Weekly Woot & Grumble: A Very Frugal Day Trip
So what do us frugal weirdos do for entertainment? I think people assume we just sit at home in the dark, reading library books, and eating food out of the trash. But we only do that sometimes, I swear;)! In truth, Mr. Frugalwoods and I live a life of frugal luxury and engage in a plethora of fabulous frugal pursuits. Our recent very frugal day trip is but one rich example.
Last Saturday, Mr. Frugalwoods and I elected to take a little sojourn to Salem, MA, which is an hour drive from our home in Cambridge. We’ve set a goal of exploring our New England region in greater depth (full disclosure: we’re not doing so hot on this goal so far, unless you count mountains hiked) and this was the perfect opportunity to tick a city off our list.
Naturally, we frugalized our trek to such an extent that the only money we spent was on the gas to drive there and $3 to park for the day. Sadly, there’s no free parking in Salem for non-residents–I know this because I researched it extensively in advance. Who doesn’t read municipal parking websites for fun :)? Since we adhere to a $0 entertainment budget, this outing was well within the bounds of our guidelines for extreme frugal living.
The most notable aspect of this expedition is that our friend E works at the famed Peabody Essex Museum in Salem and was able to secure free tickets for us. Since the museum charges $18 per person, this was an amazing opportunity for us frugal weirdos! A huge thanks to E for hooking us up! We toured the museum’s Yin Yu Tang Chinese House, all of the galleries, and particularly enjoyed the special exhibit of works by Thomas Hart Benton. We also lounged in the museum’s atrium and munched almonds we’d brought from home, thus cleverly avoiding the pricey snacks vended by the museum’s cafe.
Mr. FW and I are great lovers of art and we try to visit museums anytime we’re able to (translation: anytime they’re free or cheap). While neither of us knows a great deal about art, we were both involved with our college’s art museum–Mr. FW was employed as their assistant photographer and I served on their student engagement committee (which, coincidentally, happened to serve pizza at meetings… ). In fact, you might be surprised to know that we actually own two pieces of real art that we paid a real artist real money for. They were our wedding gifts to each other seven years ago. Yet another example of investing only in things that matter to us and bring us joy.
While not everyone has a friend who works at a museum, almost every museum offers free entrance on certain days/times. Often, museums will designate an evening every week when the admission price is waived and frugal folk from miles around can saunter through the galleries free of charge. Additionally, our public library has museum tickets available to “check out,” which provide either free or greatly discounted admission. I don’t think this is unique to Cambridge, so check and see if your city does the same!
No day trip is complete without food (especially when a member of the party is pregnant and constantly ravenous… ) and we actually began the day by eating. I’d intended to hold off on feasting until after visiting the museum, but my stomach dictated otherwise (and Mr. FW accused me of being hangry). So, we kicked off our jaunt with a picnic in the Salem Commons.
We loaded our cooler with sandwiches and a salad, which, true story, actually constituted a double frugal bonus since they were free leftovers from a meeting at my office. Why other people don’t want free leftovers is beyond me, but I’m always happy to save food from the trash (oh whoops, I guess we do eat from the trash on occasion… ). We also brought along a few bottles of our homemade seltzer, for a touch of true picnic class. And voila! A free lunch in lieu of $20+ spent at a restaurant.
After devouring our picnic, we ambled over to the visitor’s center to inquire if there were any free events we could take partake in. I’ve discovered that visitors’ centers, despite their reputations as hokey meccas for fanny packs, contain valuable info–namely, what’s free in town. Most places have a few frugal attractions and I’m always keen to sniff them out.
Sure enough, the National Park Service offers free tours of the Friendship of Salem ship and the Custom House. We opted to walk on over to the harbor for these tours and scoped out the quaint historic homes along the route. It was a very peaceful, quiet walk since most of our fellow tourists instead paid to take a trolley to the destination. Yet another frugal win for walking!
On our gratis tour, we learned that Nathaniel Hawthorne was an employee at the Custom House and it sounds like someone should have cued him into the wonders of early retirement. Apparently he was disgruntled, didn’t enjoy his job, and only wanted to write novels. I feel your pain, Nathaniel. Fortunately he did eventually do just that and published The Scarlet Letter (among other works). But think what he might’ve produced if he’d saved his dough and freed himself from the shackles of daily, mind-numbing employment!
Our day in Salem capped off with a circuitous walk about town to take in the sights. I’d printed off a number of maps and bits of historical info from the world wide web so that we could enlighten ourselves about this maritime town’s history. The internet is our constant source for entertainment and information–it’s amazing the breadth of knowledge that’s available online for free.
And thus completes a very frugal day trip. I’m often asked how we manage not to spend on entertainment, and to me, it’s elementary. We avail ourselves of whatever’s free and don’t engage with the rest. It would’ve been easy to spend upwards of $100 on this mini-adventure, but there’s simply no need. By planning ahead (securing free museum tickets, packing a lunch and snacks) and remaining open to whatever opportunities presented themselves (in this case, a visit to a ship and a Custom House), any frugal weirdo can execute a day excursion with nary a case of buyer’s remorse. Flexibility, the absence of desire for a “perfect” experience, and a general joie de vivre will ensure that you enjoy thrifty entertainment of any sort.
I’ve just realized that I lack a grumble to share with you this week. The problem is that “Weekly Woot” doesn’t have the same ring to it. But hey, I’ll take a week sans grumble anytime. Thank you for reading these sentences so that my whole post structure wasn’t thrown off. You guys are the best.