Yep, that’s yours truly in the feature image using frugality to hack a damn good time. We love a dash of horror in our lives, so every fall we don’t miss a chance to hit our local haunted attraction. This is a planned event and since Mini is, well, Mini, we don’t bother with the actual hayride or haunted houses. Instead, we go for a Friday night dinner. We take $20 and load up on pizza, hot dogs, funnel cake, and hot chocolate. Yum! This place is a top-tier attraction so they have actors roaming the grounds, a nice picnic table area for resting and eating, live bands, and goofy stuff to do like the guillotine – for FREE! Makes for a great photo op, right? It’s planned, it’s inexpensive (I don’t like the word cheap), it’s fun, and we get to make some memories and snap some pictures. But this isn’t our only frugal hack for living an awesome life on less. Read on my frugal friends.
We’re lucky enough to have access to Facebook (my guess is that you might be just as lucky) and have Liked our local news sources. Because of this extraordinary luck, I get a weekly post in my news feed that tells me all about the awesome local stuff going on around town – for FREE. Yes, the title is actually something like, Top 10 Free Events Happening in Lancaster This Weekend. You better believe we check it out and scour the links for something interesting and entertaining. Coming up soon is the Fire & Ice event. There are free activities for everyone, a chili contest, and you guessed it, gorgeous ice sculptures all around an amazing park that is beautifully decorated and lit up at night. It truly is an event/tradition not to be missed – for FREE.
And that is just the tip of the iceberg, pun intended! There is a local winery that sits high atop a winding river that offers live, free music every Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Yes, you have to pay for a glass of wine, but it’s an inexpensive date that gets us out of the house during the doldrums of winter. I could go on and on but you get the idea. There are free things all around you if you’re willing to open your eyes and look for them.
Related: Cats, Beer, & Zombies
How do we hack frugal eats? We obviously keep our grocery bill as low as possible, and actually order our groceries online and have them delivered for ultimate savings. Strange but true. Read all about it here. For the purposes of this post, we’re going to focus on dining out. First, we dine out only on special occasions or when it’s planned; in other words, we plan our dining out when their is a special occasion. Clear as mud? Okay, let’s move on.
When we decide to go to a restaurant, we put a cap on what we’re willing to spend, including the tip.
Side Note: We always tip 20% or more because, in our opinions, if you can’t afford to leave a good tip, you can’t afford to go out to eat. We also don’t penalize any server for bad service. Why? Because we’re not stupid enough to think that our server isn’t a person with their own problems. Life happens and we have no idea what sort of issues they’re struggling to handle at the moment. Sorry for that rant, but I feel it’s important to recognize people in the service industry :) Back to how we hack frugal eats…
We share almost everything. We don’t order two appetizers, we don’t order two drinks, nor do we order two BIG meals. Typically, we order one appetizer or don’t get one at all. This is all dependent on the category of celebration. If we’re celebrating Valentine’s Day, we will share an appetizer or skip it altogether. If we just paid off our house, we’re getting the appetizer, maybe two! At least, that’s what I imagine, I’ll have to let you know in a few years.
We usually skip the alcohol because of the cash and the calories. If we do feel like indulging, we’ll share a drink. We definitely don’t tell our server we’re two cheapskates planning to split a single beer. Ha!
Time for our meals! We try to be reasonable when ordering. Of course the surf and turf is preferable, but it’s excessive. Usually, a crab cake sandwich or burger will do. However, if we’re really craving something a bit pricey, one person will order a pricey dish and the other WILL NOT. Then we split it and everyone is happy. Desserts are tricky. I could easily forego dessert for the rest of my life. Mr. MMM, on the other hand, has a sweet tooth the size of the Mississippi. In fact, he enjoys it so much that it’s almost non-negotiable. Of course we split dessert, and I let him have most of it. Occasionally, I can convince him to wait until we get home because we usually have a freezer stocked with Ben & Jerry’s. No Joke. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.
Here’s a fast glimpse into our fast food excursions. First, they’re few and far in between. They’re usually not planned as extensively as restaurant meals. I used to see these as extreme frugal fails, but I grew up and realized that a $1 cheeseburger here and there isn’t going to interfere with our FIRE plan. Mini sometimes gets on a kick that she wants a happy meal. It’s hard to deny her this. I mean, aren’t occasional happy meals a right of childhood passage? I believe so. Thankfully, she has gotten a bit older and has realized that the toys in those happy meals are pretty much crap. These days, I can usually convince her to just order a burger and fries off the dollar menu. Score.
Whether it’s being a good wife, mother, daughter, or friend, it’s always a good idea to nurture your relationships, often. We also don’t spend much in this category. We look for free events and activities. We hike. We bike. We love spending time together at home. We watch movies and critique them afterwards. We play board games. We invite friends over to our house and have conversations. It’s not a novel idea, but we often forget this is a possibility in our fast-paced world of flashy cars and expensive bar tabs.
We do go on vacations, but we pay cash. I’m a firm believer that vacations are one of the best sources of family memories. In my opinion, family vacations are a big part of your childhood memories after you leave the nest. Vacations are one area where we do loosen our frugal belts and allow ourselves some luxuries. These are the memories we want to make with each other. Read all about the not-so-frugal Disney vacation we embarked on last summer here.
So, that’s it. Those are a few of our frugal hacks to live an awesome life. What do you do? Can you add to our list? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section!
As always, Mad Money Cat encourages you to read Our Story and use the super convenient social media buttons to spread the LOVE!