yosemitefalls_smallIt’s the first year that I actually have Memorial Day off since I work for a smaller business. My husband got Friday off too though so I decided to take my floating personal day (cause no one has to work on their birthday) early and have a 4 day weekend too! What better way to celebrate than to check out some national parks?

Admittedly I haven’t really visited a lot of national parks. From LA I am within a day’s drive of quite a few of them actually. Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon, and Zion are just a few examples. This weekend wasn’t the best time to go as it was busy everywhere, but what’s a working woman to do? I don’t have a lot of 3 day weekends! It’s also not the best time to try to be budget friendly as we didn’t plan this vacation far enough in advance and it wouldn’t matter because everything is pricier. I still tried my best though!

The Plan
I had 4 days to go wherever I want. Of course I want to maximize my time but relax at the same time. We headed out Friday morning to Yosemite first since it’s farther away. Then on Saturday afternoon we headed down to Sequoia. Monday we headed home in the afternoon after one leisurely late breakfast. We did our due diligence by researching things we want to do, and also buying any tickets we needed before we go. Yosemite was absolutely insane and Sequoia was pretty busy too. We lucked out on finding parking spots before they closed off the lots but it was still tough getting through all the people. Apparently there was one distraught woman who was hitting the shuttle bus at Yosemite because the bus driver wouldn’t let her get on the crowded bus.

Food Stuffs
Grand Canyon was such a beautiful place to visit, but the food was pretty horrible. It’s pretty much the same thing for all of these places. It was crowded, touristy, overpriced food all around. Instead of stocking up at an overpriced last stop shop at the parks, we did some grocery shopping and hauled it there. This saved us when we didn’t have time to go find food at Sequoia when we were trying to make a cave tour reservation. It wasn’t real food, but it was something to fill our tummies until we could get somewhere else.

Places to Sleep
This could’ve been the biggest money saver. We could’ve camped at Yosemite for $12 a night. Well, we stayed in hotels. Definitely more than I would like to spend but it’s worth it for me! After running around all day I definitely appreciated my comforts even more. A good night of rest was essential to keep my energy up through the busy weekend. For three nights of hotel stay we’re at about $450 because of the holiday weekend. It’s pretty cold in Yosemite and Sequoia at lows of 30 degrees though so there’s no way I would even consider camping. The hotel at Yosemite is much pricier though so we decided to only stay one night there at least. At both parks we ended up staying about an hour outside of the parks to save a bit of mula too. It was insanely expensive closer to the park! That meant we had to drive quite a bit to get to where we wanted to go though.

Year Pass for all National Parks
It’s $30 per park for a pass that’s valid for 7 days. For 2 parks that’s $60 already. Luckily my husband went on an all guys road trip to Zion a week ago and had the foresight to spring for the $80 year pass! It’s unlimited to any national park whereas the week pass is only to that specific park. His friends chipped in $20 so the price of this pass is already at $60 for us. Of course to take full advantage of this we’re going to try to use it at other parks too.

 

Overall this was a decently pricey trip because of the hotel accommodations. It was pretty insane at Yosemite and it kinda felt like home with crazy drivers there! You’d think on a national holiday like Memorial weekend that people would be nicer, but alas no. I still had a great time though and we made the best of it. Today we were debating on going back to Sequoia in the morning but with the crazy winding roads and how tired we are of crazy people, we just took our time to get home. It’s good to be home for sure!

What did you do for this Memorial Weekend?


CottonPlantSweatshop-free, American-made, earth-friendly, and inexpensive clothing? Is there such a thing? As I try more and more to make my money mean more with what I buy this seems to be the next step. Turns out it’s pretty hard finding clothing that fits all of parameters above! I’ve researched a ton of companies to see if I could find clothing that fits all that and I’ve had to scale back my expectations. Now if I can find clothing that fits at least one of those first three then I’m good to go.

Okay, so first of all why am I even doing this? I’ve never been one to care much about fashion so my clothes are pretty basic and some of them are pretty old. I don’t spend a ton of money on clothes and while I don’t wear them until they fall off, I do patch them up as needed to make them last longer. It’s a pretty big industry though and where we spend our money has an impact on how that clothing is produced.

Sweat-shop free
Many clothing companies use sweatshops in order to crank out cheap clothing. Workers are paid very little and often are women and children working in horrible environments. Sweatshops are in the news all the time with fires breaking out in a factory and killing everyone because fire exits were blocked. Or unsafe work conditions that caused a building to collapse killing everyone inside. I definitely don’t want to be wearing clothing that someone risked their life to make and were paid next to nothing for. By supporting companies that are sweatshop free it helps those companies trying to do the right thing. Treat people well and pay them a fair wage for their hard work.

American-made
So far this has been the hardest thing to find! American Apparel is definitely the first place that comes to mind when thinking American made but their clothing isn’t the best quality and can be pricey. Unfortunately it’s much less expensive to manufacture goods out of the country. It would be nice to support American companies to boost our economy! Overall American-made goods are also higher quality that could justify the higher price point too.

Organic Cotton
Tons and tons of chemicals are used for cotton farming which obviously isn’t so good for the earth. It pollutes land and water and affects the health of the farm workers. If I’m going to go organic with the food I eat, then why not with the clothes I wear? Organic cotton goods are harder to find, and pricier usually, but if I at least buy a few items every now and then hopefully it makes an impact!

Some companies doing the right thing
If you’re looking for fashion then it’s pretty hard to find if you also want it to be all of the above. Most companies that fit those only manufacture basics actually. So far I’ve been frequenting a few places that have pretty good clothing for the price point and quality.

Buck Mason
American made clothing for men

Wear Pact
Los Angeles based company with organic cotton and sweatshop-free clothing

Alternative Apparel
Eco-friendly clothing with some organic cotton

H&M
I know this is a big company but they’ve come out with many organic cotton clothing items that are pretty affordable. Not my first choice but they’re trying at least!

 

I don’t always buy consciously every single time I shop. In fact I just bought a few items that definitely weren’t, but were too cute to pass up. It’s good to use my money in a more meaningful way for sure!

Are you into buying more conscious clothing?


 Photo Credit: maxxcarrental via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: maxxcarrental via Compfight cc

 

With all this talk about saving money I think a lot of us now have conditioned reflexes to really veer toward lower dollar signs! I know when I’m shopping I do tend to do that now and I have to take a step back and tell myself to think objectively and not just grab the cheapest item. This happens with a variety of things and a lot of times I end up buying something that’s higher quality even if it’s not the lowest price. I want things I own to last longer and not break within a few months. Still, my eyes have a tendency to light up when I hear something that sounds like a good deal, but in reality isn’t.

With family incoming in a couple of months my husband and I have started planning a little bit in terms of what supplies we have/don’t have and also anything we need to consider. It’ll be 7 people total including us and the last time this happened we decided to rent a mini-van to save time and hassle. A couple hundred dollars we didn’t love spending but it worked out well since then we didn’t need two cars driving at all times. Also not a fun thing in LA!

It was time to look into renting another mini-van for the week family would be here. Yep…the dreaded mini-van.

“I’ve always wanted to drive a mini-van!” Said no one ever. It’s clunky, not stylish, bulky, and the only reason you would ever get it is if you needed something to haul around a lot of people. The style of a mini-van hasn’t changed in decades with good reason. No one’s dream car would ever be a mini-van. Yet, we really could use one for just one week. Driving two cars for hour long trips really isn’t fun and there’s the question of whether or not our cars could even fit everyone plus kid car seats. The gas used on both cars too would probably amount to the same as one mini-van. Not to mention that it would be much more stressful to drive two cars than one.

A quick check and mini-vans currently are running about $30 a day. And…..full-size vans are at $22 a day! Whoa that’s like dirt-cheap considering how much more you get! Isn’t America all about getting more for your money? For $8 less a day I could get two times more metal and capacity! What a deal!

But wait…is it?

Nope, not at all.

  1. If no one ever wants to drive a mini-van then who the heck would want to drive a full-size van????
  2. The parking spots in LA are the size of compact spots elsewhere in the country. Parking would be a nightmare anywhere we went and we’d have crying kids and grumpy people in the car.
  3. The street lanes in LA are pretty thin and even in my Corolla I wish I had more space…what if we ended up side-swiping another car?
  4. I can’t imagine how much gas a full-size van would consume.
  5. I don’t want to park this thing in front of my house.

 

I don’t even want a full-size van at all! It’s just like buying something at the store that you weren’t looking for but was on sale that you couldn’t pass up, then realize that it wasn’t a deal at all because you don’t even want it. In this case I realized before I have a full-size van lounging outside my house. Other times, might not have been so lucky with impulse purchases.

What’s something you bought for a good deal then realized it wasn’t at all?


Photo Credit: SquireHaggard via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: SquireHaggard via Compfight cc

 

It’s official!!!! This week will be Thanksgiving and officially the craziness of the holidays start! The stores have been prepared for Thanksgiving and Christmas for weeks already. Cue the Christmas music that will play endlessly and forever stuck in my head through the beginning of next year. And of course there will be all the crazy sales and people trying to get the newest products. Another holiday season, another few month of trying to stay sane and remember the real meaning behind the holidays.

Each year that passes by it seems like the holidays get crazier and crazier. The stores begin crazy sales in October it feels like and there’s a lot of potential stress with trying to find the perfect gifts and hold the perfect holiday celebration. It’s always a good thing to remind myself about why the holidays are here and what they are really about.

Keeping it real
This is the one thing I need to tell myself over and over during this time of year. It’s too easy to go overboard and get really stressed out when really it’s time to celebrate with family and friends. It’s so easy to lose track of that in this materialistic time, but doing so will keep me grounded and hopefully as stress-free as possible. Oh and more mula in my wallet I hope.

Gifting
I have a pretty long gift list and honestly it can be pretty stressful and money can fly out the window quickly if I’m not careful enough. I actually started shopping a long time ago to give myself a ton more time to buy people gifts that are actually useful and hopefully things they do want (and on sale or on clearance too!). One thing I started last year that I’m continuing now is to give charitable donations instead of physical gifts. Or a small gift paired with a charitable donation. It’s the thought that counts right? I have a lot of fun buying gifts though so I don’t want to stop entirely. Giving myself plenty of time though ensures I do it smartly, with less stress, and can budget my mula correctly.

Everything does not have to be perfect
Being a perfectionist is the one thing I’ve been fighting a lot. In the end if it’s not perfect it doesn’t mean I’ve failed. It just is. I don’t need to have a live Christmas tree that’s 6 feet tall to decorate the house. Some stuff across the fireplace is just fine too. Every gift I buy doesn’t have to be amazing either. Only for my sister. Hehe.

Avoiding the crazy shopping days
Admittedly…I am one who loves to go Black Friday shopping. I don’t wait in line on Thanksgiving night or anything, or go to the big box stores. I would go to the outlet malls and shop all day. The bargain hunter in me loved the great deals I could get on kitchenware and clothing. This year I’m going to avoid doing that at all! I really have everything I want and my gift list is already pretty complete. I’ll just relax this year and avoid the temptation of another set of Pyrex. The one thing I might do is small business Saturday just to support the local businesses. That should be a lot more chill than Black Friday!

 

It’s the holidays!!!!!!! I’m going to spend time with family and friends and just enjoy the moment as much as I can.

What’s your game plan this holiday season to enjoy it and not spend all your mula?


Photo Credit: jacobsas via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: jacobsas via Compfight cc

 

Well it’s October and Halloween is just in another short two weeks!!!! I already see lawns being decorated like crazy with all sorts of monsters, ghouls, witches, inflatable cats and all other random stuff. It’s time for to think of what I want to be for Halloween and if I want to give out candy to the hordes of children that will overrun my neighborhood. It’s hard being frugal when it comes to the holidays!

Halloween is the start of the holiday season which means my wallet will be pulled into a million different places starting now! With every single holiday comes a set of money sucking decisions to be made. Decorations made specifically for each holiday alone and all the festivities that come along with it! Usually I end up making a lot of decorations by hand to save some mula and cutting down on those “must have items.”

Handmade everything!
For Halloween costumes I definitely cannot justify buying a pre-made crappy costume that I will only wear once. I usually end up throwing something together out of items I already have available or with minimal cost from a craft store. Luckily I do have a lot of materials lying round from other projects that I usually can scrap something together out of felt. It’s also kind of fun scrapping something together and seeing if it works or not. Last year I was a gnome and made a hilarious tall cone hat and beard made out of felt. Pretty funny. Cost was nothing since I already had materials on hand! Fun!

Use what you already have or make sure you can use it again
If I can’t make it I usually try to re-purpose something I have around. For a gnome outfit I used my husband’s bright blue collar button down shirt with a belt across the middle. This year I had to buy some socks to complete my outfit unfortunately but at least it’s something I will wear again.

Candy for the kids
Last year was my first time ever handing out candy in my home! I had no idea what I was in for. I bought a Costco sized bag (150 pieces) of good brand name candy and thought I would be set for the night. An hour and a half later I was out! I had to turn off my porch lights and hide in my house so that kids wouldn’t come trick or treating. For the next two hours after that every time I looked out the window it looked like a Halloween movie set with kids covering the sidewalk. Most of these kids aren’t from the neighborhood but since it’s a safe area they get dropped off by the truckload. This year I’ll try two big bags of candy to see how that goes and then shut off my lights. I could get cheaper stuff but when I was a kid this was the stuff I was excited to get. Well, in truth I was excited to get full size candy bars but I’m not willing to shell out money for that!

Decorations
I’m skipping out on these for sure. As much as I would like to I figure I’m already buying a ton of candy to give out. Kids will come up to my door no matter what anyway. Plus I’m honestly not so into Halloween that I need to have tons of decorations to celebrate! Perhaps if anything I’ll take a look at the sales after Halloween to see what there is. Most of it is pretty cheesy though so I doubt I’ll get anything.

 

Another Halloween another year of dressing up and getting bomboarded by a bunch of kids. Fun! Haha and thank goodness it’s once a year.

How are you keeping Halloween low cost this year?