost even with the significant savings on food, except that we ended up seeing if my mom and stepdad wanted to join us and go halfsies on the place, and they decided to take us up on it!
With only needing to pay half on the accommodations, (almost) nothing extra on food, and then being smart about where we bought gas, we ended up keeping our total vacation cost for 4 days at around $535 (which included paying a neighbor to watch our dog!).
Also, I used my cash back rewards card to pay for the trip, which ended up kicking about $25 off the cost.
I started buying big jugs of soap refills rather than individual hand soaps
Here’s an easy frugal swap I kinda can’t believe I’m just doing. For most of my adult life, I’ve just bought the disposable things of soap for every sink in our house. For the past couple of years, that’s been multipacks of scented liquid soap from Sam’s Club, like this 3-pack for $8.98 (with each thing of soap being 15.5 fl ounces).
Since I needed to get more soap this month, I started to add my usual pick, but then I started comparing cost per fluid ounce from the disposables to just getting the big jugs of hand soap refills. Yeah, there’s no question which is a way better deal! Two big jugs of the Member’s Mark liquid hand soap refill costs just $7.98, which comes out to just 5¢ per fluid ounce. Compare that to the kind I was buying before, which came in at 19¢ per fluid ounce!
Plus, I won’t have to buy soap again for a long time — while the 3-pack contained 46.5 fluid ounces all together, the two jugs contain 160.
Additionally, I didn’t buy any new soap holders to dispense this soap, either — I just refilled one of the disposable ones from before, and it’s working great.
Near the beginning of our marriage, we splurged on a super nice Vera Wang white comforter from Kohl’s that I absolutely loved, which we’d been using for the past 10+ years. I still loved the LOOK of it that whole time, but one thing I really DIDN’T love? The fact that it was too big and bulky to fit in our washing machine, which necessitated that I either take it to the dry cleaners or the laundromat. With the dry cleaning fee coming in around $35 a time and the laundromat costing around $18-20, the inconvenience (not to mention the cleaning costs) started to wear on me.
So, even though I still liked the look of the comforter, I decided to donate it and asked Matt to give me this new duvet and duvet cover for Christmas. The duvet cover can be unzipped and thrown in the wash, and since it wasn’t too expensive to begin with, I can even buy multiple colors if I wanted to switch out from season to season.
I’m breathing a sigh of relief over both the savings to my wallet AND the fact that I no longer have to stress about getting that thing laundered every so often whenever it started to get noticeably dingy.
I signed up for the My Points app and earned a $5 Amazon gift certificate
Thanks to a reader suggestion on one of my last weekly frugal round-ups, I decided to try the My Points app to try and get more mileage from my grocery receipts (since you can submit them through multiple channels, like through Ibotta — which I also use — AND My Points). While Ibotta gives cash back, My Points lets you earn points through various methods and then redeem those points for gift certificates.
Now, full disclosure — I don’t like either app as much as I like Rakuten because with Rakuten, you just install the desktop plug-in and can easily earn cash back by literally clicking on the little button that pops up on any participating retailer. With Ibotta and My Points, you do need to go through quite a few extra steps, like downloading coupons and uploading receipts. Since I was already in the habit of uploading my receipts to Ibotta after every grocery trip, it’s not a huge deal to add one more app on top of it, but it does take a bit of effort.
And, since I basically earned the $5 gift certificate almost just by signing up, even if I do decide in the future that it’s not worth my time, I still got that $5 for doing almost nothing.
Other Little Wins (+ One Failure):
- We had a neighbor watch our dog while we were on vacation instead of paying for a boarding place (which are our only two options here since we don’t have family living nearby). We paid our teenage neighbor $10/day (for a total of $40) to come over a few times a day and let him out and give him food. If we’d gone with a traditional boarding option, the usual going rate is $20-30 per day/night, which would have more than doubled our cost.
- We were going to go to the nearby canyon on our vacation to go on a little hike, which would have cost us at least $10 in entrance fees. Since the weather was off and on rainy the whole time we were there, we decided not to risk anywhere with a longer hike (where we might get stranded far from the car) and decided to just take advantage of free outdoor recreation options, like this amazing all-abilities dinosaur-themed park and the Red Hills Desert Gardens.
- One frugal fail? We forgot swim diapers YET AGAIN on this little vacation, which meant that YET AGAIN we had to spend around $11 to buy the cheapest pack the store offered. This has happened nearly every time we’ve gone on any vacation that involved our kids swimming, which means we have about five or six opened packs of swim diapers with only a couple diapers used in each. Maddening.
What are your recent frugal wins (and failures)?