State parks can be cheap fun! All state parks have something that makes them special. The one near me, Brazos Bend, has alligators and the very cool George Observatory. Brazos Bend consists of 5000 acres of swamp and forest. Trails take advantage of the many different lakes spread throughout. This was definitely not my first visit during the day, but I still got excited when I saw an alligator, a rabbit, a few deer, and a billion birds. I didn’t know that I would enjoy star-gazing until last weekend, but my friends took me to the George Observatory and we had a blast! I actually got to see Saturn, which was very cool. I also saw the Greater Orion Nebula, cluster M79, and took a closer look at Mars. I liked seeing Saturn and the gas clouds the best. I visited with two of my adult friends, but there were a ton of kids having a great time too. I loved hearing everybody’s reaction to the wildlife during the day and the sky at night! The entrance fee to the park was $5 for an adult and the fee to use the smaller observatories was $2. The large observatory was sold out but would have only cost … Read more
I’ve read a bunch of blogs that bring up tithing. I’ve read others that simply put a strong emphasis on monetary donations. I’ve even been judged since we donate so little actual money every year. That is true. We don’t tithe and we don’t donate much money (<$200 a year in cash), but we do contribute to society through charity work. My husband and I are foster parents for Pughearts: Houston Pug Rescue (although we have taken a break while he completes graduate school). I volunteer regularly at the Houston SPCA. Hubby will occasionally officiate basketball games for free if there is a school in need. In short, we donate time. This allows us to help without slowing down our progress towards our personal financial goals like early retirement. Plus, it is way more fun to me than writing a check! What do you think? Is donating money better than donating time? Do you like one over the other? What charities are you involved in either way?
Potlucks are my favorite group activity – they’re fun and CHEAP! Hubby and I got involved with a board gaming group that meets up once a month at different homes for board gaming and FOOD. We hosted a few and I’ve fell in love with the whole thing. Here’s how we break it down: The host provides the main dish and sends E-vites to all the members of the group with the info and main dish idea. All the members that plan to come RSVP and post their idea for a side dish that they’ll bring unless they have no idea. This usually eliminates duplicate dishes. When the day of the party arrives, all the host has to do is make gaming room in their house and clear a space for everybody’s food. Easy, fun, and so yummy! Here’s a quick example from a potluck we hosted a couple of months ago. We provided chili, rice, and iced tea. Our friends brought the rest of the fixings (shredded cheese, fritos, cups, ice, dessert, and random appetizers). Everybody had a great time and we gamed until 2am. It cost us about $15 and our guests spent anywhere from $3 to $10 … Read more
I responded to a very interesting post at Darwin’s Finance last month. Darwin was thinking about which expenses were unnecessary and could easily be cut in an emergency. I quickly listed off what my husband and I talked about, but I’ve changed my mind a little over the last few weeks. Here was my original list but I’ve crossed out the two things that would only be cut if we were in dire need: Gas $40 – No more driving to work. Mortgage Overpayment $160 – We would only pay the $740 due instead of the $900 we’ve been paying. Massage Envy Membership $49 – My husband loves it but agrees it would go first. Vacation Account $250 – That’s how much we put in a month to take a couple of annual vacations. Eating out $100 – We’ve only eat out a couple of times a week now and would cut that out. Last year it was 4-6 times a week, but we started cooking mainly at home in 2010. Entertainment Expenses $50 – We don’t go to the movies or participate in many paid activities, so that’s as much as we could cut. We’d still hang with friends, have potlucks, … Read more
Hubby and I have one life goal – to be happy. That led us to our main financial goal – early retirement. We are not those people who define themselves through their career. We don’t think retirement would be boring. We have no problem thinking of ways to fill in our spare time. A happy retirement to us is when we can do what we want with our day without worrying if we can afford it. Luckily, the things we want are cheap, so this is attainable. Hubby wants to watch tv, board game, video game, participate in Curling, continue being a sports official, vacation, and play Magic: The Gathering till the wee hours of the morning. I want to hang out with friends even more, have more potlucks, have more movie nights, take a few vacations a year, volunteer even more with dogs, deliver food for Meals on Wheels, and get involved in a couple of hiking groups. And these are just the ideas we can spout off in a few minutes…talk with us for an hour or two and you’d be amazed what we could come up with to fill those “lonely” days…ahhhh… To get back to it, … Read more
As a few of my last posts mentioned, my husband and I get $75 each every month for “fun” money and $100 to use jointly for date nights or other shared entertainment expenses. Coming up with this system actually took us a few years. The idea of an “allowance” was a turn off in our early twenties. We thought we were frugal enough that we would just naturally choose not to spend much. That lasted for a while until I realized that I wouldn’t allow myself to buy anything and I resented my husband’s big purchases. I’d buy gifts for others, but I kept putting off everything I really wanted (like a pair of discounted Crocs for $30 or even a new pair of $15 jeans). Then I’d see hubby spend $100 on Magic: The Gathering and feel like the world was ending. I think I was somewhere between a nag and an outright b…well, you know. That’s when my husband insisted on a new system and I whole-heartedly agreed. We decided that we’d get allotted “fun” money and I’d stop critiquing those purchases. We chose a total of $250 a month since it would work based on our current spending … Read more
I might hear about this from both sides (pro-pet and anti-pet people), but I consider our pet expenses “fun” money. Pets, specifically our two adopted dogs, are a necessary “luxury” expense for me. I don’t need them for any medical reasons – in fact, I believe they have turned me into a Claritin addict. We aren’t depressed without them. They aren’t making us any money at all and cost a pretty penny. BUT, I love being able to come home and watch our dogs do silly things or have them on the couch with me…one keeping me company and the other keeping my feet warm. Most recently, watching them play has made me laugh until my side hurt. But, they are definitely an extra expense for us and are budgeted as such. Our 12 year old dachshund mutt was a rescue from the Houston SPCA – $75 up front (years ago) plus a $45 vet visit 4 years ago. We also had her teeth cleaned for $150. Our 7 year old Pug was adopted from PugHearts: Houston Pug Rescue – $200 up front (last year) plus a few vet visits in the last year. He had bad teeth, a removeable tumor, … Read more