Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Guest Post- Colorado Bound

I had the opportunity to go out to Denver for a work trip. At the end of my trip, I took three personal days to go and visit my good friend Amanda. Amanda and I grew up together from basically my birth , since she is a year older. After spending a great frugal weekend with her in Colorado, I asked if she'd be willing to guest blog for me on her rendition of the weekend :) Thanks for a great weekend Amanda and for the great write-up! 

Being frugal isn't a choice, it is our life.  Paycheck to paycheck, being grateful the bills get paid on time and we have beer in the fridge. It's sharing and getting creative, being realistic and understanding the reality without letting it get you down.  It's also nice to know you're not alone in this struggle.  We all have our ups and downs, our unique relationship dynamics and issues. We are all taking it day by day, penny by penny as best we can. 
The anticipation of the weekend visit from Monica had hit it's peak on Thursday night after work.  It's been a little over a year since our last adventure and there was so much to do.  The reality of the situation also needed to be addressed- How were we going to feed three people and drive approximately 250 miles, while still having some money for groceries until the next payday?  I sat down and looked at the numbers. We would have to be extremely meticulous with our spending, but I knew if anyone could do it- Monica and I could!  

I arrived in Denver on Friday afternoon, parking in front of Pam's (a good friend from high school) adorable house.  We picked up Monica and decided it was time for a beer. Splitting a few sample flights of beer we each only paid $8 w/tip for the opportunity to try 15 beers. For dinner, why sit in a stuffy restaurant when we could hit up the local food trucks? We parked downtown and grabbed a quinoa wrap for dinner- $8.50 each.  

We reminisced over our individual money woes while window shopping down the 16th street mall.  It's encouraging to hear others frustrations that so closely resemble your own, yet we are all getting by.   After walking for a while, we decided to skip the crowded/expensive bar scene and buy a 12 pack of beer and head back to Pam's, saving us all at least $20 each by not going out for drinks.  We enjoyed the fresh air on the back deck, great conversation and local craft brews until 2am.

The next morning, Monica decided to take Pam up on he offer to do her dirty laundry at the house, rather then wait till we got to the mountain and use the coin operated machines. While the load washed, we took a stroll around the neighborhood, fueled by Luke's (Pam's Husband) pot of strong coffee and a banana.  

It happened to be the weekend of a neighborhood garage sale, so we took the opportunity to make someone else's trash our treasure.  The garage sales sunk me in a whole $2 for Cranium. Pam and Luke scored a pair of skis for a whopping $25! (If only that guy had thrown in the sex swing for another $5)  and Pam also found a $5 espresso machine, with all the parts!
Yes, that is a sex swing tastefully laid out at a garage sale, next to a slimy chemistry set, oh the irony :) 

We went back to Pam's and switched the laundry over before hopping in the car and heading to the farmer's market. Lunch of empanadas and coffee ice cream totaled $7.75.  We also picked up a bag of fresh fire roasted pablanos for $3, a great addition to our dinner ingredients. 

Stomachs satisfied and laundry complete we got on the road.

Two and a half hours of driving up the mountains later, Monica and I had arrived in time for happy hour.  We split a nacho and each had a couple drinks, our priciest venture so far. Thankfully we had pre-planned dinner, so we could keep costs down by heading home. We utilized the peppers from the farmers market and made a homemade dinner of spicy turkey burgers and hand cut french fries, sipping on left over beers from the night before.  We even pored a few into plastic cups and soaked in the hot tub before heading to bed.    

The next morning Monica made breakfast- Eggs and hash made of leftovers french fries and a broken down burger. Great fuel for a 6 mile hike! On our way to the hike, we grabbed a few snacks to keep us going, roughly $12- that would be $4 per person :)  We could not have asked for a better day to hike. The air was comfortable and the views were spectacular!  

After descending through the forest and making our way back to the trail head we were feeling hungry.  Leadville had the perfect fix- meal deals of burritos/burgers and fries- $6.50 each.  Satisfied and content we headed along a winding road of cliffs and valleys to a neighboring ski resort, Vail .  The village was packed with artisans, farmers, bakers and more. The sun beat down as we wandered through the crowd.  

Tired and thirsty, we decided it best to run to the store for a few essentials and then head home.  We even scored a mix and match 6 pack of craft brews for $5.99.  Homemade pina-coladas, salmon, rice and spinach was the perfect end to a long day.  

The next day, since we'd gone to the store the night before, we were able to make breakfast, lunch and dinner at home. We decided a Monday evening get together was a great way to end a long-weekend and kick start the week. So we invited friends over and made five homemade pizza doughs, grabbed cheese and sauce and friends brought over libations and pizza toppings. Potluck style get together are a smart way to spend time with fiends and keep costs down. Homemade pizzas were a hit with our friends and we were also able to enjoy that $2 Cranium game.  

With my friend Kristen flying out of Denver Tuesday morning, Monica was able to save $30 by hitching a ride rather then purchasing a bus ticket. Overall, a very successful frugal weekend!! 

-Amanda P. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Month in Review- July

I am not doing well on posting this past month, but I am also sleeping in my 10th bed in the course of a month- so throw me some slack :)

Month Five has been amazing! We kicked off the month on a 10 day vacation and I finished the month in Denver on a work trip, and squeezed in a great visit with an old friend! 

Financially, Month #5 was pretty amazing.  Nick and I have spent this past month renting out our apartment on AirBnB and have had a total of 11 bookings! I will do a full write-up on our AirBnB experience in the coming week.

Unexpected Costs: 

Our vacation was a little more then anticipated. That whole "Travel Budget" is still something that Nick and I need to work on, or we just need to be more realistic about our travel costs when coming up with a budget. We ended up going over our budget by $607.90. Not our best frugal trip...

Unexpected Income: 
No unexpected income this month! We have a very well laid out budget with our AirBnB income and expenses. We tracked these along with our monthly expenditures letting us track the expenses related to our AirBnB business; hopefully, this will help us later when we are doing our taxes.

July Splurges:
Definitely our vacation, but we also went to a Billy Joel concert! We did pull back on a number of "wants" on the vacation, but all in all we went out to a few fantastic restaurants, drank some great craft beer and we even got to visit an awesome, though expensive, museum in Vermont.

If you are ever in the Burlington area you should check out the Shelburne Museum. I think it may be one of my favorite museums :) It comes with a full steam boat, a barn full of old sleighs, a steam engine, a collection of beautiful artwork and even a toy museum!

However we did choose alot of free activities as well, like hiking Mt. Mansfield in Vermont and hiking White Face Mountain in NY :)

 Funniest Moment: 
When we left our apartment on July 2nd for vacation, we left our apartment ready for our first renter. This meant that Nick and I had to take what we wanted to have/use during and after vacation. We quickly started to describe our car as the Gypsy mobile. We had a Costco size bag of rice, old fashion oats, and enough ground coffee to get us through a month.

As we've moved around over the past month, we have brought our three "must have" grocery items with us from location to location. I keep joking that our priorities must seem totally weird to others, but for Nick and I oats and fruit for breakfast, and rice with beans for lunch is something close to the only routine we've kept over the past month :)

Lessons Learned
My biggest lesson learned this month was to not be so hard on myself, or on Nick. Money is tricky and our emotional attachment to those numbers in our bank account can push me to make irrational emotional decisions.

Let's just say my husband had to "talk me down" after I freaked out that we "only" made a $700 payment to our student loans. Sometimes you need to be brought down to reality and that's when I thank goodness that I have my awesome husband. I needed to be reminded that I should be thankful and excited for any movement forward we make, and not to regret the great moments we have, even when they do cost money.

Any movement forward is better then staying exactly in the same place :)

Total Payment to Debt: $737.75 , on top of our minimum payments for July

Not too shabby for month 5! 

Current Debt: $166,777.53

We started with a total of 35 Student Loans.
We are currently at 34 Student Loans and we need to pay $1,744.71 more in order to reach #33 :)

Student loan #34 has our highest interest rate at 12.5% ! We originally anticipated this taking us a total of 8 months, this being month #2, but I think we may be able to get rid of this one in 4 more months, cutting off 2 months from our initial plan!!