Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Stimulating the Economy

(Before I begin: am I the only one who wants to giggle everytime I hear the word "stimulate"? No? Just me? Okay.)

The other day I was listening to Marketplace on NPR, and I heard a snippet that caught my attention. They were discussing the growth of the economy and how this month there was more consumer spending than in the month before. First, I thought, "Duh, vacations and back to school shopping." The reporter went on to mention, in passing that, "Two-thirds of the US economy is based on spending."

Maybe this is obvious, but the US economy isn't something that I can completely wrap my head around. When I hear talk about improving the economy I know that includes jobs and the stock market and consumer confidence and all sorts of other catch phrases, but the fact of the matter is that the economy improves when we buy stuff.

Now, of course I think that people need to live and spend within their means, but I know I spend way less than I used to a few years ago. I got out of credit card debt, and then switched my focus to paying off my car. I'm a little looser with the purse strings now, but I still plan on saving most of my extra income, rather than spending it.

I think the recession caused a lot of people to make these types of changes. And overall I think it's good. Credit card debt causes countless problems, and it will save the government money in the future if more people are prepared for their senior years.

BUT. Is there any sense of obligation to spend? If I am lucky enough to have a job and have some disposable income, should I intentionally spend some of it to help stimulate the economy? I'm not talking running a bunch of debt here. But if I were going to do something for the greater good (in this case the US economy), should I buy some new DVDs or go get my nails done at a local salon? If those actions would result in more jobs for workers and more tax money going to a cash-strapped government, should I make some effort to do that?

I don't see myself changing my habits due to this idea, but I think it's an interesting philisophical question. (And maybe it will justify the pedicure I really want to get before school starts!)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Book Review: Women & Money

I checked out Suze Orman's book Women and Money from the library a few weeks ago. I had never read an entire PF book before, and overall I liked it. Here are a few of my thoughts:

*I like how she broke the chapters down into manageable ideas, mixed in with her own personal story. Some of the information was pretty basic for where I am right now, but I still enjoyed reading it.

*The end had a lot of good information about saving for retirement. Some of the charts were helpful, and I can see looking them up on her website.

*I really liked the focus on how women handle money. Suze talks about how the Women's movement has come SO far. Women are involved in every area of the work force, are closing the gap in pay, and are incredibly independent. But for some reason, when it come to money we still tend to defer to men, or when there isn't a man in our life, we just sort of flounder in our finances. I think this is very true, and I liked how Suze empowered women to take control of their finances.

*I also agree with Suze that all women should have a credit card and a savings in their name only. I have known women who had to stay in shaky situations because of finances. I'm not saying women should secret away thousands of dollars here, but I do think it's valuable to have financial independence with a savings, and a way to build credit separate from her partner. I don't worry about having to flee or anything like that, but I plan on keeping my credit union credit card in my name only, and I have my Roth IRA in my name. I plan on that being retirement money for my (future) husband and I (and hopefully with enough to travel the world together!), but in an emergency situation it could help me out. Again, I don't see myself in that situation, but I don't think anyone does before it happens to them.

Overall I liked the book, and I would read another book of Suze's...though I could see how they would repeat themselves. I'm headed to the library today for more books, and I plan to browse the PF section, so look forward to another haphazard review in a few weeks!

Monday, August 29, 2011


Oh, how I love puns. I also love that my car is paid off. What don't I love, you ask??

Figuring out what to do with my money.

I know, this seems weird, right? I have freedom now! I can do so many things with my money. And that, is the problem. I'm not used to actually SAVING money. Before, I had a specific goal for all my extra money. Pay off debt.

And now?

Well, there's still my student loan. Which will be cut in half by next June (Thanks, California!) and has a relatively low interest rate (2.25%)

I opened a ROTH IRA recently. But the interest rate is a dismal 1.75% for a five year commitment. Blech. I can also have my credit union invest this more aggressively for a possible higher return. BUT, if I want to take the money out in five years to buy a house I may not want to be too aggressive right now. I don't really know what the future holds, so it's hard to make a plan on that right now.

I can put it in the flexible Roth account, which has an interest rate of .40%. Then I can choose to either invest aggressively or get a certificate at a later date. The money is not as locked in, but is still in a Roth.

OR (and this is what I'm doing, I think), I can leave the money I would invest in my Summer Saver which has a 3% interest rate until December. Then I'll invest another $4,500 (to make my Roth cap for 2011) in one of the Roth options mentioned above. Then I'll just save all my money in my Summer Saver until it dumps out next August and use it to invest and pay down my loan, while still getting to capitalize on the higher interest rate. This money also becomes part of my 3-6 month emergency fund once it's out of the Summer Saver.

But GEEZ. This is a pain. I'm not used to paying attention to interest rates. Frankly, I've never had enough money to see a big return on interest. But, if I can save $10,000 in my Summer Saver in a year, then the 3% interest rate might actually be worth focusing on.

It's not as satisfying of a goal as paying down down debt. And frankly, I'd like to have different accounts and invest in my Roth each month, but with interest rates so low, it doesn't make sense to do it that way. So I am having to put aside my OCD organized tendencies and do what makes the most financial sense for my future-save as much as I can in one account and make decisions about that money a year from now.

Does anyone else find saving/investing less satisfying than paying down debt?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Free Stuff in Chicago!

I got back from a vacation to Chicago earlier this week, and we had a great time! I could post lots of things, but let me tell you about the freebies we found:

*Free breakfast at our hotel! This saved us a good amount of money. Actually, the last two days BF wanted Dunkin' Donuts coffee, so he walked over and spend money on breakfast. Being Cheapy-McCheaperson, I stayed and ate at the hotel.

*, apparently Walgreens headquarters are near Chicago. Because of this, their employees get in free to the Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, Adler Planetarium, and the Museum of Science and Industry. And except for the Aquarium, they also get a free guest! We easily saved over $125 and got to enjoy some great museums. My favorite was the Science and Industry Museum, though they were all pretty great. This site also got us discounted tickets for the top of Sears Tower. Plus, we found out we can get discounted movie tickets through there as well! Pretty amazing.

*Free Stained Glass Museum at the Navy Pier. This was cooler than you'd expect. I read about it in the Chicago book that I got from the library. It was a GREAT book, and included a map that I used pretty constantly throughout the weekend.

*Free trolley to Navy Pier from the Metro Station.

*Millenium Park is free, including the free opera concert we got to here. Plus all of the public art around the city. It was pretty great!
The Bean!

Free concert at noon. We sat in the grass, out of the sun.
Freddie with a big fish at the Aquarium

Me, being a dork with a T-rex

Stained glass and Jessica in bloom.
We still managed to spend a chunk of change, but I think we definitely found ways to save where we could.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Great News!

A while back I posted a marathon post about how I screwed up and might not get two years of my loan forgiveness. I will be much shorter, but because I teach in a low-income area I am eligible for $11,000 of loan forgiveness. I got the first $5,000 a while back, but then messed up on the forms and the last two years worth never showed up. My mission for the summer was to get this straightened out.

I already sent the paperwork requesting to be reinstated about six weeks ago. When I called yesterday I heard the good news that they accepted and I will be getting my $6,000! YES!!!!!!!!

One of the payments is in route and will take eight to ten weeks to post to my account (so mid-November) and the other one requires another form and will take six months or more to post. In short, by the end of this school year my debt will be cut in half!

I'm so stoked and glad that I took care of this! It also made the want to put some more intensity into paying off that loan, since it's my last remaining debt. I am planning for my tax return to go toward my student loan, and may be reassessing my budget to include some extra student loan payments this year.

But for now, happy dance!!!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Frugal Romance: A Card for No Reason

I am not a morning person. I am very rarely late to work, but I do like the snooze button. So my mornings don't start out with a serene cup of coffee as I gaze out my window. On days when I work, I am usually running out the door, breakfast in hand, juggling what I need for the day.

This is why this frugal romance idea is so great. Occasionally I have rushed out to my car to see something under my windshield wiper. No, not an ad for a dry cleaner or tanning salon. A card from my boyfriend.

Usually it just says to have a good day or has a nice Hallmark sentiment that reminded him of me. My favorite one said, "Whether it's a good day or a bad day, it's always an I love you day." Awww. (Or barf. Sorry, this is kinda a cheesy series). And nothing makes me smile and changes the hectic tone of my morning like stopping to read a card before I start my car to head to work. I walk into school with a smile on my face and usually stick the card in my purse so I can look at it again later that day to get another feel-good boost.

I returned the favor when I went to Alaska without him. Before we left for the airport I stuck a card under his pillow for him to find that night. I used a blank card I already had, so this was essentially free for me. Most of the cards he buys me are around three bucks.

My dad used to leave notes for my mom on the dining room table before he left for work in the morning. He would write them on notebook paper, somedays drawing a heart or something else that I used to roll my eyes at when I was younger. But my mom still has some of those notes, and now that he's gone I know it means a lot to remember that. And as an adult, it makes me happy to realize that my parents loved each other enough to leave notes for each other.

So, take a moment to write a note or card to your significant other. Or to write a note of encouragement to a friend or family member. It's a small gesture that can go a long way.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Compassionate Parenting: A Friend's Story

One of my friends (who shall remain anonymous) told me the story of her trouble with credit cards. Back when she was 18 she got a credit card. Like most of us, she just planned to use it responsibly and build her credit. Then she got a few store credit cards (can't resist that 10% off your first purchase). Then a few more.

After a year or so she had seven credit cards and had racked up about $4,000 in debt.

That doesn't sound like a lot. But when you're 19, have a part-time babysitting job while you're in school, and no experience with money, it's pretty scary. My friend told me one day she spread out all her bills on her bed and burst into tears, not knowing what she would do. She walked out into her living room and in tears told her dad what had happened.

Her dad listened and told her it would be okay. He asked her to bring in all the bills and all the cards. He took all the cards from her, created a spreadsheet of her debts and then wrote her a check to pay off the cards.

He didn't let her off the hook. She is paying him back for the debt-that's what the spreadsheet was for. But, he got her out of the cycle of paying interest and of using those cards. Part of the deal was that she wasn't allowed to get another credit card while she owed him the money.

To me, this is a great example of wise parenting. He was obviously generous and in a position to help her out. She is incredibly thankful for it, and has worked hard to pay him back (it's a work in progress). After a year or so he gave her the lowest interest card to keep in her wallet, but she hasn't abused it and keeps it for emergencies.

I think a lot of young adults make these kinds of mistakes with credit cards. I know I did. I started off well, but got carried away and made some questionable credit card choices. I always got myself out of it and am proud of doing that on my own. But I also think that it's still okay for parents to help out their young adult children and make it a teachable moment.

My Freshman year of college I overdrew on my checking account. I freaked out! I wasn't getting paid for another week and needed $25 to cover the overdraw. I called my mom in tears and she gave me the money. She didn't say much to me except to remind me that I needed to balance my checkbook and asked if I needed help. I was mortified that she even had to help me, and it didn't happen again (well, not when I needed her help. I think it happened one more time, but I took care of it).

Being 18 and allowed financial freedom is a big responsibility. I know this can reach a point where it's enabling, but I liked hearing my friend's story because she learned from it and in some ways it brought her closer to her dad.

To those of you with kids, do you agree? Or am I off-base?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I'm Your Venus, I'm your Fire...

You know how I hate buying razor blades with the fire of a thousand suns? Because they're so freaking expensive? That will make this story even sweeter!

On Saturday BF and I went to good ol' Fresh and Easy to get our groceries for the week. We noticed that all of the personal care items were on sale for 75% off. I think they're not going to carry them anymore? I digress. He picked up some gel and deoderant, when what should my eyes befall on but the most beautiful sight I've seen in weeks (sorry Alaska).

Four packs of Venus razor refills.

Cue Hallelujah chorus.

I snatched up the last two. They were originally $13.99, so the cost was $3.50 for each box. YES!!!

And actually it was BF's turn to buy groceries, so he bought them for me. So I am celebrating his good deal. But whatever, cheap razors!!

It made my day and actually made me think of Erica at Newlyweds on a Budget. Especially after I read her sandwich story. :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Frugal Romance: $3 Flowers

I decided to do a series of posts (sporadically, because if you haven't noticed I am HORRIBLE at keeping up with a series of weekly posts. I'll post about what I want! My rebellious self whines, even though I told myself to do it. This paranthetical part has gone awry.)

I decided to do a series of posts on frugal romance. I am not generally a mushy one needs to write me a poem (unless it's really good), and my cheap side cringes to think of spending tons of money on flowers. But, I do like thoughtfulness and in my experience the romantic things I've liked most have been pretty frugal.

So some of these posts will be romantic surprises I've received, some that I have given. But I think it's easy to not be thoughtful/romantic in a relationship, so hopefully these posts will be inspiration for those of you in relationships to make that little extra effort.

Today's idea: Flowers from Fresh & Easy.

I swear I am not paid to rave about Fresh & Easy (though if they want to pay me, I'm open to it). Right as you walk in the store they have a flower section, where most bouquets are 2/$6. They're not incredibly fancy, but when my boyfriend walked in the door a few weeks ago with sunflowers, it brought a huge smile to my face. He actually bought two bouquets and gave me flowers two days in a row. Very sweet, very fun, and cost not much more than a Starbucks drink.

Another example of frugal flowers is that on Valentine's Day he found a potted plant with three tulips in it. I saw the price tag and it was $3.49. Did I care? Heck no, I got flowers on Valentine's Day! I've spent many a V-day single (MANY), so getting flowers on that day was great.

So, next time you're at the grocery store, pick up some flowers for your significant other. Or pick them up for yourself. Because you're great and you deserve flowers.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

You Should Listen to NPR

Well, going back to work for meetings and setting up my new classroom was quite the busy week. The meetings were mentally exhausting and the classroom set up was (at times) pretty physically tiring as well. Also, I am a genius and made plans every single night my first week back at work. I read all of your blogs, but then I just looked at mine and thought, "Eh. I'll do it tomorrow."

I'm doing okay finance-wise. Ate out more than I had planned my first week back, but also brought lunch and am getting used to that routine. Also, I got paid extra for these days, so I am super excited about my September paycheck.

There's lots to do at a brand new school, and I also found out the bummer news that I will not get to teach the yearbook class this year. I was feeling overwhelmed and a little sad about work. Then on my way to my hair appointment I was nerding it up and listening to Marketplace on NPR. The whole show was about unemployment.

Suddenly, I was overwhelmed in a different way. Thankful that I have a job and that my career is doing what I love. I know I will have long days and times where my job frustrates me. And that's allowed. But I was reminded today to be thankful for steady employment. And while teachers aren't rolling in dough, I make enough to support myself and to save for my future (and to have some fun too-I leave for Chicago tomorrow!)

So, I am going to write some scheduled posts for while I'm gone on vacation with Freddie, but for tonight I am reminding myself to be thankful.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Back to Work: +/-

Yesterday I went back to work for my first day at my brand new school. Here are my victories and stumbles in plus/minus form:

+got up when my alarm went off without hitting snooze. This was a big plus for Freddie who worked late last night.
-tried to make a smoothie like I did every day last year, but the fruit was super frozen and apparently it's gross with regular milk (I used soy last year).
+stuck to just fruit from the snack table at work (passing up donuts, croissants, etc.)
-went out to lunch with my friend Jeanie. Spent almost ten bucks at Panera.
+I like Jeanie.
+Suggested that I make dinner when I saw my old roommate, instead of eating out which would have cost me another 10-15 bucks. I made pizza with ingredients that I had at home already.
+Saved leftover pizza for today's lunch.
+Roommate bought me Yogurtland since I made her dinner.
+I stuck to fat free yogurt and fruit for toppings.
+Went on a jog/walk when I got home, while listening to free podcasts to help pass the time.
+Noticed Upromise had posted $15.95 to my student loan. I've never had a payout from them and I've been a member since 2008, so that was cool.
-I have a sore throat
+Noticed the shower drain hair collector thing was super gross (that's not the plus) and was so grossed out I almost threw it away. But then my frugal side kicked in and I filled the sink with hot water and bleach and soaked it. It's as good as new!

Yesterday was full of pluses actually. And, since today was an optional paid training day I earned $150 (pre-taxes) for going to work today. I am going to try to bring my lunch the rest of the work days, not only for costs, but because I am doing weight watchers again, and it's easier to control my points if I bring food from home.

Did you have more pluses or minuses today?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How to Frugalize Your Vacation-Part 3

Okay, this is less a how-to than me just telling you about the awesome perks my sister gets because she works for a resort company. So here's the how-to:
1. Get your mom to have a sister a couple of years younger than you.
2. Make sure said sister is a free spirit who likes to have adventures and likes pretty places.
3. Convince said sister to get seasonal work at various lodges as a front desk clerk/manager.
4. Go visit her.
Exhibit A: Sister
So, here are the perks we got:

1. Our hotel in Seward was discounted to $69/night. I don't know the total at this hotel, but the one my sister works at is over $400/night at this time of year. She said hers is nicer, but I think this was still a HUGE discount. This is the view from the door of our room:
 2. The same company offers boat tours to see wildlife and beauty and such. Because she's an employee she can choose any tour for $20 (and members of her immediate family get the same deal). Since they were all the same price, we went for the longest one-eight and a half hours. It came with lunch and an all you can eat buffet with salmon and prime rib. We also paid a little extra to have 1/2 pound of King Crab (for about 5 bucks each). It was AMAZING.




Monday, August 8, 2011

Confession: I Just Want to Buy Stuff!

I think over the last two years I've gotten to a really good place in my shopping habits. Essentially, I broke the habit and now I plan for my shopping trips.

My July shopping trip wasn't totally planned, but I did have extra funds come in, so it worked out. And since then all I want to do is go shopping! I want to buy stuff online. I want to buy another pair of Toms. I want a new pair of jeans (okay, that's actually becoming a need, so I gotta budget for that one). I want new summer dressses, and tops, and back to school clothes. I want a spa pedicure foot bath thingy. I want new makeup. I want some new necklaces.

You get the picture. The shopping bug is hitting me hard. And there's no room in the August budget for that. I am definitely going to allow a few hundred dollars in September to buy new jeans and some back to school clothes for work. But frankly, sometimes I miss the old days of irresponsible spending. I want to pull out my credit card and buy whatever I want.

I'm not going to. But I'm just confessing that sometimes, I miss the old days.

How do you deal with the "I wants"?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Three Library Books

Today I stopped by the small branch library in my neighborhood to return a book and browse to see what they had there. I usually request books online and just pick them up, but I'm glad I looked around. I found these three books:

First up is Mom from the Storycorps project. Storycorps is an NPR project where people go to a recording booth and interview someone for 40 minutes. The stories are all from regular people and after the interview the participants get a copy of the CD and another goes into the archive for future generations. I always like it when I hear excerpts on Morning Edition, and this book is a collection of stories about people's moms. I read it all in one sitting when I got home. It's great, and it makes me want to interview my grandma. I recommend this one. It's a quick read and there are some great stories in there.
Next, I picked up Songs Without Words by Ann Packer. I really liked her other book, "Dive From Clausen's Pier", so I am hoping this one will be good as well. It gets mixed reviews on Amazon, but it is a story about two womens' friendship, spanning over twenty years. We'll see how I like it.
And last but not least I wandered over to the finance section. Believe it or not, I have never read a personal finance book. I read PF blogs like crazy, and I did take Financial Peace University, but no PF books for me. So, I picked this one up and we'll see how I like it. Anyone read it? I'll post a review when/if I finish it. I don't tend to be a big non-fiction finisher. I start these kinds of books but then I get bored and put them aside. Hopefully since I am very interested in finance (shocker) I will like it.

What are you reading this summer?

I Finally Opened a Roth IRA!

Yes, that's right friends. Today I went online and opened a Roth IRA through my credit union. I started with $500, and I am giving myself the ambitious goal of maxing it out by Decemeber (which means $5,000 in five months). Since I no longer have a car payment and I am now sharing the rent with BF, I have a lot more discretionary money. Here's my goal breakdown:
August: $500
September: $1500 (I am working a bunch of paid extra hours in August, so my September check should be pretty huge.)
October: $1000
November: $1000
December: $500 (allowing for Christmas expenses)

I will also need to snowflake $500 between now and the end of the year to make it to $5,000. I am thinking I may be able to do a good amount extra than what I have planned in September, so that's a plus.

When the new year starts I will plan on putting $500/month into my Roth IRA and putting $500 into my savings. I have no idea what the job market will hold next year, so I want to up my savings in case I am laid off. As for my student loans, I am going to devote my tax return to them and stick with my regular payments for now. The interest rate on my savings and my Roth is higher than my student loan interest rate, so I am going to take advantage of those things and go with slow and steady for my loans.

Since the Roth is a new goal, that means I have a new sidebar!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

How to Frugalize Your Vacation-Part 2

Here are some ways I had frugal fun on my Alaska vacation!

1. First, I  had a half day in Anchorage by myself. I went to a bakery/coffee shop that was recommended in my Alaska guide book (which I checked out from the library). I got a coffee and noticed they had a basket of day-old pastries for $1 each. I snagged a pecan cinnamon roll, which would have cost $5. Score! Then I headed over to Resolution Park to enjoy the view and a conversation with a fellow middle school teacher I met at the hostel. I didn't take a picture of my coffee and pastry because I didn't want my new friend to think I was a weirdo.

2. Next, upon my sister's recommendation I headed to the visitor's center. I would highly recommend seeking out a visitor's center when you travel to a new place. This one was super impressive! It had a mini-museum, old school videos on TVs, 3D postcards, and a really nice theater with informational films about Alaska. I watched one on the 1964 earthquake, the railroad, and bears. It was a great place to learn and to spend a few free hours.

3. Food! First, I enjoyed a reindeer sausage for lunch. It was SO good! I have been craving one since I've been home. :) I spent $6 on the sausage, chips, and a bag of soda from a cart outside the visitor's center. I ate it in the sunshine and then went to meet my sister's bus. Another meal idea is to hit up a nice restaurant for lunch instead of dinner. Ray's was the highest recommended place in Seward, so Erin and I hit it up for lunch. We split two different entrees and spent $18 each including tip. We would have spent more than that on dinner and dealt with crowds. Last, we took the hotel shuttle to Safeway and got breakfast stuff (I spent $7, and it lasted me the whole trip). We also stopped and got salami, cheese, and bread (and two tall beers) for dinner one night. We hung out in our room and enjoyed the free cable.

This is my sister classing it up at Ray's for lunch.

5. Sights! Erin and I spent $19 each to rent bikes in Seward. (Side note: I LOVED the bike I rented. I really want to buy one, but it's a $500 bike. sigh.) Then we spent the whole day biking around Seward and taking in the beauty. That was the day we went to Ray's. We also checked out the Benny Benson Memorial (13 year old orphan who designed Alaska's flag), walked along the boat harbor, peeked in the Seward Museum (we skipped it though), stopped and got gelato, window shopped, and took tons of pictures and laughed all day long. Which brings me to my last free way to have fun on vacation: go with someone who you love to hang out with. My sister and I had so much fun laughing and talking. Seward was a lot of fun and it was memorable, but the time spent with my sister was just as great at the sights.


Stay tuned for part three: taking advantage of perks!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

How To Frugalize Your Vacation-Part 1

I'm back from my vacation to Alaska, and it was lovely! I had a great time and I'll post some pictures soon. But, my trip has inspired me to write a series of posts on how to frugalize travel. So, without further ado, here is part 1: Getting there!

Here's how I saved money on my way to Alaska: 

1. I used a carry-on bag in order to avoid paying $20 each way to check a bag. I fit everything I need for my four day trip pretty easily. I didn't have to overstuff my bag, but I noticed that if people did, they checked your bag for free. I did spend $11 on travel sized items, but compared to the $40 I would have spent to check my bag it was well worth it. I also saved free samples of moisturizer, shampoo, and conditioner to take on my trip. Here's what I took:
Many people would have made their beds before taking this picture. Not me.
2. Bring an empty water bottle through security. After you get through you can fill it up in a water fountain. I also packed some snacks in my purse since the airlines no longer provide free meals. This saved me $3 on a bottle of water and $7 I would have spent to purchase a meal. Even though one of the meals was a cheese plate that looked delicious, I resisted.

3. Entertainment: I borrowed a book from my friend Juliet instead of buying one. I also downloaded some of my favorite free podcasts (This American Life, Car Talk, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me), which helped pass the time in the airport and during the flight. I also downloaded some free games onto my iPod touch. Last, when I printed my boarding pass at home, it gave me the option to print free crosswords and word searches. I printed a few of them. 

4. I arrived in Alaska at 1:45am, and since it would have cost over $100 to stay at even the cheapest hotel in Anchorage, I chose to spend my first night in a hostel. I generally think I am too old for hostels, I found a clean, well-reviewed one for $25. Since I knew I'd only be there for about seven hours to sleep, I went for it, which saved me over $75. When I met up with my sister we stayed in a hotel in Seward.

Stay tuned for my next post on having frugal fun on vacation!