Thursday, April 23, 2009

Camping -- an inexpensive summer vacation

After I had my daughter, I quit my full-time job to stay at home more. Doing so meant I also had to figure out how to manage our family's finances with a lot less income. Camping is something we've found that we really enjoy and are able to do fairly inexpensively. Luckily, my mother-in-law owns a camper and my husband and I have a boat that we are able to take on camping trips. The combination of a boat and camper make for a pretty nice week-long vacation or weekend getaway. If you don't have a camper and boat (you can also rent a boat at some campgrounds) there are still a lot of things you can enjoy while camping tent-style: fishing, camp-fires, playing outdoors games, swimming, hiking, and some campgrounds even have a beach and playground for the kids. Last year we spent about $150 renting campsites over the course of the summer. That is still much less expensive than a trip that would require paying for a motel and spending a lot of money on gas. This summer, my mother-in-law actually rented a campsite for the next 4 months, paying a monthly rate. We are able to leave the camper and boat at the campsite and just load up the car and go camping anytime we want. So far the only money we've had to spend is on our fishing licenses. I know that camping may not be a great vacation for some folks, if you're like my friend, Nicole, who takes two showers a day, even when she's clean, you probably won't enjoy the outdoors. But, if you enjoy getting out in nature and spending time with friends and family, I recommend planning a camping trip this summer. It's a great way to relax and helps me reconnect with nature and myself. It's also a great opportunity to reflect on all the good things and people you have in your life. I find myself remembering what is truly important in life when I get a chance to get away from the hectic life and enjoy a few days without working, appointments, play dates, and the like.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Wal-mart Trip Today

I hear folks talk about Wal-mart having great prices, so I thought I'd give them a try today. I haven't been much in the last 2 years simply because I spend so much less at other stores. Lately, I haven't invested much time into collecting, cutting, or organizing coupons, so I ended up paying full-price for everything. I wasn't too concerned about not using coupons because I was really just going to the store to buy items that I don't typically find coupons for anyways: milk, produce, an air filter for an air purifier in my daughter's room, and a 3-pack of filters for the PUR water filtration pitcher that I use (I quit buying bottled water because it's a waste of money and bad for the environment to use all those plastic bottles), & a large bag of cat food (I haven't been able to find the deals some folks brag about for cat food). I decided to separate my purchases and ended up with one for $26 (paid in cash) and another for $103 (Yikes!). I paid for the $103 order and then started to walk out with my purchases but decided to check the prices on my receipt. I usually know what I will be paying, and this seemed really high (I wasn't paying that my attention checking out because my daughter was being rather cranky). Many of the items rang up differently on the receipt than they were marked on the shelf. I went to customer service and returned $46 in items that were incorrect. The lady at customer service was very polite, but given the inconvience of the situation, manuvering around a huge store, and spending twice my normal budget, I don't think I'll be shopping Wal-mart again anytime soon. In the end, I ended up spending the $26 on the first transaction and a little less than $60 on the second transaction. Eighty-six dollars is two weeks worth of groceries for us. And, unfortunately, I don't have $86 worth of milk and produce! I have to admit $30 of that is cat food and the PUR filters, the air purifier filters were returned because they rang up at $24.98 (no thank you! I'll find them some where else). So, only a portion of that was actual groceries, but it still didn't feel like I was getting any bargains. And, I've got to say that it's easy to want to pick up things I didn't intend to buy at Wal-mart because there is such a large selection. I think I'll be sticking with Aldi for my staples and using coupons at Kroger and Publix; I seem to get better deals at these stores. . .