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Posts tagged with: eating out

Competition Season is Upon Us

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All the months of training, all the months of driving hours back and forth to practice, all the blog debate on the cost of my kids’ activities (that is supposed to make you smile,) today is the day we have been preparing for! The competition season is upon us! Gymnast and I drove about 3 1/2 hours last night to be ready for his first gymnastics meet of the season today.  Woot, woot. I cannot wait to watch him fly!

Pictures of Gymnast competing a couple of years ago.

Now before you jump on me for the cost of this endeavor, it is built into my budget, Gymnast’s training cost $240 per month during the season (less in the summer when he comes less often.) I have $350 per month in the budget to cover the costs of attending meets and meet fees.  Financially, I have planned for this.

With that being said, and with my goal of getting rid of some debts before the end of the calendar year, I am doing my best to squeeze every single cent out of my budget. I thought I would share some of my tips and tricks I have learned over the last 7 years of having a child in a competitive sport (and now two children in competitive sports.)

Tips for Managing and Controlling the Expense of Competitive Sports

  1. Barter – you know this is my go to trick. I bartered for 4 years of Tae Kwon Do training, culminating with Princess getting a internationally recognized Black Belt. I also bartered for 4 years of gymnastics training. (And I am working on bartering for volleyball right now.) I have provided tech support, website design and general admin work in return for the monthly cost of training.
  2. Used Equipment – all the teams we have participated in have at least yearly “used equipment/uniform sales.” Taking advantage of these can literally save you hundreds of dollars a year. This year Gymnast uniform package cost me $200 dollars! I would have happily bought used if he weren’t the biggest boy on the team, alas, all new for him this year.  But you get my point, right?
  3. Car Pool – when we first started gymnastics, another little boy on our street did as well. We traded off driving every week, it was fantastic! It gave me some of my time back AND saved me some gas money. That is not an option where we are now, but if it were, I would jump at it!  I’m just grateful that now both kids will be in sports within a couple of miles of each other rather than states and counties away.  That will save me some time and money compared to the spring.
  4. Travel – If your sport requires travel with overnights, those hotels can quickly add up, especially with one or more competitions per month during the season. If at all possible, we have driven up and back on the same day, but sometimes, you just can’t do that (especially when there is only one driver who needs to sleep sometimes.) I have found three tricks for saving on hotels outside of the typical bargain hunting as far in advance as you can.
    1. Share a room with another teammate and their family. This is pretty uncomfortable to me, being a single mom, so not one we really do. But I know others who do this regularly.
    2. Use credit card points for hotel stays. Now this one I do ALL the time, and was probably the reason I was no opposed to giving up my credit card use. I have one card I use, that I use like a rolling line of credit, use it and pay it. The points add up quickly that way. That is how I paid for Gymnast and my room last night.
    3. Join hotel points programs, and save them up. I am a member of two Hotel programs, both free to join. Any time we travel, I look for those hotels first. Every dollar spent, we get points. Every night spent, we get points. You get the picture. (Most of them also have credit cards that allow you to earn more points. As tempted as I am at times, I know that is not a wise choice for me.) Those points add up. And we use them for stays.
  5. Food – Nuts, granola bars, jerky. I keep some of each in my car, all the time. It helps quench the “I’m dying of hunger” needs without stopping at the most convenient drive thru or convenient store. This is especially key after practice when we are still an hour away from home.In addition, all our hotel choices when we travel, offer FREE breakfast and most of the time have a free fruit snack for kids i.e. apples. When we travel, we pack the meal for the ride there. Typically sandwiches and chips. This typically leaves us with 1 maybe 2 meals that I must pay for. In all cases, we drink water, depending on how many of us go, this can save me up to $15.

These are just a few of the tips I have learned over the years. There are as natural as breathing to me. My kids are also well versed in our frugal-ness when traveling.

One thing we like to do when we are in a new place, as we will be a lot this year, is try things unique to those places (within reason.) Typically, one child gets on Yelp to find the restaurant.  We LOVE Yelp in that we can find things based on food type, cost and location. If they choose something that is a bit more pricey, not all the way pricey, they know as soon as we sit down and I eyeball the menu, they will get a budget for their meal. It’s fun to watch them barter and share things to try more, get more.


Dealing with even Tinier Living Space

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I need to start out with two important points here:

  1. I am very grateful for my friends generosity of loaning us their RV and camp space for a few months at no cost.  It will be a great learning experience and true adventure.  And give me a rare opportunity to really save up some money since our living expenses will be pretty much nothing other than food.
  2. This is temporary, and really the only reason I have taken them up on the offer is it is the only way we can stay here at least a few more months, and staying here is our first choice.

Now to the reality of the situation, I have to admit that I am dreading our new temporary living space, probably just a tad bit more than I am excited about the idea to really save some money.  I’ve never been a camper, ever.  I in no way shape or form want to sound ungrateful for this opportunity, but I am dreading the logistics of it quite a bit.

We will have access to a 10 person sleeper RV and a mobile home which is used as a office, but will provide a full kitchen and two full bathrooms.  They are parked next to each other and the office is seldom used.  We are going out on Monday to see everything so I can wrap my head around space.  We have already begun packing and hope to start moving things that will not be trashed, sold or taken to a storage unit next week.

So I’ve been working out a plan in my head, please feel free to chime in with ideas:

  1. All the kids will once again be on a summer swim team, so we will be up and out every morning for a couple of hours of swim practice.  Good start for the day.  I will use this time for work. I’ve also though that this might be the ideal time for me to do the wash as I don’t think we have access to laundry facilities.  Luckily, the pool is literally right across from a laundry mat.
  2. I will pack a cooler nightly with food to take with us since most of them won’t eat before practice and will be starving after.  Will include fruit, yogurt, bagels, hard boiled eggs, etc.
  3. From there, we will hit the local library for a couple of hours of school/work time.  Air conditioning, lots of options of things to do (reading, schoolwork, computer time, etc.)  On nice weather days, we could hit up one of the many local parks which equals work time for me and play time for the kids, especially since we can pick up any number of their friends to join us.
  4. Cooler will include lunch options: sandwiches, yogurt, fruit or salad.
  5. Return to the RV for the hottest part of the afternoon for some quiet/down time on electronics, naps or outside time if wanted.  We will have an entire farm to roam with lots of trails, animals and chores to help out with.
  6. Back out at night for sports activities…Gymnast trains at night, Princess will be playing softball as well as working out at a local gym.  On nights when we don’t have to go out, family fun outside with bonfires, grilling and games.

What do you think?  I think it gets us out enough that we won’t feel super cramped in the RV.  The twins are going to be working full time for the most part, History Buff at his current job and Sea Cadet has applied to work as a Jr. Camp Counselor at a local camp which will take him away weeks at a time.  Since History Buff is driving, I imagine we won’t see much of them after swim practice between work and social life, but they are both very responsible and respectful of the guidelines as far as their freedom goes so I don’t mind them having the extra time.

If I can keep eating out to a minimum and paid activities to maybe once a week, this will be a great opportunity to get some savings for moving into a new place and let me move forward on paying off a bit of debt.

I am well aware that this choice, maybe most of my choices aren’t the ‘norm’ but I have to tell you that all of us have fully embraced the minimalist life we have been living. While there are a few things I truly miss, for the most part, I do not mind living with less ‘stuff’ and truly appreciate the amount of time and energy we have to spend on experiences and adventures rather than cleaning and managing our clutter!  And as I’ve been researching living in an RV for a while now, it is amazing how many people do it full time or are just weekend RV’ers.  I don’t think that’s for me, but there are a lot of resources out there on it.

Update: We went out this past Monday to get a feel for the situation…all of us went.  And I have to say, after seeing the true nature of how we will live after a thorough tour of the RV, trailer, layout and access to the farm…EVERYONE is so excited!  The little ones are most excited about all the animals, and the big ones are excited about getting to have all their guy friends out for some ‘guy time’ for lack of a better term.  Acres to roam, bike trails to ride, 3 bathrooms, full size kitchen and dining table, patio and grill….yes, we are all pretty excited now about our ‘glamping’ experience!


Eating Out

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I was listening to an old Dave Ramsey radio show podcast this past week and heard an incredible couple who were doing their debt-free scream (side note: this is now a secret dream of mine. I’ve always wanted to go to Nashville. Wouldn’t it be grand to plan a trip to celebrate being totally debt-free!!!! It still feels so far off, but a girl can dream! While there, I would totally stalk sit-in on The Bobby Bones Show, too #fangirl)

Aaaaaanyway, this couple was asked the usual question, “What was one of the hardest things about the process of becoming debt-free?” Their answer was probably the #1 thing I also struggle with…..eating out. The husband joked that his in-laws probably thought he was abusing their daughter (his wife) because he was so adamant about never eating out. They laughed and talked about how worthwhile it had been, blah, blah, now it’s all rainbows and butterflies.

And….it totally made me feel like crap about myself.

Generally I find these calls to be so motivating and uplifting. But these peoples’ dedication and will power left me feeling….weak and quick-to-cave.

It’s no secret. Since I first started blogging here in March I have gone over on our “eating out” budget every.single.month.

On my best month, I was $12 over. On my worst? Well over double my $75 monthly budget.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I have the luxury of working from home, so it should be easy for me to prep dinner during the day and get it going so we can all eat at a reasonable time (it’s not like I can get stuck in an office, battling traffic, etc etc). I meal plan, we have food in the house….and I just lack the will power. There’s no other excuse.

What’s really weird is – I KNOW I can do it. I’ve only briefly mentioned this in passing, but as my husband was recovering from his mystery illness, his little brother had moved out from Texas and lived with us for a couple months. While here, he helped around the house and helped Chris with work and, in exchange, we covered all of his living expenses (including food). Having another grown man in the house to feed was a BIG change for us. Suddenly I was having to buy more food, there were never any leftovers, and probably the biggest change….I refused to eat out. In the two months he lived with us, we maybe ate out twice. Simply because I was so cheap frugal that I didn’t want to pay for another meal.

No matter what was going on – whether I was tired, sick, busy, whatever – I would make dinner every night, rain or shine. And many of those busy-don’t-wanna-make-dinner nights when I’d have to pull on my big girl britches and do it anyway, I found that it was totally no big deal. I’d have it done within 20-30 minutes, we’d eat, and I was fine.

All this to say, I know it can be done. I know I can do it.

But then why am I struggling so much?

What do you do when your will power is wavering? I would say that “eating out” has certainly been my biggest obstacle. I don’t find the same will power issues with my entertainment or personal maintenance budget categories (even though they have also been reduced from my pre-blogging budget). But eating out is like my kryptonite!

Please give me some advice! What do you do to encourage yourself and build back up your will power? How do you persevere against your biggest budget weaknesses?


Another dinner “out” avoided

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What are your eating out “traps?”

Lazy, tired, busy, etc.

Happens all the time. It’s so easy to find an excuse simply because I don’t want to cook.

For the last week of this month I’ve been out of money in my eating-out money envelope, so I’ve committed to cooking all week.

Then Wednesday hit. It was a long, full day. I had lots of work, errands, and chores to tend to and on my way home from picking up the girls I was exhausted and considered my usual – getting a $5 hot and ready pizza from Little Caesars. But even at only $5, it would put me over my limit. My envelope was empty.

So what did I do?

Pulled on my big girl britches.

I came home and took out the pork roast we’d just had 2 nights prior and threw into a big pot with new seasonings (previously we’d had it with gravy, this night I did carnitas). This was a new recipe I’d just found on Pinterest and happened to have the seasonings for, an it ended up being DELICIOUS (and so, so easy since the pork was already cooked…it was more like simmering just to soak up the seasonings). I opened a can of black beans (99 cents) as a side, and put out some fresh veggies (lettuce, tomatoes), and cheese.

Dinner = done!

Prep was less than 5 minutes, total time was about 45 (letting the Carnitas simmer in spices while I played with girls in backyard).

Easy peasy and delicious to boot!

Best of all – it was another dinner “out” avoided!

What are your eating out “traps” and how do you avoid them?