Beach vacation - on a budget!

Last year, we took Zac to Sea World. It ended up being an adventure to see how cheaply we could have a really fun time. On the way home, we added it all up and we were so giddy over the tiny monetary effect it had on our little budget. Yay for us!

So, when we wanted to get to the beach this year, we knew we could do it for really cheap!

We are blessed to have lots of Holiday Inn points, so our hotel was FREE! And we chose a hotel by reading a lot of We wanted a nice decent one, preferrably an Express because they use less points, and you can get a really good FREE breakfast each morning. :) But we found a regular HI right on the beach with a microwave and a fridge, so we decided on that one. Still free, and we could bring our own food.

We had initially planned to drive to a beach. But it turned out that Brian had some work to do in San Antonio that week. And we knew that the whole idea of an airplane ride would totally thrill Zac. So, we ended up having me and Zac fly down (one way tickets on Southwest, $120) to San Antonio and drive from there with Brian. We had some airline points we could have used, but decided to save them, since it's the same number of points no matter where you fly, and we were going such a short distance and found cheap flights.

We also had to get me and Zac to the airport. Looking at all our options... our favorite one was the city bus system. Only $3 and Zac was free. But it turned out that our cheap flight left too early to be able to catch the bus, so we got a taxi. $25, but cheaper than airport parking.

Meeting Brian in San Antonio allowed us to do several things. We sent him with our luggage so we didn't have to check anything. We also sent him with a cooler and all our beach toys. That minivan comes in handy time and time again!

When we filled up the minivan, it only cost $40 to get home.

Our first plan was to bring all our own food.

Then we found out about the free KFC meals, and that became our new plan. FREE!! We printed out all the coupons we would need (still brought some of our own), but it turns out that the coupons weren't being accepted by the time we got down there.

So Plan C was a cooler of our own food, mixed in with a couple trips to Jack in the Box for their $1 chicken sandwiches. So far, Zac has no idea that Jack in the Box offers kids meals or toys. (heehee)

We did have one night of a nice dinner. Nice meaning On The Border - which is a little splurge for us! Plus, Zac ate so many chips/salsa (a favorite of his since he was about 14 months old!), that he never ate his meal and we all shared a yummy soft taco breakfast the next morning. Plus some tortillas left over from our fajitas that Brian and I shared. The OTB total was $16. For dinner and breakfast, we loved that!

For Mother's Day, Zac really wanted to go to Ihop. We agreed that would be a really fun idea. But we learned an important lesson there. At Ihop, the meals are so big, that we could all share a meal. However we made the BIG mistake of ordering orange juice without looking at the price tag. It was almost $3 a glass!! The OJ was the largest portion of our bill and it wasn't even something we really wanted. We analyzed every meal price, but we need to be much better about looking more closely at the drink prices. Two thumbs down when we got our bill. I can't remember the total, but I think it was almost $20. (Boo on Ihop oj prices!)

Other food we brought included a pitcher with lots of Crystal Light packets, microwave popcorn, canned soup, all the fixings for sandwiches (meat, cheese, pb&j), snack-y items, etc. We also had our own paper plates, bowls, napkins, cups, etc.

All in all, the beach is a great cheap vacation, because once you're there, the "entertainment" is free. Both Holiday Inns had pools, beach, and both had fun game areas. We kept busy the whole time. We had a super fun time! And it hardly touched our budget. :)

5 Months Later!

To be fair, things have been a little busy around here. ;)

Our #1 reason for not updating was this pregnancy. I was so sick for several months. The computer made me very dizzy, so even checking email made me nauseated. :)

It was also difficult to stay on any kind of eating plan for several months. For example, there was one solid week where all I ate was toasted bagels with strawberry cream cheese. Every meal. (Except I couldn't look at it while it was being made. Pregnancy makes you so weird.)

Then the week of eggs. Until I threw them up, and then I never wanted to see eggs again.

Anyways, it also caused Brian and ZZ to eat out a lot. Mostly because they didn't want to eat any more chicken, which was the only thing I could stand to smell at dinnertime (my WORST time - mornings actually weren't that bad!).

On the plus side, Brian was pleased with how much weight he lost on his white meat diet. And pregnancy stopped the whole 7-11 cappuccino addiction.

We also have not been great about getting out CASH. It's something we really need to make a priority. We both *want* to do it, but actually getting out to an ATM is not always convenient. So, we still need to work on that.

Other than that, we've been doing really well so far!!

*Brian needed some new clothes for work, and we found an awesome resale store for him! The prices were great - and Get. This. Many of the items still had tags!!

*We were able to buy all of Zac's summer clothes at consignment sales this spring. His size is harder to find, but I tried to hit every sale (I think 6 different ones over the city), so we got everything he needs. They hardly had any shoes in his size, so we will have to buy those somewhere else - but I'll check the kids' resale stores before going retail. He needs some sandals, some flip flops, and new church shoes. He'll probably need some running shoes pretty soon, too.

*I had saved a lot of my maternity clothes and bought any extras I needed at consignment.

*We also got tons of baby girl stuff at consignment, so she's got a nice little layette already.

*We've been eating really well. Minus my Subway cravings that lasted a couple of weeks. But, I still consider Subway to be less BAD than some of the other fast food places!

We had ONE BIG CHEAT when we got a new camera last week. But we felt like this was something we could not wait for until next year - especially with the new baby coming. We are happy with our choice, bought on sale, and bought the low-end of high-end cameras. :) We didn't buy any of the accessories at the camera store. Instead, we found a warehouse that was going out of business. I found a nice camera bag, a camera strap, and a great memory card, all for around $15! Much cheaper than buying retail! (The bag is actually kind of ghetto, but I think that's a great deterrent for camera thieves! :) )

All in all - we are very happy with how we've been doing so far!! We feel very organized and satisfied with our finances and we always know exactly what we have. We'll try to keep this updated better!! :)

9 days down

We've already had some set-backs! The big one being that our camera broke. :( So, we are trying to get creative on what to do about that. (who wants to read a blog with no pictures?)

Also - we are thinking about possibly moving. Which would require a little addendum to the original rules.

I did have fun buying a gift. was not an option. So, at Goodwill, I found great books for $1 each. :) They also had greeting cards, 10 for a $1.

I am also discovering some weaknesses in our plan.
1. 7-11 french vanilla cappuccinos. At $1.61, it doesn't sound like much. But that is almost $600 a year. And it's within walking distance.
2. Keeping bananas in stock. It's a very popular breakfast and snack item around here.
3. Sick kid and husband. No one wants fruits and veggies when they don't feel well. What did they do in the pre-saltine days?
4. Remembering to get cash from the atm. It sounds so easy, yet I'm having trouble remembering to do it, then end up using the check card.

Hopefully, we'll get the kinks worked out soon!

Test Run

We went grocery shopping last night, practicing for next week. We tried to stay away from the aisles, and stuck pretty much to the front of the store (fruits/produce).

We tried to start small. At first, we had grand ideas of all the "healthy" things we were going to cook, and our cart was getting full of produce. But - with fresh fruits/veggies - they'll go bad if you don't use them. So, we stopped to discuss what types of meals we would be eating in the next couple of days.

Next time- we need a list. I think since we are using so much "fresh" that we should plan out the meals. I bet I can still use some of my freezer meals, too. I'll have to go through the recipes.

Anyways - the total at Walmart was $111. Then we went to Sams and spend $88. Which is WAAAAY WAAAAY over our budget. Brian says, "We're spending money like we have it." LOL I've heard that the Wednesday circulars can have some good deals. Maybe I'll base our meals on that?

Then we went to Goodwill. We have a NYE party with an 80s theme. We walked in and I sang to Brian, "Welcome to your life..." (it's our theme song...) We did end up finding an AWESOME outfit for Brian to wear at the party. (seriously cannot wait until I see this outfit on him! lolololol!!) And I was looking through the women's stuff and found a brand new pair of running shorts for $1.99. They still had tags!?! I decided that looking through all this stuff (although it made me sneeze and kind of itch a little bit), could bring us some treasures. You just never know. Brian's pretty adamant that this is the only time he'll wear anything from Goodwill. But, my frugalness has rubbed off on him so much already ... who knows? ;)

I get to go back this week and find my outfit. I'm holding out for finger-less lace gloves. Wish me luck.

Then we went to the mall to spend gift cards. That was definitely more fun than Goodwill. ;) And we saw Seven Pounds (with movie gift cards, of course). It was our very first movie together. Brian's not really a movie-guy... more of a rental-guy. Unless we get more gift cards, we probably won't see another one for at least a year. But we have a RedBox down the street - which we enjoy more anyways. Who doesn't like a $1 movie?

We have 3 more days before The Year Without begins. I'm fighting the urge for one last shopping spree!

Daniel Diet

One of the things we would like to do as a family is a diet similar to the Daniel Fast. We have been eating out SO SO much lately. It's killing our budget and our favorite place to eat is Italian (can you say carb overload?!??). We can do WITHOUT a lot of the food we currently eat.

It's basically fruits and vegetables, with no sugar or chemicals. Although, we'd like to take the elements of this "fast" and make it more of a lifestyle for us. For our family, we will need to include meat! :)

To include:
All fruits
All veggies
All nuts/seeds
All legumes (canned and dried beans)
All quality oils (olive/canola/peanut oil, etc)
Tofu, soy, vinegar, seasonings, salts, herbs, spices

To avoid:
Refined/Processed food products
Deep fried foods
Solid fats

This is a list that we will stick to at the grocery store. But if we order a pizza now and then - no biggie. And we won't stick to it when we eat out. Especially at our restaurant. :) :) :)

Zac's lunches might have to be creative - and we might have to make a sandwich for him here and there. Otherwise, I think Zac could use a little food *culture* outside the realm of Kraft and Kelloggs.

The Year Without

Being *without* doesn't have to be bad.

I wouldn't mind being *without* an extra 20 pounds. Or a phone *without* voicemail. (I'd love that!)

We are choosing to be *without* a lot of things this year. BUT - with this journey, we hope to also find ourselves *with* many things.
*eternal view

And we hope to be WITHOUT:
*temporary comfort

We posted the "rules" on the right. We originally came up with LOTS of rules and ideas. But, we have a tendency to start things and NOT finish them. So, in order for us to stay on track, we decided on a couple rules - and we will try some of other ideas throughout the year.

Why budget?

Why not?
Budget is not a bad word!

We are always hearing about the dreaded BUDGET. A budget is not scary. A budget is not constraining. It might reveal a weakness or two, but we shouldn't be so proud that we hide that.

Why budget?

A budget is:

Why the Thompsons budget

The bible has many many many references to money, contentment, and debt. This is our main reason. Our finances are a blessing from God. We choose not to take advantage of that. We make (sometimes hard) choices regarding what we *need* and what we *want*. And we make really really hard choices about what we think we *deserve*.

Also, we are a one-income family. It's important for us to be aware of our finances and our spending habits BEFORE anything bad happens. We'd rather be pro-active than reactive.

We want to be an example. It's important to us that -as parents- we show them that money isn't a four-letter-word. It's a blessing from God! And - just like there is an order to making sugar cookies - money can be handled in an organized, logical, and non-threatening way - and it can still be fun. :)

Budget Myths

You don't have to be poor to budget. A budget doesn't mean that you are so broke that you have to count your pennies to make sure the utility bill gets paid. Even multi-million-dollar companies need a budget.

You don't have to be in debt to budget. What a great way to stay OUT of debt!

You don't have to spend hours doing budget spreadsheets and keeping up with all the numbers. There are so many options to do this. Store-bought computer programs, websites, even some checking accounts offer to categorized spending. Find the way that works for you.

How we budget

We have an excel spreadsheet that some friends gave to us. We have categories, and a money amount allotted for each category. As we spend, we can see how much we have left in each category - and the number turns red if we go over. It's a clear visual for us.