Tag Archives: travel

Traveling with Dietary Restraint

As I am writing this, I’m in the 36-hour window between two business trips. Somehow, I’ve swung getting 4 business trips this year…all for a position that requires no travel. I still have 2 more to go!

Traveling was less stressful before I decided to get my diet under control. I’m trying to give myself grace while traveling, but it’s hard not to spend a lot of time working out what I should eat. In my everyday life I do all my meal planning for the week at once, so I’m not used to having to think about it during the week and do much better when everything is pre-planned. This just isn’t possible when you’re eating out and on another’s schedule.

For these trips, I’m doing as much research ahead of time that I can. For last week’s trip, I was told ahead of time who was catering each meal, so I used that information to pick out the healthiest options I could. I also pre-planned my airport meal for DIA (smaller airports are proving to be more difficult), so I knew exactly where to go.

chocolate decadence
The picture isn’t great quality, but this is the “chocolate decadence” dessert that I allowed myself. It was worth the wait!

I knew that on these trips that food would be available in abundance that I do not need right now, including desserts. I decided to allow myself one dessert for the week, and ate that on the last night. That made saying “no” to the other sweets much easier and less stressful.

For the upcoming week, my schedule is more loose. I’m going to research the local restaurants and find a handful of meals that will work, so that I have options. Something else I’ll be doing on this trip is bringing chia seeds with me…eating differently is causing dietary issues on the other end, so I want to add some additional fiber to my travel diet. I should be able to add the seeds to my breakfast to help myself out.

As much as possible, I’m trying not to stress about food while I travel, as I don’t want food to rule me in that way, either. So far, I’ve been able to enjoy the good food while also keeping it mostly within my usual limitations. I’m okay if I’m not losing my 2 pounds a week during this time, but I also don’t want to gain anything back.

Camping on a Budget

tentFor several years, I have wanted to go camping. Not having a significant other or kids, I don’t have a built-in adventure partner, so I had to wait until it worked out for a friend to go with me.

A few weekends ago, my time to go camping finally came. While I had camped a few times as a kid, camping as an adult is a much different experience. Not that I’ve been scared of a little planning: I usually enjoy planning something as much as I enjoy putting the plan into action.

As my friend and I did not have any camping gear of our own, I relied on some camping-loving friends who let me borrow their gear and some of their expertise. Without this, the trip would not have been economically feasible. After all, for all we knew, this was our first and last camping trip, so investing money (beyond perishables and the site rental) into camping as a hobby would be unwise.

Starting the fire was the thing I was most nervous about...so I was really happy when I started this fire right up.
Starting the fire was the thing I was most nervous about…so I was really happy when I started this fire right up.

Turns out, we really enjoyed our time camping and are definitely doing it again. I have previously mentioned how much I love hiking, so camping is really an extension of that. We’ve already made tentative plans for a longer camping tour of national parks next summer.

Will I ever buy my own camping gear? Probably. But I’m not in any hurry to gain gear. I’ll probably just wait for good deals and buy used where I can. I already know that I don’t need too much. Really, camping appeals to my minimalist side because you are willingly choosing to live with less.

Ronnica’s 101 Tips for Living on Less and Loving it

The idea for this blog is taken directly from Your Money or Your Life. In the updated version, Vicki Robin removed the tips section she had previously and advised writing your own…so I am.

Here are my tips for living on less and loving it:

Attitude
1. Don’t compare yourself to others. You don’t know how much debt they had to go into to buy that house/car/wardrobe/vacation.
2. Focus on being thankful for what you have instead of what you do not have.
3. Open your eyes to those in other situations than you are (at home and abroad). Much of what we think of as “needs” is culturally influenced.
4. Be more concerned about what you think about yourself than what others think about you.
5. Make friends who are like-minded and can inspire and encourage you.
6. Seek advice from those who are better than you in the areas you want to improve.
7. Avoid ads whenever possible.
8. Avoid visiting places where you will be tempted to shop without forethought.
9. When you’re tempted to splurge, remind yourself of your long-term goals.
10. Unfollow Facebook friends whom you are tempted to be envious of.

Groceries/food 
11. Buy fruit when in season and on sale and freeze or can it for later for use throughout the year.
12. Freeze unused yogurt before it goes bad and stick it in smoothies.
13. Freeze unused milk before it goes back and use it for baking.
14. Make your own dressing…better for you, and you make it for your own tastes.
15. Make your own spice mixes (ranch packet, Italian seasoning, chili powder, etc.).
16. Make sweets from scratch. Cheaper, and you’ll eat them less often.
17. Make your own ice, saving in Ziploc bags if you need to take it with you.
18. Make your own pizza crust and freeze it in appropriate-sized dough balls (wrapped in saran wrap placed in a Ziploc bag).
19. Eat more like a vegetarian.
20. Replace ground beef with black beans in your favorite casseroles.
21. Bake a week’s worth of goods in one day.
22. Know where to buy what to get the most value.
23. Freeze any unused bread before it goes bad, then use it to make your own croutons.
24. Save eating out for special occasions…
25. But be sure to tip generously when you do.

Health/beauty
26. Find beauty products that you can use for more than one purpose.
27. Wear less makeup.
28. Wear makeup less.
29. Cut your own hair.
30. Spend less time on your outward beauty and more time on your inward beauty.

Utilities
31. Turn off your electronics when you leave your house. I have my TV, DVD player and modem on a power strip that I can easily flip off when I leave the house.
32. Use a window fan to cool your bedroom instead of A/C.
33. Research the cheapest cell plan that meets your needs (StraightTalk has been great for me).
34. Pay for your cell phone by the year to save money (I pay for 11 months and get the 12th free).
35. Buy a highly-rated phone and keep it for several years.
36. Save waste water (like from unfinished cups or pasta water) and use to water your garden.

Housekeeping
37. Make your own laundry detergent.
38. …and your own dishwasher detergent.
39. Hang up your clothes to dry after washing, even if you have to hang a line inside.
40. Clean your kitchen with vinegar and water.
41. Clean your toilet with vinegar and baking soda.
42. Use handkerchiefs instead of tissues.

Clothes
43. Buy clothes that you are comfortable and you look good in. For me, that’s skirts.
44. Hang up clothes at the end of the day where they can breathe. If they don’t have visible dirt or stink by morning, hang them back in your closet.
45. Simplify your wardrobe so that everything matches just 1 or 2 pairs of shoes.
46. Pare down your underwear down to a week’s worth, and wash by hand between machine washes if needed.
47. When buying new tops, try getting 3/4 length sleeves, as they’re wearable almost year-round.

Garden
drying oregano48. Take advantage of any sunny area to plant a container garden.
49. Starting with easy veggies that are your favorites.
50. Grow your own herbs. Much cheaper and tastier than what you can get at the store.
51. Make friends with people who grow different things in their garden than you do and trade.
52. Companion plant in a way to attract the right kinds of bugs (ex: nasturtium with tomatoes).
53. Invest a little more in non-hybrid seeds, and save the seeds the plants produce for the next year.
54. Add cleaned egg shells to your tomato soil to fight blossom end rot.
55. Fight powdery mildew with watered-down milk.

Transportation
56. Be generous in the space you give between you and the driver in front of you. Saves stress as well as gas/brakes.
57. Turn off your car’s A/C if you are driving under 45 MPH.
58. Use public transportation when traveling to high travel areas (like downtown). Cheaper than parking and less stressful.
59. Instead of buying a car with payments, save each month what you would spend on a car payment and buy your next car with cash.
60. When shopping for a car, shop according to your needs, not what others will think or how the car makes you feel.
61. Buy transit passes through work, which allows you to buy them with pre-tax money.

Shopping
62. Before buying anything, find out if someone has something that you can borrow to meet that need, or if you can repurpose something else.
63. Buy to last: it’s okay to spend a little more in the short term to get something that will last your lifetime.
64. Don’t browse catalogs or websites.
65. Research electronics so you get exactly what meets your needs.
66. Focus on buying items that can meet more than one need.
67. Comparison shop online before hitting up the store.
68. Avoid the mall, unless you have a specific purpose for being there.
69. Use reusable bags. (Store in the car so you don’t forget.)
70. Save your splurging for the library.

Travel
71. Pack your own snacks and entertainment. You’ll spend half as much at a drug store than at the airport for the same items.
72. Bring an empty water bottle through security and fill it up at a water fountain on the other side.
73. Download ebooks from your library to your phone, tablet or e-reader.
74. If traveling over holidays, research flights on the holidays themselves, as they are usually significantly cheaper.
75. Save regularly for your travel goals, and don’t let less significant trips get in the way of budgeting for the ones you’ve always wanted to take.
76. Pack as few pants/skirts and shoes as is reasonable.

Moving 

77. Before deciding to move, come up with a budget and save up so that you’re not moving a credit card bill, too.
78. Find someone who recently moved and ask them for their boxes when they are finished.
79. Price the various moving options and determine what is the best value for you, money and time-wise.
80. Don’t forget to budget for all the little things you always seem to need when you move to a new place: trashcan, rugs, curtains, etc…
81. But also think through what you can reasonably do without.
82. If moving long distance, consider which possessions it may be reasonable to get rid of and replace when you get to your new home.
83. After you move, don’t visit any local fast food places, so you never get into that habit.

Hobby/Entertainment
colorado trail fall colors84. Find hobbies that costs no money. Mine are reading and hiking.
85. Use the library liberally to get as many as your entertainment selections as bbpossible.
86. Instead of going to the movies, make note of movies you want to see, to watch them on Netflix or borrow from the library later.
87. Exercise for free: outdoors or using frugally-acquired equipment at home.
88. Be a tourist in your own city, seeing (free or cheap!) sights you’ve never seen.
89. Cancel your Netflix or Hulu subscriptions regularly, saving up what you want to see for single 30-day windows, paying just for one month.
90. Use Pandora or Spotify instead of buying your own music.
91. When meeting up with friends, do activities that are free. Eat in together (even if it’s leftovers!) instead of out.

Holidays/Giving
92. Don’t give obligation gifts. Give according to your heart.
93. Buy a pack of blank cards, instead of holiday-specific cards. Write your own message.
94. Be intentional in your giving to charities, researching the organizations that you are giving to.
95. Pare down your holiday decorations to your absolute favorites.
96. Wrap gifts in usable or reusable wrappings (such as a reusable grocery bag in a fun color).

Time Management
97. Order your to-do list from most important to least, then work from the top.
98. Review your life plan regularly so that your to-do list aligns with it.
99. Make shopping lists on your phone (I use Evernote), saving paper and making it harder to leave behind.
100. Run your errands in one day, mapping your route to save gas and time.
101. If something has been on your to-do list for a few weeks, either do it or mark it off undone.

2016 Spending Goals

I’m an obsessive budgeter. I know exactly where each dollar should go, planning months ahead.

But until a few months ago, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to where my money actually went. If I went over in a category, I would find money to make up for it in another, which helps to cover up overspending.

So I’ve decided to use the best information I have to reconstruct what I spent in each category each month. In 2015, I spent $19,203.52, not include debt payoff, savings or giving.

Looking over my numbers, I’ve decided to set goals for several categories for 2016 to try to lower my spending from 2015 levels. While I don’t believe my 2015 spending was necessarily too high, I want to fight to keep it in control as I work towards my longer term financial goals.

Important note: I have not changed what I’m budgeting in any category. My budget still reflects what I believe I may spend each month, so will necessarily be higher than the numbers listed below for my goals. Any difference between actual  and budgeted spending will go towards savings (80%) and retirement (20%).

There are a few categories that I will not be setting goals in. This is what I spent in these categories in 2015:

Rent $10,903
Utilities $1,356.98
Insurance $765.34
Gas $750.57
Car (repair/registration) $589.75
Cell phone $548.22

Now for the categories that I am setting goals in:

Groceries
2015 actual: $2,026.04
2016 goal: $1,820

I’m actually pretty happy about this number, as it works out to just under $39 a week. Still, without Diet Dr Pepper and hopefully even less food waste, I should be able to trim it down even more. My goal reflects $35/week.

Ronnica on mountaintop
Views like this make traveling worthwhile.

Travel
2015 actual: $743.35
2016 goal: $1,400

Yes, this goal is going up! This is an estimation of what the trips that I hope to take in 2016 will cost. I already have some of it saved up.

Hobby
2015 actual: $625.93
2016 goal: $260

I spent a lot on outdoor gear this year as I have started to settle into being a Coloradan. I don’t have as many of those types of purchases planned for 2016, though I do hope to go to a few events.

Garden/homesteading fund
2015 actual: $319.60
2016 goal: $75

This is incredibly high, as I settled in to gardening on my balcony, and I don’t like it. I absolutely will not allow myself to spend that much in 2016. I should only need to buy a few seeds and possibly a few starter plants.

Eating Out
2015 actual: $281.98
2016 goal: $200

Though decent, this number can definitely go down since I’ve given up Diet Dr Pepper.

Gifts
2015 actual: $179.61
2016 goal: $120

I like blessing others, but I need to be more creative in how I do so to get this under control.

Clothes
2015 actual: $60.86
2016 goal: $20

I love this! Thanks to some generous Christmas gifts, I don’t think I’ll need to buy anything this year. I am setting a small goal for myself in case I need new tights or finally find the brown or navy skirt that I have been hunting for.

Christmas
2015 actual: $52.29
2016: $50

I’m happy with this number for 2015 as well so I’m only slightly lowering the goal for 2016.

I’m a competitive person, so I’m hoping by setting goals for myself, I’ll be able to spend even less this year!

Getting Away on a Budget

With a little research, I was able to find the hikes just perfect for me, like this one to Mills Lake.
With a little research, I was able to find the hikes just perfect for me, like this one to Mills Lake.

I’ve made no secret of my goal to spend as little as possible. This hard-fought frugality has allowed me to pay the second half of my student loans in 8 months.

While paying off debt only took me 8 months of hard work, reaching my pre-house savings goal is going to take me closer to 8 years than 8 months.

I will still continue to practice a disciplined budget with my long-term goals in sight, but in the meantime, I’m willing to make a few calculated splurges. One of those I mentioned previously is travel.

To that point, I took my first non-family trip since I moved to Colorado and spent two nights in a cottage near Rocky Mountain National Park.

It felt a little wrong to spend the money, but it was money that I had budgeted for this purpose. I’ve been wanting to take a trip like this for a long time, and it was wonderful to know that I could do so without guilt.

Keys to vacation on a budget:

1. Set aside money monthly toward your vacation goals. For me, I budget $22-159/month for travel (the actual amount depends on the amount I make that month). This averages to be about $90/month.

This cabin was everything I expected based on the reviews I read.
This cabin was everything I expected based on the reviews I read. It even was visited by elk!

2. Decide what matters to you. For me, that meant finding a place close to hiking. Eating out was not an important part of the trip, so I wanted a place with a kitchen so I could cook my own meals. Paying a little more for my cottage meant I could spend less on food and spend more time doing the things I wanted: hiking and reading. If you’re primarily interested about getting away from your daily routine, consider a staycation…only don’t answer your phone or email, or you may not be able to get “away.”

3. Don’t go if you will have to scrimp in areas you’ll be tempted in. If you love to try new food, don’t go if you can only afford to eat McDonald’s. You’ll either be disappointed or splurge, both that will be counterproductive to your revitalization. Delay your trip until you’ve saved enough to do what you really want.

4. Research, research, research. In the age of the Internet, we can all be our own travel agent. Read reviews to determine the best place to stay for you, not just the highest rated place. After all, people may be rating their experience on factors that does not matter to you.

I’m already looking forward to making a similar trip next fall!

Ronnica’s Splurges

Last month, Amanda shared the things she splurges on. While I want to be frugal in order to help me reach my long-term goal of having my own urban homestead, I think it’s helpful to allow myself to meet smaller wants along the way that will help me keep focused on the larger goal.

So what are my splurges?

1. Diet Dr Pepper

Well, this won’t be a splurge for much longer, but it has been. I’ve been hooked on this stuff (well, it was regular not diet until 10 years ago).

I really wish I knew how much it’s cost me. But when I quit next month, I’m going to use the savings towards a special fun. More on that when it happens.

2. Hiking equipment

Hiking has become one of my favorite hobbies. I’ll talk more about it next week, but I love how I can get away from everything and get closer to nature.

Thankfully, hiking can be a cheap hobby. Until recently, I hadn’t bought anything for it. But this summer I saved up and bought hiking sandals and hiking poles.

I save $20-60 a month towards these type of things.

My first hiking sandals. Can’t wait to try them out! #hiking

A photo posted by Ronnica Rothe (@ronnicaz) on

3. Travel

This is a hard one for me, but a splurge that I want to plan for. Since moving to Colorado, I haven’t traveled as much as I’d like. Recently, I’ve upped how much I’m saving towards this goal so that I’ll have money to make a few trips.

I’d love to travel overseas again, but I’ll probably wait a few years before I save up for that.

4. Gardening equipment

It’s no secret that I love my garden. One day, my gardening will break even moneywise, but it’s not there yet (especially after this year’s poor growing season). But it’s a challenge I love and will continue investing time in (and a little money, too).

What do you splurge on?