Five Frugal Things: 3/17/2017

We’re on our way today, but had some frugal wins this past week to report:

  1. Although “premium” snacks are provided for free on our flight to Japan (which includes fresh fruit – yeah!), we’re still packing our own snacks for airport layovers and the long train ride into Tokyo: beef jerky, Chimes ginger chews, Pringles for Brett and YaYu (less messy than regular chips), and Pockys (pronounced poke-y) for YaYu.
  2. We’re bringing along an empty stainless steel water bottle and will fill it with filtered water for free at the Honolulu airport rather than buy expensive bottled water.
  3. By watching fares and being ready to buy early, we got the lowest price for our RT flights to Japan and back, saving 2/3 of what it would have cost to purchase the same premium economy seats the past couple of months.
  4. We’d been talking about adding Hulu to our streaming services as we’re running out of shows we like on Amazon and Netflix, so this past week I signed up through Swagbucks and earned an additional 2,500 points, or $25 in Amazon credit. We’re going to try Hulu for three months ($23.97) and see how we like it, and if we don’t use it that much we’ll cancel.
  5. This past week we ate up all the leftovers and produce, and don’t have to throw anything out before we leave this morning. All that’s left in the fridge are condiments and a jar of peanut butter.

We’re looking forward to a fun and frugal time in Japan. I’ll try to post a couple of times while we’re there, but otherwise, I’ll be back in a couple of weeks!

Five Frugal Things 3/10/2017

Brett had the affordable and tasty “hippie bagel” (hummus, tomatoes, cucumber and sprouts) for lunch at Little Fish Coffee in Hanapepe.

It’s been another week filled with good, frugal choices:

  1. We went to Big Save this past week to buy yogurt, a dozen eggs and hamburger rolls, and that’s all we bought.
  2. YaYu’s track meet went until after 9:00 p.m. yesterday evening. Brett took water, coffee, fruit and other snacks from home so that they weren’t tempted to spend anything at the meet. They ate leftovers when they got home.
  3. Brett and I wanted to have lunch at Japanese Grandmother’s Kitchen in Hanapepe while we were there last Friday afternoon, but we checked their prices before we left home and decided instead to have lunch across the street at the more affordable Little Fish Coffee. Brett had a delicious bagel sandwich and I had a wonderful smoothie. Our lunch total was low enough that even after buying two pastries at the Midnight Bear Bakery down the street we still spent less than what we had budgeted.
  4. YaYu raised an additional $90 through fundraising, so her round-trip flight over to Honolulu in April cost less than half of the regular price: $69 versus $159.
  5. Although I love my stylist, the price of a hair cut at the salon increased enough this year that I’ve decided to grow out my short, curly hair to chin length which will mean fewer cuts.

What frugal wins did you have this week?

Five Frugal Things: 3/3/2017

One contestant used tea-flavored cookies to create a showstopper pagoda tower on The Great British Baking Show, which we've been watching this week on Netflix.
One contestant used tea-flavored cookies to create a showstopper pagoda tower on The Great British Baking Show, which we’ve been watching this week on Netflix.

We had hoped to go to Hanapepe this week, but the week started off with heavy rain, and then YaYu got very sick, so we’ve stayed home and had a good, frugal week here at Casa Aloha:

  1. Even though we have a small budget category for movie rentals, this past week we chose to watch free offerings through Amazon Prime and Netflix. The money we don’t spend at the end of the month goes into our savings account.
  2. I made my goal every day last month with Swagbucks, and earned a 612 point bonus. That’s at least an additional $5 in Amazon credit. I’ve earned $100 in Amazon credit since the beginning of the year.
  3. We had $11.59 credit remaining this month on our electric bill. We rounded that up to $15 and put that in our savings account.
  4. We cooked every meal at home, ate up all the leftovers, and spent just $20 at the farmers’ market for this week’s necessary fruits and vegetables.
  5. We received $200 off of our rent this month for a rental tax rebate we were supposed to get. The money went straight to our savings account.

What frugal wins did you have this week?


Five Frugal Habits 2/24/2017

Costco's $4.99 rotisserie chickens are the best deal in the store, and they're delicious!
Costco’s $4.99 rotisserie chickens are the best deal in the store, and they’re delicious!

Frugal habits are those things we do almost without thinking about them. Here at Casa Aloha we started doing them to save money, but after a while they became regular, and remain now as ways to help us stick to our budget and save. Here are five frugal things we do every week or month:

  1. Brett packs YaYu’s lunch every day in her washable lunch bag, along with a cloth napkin and stainless utensils (if needed) we bought at Goodwill. She takes a stainless steel Thermos for hot foods, and everything else in stainless steel or Pyrex containers. Zero waste.
  2. We buy a $4.99 Costco chicken every month, and get at least four meals from it. Last week we had a roast chicken dinner, Asian chopped salad with chicken, leftover cold chicken for dinner on leftovers night, and chicken salad (sandwiches for Brett and YaYu, just salad for me). The bones went into the freezer and will be used to make chicken noodle soup later.
  3. We do all of our weekly laundry on Sunday, three loads of it, and hang approximately a third to half of it to dry outside. Two of the three loads are done in cold water; the whites get washed in warm. Otherwise during the week the washer and dryer are not used.
  4. Brett (and WenYu, when she’s home) always takes ‘navy’ showers: get wet, turn off water, lather up, then turn on the water again to rinse off. YaYu and I, on the other hand, are masters of efficient five-minute showers. Both techniques help keep our water bill down each month, especially when we have to run the sprinklers.
  5. We wash out, dry and reuse all Ziploc bags (unless they contained meat or cheese – the bags get greasy), and the plastic bags from the farmers’ market, Costco and Big Save.

What frugal habits have you developed to help you save? I am always open to learning new ways!

Five Frugal Things 2/17/2017

Roasted baby carrots - yum!
Roasted baby carrots – yum!

Here are five frugal things that happened at Casa Aloha this last week:

  1. Rather than throw them out, I used the crushed Maui onion potato chips left in the bottom of a bag to top this week’s tuna casserole – very retro (and tasty)!
  2. The remaining baby carrots in the big bag we bought at Costco last month were looking kind of sad, but I roasted them and served with our Valentine dinner this week. They were delicious!

    This month’s shopping list for Costco; Walmart and Big Save are on the back. The question marks are for items we’re not sure about based on price and/or availability.
  3. We made a list for our monthly big shop at Costco, WalMart and Big Save. We always shop with a list, and if something’s not on the list we don’t buy it.
  4. This year’s rebate check from Costco was $144.47. A matching amount was transferred into our travel savings from our grocery budget.
  5. I listed a full-size bedspread and matching pillow shams, and my blue Chantal roasting pan (that I won as a sales incentive), on Craigslist. We need neither of them.

What frugal things did you do this past week?

10 Easy Ways To Save More for Travel

shutterstock_248845498There are those people who, when they decide they want to travel, can whip out their checkbooks and cover any trip they want.

Brett and I are not those people. We have big travel dreams, but a small income, so any trips we want to take have to be planned and then saved for. Over the years we’ve come up with a variety of ways to add to our travel savings so that when we do go off somewhere, everything we need and want to do is covered and we don’t end up with a balance on our credit card.

Here are our favorite tips for how to save for travel:

  1. Set up a dedicated travel savings account, and start a monthly allotment to that account. How much you can deposit into your travel account each month will depend on your regular operating budget, but even a small monthly amount can add up quickly.
  2. See if you can save on regular budget categories, and then put the difference into your travel savings. For example, if your monthly food budget is $700, see if you can find ways to save and get it down to $650, or $600. At the end of the month, put the difference into  your savings. This is one of our favorite ways to add to our travel account – it’s almost like a game, and keeps us on our toes when it comes to saving in all areas of our budget.
  3. Do a “no-spend” week, or month, and deposit all usual discretionary spending amounts into your savings. If you stop and pick up a coffee every morning, don’t for one week. Same for going out for lunch while you’re at work, or eating out or picking up dinner. Plan ahead, keep track of what you would have spent on those things, and then at the end of the week, or month, deposit that amount into your savings. This isn’t to make yourself miserable while you save, but rather to see how much you can add to your savings.
  4. Save your change and $1 bills. Brett and I put away around $700 – $800 per year doing this, although one year we saved over $1000. We try to use cash as much as possible, and when we get coins back we immediately put them aside. Same for $1 bills. When we use our debit card, we always round up to the nearest $5 if possible (i.e. if the amount owed is $11.17, we round up to $15, and $3.83 goes into savings). This might require some effort at first to remember to do it, but after a while it becomes a habit. Once we have $25 in $1 bills, or are able to roll our change, off it goes to the travel savings account. This year we are also occasionally setting aside $5 bills – it’s not as easy to do as with $1 bills, but once in a while we feel we can set one aside. Twenty of those though and we’ve got another $100 saved.
  5. Recognize needs versus wants. This also takes some training and effort, but start asking yourself if you really need that new t-shirt, or burrito from Chipotle, or whatever from IKEA, or whether you’d rather enjoy coffee and a croissant in Paris or a week on the beach in Hawai’i. Same for your food shopping – go with a list and stick to it. There’s nothing wrong with looking, but visualizing your saving goals while you look can help keep you more focused on what you need versus what you merely want. This practice might not immediately put money into your savings account, except that you’ll probably have more money left at the end of the month that can be saved for travel.
  6. Dedicate all refunds, rebates and gifts to your travel savings. We get a nice rebate every year from Costco and from our insurance company – both of those go right into our travel savings. Same for our annual tax refund. Unfortunately, no one sends us money for our birthdays any more :-(.
  7. Get a travel rewards credit card. If you’re good about paying off your credit card every month, this is a great way to earn either miles that will help reduce the cost of air travel, or cash back that can go into your travel account. Brett and I use our credit card to pay recurring monthly expenses like our cable bill and phone bill, and then pay it off every month. Our card rewards can be used to either book travel or receive a check – we always take the check. We don’t use the card to pay for groceries because we’ve found that using cash and setting aside the change and $1 bills we get back is more than would be generated in rewards from the card. Warning: use reward cards carefully. Be sure pay off your credit card balance every month. You don’t want to end up with a huge credit card bill that you have to pay versus putting away money for your travel dreams.
  8. Sell things you don’t need or use any more. Take an inventory of your stuff every once in and while, and use Craigslist, eBay, Facebook or other sites to sell unused and unneeded items around your home, with the money you earn going straight to your travel savings. You can also become a savvy shopper at thrift stores or yard sales and find items that can be refurbished and resold online. Someone I know carefully bought high-end clothing brands at thrift and consignment stores and resold them for a profit on eBay, earning enough in a year to finance a trip to Europe. Someone else I know resold books that she picked up for a song at yard sales. Katy over at The Non-Consumer Advocate is in a master class when it comes to the resale game.
  9. Get a part-time job. I’m retired now, and have absolutely no interest in doing any part-time work, nor does Brett, but we’ve done this in the past. For example, the extra I made working as a substitute went into our savings that got us here to Hawai’i. Depending on how much time you have, or how motivated you are, a second gig can be anything from a couple of hours a week to a regular part-time position. Dedicate those earnings to your travel savings.
  10. Be creative. Pick up change off the ground. Return bottles and cans for the deposit, if you can in your state. Clip coupons and put the money saved into your travel account. Use Swagbucks and earn $$ through PayPal. There are all sorts of small ways out there to add to your travel savings. It might not seem like a lot, but it all adds up.

Just like nickel-and-dime items can drain your bank account in a hurry, what might seem like nickel-and-dime savings can also pump up your account in a hurry as well! It’s surprising how much you can save in a year toward your travel dreams once you set your mind to it!

Five Frugal Things 2/10/2017

Making sun tea . . .
Making lychee sun tea . . .

YaYu’s commented this week, “Mom, how can you pick five things? Everything we do is frugal!” I have to say it’s pretty wonderful when your teenager notices your efforts!

  1. Brett gets the blades for his razor from Harry’; they’re a quality blade that costs less than the ones sold at Costco. Last month there was a problem with the shipping on his order, so he contacted them to ask where his blades were and they sent him an extra box for free.
  2. Last Saturday we had leftovers on the menu, and every single leftover was cleaned out of the refrigerator! YaYu made fried rice to use up all the little bits of vegetables that were hanging around. The most expensive food you buy is the food you throw out.
  3. Brett took the cans and bottles we had hanging out in the garage to the recycling center this week, and the refund of $2.42 went into our change/$1 bill jar.
  4. Instead of buying expensive bottled ice tea, I made a big pitcher of lychee sun tea.
  5. I checked to see if our library had some books I want to read available as eReader downloads. Not all were, but I now have several books waiting on my “later” shelf, to download for free when I’m ready.

What frugal wins did you have?

Five Frugal Things 2/3/2017

starbucks-caffe-verona-costco-1Here are five frugal things that happened last week:

  1. We put the $103.23 we would have had to pay for electricity this past month into our savings account. We still have approximately $14 of credit left for next month.
  2. Last month I made my daily goal every day on Swagbucks, and earned 629 extra Bucks. I have enough now for $60 in Amazon credit.
  3. Brett and I ate leftovers every day for lunch this past week; YaYu took leftovers every day in her lunch. All our meals were prepared at home.
  4. Brett bought only coffee beans on a trip to Costco, and besides the farmers’ market we had only one other trip into a store all week (for iceberg lettuce). (I think we’re getting good at this!)
  5. We spent only $3.99 of our monthly entertainment budget in January, to rent a movie from Amazon. Otherwise, everything we watched or streamed was free.

What were your frugal wins?

Five Frugal Things 1/27/2017


Here are some frugal things that happened at Casa Aloha this past week:

  1. We had to pay $45 for YaYu to attend this year’s swim banquet, but team members can sell $10 tickets for malasadas (Hawaiian-style donuts) and earn back $5 for every ticket they sell. Malasadas are hugely popular here so the tickets will go quickly, and besides, YaYu could sell a cage to a lion.
  2. Brett and I gave YaYu a small television for her birthday – it’s this year’s AND next year’s present (she is fine with that). We were going to connect our basic cable to her room, but she was able to connect to both our Netflix and Amazon Instant Video accounts through our old Wii console, and says she doesn’t need cable. Savings = $30.
  3. Rather than pay TurboTax an additional $30 to import our information from last year, Brett just put it all in himself this year.
  4. After last Friday evening’s swim team spaghetti dinner there were lots of leftovers, and the girls brought home two packages of Costco cookies as well as a big, unopened Caesar salad from Costco (cost = $12.99), which Brett and YaYu enjoyed over a couple of days!
  5. I needed fresh pineapple for our kabobs on Wednesday evening, was dreading having to buy a package of cut and sliced pineapple at Costco. Cost: $12.99 (although there’s way more than one meal’s worth in the package). But, as I walked by the Hawaii-grown pineapples in the produce section, I noticed they smelled good – a sign that there were ripe pineapples around (usually they’re somewhat green and have no smell). I looked around and found one perfectly ripe pineapple, and one that was almost ripe. Total cost for two fresh pineapples: $5.98.

What frugal wins did you have this past week?

Five Frugal Things 1/20/2017

Pouring Water Into Glass On Blue BackgroundHere are some frugal wins that happened this past week at Casa Aloha:

  1. We had to go to Costco again to buy bread for this week’s swim team spaghetti dinner (we volunteered to provide the garlic bread every week), and only bought the bread and some eggs rather than tap into next months food budget. That’s two times we’ve managed this!
  2. We ate at home all week, and shopped our pantry, fridge and freezer – all meals and desserts were made from what we already had on hand, including YaYu’s birthday dinner and cake.
  3. WenYu wanted a new bikini for her birthday, but wasn’t happy about having to pay the “paradise tax” (i.e. higher cost) of buying one here. So, we decided to give her cash and she will buy herself a suit when she gets back to Massachusetts. She’ll be able to get that and another piece of clothing for less than the price of a suit here.
  4. Other than coffee, free, filtered tap water was the main beverage choice for all of us. We refilled our 10-cup Brita pitcher at least five times a day all week.
  5. I earned another $15 in Amazon Credit from Swagbucks this week. I’ve earned $40 total so far this year.

How did you do this week?