A Frugalwoods Vacation: What We Spent, What We Didn’t

Last weekend Mr. Frugalwoods and I attended a friend’s glorious wedding–held at a brewery no less (yes, we have awesome friends). Being us, we made the journey on the cheap. Still, I can’t help but wonder if we could’ve done it even cheaper…what do you think? Here’s the rundown:

Total Cost of Trip: $535.50

Estimated Savings: $1,509.96

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The distance was such that driving wasn’t an option, so we bought our plane tickets far in advance and were flexible on departure and arrival times to take advantage of the cheapest flights. We left late in the evening, enabling us to go to work that day and not spend a vacation day.

  • Cost: $413 (round-trip flights + taxes/fees for two people).

Generic photo I took of a plane. Wow, very airline.

Airport Frugalness

Aside from being a new term I’m coining, much of one’s travel expenses can stem from the airport itself. Travel to and fro, food, neck massages, luggage, shoe shines, etc. To combat this money trap we:

  • Packed our own food.
    • Definitely not worth spending funds on limp, tragic sandwiches and unneeded chips-n-sodas. We took servings from the bulk lunch Mr. Frugalwoods cooked for us that week (rice w/mushrooms, btw). I spooned rice into two ziplock bags (yes, I know it would be cheaper to take reusable containers, but ours are glass and I didn’t want to haul them or risk breaking). Also: scavenged plastic spoons from the airport food court; brought an empty waterbottle and filled it at an airport drinking fountain; toted two bananas and pears; and packed up the mini bags of pretzels and granola bars I’d gotten for free at a conference a few weeks prior (double frugal points). We were set!
    • Estimated savings: $60 (meals, snacks, and drinks for two people for both flights)
Frugal dinner in a bag

Frugal dinner-in-bag

  • Brought our own books and magazines.
    • Don’t buy media at the airport—you know you’re getting ripped off. You just know it.
    • Estimated savings: $20
  • Took public transit to the airport.
    • I know this isn’t an option in all cities, but if it is, wow is it cheap! We had to cab it home as our flight landed too late to take the bus, but, one way is better than two! I was frugal-cringing over this for a week until I read Mr. Money Mustache’s apropos Give Yourself the Gift of Not Worrying About Money. He makes the sage point that those of us on track with savings shouldn’t sweat the occasional splurge.
    • Cost of public transit tickets: $4 ($2 per person)
    • Savings: $35 (one cab ride)
  • Luggage.
    • Packed into two small carry-ons to avoid incurring the $25 per bag per flight cost of checked luggage.
    • Savings: $100 (two bags, to + fro)

The Homefront

  • Back at home, Frugal Hound bunked with fellow dog owner friends. We’ll swap and watch their pup next time they’re out of town.
  • Savings: $360 (the kennel down the street charges $60/night per dog)
Did you really think I'd make it through this post without a gratuitous photo of Frugal Hound?

Did you really think I’d make it through a post without a gratuitous photo of Frugal Hound? Here with Christmas duck.

On the Ground

We were extremely fortunate to stay with my lovely in-laws, aka the parents of Mr. Frugalwoods, who live 2.5 hours from the wedding location. They generously picked us up at the airport and fed and lodged us for free (thank you frugal-in-laws!). We are tremendously grateful for this savings and glad we considered the surrounding region when making travel plans.

  • Lodging.
    • In the wedding city, we stayed at a Sheraton for free using our Starwood Hotel points (gleaned from an American Express card we judiciously pay off every month).
    • Savings:  $380 ($190 per night, stayed two nights)
  • Car.
    • My fabulous frugal-in-laws let us borrow their car to drive to the wedding city. We filled up the tank once.
    • Cost of gas: $40
    • Savings: $76.51 (for a rental car)
    • We took snacks and lunches from my frugal-in-laws for our drive so that we wouldn’t need to buy anything on the road.
    • Estimated Savings: $25 (snacks, lunches, and drinks for two people, two ways)
  • Meals.
    • Fortunately for us, the wedding included a rehearsal dinner, a reception, and a brunch so we were off the hook for most meals. Weddings are the best! Especially this one. Did I mention it was at a brewery?!
  • Beverage splurges!
    • We bought a diet coke and a sprite (first time we’d had soda in months) from the hotel vending machine (very un-Frugalwoods of us!) and had two unusual, hard-to-find regional craft beers at an awesome local brewery (got the small size of each to save $$$).
    • Cost of drink splurges: $11
  • Brunch splurge!
    • We ate exactly one meal out the entire six-day trip: a divine brunch with wonderful, old friends before the wedding. Even here, we thought carefully. Brunch = two meals in one (frugal score!). And, we selected a highly-rated restaurant with reasonable prices. We wanted to enjoy our meal—not spend a few dollars less for subpar grub. We strategized by not ordering liquor and avoiding the expensive entrées. A delicious and delightful time with friends was had because we’d saved on all other aspects of the journey. I’d much rather expend my food budget on a savory brunch than tepid airport fare.
    • Cost of tasty brunch for two: $32.50
Did I mention the wedding was at a brewery? Best. idea. ever.

Enjoying our beer splurge

  • Budget wedding clothes.
    • I was honored to be in the wedding party and deeply grateful to the bride that I wasn’t required to buy a dress! Frugal happiness. I wore a charming periwinkle, taffeta J Crew bridesmaids dress, purchased for $20 at a thrift store with a $3 garage sale necklace and $14 Target flats. Best part: this is the third wedding I’ve worn this outfit to, which makes the price per event $12.33! I did my own hair, make-up, and nails. Mr. Frugalwoods wore the only suit he owns and his beard, which is well, always on his face. We looked good!
    • Estimated Savings: $400 (new fancy outfits and shoes for two people. Ok I’m kind of guessing because I haven’t purchased new clothes in…a realllly long time.)
  • Clever wedding gift.
    • I used a gift card someone had given me, along with a coupon I found online, to buy the bride and groom a gift from their wedding registry. Horde gift cards and only use them when you need to buy someone else a gift!
    • Savings: $53.45

Mr. Frugalwoods and I had a glorious time on this vacation and were able to enjoy quality time with family and friends. While we spent more money than we would at home, it was a worthwhile debit that facilitated meaningful experiences.

Ok, give us the hard truth–what did we miss? Where could we have saved more?

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9 Responses

  1. Mr. 1500 says:

    Wait, they got married at a brewery? How cool is that? Almost makes me want to get divorced so I can get remarried at one! 🙂

    I love how you bought the dress for $20 at the thrift store. I love shopping at them; so much more fun than a regular store, not to mention the savings.

    We do thrift store flipping too. In the spring, we’ll load up on $25 snowboards. When the first snow starts to melt in the fall, we throw them up on eBay and they usually sell for $75 or more.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I had the same thought on the brewery! Let me tell you, it was awesome. That dress is one of my best thrift finds–reinforces the folly of buying new. Great idea on thrift store flipping. We haven’t ventured into that yet, but I’ve thought about it with Craigslist too… definitely on my radar now!

  2. As a family of 5, driving is pretty much our only option…no matter how far we’re going. For longer distance trips in decent weather we’re going to be building up camping gear but we can make it 900 miles in a day to visit the spendypants-in-laws. That comes in handy since we’re doing it around Christmas this year.

    Saving hotel costs by couchsurfing or endurance driving is well worth it. My kids sleep horribly in hotels anyway, so really we’re paying $100 (give or take) for crappy beds, worse lighting for night reading, bad sleep, and (maybe) a decent breakfast.

    I’d say you did pretty damn good! You spent a little money to gain a lot of fun instead of totally cheaping out.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Camping while driving is a great idea! We would’ve liked to drive for this trip, but it would have necessitated more days off work, so a net loss in the end. I’m sure our calculations will alllllll change once we have little ones :).

  3. TomTrottier says:

    Possible savings:
    – You could have biked to the airport & borrowed bikes at your destination. (Or take your bikes on the bus & just bike back) Bikes should always have sturdy back racks for heavy luggage. I carried a 70 pound barrel of malt extract (for making beer) on mine once.
    – Offer services as gifts, eg, “I will do a website for you.” or “I’ll help build you a deck.” You can make your own fancy card for this.
    – Only attend nudist weddings to save clothes expenses. Convince your friends!

  4. vicky says:

    I enjoy your posts. My husband and I (nearing retirement age) got a minivan last year and as well as serving as our everyday vehicle (20 – 30 mpg, depending on who’s driving), it’s our hotel on wheels when traveling. We hate staying in hotels, even if paid by our employers. We removed the middle seats, the rear seat folds into the floor, we have a comfy inflatable mattress, etc., — Voila! a mini camper. we use a mini-tent for anything that needs to stay outside the camper (coolers, etc.)

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