Summertime Plans on a Budget!

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School is out for us on Tuesday. That means I’ve got 67 days to fill with adventures and “excitement” as my 6 year put it. No pressure, right?

Here are just a few things we’ll be doing to have lots of fun, but not spend a ton of money.

  • Taking advantage of free community events! Our local libraries have tons of fun events during the month.  Lego Club, craft afternoons, story time for pre-schoolers, and our local library has a great slate of summer events, including a summer reading program!
  • Using passes and memberships that we’ve already paid for. For us, that’s the San Diego Zoo and the YMCA. I plan on taking full advantage of the YMCA membership daily to get the kids out of the house and playing with others, as well as swimming at the activity pool.
  • Packing snacks and drinks when we leave the house. Henry’s pre-school backpack has become our go to snack backpack. I wrote about our family snack backpack yesterday.
  • Meeting up with friends at the park to play. We love playing at the park. It’s a great way to get out the wiggles, meet new friends, and catch up with old friends. There are tons of groups on Meetup.com or Facebook. If you haven’t checked out Momco on Facebook, it’s a great way to find moms looking to meet up and play!
  • I love to arrange craft or science get togethers. The kids get to make something or try a science project and play with friends. I’m not really into Pinterest all that much, but I do have a Pinterest Board with some of the science and crafts we want to do this summer.  I try to use the supplies we have on hand. I find that a lot of the supplies can be picked up at 99 Cents Only, or cheaply at Target.
  • We’ll also be painting a lot of rocks and hiding them all over this summer. Have you heard of Santee Rocks? Both kids love it and it’s a great way to get kids out and active!  It’s an awesome Facebook Group. Learn more here.
  • The Beach! I know not everyone has the beach near them, but if you do- take advantage!  Google your favorite beach and Tide Chart and find out when low tide it. Low tide is the perfect time to hunt for shells. If you are in San Diego, or will be visiting this summer, check out Coronado for the SS Monte Carlo. It’s a sunken ship that is visible and explorable at low tide.
  • Don’t forget the $1.00 kids movies at Regal Cinemas!
  • Here are a few of my other tips for a fun, frugal San Diego Summer.
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Vacations on the Cheap, Part 1 (The budget)

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A shot of us at D-land in September of 2013!

I was cleaning out some files yesterday and I came across some notes from when we planned our family vacation to Disneyland 2 years ago. I know with Summer vacation coming up, a lot of you will be planning trips to The House of Mouse and other locales. Here are a few tips to help you save on your summer fun!

The first part of planning a trip is budget. Where you’ll go, how long you’ll stay, what you’ll do while you’re there, those things are all (sadly) dictated by budget.

When we plan a trip, in order to keep our costs down, I’ve formulate a budget that takes into consideration a few things:

  1. We’re getting a m/hotel room with a kitchenette. That way we can eat some meals in room and save money. The average price per person per meal in most tourist areas is $10.00 plus tax and tip, so just by eating in our room three times we’re saving $90.00 plus tax and tip. The difference in price between a m/hotel room without a kitchen is about $10/day. For us, it’s worth it.
  2. I’ll be using high value and free item coupons for some of the menu items we’ll be eating. I trade coupons online on site like HotCouponWorld, and of course, my local coupon club. (For more info on coupon clubs and online forums, check out this post)
  3. I use as many deals and savings programs to earn gift cards and cash to defray costs. I’m save Swagbucks for a Paypal payout, I save Mypoints points for a gift certificate or a Paypal payout,  And if we happen to eat out, we’ll try to eat at Mogl restaurants to earn a little green back!
  4. I save various gift cards as well to be used on the trip (like the $20 pre-paid Visa Gift Cards I earn from SBKC)

So with our budget in mind, I set to finding a m/hotel that fits our budget and has the amenities we are looking for: swimming pool, complimentary continental breakfast, and free parking.

 

 

Ten Great Buys at 99 Cents Only!

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For those of us living in CA, NV, AZ, TX we have the opportunity to save money by shopping the great deals at 99 Cents Only. 99 Cents Only is different from other discount/dollar stores in that the majority of locations feature a refridgator and freezer case with a variety of name brand foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables. In addition to fesh and frozen foods, most locations have a great diverse stock of shelf stable foods too.
And 99 Cents only has more than food, they carry the same types of items that you have grown accustomed to seeing at discount/dollar stores, such as health and beauty aids, school supplies, and kitchen tools.
While 99 Cents Only does not accept manufacturer coupons, they frequently send out coupons that are good for a free item when you purchase X number of items (most recently they have been buy 5 items, receive one free). And there are a few apps that are not retailer specific (such as checkout51, snap by groupon, Mobisave, berrycart, shrink,and shopnimium) that you can submit your receipts to to earn a little extra cash back!
Not everything is .9999/each, many of the items are .7999/each, .6999.each, 2/.9999, or 4./9999. .9999? What? That’s right, after many years in business, last year 99 cents only had to increase prices just a fraction to keep up with inflation. So at .9999/each (or really, rounded up to $1.00), many things are still a screaming deal.
Here are just a few of the great deals that you shouldn’t pass up:
Carrots. A 20 ounce bag (that’s 1.25 lbs) of baby carrots is .9999. At most regular grocers The same bag is upwards of $2.50.
Bagged greens. Most locations carry multiple brands including Dole, Ready Pac, and Earthbound Organics (just to name a few), which can sell at most mainstream grocers for upwards of $4.00/bag!
Disposable person care items, such as cotton swabs.  1000 cotton swabs for $1.00! That’s a lot of clean ears! A box of 500 or so can run upwards of $5.00 at most mass merchandisers.
Men’s dress socks. I’m serious. At $1.00/pair, you’re saving approximately 75-80% over department store prices. Most of hubs socks come from 99 cents only, and he’s been wearing them for about 2 years.
Cake mix. I’m talking name brand here. Unless there is a sale and you have a coupon at the local grocery store, you’ll be spending a few bucks for a cake mix. Drop by your local 99 cents only and take a gander, you’ll be surprised by the variety and brands of cake mixes available. Last time I stopped in to my local store, they had Pillsbury cake mixes!
Bananas. Most grocery stores in San Diego charge .65/-.80/lb for bananas! Most 99 cents locations have bananas for just .49/lb. some select locations have 3 lbs/$1.00!
School/art supplies. Perfect for the parent of an artistically minded kiddo or a homeschooler, most locations have a great selection of construction paper, paint, craft kits, and bulletin board supplies. We get most of our craft supplies at 99 cents only!
Party Supplies, from disposable plates and utensils to goody bag filler, most locations have a decent variety. Not just plain colors, but fun themed goodies as well. Our local store has princess, pirate, minion, TMNT, frozen, sweet 16 themed party supplies.
Bread. This photo isn’t the best representation of what they have most of the time,cut most stores have a variety of fresh breads from companies like Sarah Lee, Orowheat/Arnold’s, and bread in the freezer case too from brands like Ecce Pannis and Texas Toast. Don’t forget to look for bagels and buns too!
Ethnic spices. Making a batch of menudo? Trying your hand at curry? Need Jugo? Don’t forget to check your local 99 cents only for ethnic spices before you start cooking! I get a large bag of bay leaves twice a year and split it with a friend. Perfect for soups and stews!
There is a lot of stuff that may be a good deal, depending on what your rock bottom price for specific items is. To determine if something is a good deal for my family, I keep a price book with the prices of the top 20 items I buy most often at the 5 stores I shop at most in my area. You can learn more about price books here.
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Yummy fresh strawberries- right off the truck!

Recently I spied .79/can Starkist Tuna can, 10 lbs of potatoes for .99, 1 lb packages of fresh Dole Strawberries for just .99, and name brand ketchup, mustard, and BBQ sauce for just .69/each.

If you are hesitant to buy produce at a discount store because you are concerned about freshness, call your local store and ask them what day their produce truck comes.  Most of our local stores receive their produce truck on Thursday mornings, so I am ready to shop for fresh fruits and veggies as soon as I drop the Kiddo off at school.
For my family, 99 Cents Only is the starting point for my shopping each week.  I start by filling my cart with tons of fresh fruit and veggies, checking the freezer case for any deals, and picking up any needed canned goods that are not on sale elsewhere. By starting my shopping at 99 Cents Only, I am able to keep our food budget at $50/week! When there are really good deals (like the case of Larabars for only 99 Cents!) I tend to spend a few extra bucks and stock up, since quantities are limited and 99 Cents Only doesn’t offer rain checks.
What’s your favorite thing to purchase at 99 Cents Only?