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

Screen shot 2014-06-03 at 1.33.56 PM

Airfare

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).
TravelPlane

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)
  • OMG SNACKS!
    • 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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12 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.)

  5. Kat says:

    OK I realize this was posted years ago but I wanted to leave this here for anyone else to offer advice/weigh in/commiserate:

    What about the dreaded situation of being “honoured” with place in the wedding party for a horrifically expensive wedding?!

    Background: My partner and I are teachers in one of the most expensive cities on the planet – we’re incredibly lucky to save even a few thousand dollars after taxes each year, primarily due to the fact that rent and utilities account for at least 60% of most people’s budgets in this location.

    Scenario: My husband and I have only been married a year and a half. I love his family dearly, but I know we’re not truly close yet, so I was beyond touched when his cousin asked me to be one of her bridesmaids.

    The kicker? The family is Italian (not to stereotype but… ), the couple has a wedding budget of around $40,000, and absolutely NO EXPENSE IS BEING SPARED – by anyone! I know this blog is all about not caring what others think of you (and I completely agree), but I’m afraid it just doesn’t apply here… I can tell that my relationship with my new in-laws will definitely be damaged if I don’t just clam up and go along.

    As a result, I’ve already paid $300 for the dress and shoes the bride picked out for us bridesmaids (of COURSE they’re super ugly and can never be worn again for any other occasion, would it be a bridesmaid outfit if they weren’t?!), my husband and I have booked our $1600 flights (did I mention this wedding’s overseas from us?), and we creep closer to panic attack territory whenever we think about all the costs that are still to come… a bridal shower gift, a wedding gift, hair and makeup for me (the bride already booked someone to come to the house on the wedding day and just handed each bridesmaid a bill), the $250 spa day that the other bridesmaids are already messaging me about for the the bachelorette… I’m sweating just thinking about it. HELP! Do I just suck it up and accept the fact that this is a one-off thing and a happy, loving family is worth almost any price? Do I offer suggestions for cutting costs, which I know full well will NOT be accepted and will probably just cause serious offence? Do I thank the bride for her gracious offer to include me but explain that I can’t possibly participate (this is worst-case scenario to me; I would hate to do this and can’t think of anything more insulting)? Do I fake a terminal illness (one which is miraculously cured after the wedding)?! LOL Seriously, any suggestions welcome at this point… :/

    • Chris J says:

      Hi! I’m just weighing in on my thoughts as I have been a bridesmaid 3 x and maid of honour 1x. I’m also getting married next month! I think its actually really selfish of a couple to have an extravagant expensive wedding and put other people on the hook for it. If they have the money and want to pay for everything than that’s fine, but this doesn’t sound like the case. Honestly, if someone asks you to be a part of their wedding party that should mean you are close enough to discuss finances in the sense that it will put a strain on you if you participate in all of the above. As a bride to be, if one of my friends was struggling financially or I was expecting too much of them, I would definitely want to know and change my course of action or help them out in any way. I would hate to find out later that I put my friend in a difficult position. That being said, I would duck out of the spa day….figure out an excuse and don’t go. Its not necessary. Its too late to back out of the wedding party now it sounds like, but if it was early enough I think you could. Just because someone asks you to be in their wedding party you don’t have to say yes. You can always graciously back out. You could say that you are honoured and its so sweet but unfortunately you aren’t in the financial position to take on a role like this at this particular time. I think if you are ever surprised to be in someone’s wedding party you probably shouldn’t be. Also, I firmly believe that you need to be true to yourself and as long as you are polite, respectful and forthcoming, if your friends/family arent receptive then this is on them. People need to be more understanding. If you do say yes to be in the wedding party, unfortunately around $100-$300 sounds about right for the wedding outfit. Its too bad the wedding is overseas. I’m against destination weddings because they do put not only a financial burden on your friends and family but you are also dictating a full week of their precious vacation time. Oh also, regarding the hair and makeup the day of, that should always be optional. No bride should dictate that. What you wear I can see, but how you do your hair and makeup is more personal. I would hand the bill back and say that you are more comfortable doing your own hair and makeup, but you appreciate the offer. If you at least avoid the spa day and hair and makeup you will have saved around $350-$500. I hope I helped!

      Weddings are crazy. I should know, I’m planning one now 😉

  6. Thanks for sharing this. Your tips are very helpful. I am a travel freak and travel a lot. Next year Alaska is on my card.Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness., and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.
    People often have a theme that they base their worldly travels on, but how about a mental mantra for your travel? Out of a cheerleading event that consisted of our family shouting supportive words at our daughter who was attempting to kill a rather monstrous spider that the rest of us were too chicken to get close to, came this great quote, “If you don’t think, and you just do….then it’s done!”

    This quote came back to haunt me when on vacation in Seattle. I thought it would be a great idea to take the kids on the Seattle Great Wheel, the ferris wheel overlooking the ocean, but as we approached it, I realized how high it went and immediately panicked! Just as I had decided to put the kids on it on their own, my daughter says, “Come on dad…If you don’t think, and you just do….then it’s done!” What could I do at that point?! She was telling me to stop thinking and creating more fear about the situation and just get on the thing!
    “If you don’t think, and you just do, then it’s done!” We all now keep this quote in our back pocket, ready to whip out at any time to push one of us forward into an adventure we know they won’t regret. No hesitations, don’t allow any time for fear to set in, and be prepared for your kids to turn your life advice back on you

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