That’s right… I’m a cheapskate!
I like to call myself “budget conscious.” I used to coupon and rebate like a crazy woman and would literally be paid to purchase products. It was a sport for me. Now days I don’t carve out time for that but am still budget conscious with being a single income home.
Still, girls just wanna have fun, right?
One of my favorite things to do is going on trips. Another of my favorite things is celebrating birthdays. Last weekend was my birthday. Can you guess what I wanted for it? To go on a mini vacation.
But what to do when you’re broke? Call in Cheapskate Girl! Da da da daaaa! Imagine me standing with a cape flapping in the wind and CG plastered across my chest… or maybe don’t. LOL
The two most expen$ive parts of a road trip are generally food and shelter.
My initial thought was we could all just sleep in the car at night. Ahahah I got ya on that one! Just kidding; I’m not 21 any more. My joints wouldn’t stand for it. Plus, there are these three little kids that we have and let’s face it we don’t sleep well together in hotel room; much less if we were elbow to elbow in an uncomfortable little metal box (aka car). I would hate to have CPS(Child Protective Services) peering into our windshield and waking us up early on a vacation. Really, who wants to wake up early on a vacation; oh and have to talk with CPS about making our family sleep in a car just so we can have a vacation.
Thankfully, my sweet, thoughtful, darling sister let us come visit (did I suck up enough? LOL). Seriously, I so appreciate her and my bro-in-law not minding us visiting and how they helped to make my birthday amazing! We only could visit for an overnight trip because of my work schedule. It was plenty long enough to see some sites and have a respite from the last 6 weeks of crazy that has been our lives.
As for food, I bought $33 worth of groceries the night before we left. It included a 12 pack of Pringles singles(I splurged on this), 5 generic lunchables, 2 – 6packs of bottled Coca-Cola, a 32 pack of water, 2 packs of 20 count Hawaiian punch singles, two packs of cookies, a bunch of bananas, and a half a bag of oranges. It seems like there might have been something else but I can’t remember right now what it was. My sister was so nice to feed us hamburgers(deliciously grilled!) for dinner Sunday night and breakfast the next day.
For entertainment, we saw two amazing attractions in Dallas – the zoo and the Children’s Aquarium. My birthday gift from my sister was entry into the attractions but I slipped her a $20 one day and a $10 the next which covered the costs of one. I’m sneaky. So now the total for the trip is $33+$20+10 = $63.
Sunday, we met my sister at the Dallas Children’s Aquarium and also checked out the nearby pond with the octopus looking pathway maze crisscrossing over two ends of it. We spent a bunch of time exploring these crisscrossing pathways with me crossing my own fingers that no one would fall in! LOL
The aquarium is a good size for young kids. I also liked it because for myself it wasn’t too big but filled with tons of amazing fish like the pine cone fish and the bat fish. We also were there in time for the shark and turtle feeding and talk. It was also fun getting to pet the stingrays – also known as the “puppies of the sea”. If you make it early enough, there are fish that can be purchase to hand feed these amazing creatures.
After the big day of driving and at the aquarium, the kids had a big time playing in my sister’s giant backyard. Even when it started getting dark, they got flashlights and chased 3 different wild bunnies around the yard. This is ironic because we have an over lit backyard at night and it’s maybe 1/4th the size of hers and they are terrified to be in our backyard after dark. Her yard is HUGE, pitch black, and somewhat in the country and they ran around without any fear. It was great!
After dinner, we had my birthday hamburger dinner(thanks again to my sister) and then I got my favorite traditional birthday gift from my hubby… a Dairy Queen ice cream cake. YUM! After 19 years of marriage, it just doesn’t feel like my birthday if I don’t get to have a slice of my favorite cake. 🙂 Ok, I’m not adding this cost for the vacation because I was getting this one way or another.
Is that a giant flame? Come on… I’m not THAT old!
The next day we ate breakfast and were off to the zoo. We did have to pay $10 for parking at the Dallas Zoo and the only other cost was a canister of cotton candy for $3. My sister packed us a lunch picnic of lunchables and I brought the chips and cookies. Now the trip cost total is up to… $63 + $10+ $3 = $76.
One of my favorite attractions to visit is a zoo. I’ve been to zoos all over the US and always have a great time. The Dallas Zoo didn’t disappoint. This was the second time we’ve been to this zoo but still didn’t see but a small portion of it. This time, the reptile house was the biggest hit with the kids. We made it in time for the keeper talk where we got to pet a python.
My sister wasn’t too excited about this part and waited for us on one of these cute benches…
She’s not a big fan of snakes and all things slimy. I don’t mind critters except cockroaches. EEEWWWW!!! The reptile exhibit included an albino alligator in a “bayou”.
After the reptile exhibit, lunch, and a bunch of other exhibits, we walked past a the bird enclosures. A condor was being fed which was amazing. I thought this one’s feathers looked so soft and it seemed to pose for me.
Our last stop was the insect house. It was a small building about the size of my living room and kitchen. This was not my favorite set of exhibits but the kids loved it! There were teensy tiny windowed exhibits with ants, spiders, and yes… cockroaches. EEW!!!
I liked how the little habitats had little windows and were at different heights for different sized/aged kids. While in the insect house I was reading about how a certain type of insect is used to make cochineal dye – aka red food dye. Yep, delicious red velvet cake? Probably has some bug parts in it. I generally am all about educational things for my kids to see but let’s face it I could have done without some of that knowledge. LOL
We decided to head back to the barn(as the farmer says) after the zoo. Before driving over to Dallas we had already filed up our tank of gas. There was actually enough gas for the trip that we only had to get gas again right before we got back home… approximately $27. So the total for the trip was $76 + $27 = $103.
See… it can be done with help from family for a place to stay plus buying food ahead of time instead of eating out.
Don’t have family or friends to stay with? If we would have had to pay for hotel in the area it would have been from $71-$159 per night plus tax per nightl. Say it would have been the cheap route – $71. If we didn’t bring out own food and had eaten out, that would be 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches, and one dinner. 2 x 20 + 2 x 30 + 30 = 40+60+30 = $130. If my sister wouldn’t have paid for some of our entries, that would have been another $30. So our trip would have been $260 in addition to the $103.
There are ways to save on lodging. Try going during off season or check out a last minute sales website like hotwire or skyauctions (just watch out for taxes and service fees). Or consider staying at a state camp ground like these in Arkansas. I’m from Arkansas and there are tons of things to see and do on a budget in the natural state. For example, last year we had a great time digging for diamonds in Murfreesboro, Arkansas with a campground included in the state park and nearby hotel rates start at $55.
Vacations don’t have to cost thousands of dollars, especially minivacations! You can carve out some quality time with your family on a very minimal budget. And when you do, Cheapskate Girl will be flying overhead with a smile giving you a thumbs up! Da da da daaaa!