I have been waiting to post because I have pictures to share and the site has been having issues.
Finally, here it is.
We celebrated DS' 5th birthday with a party at a local park. This park has pony rides, train rides and a bouncy house on the weekends. It was a big hit. We invited 24 kids and had 17 attend.
It was race car themed.
I saw this cute idea to put yellow lines on black tablecloths so they looked like a road. Dollar store plastic tablecloths and a roll of yellow tape = easy.
I set out snack food so everyone could just graze as they wanted since the kids were on the move all over the park.
Including a make-your-own trail mix set-up that I named "Nuts and Bolts".
Carrots & celery sticks with hummus I called "Dipsticks".
I baked the cupcakes and my sister decorated them into this cute pull-apart cake.
(The road is shaped into a 5.)
Total spent for the picnic area rental, activity passes, food and decor came to $278.
We had a lot of leftover food. In fact we are still munching on trail mix goodies.
My birthday was celebrated with a semi-surprise trip to Vegas.
I say semi because my parents knew my BFF had invited us to join her and her hubby for a weekend trip, but we had declined due to cost. So my parents surprised me by paying for our hotel and tickets to the Cirque show "O" I've been wanting to see for years.
I made the reservations and we paid for transportation and food.
Our airfare was $69/pp/each way with Southwest.
(My mom just told me about $39 fare to Vegas in August!)
We had two vouchers for BOGO 1/2 priced to the hotel's buffet. To save money we'd have a large breakfast and that would keep us going until dinner.
We bought passes for the bus that runs up and down the strip (The Deuce) for $16.
DH picked up a new ball cap at the M&M store that ended up being 50% off, so we paid $12.
We bought my sister a souvenir ($9) because she was watching our house and kids.
We each had $50 to gamble with.
Airport parking was $42.
Our total spent was $562.
**Mirage volcano & Venetian canals
Viewing the 'Travel & New Sights' Category
I have been waiting to post because I have pictures to share and the site has been having issues.
I can't believe we are a week into April already! What?!
Catching up here..
In the last half of March we took a four-day family getaway with another family to Lake Tahoe. We rented a house. Which sounds so fancy, but in reality is a reasonably frugal way to vacation. This was the first time we have ever stayed in a vacation rental, but I will definitely do it again.
We split the rental 50/50 with our friends. They have three young kids. We invited a friend for DD to hang out with. That made 10 people total. We paid $100/night ($200/night total) and $75 cleaning fee. The house was plenty spacious for everyone to spread out (four bedrooms & three full baths). The pool table kept the teen girls entertained and actually off their cell phones for a little bit!
We ate in the whole time and cooked in the large kitchen; which was nicer than mine at home.
That kept our food spending equal to staying home.
We visited the Discovery museum in Reno at $8/per person. Such a fun place!
The other mom and I had a champagne and goat cheese binge one night in front of the gas fireplace. Glorious.
We picnicked at one of the Lake's beaches. No park fees because it was "off-season".
Took the all the kids tubing on the last patch of snow we could find nearby. Splurged $30 for tube rental.
Woke up to a dusting of snow one morning to everyone's delight - especially the four youngsters.
Then when we got home DH started saying how much his chest was hurting. We thought that his asthma was flaring up. But, by the next day he was really hurting. A trip to the ER confirmed pneumonia.
(Is this year going to be the year of medical expenses?? I sure hope not!)
He was pretty sick for about a week. Breathless and tired. And coughing of course.
Doing much better now, but not 100% yet. Did go back to work last Thursday on limited duties.
No sick leave pay for the days he was out.
One good thing is that he is getting a sleep test for his sleep apnea. Something I've been saying for several years he should do...
Been busy here. We were out every weekend in August.
DD theater performances.
Close friends had their twin's first birthday.
Kids visiting grandparents.
Our nephew's first birthday.
A baby shower for my BFF.
Lots of traveling so we spent way more than usual in gas.
(Beautiful Quicken graph for an ugly total!)
Did a little better in other spending areas - food for one since we didn't have to feed ourselves several weekends.
We didn't buy anything for the twins. They have so much family that there was a huge pile of gifts. Our friends have a small house too, so I don't know where all that is going to go!
Our nephew got a box of fruit & veggie pouches from Costco. $12.
For my BFF baby shower I bought two clearance items. A cute outfit for $3.99 and a plush blanket for $5.99. I also bought her firstborn a wooden puzzle (her birthday is next week) for $4.
While shopping I found a very cute long sleeve Roxy shirt for DD. $19. I stashed it for Christmas.
DH is still having short hours at work, which leads to low paychecks. It's tough because we can't pay extra to anything and we still need to get the roof taken care of and I do not want to drain the EF to $0.
Honestly, I cannot remember the last time he had a "normal" 40 hour paycheck. It has been about 18 months since he had a full paycheck AND commission (sometimes netted him as much as $500/week extra).
And it seems it is causing him some depression. Even though it isn't his fault, he is taking it personally (like he can't provide for the family).
I have suggested that now might be the right time to try finding something new or maybe a part time job. I have gotten a lukewarm response to that, so we'll see....
Last Friday our paychecks managed to meet our budgeted amount, so that was a good thing.
Need more though..
Easter weekend was very nice. We visited my sister, her DH and their baby. The money we spent was on gas (about $80) to drive there and back. To save money we slept on her living room floor in our sleeping bags instead of getting a hotel room. And we didn't buy any candy or any Easter treats this year - not even one. (My sis did get the kids a few little candies - I was glad for that.) My mom and dad came and brought my Grandpa with them. That was extra nice because we rarely get to see him as he lives so far from us. It was really special.
Yesterday I transferred $5 to the "special focus" just to feel like I was making progress *somewhere*.
I'm only kidding myself because in reality the "special focus" now is just getting enough into the checking account to cover regular bills.
Not going to be able to swing much extra to any of the cc debt for the next few months. Hopefully there will be money to put back into savings starting in June or July.
Some of the savings that I used recently I had earmarked for new tires. The current set we purchased in May 2011 and they are worn. I think I can get by for a few more months without any trouble.
Truck still needs a water pump...
** Just re-posting what I could remember of my last post before the site crashed over the weekend.**
Good rainy weather here! Yay!
Really has made everything green and blooming.
This is our Tulip Tree in the backyard.
The hens enjoy strolling around on the grass.
DD's bees are more active on the sunny days. You can see the pollen packed on some of their legs when they fly back to the hive.
Spent last weekend visiting with our nephew we haven't seen in years. My SIL's oldest child. We took him to San Francisco for the day. Beautiful, sunny weather. Great for walking around.
Spendy day though.. $95 for dinner, $50 in parking, $23 for ice cream at Ghirardelli...
Enjoying getting back to a low/ no spend weekend.
Raining some more this weekend so I'm just getting cozy with a good book.
(MonkeyMama asked about our rental car..)
HA! Yes my kids are *crammed* into the backseat!
It's funny you comment about the size because the Ford Focus was in the "compact" category (There is a level smaller - "economy"). My DH was very worried about the size not being adequate (he's a good sized guy). For the weeks leading up to our trip he would point out any Focus on the road and say,
"There's your Focus - I don't think I can see us in that for xx hours."
I told him we'd see what we thought at the rental lot and if he wasn't happy we'd upgrade to the next larger size ($40 more, so no big deal if that's what it took, but rather save that $ if the smaller car was okay).
When we rented the car we saw the Focus parked out front and I asked DH if it looked okay. He said yes. Then I asked the rental car worker which car we'd be getting and he pointed to a tiny, two door, red Fiesta type thing!
I thought my DH was going to lose it.
He was like, "That is NOT a FOCUS!! Our paperwork says FOCUS!"
I just asked if we could please have the white Focus we saw out front and the guy was totally accommodating.
Yeah, it was a close call there. LOL!
I am not fond of cars per se because I don't like to be so low. I did think it was pretty fun to drive - Zippy. It also had these pretty cabin lights at night and you could change the color (blues, purple, pink, green, yellow, red, orange) and brightness.
Both DH and I had the driver's seat slid back for our comfort which was fine with DS in his car seat. A person with average length legs would have to have the driver move the seat forward. The 6.5 hours to Disney were very comfortable. DD said the backseat was more comfortable than in our Pathfinder. I was pleased with the large trunk.
The car had fancy computer read-out and it said we averaged about 31 mpg for our trip. I never calculated the mpg myself. I was happy enough to just pay under $40 whenever we stopped for gas.
Our trip was great!
Really my only complaint was that it was 75F-80F (terrible, hu?) and made the Disney parks a bit more crowded than we were used to. (We always plan to go at "non-peak" times to save money and avoid the crowds. We usually wait 15 minutes or less on the really popular rides and less than 5 minutes for everything else.)
I shouldn't complain, even waiting twice as long as we're used to is better than a lot of people deal with.
It was so enjoyable to watch DS's enjoyment.
This is him on the Toy Story ride which he kept referring to as the "yellow glasses ride".
I used a hotel we hadn't stayed in before. While the hotel was nice and the beds very comfy it was too much of a walk to get into the parks. We walked back and forth twice each day in order to take an afternoon nap, so it was a lot of walking.
Yes, there is a circulating bus/shuttle, but I didn't want to pay the extra money, plus you have to wait for it to pick up and drop off. I prefer to walk, although this time it meant some seriously sore feet by day end.
We did pretty well with food spending. Snacks in the car and hotel room. Eating out *only* twice daily was easy to manage.
We ate at the Rainforest Cafe for $12. I had $100 gift card (credit card reward) that almost covered the "splurg-y" meal.
A character breakfast included with our package at n/c was a great treat.
I had my special treat in Disney - a Monte Cristo - that was filling enough for two meals.
We also ate at the Mexican restaurant in Frontier Land which I have found to be nearly the same cost as Mexican food anywhere else. You can also get free soda refills there. That meant my DH bought a soda with six trips for refills.
We rented a car. A 2013 Ford Focus.
It was good for us. I had calculated that we would be about even driving our own gas guzzling car vs. renting a fuel saving car. Additionally, no wear and tear on our aging vehicle (we drove 1370 miles).
With the costs tabulated we saved a little money by renting the car!
Here it is in Las Vegas at the Excalibur - where we stayed.
We splurged on the Tournament of Kings dinner show. It's where you eat with your hands while watching knights battle. I had seen a similar show while in high school so knew what to expect (good for a three-year-old!).
My family really enjoyed the show. As predicted DS was glued to the action.
DH and I hit the blackjack tables both nights, but alas, didn't win big. We have found that we can play blackjack for hours on very little money all while drinking *free* beer.
$1414 Disney package (4 nights/(4) 4-day hopper tickets/pkg extras)
$200 Cash for gambling/souvenirs/misc.
$181 Rental car
$159 Dinner show
$ 94 Vegas hotel (2 nights @ $29+taxes/resort fees)
DH's boss gave us DH's $500 Christmas bonus early so we could apply it to the trip if we wanted.
(I used the Sapphire for almost everything and will use the bonus money toward the bill next month.)
Both DH and I used paid vacation time, so no lost income.
We saved a few bucks in daycare costs.
My dad stayed at our house so we didn't pay anything for house/pet care. As a big plus, my dad totally spruced up the front and backyard - mowed, raked, swept.. That was nice!
This trip was our Christmas gift to each other. Tiring, but good family time and some funny memories made. I'll tell you it was nice - no shopping, no wrapping, no extra crap!
Christmas was comfortable and low-key.
Santa brought a $25 dump truck set for DS.
Santa used Amazon credit (from selling back the EMT textbooks) for DH and DD's gifts. They cost $0.
Stocking stuffers included personal care products and trip souvenirs.
I got coffee and chocolate from almost everyone.
My boss gave me a nice, crisp $100.
Only my parents were here with us (Yay! no drama!).
I made a nice ham dinner, roasted carrots, mashed potatoes, fruit salad, rolls, pie.
This year I feel like I figured out the best way to warm a ham without drying it out!
I used a roasting bag and set the oven for 275F.
About 10 minutes/lb.
Nice and warm throughout - no dry slices!
I bought a 10lb ham for the extra leftovers. I froze the ham bone for later use and a dinner's worth of slices for a future meal.
Kids are visiting the in-laws until tomorrow. DH and I have been basking in the quiet laziness the last 48 hours.
Next week will be pretty easy. Work one and a half days, then another paid day off.
Then.. WOW.. 2014!
Next month we will be taking a road trip. We are all looking forward to our trip; me and DH especially!
After discussing where and what we wanted for our trip we settled on a few days at Disneyland and a few days in Las Vegas.
DL is seven hours of easy freeway travel for us. The park admission is the most expensive aspect of the trip, but this was what we all really wanted. This is our Christmas gifts for eachother and all comes from the Christmas budget. I can't be frugal with the tickets, but I can with everything else.
I booked a package with Costco after doing a lot of price shopping. With their package we get character dining as a perk. The dining vouchers add $145 of value for no added cost and can be used at face value anywhere in the parks. Also a Cars collector pin for each of us (DD trades pins), a free ride photo and a $20 gift card for use in the shops.
With much searching different dates and websites I didn't find a lower price than the package I booked.
(I found booking the same hotel room and purchasing tickets separately cost almost $200 more!)
Naturally I'm going to go with the option that gives me far more goodies for less dough.
The strip hotel in Vegas is $35/night! Love that!
We are looking forward to showing DS the NASCAR car at the M&M store and DD the Bellagio indoor garden and fountains.
I booked directly with the hotel and got a $20 food & beverage credit. Not much, but we can make that cover most of a meal for us.
Speaking of food, our spending will be low. In addition to the high value vouchers for DL and $20 credit in LV, I am very pleased to say I have cc reward points I am redeeming for restaurant gift cards.
The one I am most excited about is for the Rainforest Cafe - one of their locations is in Downtown Disney - SCORE!
I also have a Cheesecake Factory card to use at Caesar's Palace in Vegas.
And California Pizza Kitchen gift card with locations near both hotels we'll be using.
We will take other food items with us. Snacks, soup (easy to heat in a hotel microwave), sandwich stuff, etc..
DH and I have discussed how blessed we are to be able to enjoy time like this without creating debt.
First off, I love to stay at home - I am a homebody for the most part. Very happy to just putter around the house.
I also love to travel and "get away". See new things.
Recently DH and I have been talking about a family trip. We have not gone anywhere as a family for longer than a weekend in four years come December.
Some quick searching and we almost booked a trip to Cabo. Seven nights at an all inclusive resort through Costco travel was $908 for the four of us. With airfare (only three hour flight from SFO!) the package was close to $2500 total. Still a deal.
This same package if booked during Christmas break would be $6000!
We didn't book it because:
One, we would all need passports. $500+ to get four of those.
Two, we don't have vacation funds to cover a $3k trip. Not even close.
Another time maybe?
We are still researching options. It will be a road trip. In the same vein as Monkey Mama - Vegas is tempting for cheap hotel rooms and free things to see.
We will go in December. After Thanksgiving vacation has ended and before Christmas vacation starts.
We have always chosen to travel this way. Mostly to avoid crowds. The added benefit is saving money during off-peak dates.
Have you been looking at taking a frugal vacation?