“It’s so nice to have the money already on hand when those bills come!”

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There is tremendous pressure in our culture to live beyond one’s means. Overspending on everything from phones to homes seems to be the norm.

Those of us dedicated to living within a budget and not succumbing to societal pressure to overspend definitely need some cheerleaders! So I’ve decided to share inspiring stories of folks who have found their own way to live well within their means. I hope this will become a regular series here at The Frugal South!

I’m starting out with an interview with a reader who has shared lots of helpful budgeting advice with me since I started the blog. She also happens to be my first cousin once removed. 🙂

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Prue circa 1968

1. Please introduce yourself.

I am Prue, a now-retired librarian. I was a stay-at-home mom and school library volunteer until our two kids went to college and we needed a second income to pay tuition. My profession as a librarian grew out of that volunteer work; I went to grad school one course at a time at while the kids were undergrads. I live in north central Florida with my husband, John, a retired Air Force Officer.

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Prue & John at their wedding in 1965

2. When did you first make a conscious effort to live within your means?

Basically, the minute we were married .  We started out very poor, with nothing but a grant for grad school and a carload of wedding presents.

We were each very fortunate to have made it through our undergrad years without any student loans, due to a combination of scholarships, jobs, and family resources.  In turn, our kids also made it out of college without debt – with a similar combination resources, including my job and making use of funds we received in modest inheritances that came from two generations back.

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3. How do keep track of your budget?

We started a ledger book to account for every expenditure.  After a few months, we created a “typical month,” based on how much we generally spent for various categories like rent, food, gas, etc.  We set a limit on how much we could charge each month and kept a running total.  When we got to the limit, we quit charging till the next month. It wasn’t as easy to get into credit card debt in 1965 since most credit cards were issued by individual companies that expected to be paid off monthly.

We borrowed an idea from John’s mother to create “pockets” within our account to help smooth out the occasional expenses like insurance premiums, car registration, etc.  This involves adding up all the expected charges for a year, dividing by 12, and “paying” that level amount into the pocket each month.

Currently, we have four major pockets going – Utilities (which vary a lot with the seasons, but our pocket payments are level through the year), Medical (usual expenses not covered by insurance, such as biennial eyeglasses, dental cleanings, etc.), Insurance (car, long-term care, life insurance, car registrations, annual membership fees for organizations we belong to), and Adventure/Travel.  It’s so nice to have the money already on hand when those bills come!

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We still use this system, with modifications. Obviously, we are not accounting for every cent anymore, but we do still work on the typical month model.  We sit together at the end of each month to plan the one coming up, checking in at mid-month to make adjustments if necessary.   John set up a spreadsheet that has sections for all the monthly bills (where we plug in the charge amounts), a cash slush fund, and the pockets/categories.  It does all the math automatically.

We charge a lot more things than we used to and, while we have a typical range that we usually fall into, we can have some major variations when we travel or make major purchases.  We ALWAYS pay the whole balance each month.  If we have extra left over after the bills and pocket payments are taken care of, it gets moved to savings; if we have spent a lot, we draw from savings so we end up with a fixed base amount in our account at the end.

We’ve also been very careful not to get in over our heads in house-buying, making sure the monthly payments were well within what we could afford on a regular basis.  Our first house in California (which we bought with a no-down VA loan) and our second in Maryland did well for us when we sold them.  In two years, our home in Florida will be paid off and we can use the money that has been going toward principal and interest to hire help in our “declining years.”

Prue and her husband of 50 years, John

4. Do you have a weakness? How do you handle it and still live within your means?

Retail therapy and sales.  I try to focus on low-cost consumables when I go shopping for fun.  A grocery store other than my usual one carries different brands that might be fun to try.   I wait for sales on necessities as much as possible before buying. Reading sale ads in the Sunday paper is part of the adventure.  I get an emotional boost from the savings.

5. How do you resist societal pressure to live beyond your means?

We’ve pretty much avoided societal pressure in many areas of life, not just financial.  We’ve always been aware that we’re never going to be “cool,” so we’ve just charted our own path with things that work for us.

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A family gathering

6. Any parting words of wisdom or tips?

Develop priorities.  And work to develop them together as a couple.  Obviously, these will change over time as family circumstances and interests change.  I love to travel, so I’d prefer not to spend on things like full-price clothing, hair coloring (I “earned” my silver hair!), cosmetics, or mani-pedis (never had one of the latter) and save up for trips.  We have also set a priority for church and charitable donations.  Other people will have very different priorities and there is no need to judge each other’s choices – at least not out loud or on social media.

In the last ten years, we have received some substantial inheritances as our parents died.  (They were very frugal!) While retaining funds for future “surprises” as we age and for charitable giving, we have distributed some significant chunks to our children and set up 529s for our grandchildren.  I’m hoping that yet another generation can be student-debt free.

Thank you so much for the interview, Prue! You really are an inspiration. Please drop me a note here if you’d be willing to be part of this interview series!


Dorco Flash Sale: 16 Quality Men’s Razors for $14.60 Shipped

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Check out this fantastic sale on quality razors at Dorco.com… for a limited time get their Pace Trial Pack for 50% off plus free shipping with the promo code LS888FXY.

You’ll get 16 six-blade razor heads plus a compatible handle for $14.60 shipped. These razors get 5 star reviews across the board!

Scroll way to the bottom of your cart at checkout to find where to enter the code.  The sale runs through 6/30 or while supplies last. If the code doesn’t work, it means the sale has already ended.


60% off + Free Shipping at Schoola: Disney T-shirts from $2.20 Shipped!

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Schoola.com

Here is an exclusive deal just for blog followers… get 60% off plus free shipping with code CANYOUSAVE at Schoola.com. Offer expires July 4th.
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One of my tactics for saving money on Disney vacations is to buy most of souvenirs before our trip. I usually snag a Disney t-shirt and new pair of pajamas well before we leave on our annual family trip.

With the above promo code these adorable Disney t-shirts would be only $2.20 each with free shipping! They would likely be upwards of $30 in the parks. So save yourself a bunch of money and buy them ahead of time!


Amazon: Deals on Kashi, Gillette, Cottonelle and more

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I was updating my Subscribe & Save items for next month and found some excellent deals and coupons. The prices shown reflect a 15% Subscribe & Save discount, which you earn by having 5 or more items in your next delivery.

Kashi Organic Chewy Granola and Seed Bars, Blueberry Almond, 6 Ounce

Kashi Organic Chewy Granola and Seed Bars, Blueberry Almond, 5 Bars – $1.79 after clipping the 25% off coupon 

Gillette Venus 2 razor blade refills, 1 Count

Gillette Venus Embrace Sensitive 2 Blades + Handle – $3.79 (regularly $7.99) after clipping the $3.00 off coupon

 Cottonelle CleanCare Toilet Paper Bath Tissue, 36 Family Rolls

Cottonelle CleanCare Bath Tissue, 36 Family Size Rolls – $13.32 after clipping the 20% off coupon (This is a fantastic price on this TP)

Lysol Disinfecting Wipes Value Pack, Lemon & Lime Blossom, 240 Wipes (3 Packs of 80 Wipes)

Lysol Disinfecting Wipes Value Pack, Lemon & Lime Blossom, 240 Wipes – only $5.18 after clipping the 30% off coupon

Finish 90-count Powerball Dishwasher Detergent Tablets, Fresh Scent (Packaging may vary)

Finish 90-count Powerball Dishwasher Detergent Tablets, Fresh Scent – $7.78 after clipping the 30% off coupon (that’s less than $0.09 per tab)


Trip Report: 5 Nights at Disney World this spring for $33

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This spring my sister and I met up at Disney World for a vacation with our little ones. Together we stayed four nights at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort (read the full resort review here!) and my daughter and I arrived one day early and stayed one night at Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort (review coming soon).

I paid a grand total of $33 for our 5 night trip, and I thought my readers might be interested in how I pulled this off!

Transportation

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The Disney Magical Express

I was able to use my Southwest Rapid Rewards Points for my sister’s flight from Ohio to Orlando. Since her son is under two, he flew for free. I used points for my flights and my little girl flew for free with my Southwest Companion Pass. I did have to pay fees of about $11 round trip for each ticket, so that added up to $33.

Since we stayed at a Disney Resort, we took advantage of free Disney ground transportation to and from the airport, as well as buses that run to and from the parks. We did use a taxi to get around a bit, since we had the little ones in tow and weren’t visiting the theme parks.

I paid about $30 for taxi rides using my Capital One Venture Card, and I was able to pay off the charges using using my miles after we got home. It is good to know that Mears Taxi at least is classified as a travel expenses and therefore the charges qualify for the travel charge “eraser” feature of Venture Card points!

Total Cost for Transportation: $33

Lodging

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Our preferred room at Caribbean Beach

I purposefully planned this trip to fall in Disney’s “Regular” season that begins after Easter and runs until the end of May. By waiting until after the Easter travel season, we saved about 50% on room costs. This is one of my most recommended times to visit Walt Disney World due to the great weather and lower rates.

First of all, here’s how I funded our hotel stay at Caribbean Beach. The rack rate at Caribbean Beach during this time is $190 plus tax. I booked our room-only reservation on Orbitz with my Venture Card. I saved 20% off of the rack rate with a Disney discount and another 15% on top of that with a Orbitz promo code, bringing the price down to $129 per night. Read all about how to stack Disney discounts with Orbitz discounts in this post!

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Caribbean Beach feature pool

I also had close to $200 in “Orbucks” that I applied to this stay. Orbucks are the currency of the Orbitz Reward Program. I earned $100 in free Orbucks thanks to this promotion. I had earned additional Orbucks through a Best Price Guarantee claim. I chose to apply all of my Orbucks to this booking, which brought the total for four nights down to around $400.

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My sweet little girl at All Star Movies

My sister and I split that, and she gave me cash for her part of the stay. I used a travel statement credit from my Capital One Venture Card to fund my part. It was a pretty good deal for my sister, since she paid only $200 total for her lodging and flights!

I booked our one-night stay at All-Star Movies on Orbitz as well. After both discounts the cost for one night was $87. I used more of my Venture Card travel credits to pay off this stay, too. I love how easy Capital One points are to use.

Total Cost for Lodging: $0

Food, Souvenirs, Etc.

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No park tickets for us!

Normally the single biggest expense of a Disney vacation is park tickets. My sister and I decided before the trip that we were going to forgo the parks and we ended up having the best vacation because there is so much to do at Disney besides visiting the theme parks! So right there we saved over $1,000 on our trip because we didn’t buy park tickets.

I was planning on funding all our food for the trip using Disney gift cards. I bought $300 in Target gift cards using Citi Thank You points, then used those Target gift cards to buy Disney gift cards at Target.com. (Note: I plan on writing a post soon on how to save 5% on Disney gift cards using a Target RED Debit Card, which I successfully used in combination with my Target gift cards in this instance!)

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Caribbean Beach Food Court

Totally unexpectedly, a few weeks before the trip, my mom gifted both my sister and I with enough Disney gift cards to pay for all of our food for the trip! She is so sweet and generous. So I saved the gift cards I got with my Thank You points for our next trip!

I try to spend little to no money on souvenirs at Disney since we go there so much. We did have some gift card money left over so I left my daughter pick out on thing (she chose an Ariel doll) and she picked out a coffee mug to bring home to my husband. 🙂

Total Cost for Food, etc.: $0

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Attempting a family selfie

So that’s how I managed our most recent trip to Disney for only $33! I hope this inspires you and helps you realize that it is possible to take a cheap trip to Disney. The points and miles I used did require opening a few credit cards over the past year, but as long as you can handle the responsibility of credit, it is a great way to help fund trips like this!


50% off + Free Shipping on Clothes & Shoes at Schoola

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Through Sunday June 26th get 50% off and free shipping with the promo code EXPLORE at Schoola! Read my honest review of a recent order here.


Amazon: Children’s Books Under $3 Shipped

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I found some great deals on children’s books today on Amazon! All of these books are under $3 (at the time I posted this) and ship for free with Amazon Prime.

The Shy Little Kitten Golden Book – $2.35 (I’ve been wanting to add this to our collection and the price dropped today)

Scamp – The Adventures of a Little Puppy – $2.25

Good Night, Little Dragons – $2.77

Bread and Jam for Frances – $2.25

Amelia Bedelia – $2.84

Disney Pixar Cars – $2.87


Cinnamon Raisin No-Knead Bread {Recipe}

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I stayed with my dear friend Robyn this past week during our trip to Cincinnati for a wedding. While she was making this incredible loaf of cinnamon raisin bread, she casually mentioned that she hasn’t bought bread from the store in over a year.

Wait, what!?! I had no idea that her family of four lived totally on delicious homemade bread! As I watched her, I realized that she has this bread-making process mastered. So I asked her if I could share her secrets here on the blog and she kindly obliged. 🙂

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Robyn makes all of her bread in this 2 quart Le Creuset dutch oven. She said she used to make bread in traditional loaf pans or a larger dutch oven, but found that this size loaf works the best.

She has developed her go-to recipe over time from this recipe. If you are new to the no-knead bread phenomenon, the basic idea is that you mix up the dough, let it sit in the mixing bowl for 12-18 hours, rise on the counter for another hour or two, then plop it into a preheated dutch oven and bake it for 45 minutes.

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She also shared the science behind no-knead bread with me, in case you are wondering how it is possible to make such incredible bread with no kneading at all.

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I also wanted to share Robyn’s method for storing her bread, since that was one of my questions to her. She stores the bread in this bread keeper on her counter top, with a cutting board and knife handy. She says the bread will be at its best for about 48 hours, and that is never lasts more than 3 days because her family devours it!

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So here is her recipe for a basic no-knead bread with cinnamon and raisins added. You can of course leave them out and still get an amazing loaf of bread. Check out this post for lots of other variations.

Robyn's Cinnamon Raisin No-Knead Bread

Ingredients

  • 3 cups flour (Robyn suggests a mix of 2 cups bread flour, 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour)
  • 1/2 tsp yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup raisins

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and raisins. Add the water and stir until the dough is wet and sticky.
  2. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for 12-18 hours at room temperature.
  3. When the dough has risen and has little bubbles on top, put the dutch oven with the lid on into the oven and preheat it to 450 degrees. Set the timer for 30 minutes while the dutch oven heats up.
  4. While the oven is preheating, add flour to a work surface. Dump the dough onto the work surface. Cover it with the same plastic wrap from the bowl.
  5. Let the dough rise for the same amount of time the oven is preheating.
  6. When the timer goes off, carefully remove the dutch oven from the oven. Remove the lid and drop the dough into the dutch oven. Place the cover back on.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes covered, then remove the cover, (and if you have a pizza stone or some kind of earthenware dish, slide it underneath to prevent the crust from getting too dark) and bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until the top crust is a golden brown.
  8. Immediately remove the bread from the dutch oven and set it on a cooling rack.
  9. Let the bread cool completely before slicing.
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Robyn, my little one and me


Checkout 51: Free $5 for New Members!

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Through June 29th, get a $5 credit when you sign-up for Checkout 51. I use this app regularly to earn rebates on groceries. I especially like that they offer a rebate on produce each week!

You have to submit your first receipt by July 20th to earn the $5 bonus.


Barnes&Noble.com: 20% off One Item + Free Express Shipping

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Barnes & Noble

Through today only at Barnes & Noble, enter the promo code BNLOVEDAD at checkout and get 20% off one item and FREE Express Shipping (no minimum purchase)! You can apply this promo code on top of sale prices, too.

Thanks, Hip2Save!


Amazon Prime Members: Get a Free Trial Subscription to Showtime, STARZ, and more

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Amazon is making it easier and easier to live without cable. Now you can add third-party subscription services like Showtime, STARZ, SEESO and more to your Amazon Prime membership!

You can even take a free trial of the add-on subscriptions here.  You don’t need to have a cable or satellite account and you can just add the services you will watch.


Jet.com: 15% off Promo Code + $10 off Amex Offer

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I love finding ways to stack savings on top of savings. 🙂 Here’s how to get 15% off plus save $10 on an order from Jet.com, which sells pretty much everything – groceries, household products, small appliances, clothing, toys, etc.

Folks new to Jet.com can get 15% off their first 3 orders at Jet.com with code TRIPLE15 . Just enter the code at checkout to get your savings. Shipping is free on any order over $35.

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If you have an American Express card, you can get a $10 statement credit on a $50 purchase with the Jet.com Amex Offer. Just head over to the Amex Offers page, sign into your account, then add the Jet.com offer to one of your cards.

Just be sure to use that card when you checkout at Jet.com. I usually get my statement credit within a day or two when I redeem an Amex Offer. This offer is good through the end of June.

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And here’s what I’m getting on Jet.com… a new vacuum to keep my newly remodeled floors clean! I’ve been wanting to get a nice cordless stick vacuum for a while. After my 15% off and $10 credit, this Shark Navigator Freestyle will set me back $65. Not too bad!


The newest giveaway winner is…

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Thanks to everyone who started following The Frugal South this week! To welcome my new readers, I ran a giveaway just for my email newsletter subscribers.

I am happy to announce that Mary from Long Beach, CA is the winner of a $25 Amazon Gift Card… thanks for subscribing, Mary! Your gift card is already on it’s way… 🙂


Lessons from a 35-Year Old Hairdryer…

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During our recent visit with family in MA, I discovered this hairdryer in the guesthouse bathroom. I estimated that it’s between 35 and 40 years old (a quick search on eBay confirmed it was made sometime around 1980) and guess what… it dried my hair like a boss! Still working perfectly and doing its job after all these years.

My first thought was Ya know, they don’t make things like they used to! Yikes, I sound like my grandparents. But this got me thinking about something I’d read about a while back called planned obsolescence.

Planned obsolescence is basically intentionally designing a product to break or become outdated within a certain period of time. This practice is commonly used by companies that make cars, cell phones, appliances, and many, many other things.

The rationale behind the approach is to shorten the amount of time between purchases of the same product, thereby generating more sales and money for the company.

But of course, what does this practice also generate more of? Waste in landfills. And it wastes consumers’ money.

So what’s to be done? Well, I’m trying to buy higher-quality, better made stuff that will last longer, as opposed to cheap junk that is designed to break within a few years.

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But sometimes our budget just won’t allow me to buy a new high-quality item. For example, our coffee maker broke last month. I found some cheap replacement coffee makers on Amazon that started around $20. But I knew they were made poorly and wouldn’t last (most of the reviewers said as much).

So instead, I visited our local Goodwill and found a barely used, higher-quality coffee maker for $4.99. So now we have a nice coffee maker that will hopefully last longer than a few years, and I can use that money on something else, such as putting it toward our travel budget.

So, whenever I can, I am opting to buy the best-made item I can afford, in the hopes that 35 years down the road it will still be functional and NOT in a landfill!


Staples.com: Toshiba 15″ Laptop $299 Shipped

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Here is a fantastic price on a new laptop… get this fully equipped Toshiba Satellite Laptop for only $299 at Staples through June 18th. It has a DVD drive, built-in WiFi and comes loaded with Windows 10.

I wish I had found this deal when I was searching for a new laptop a few months back.

Thanks, Brad’s Deals!


Amazon: Up to 60% off Hanes & Champion Basics

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Today only get up to 60% off Hanes and Champion socks, underwear, and more at Amazon. I found especially nice deals on packs of sock and underwear, with prices from only $4.18!

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BabiesRUs: Booster Seat only $5 + Free Shipping

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Head over to Babies R Us to grab this booster seat for only $4.98 (regularly $14.98) plus get free shipping on this and everything else in the Baby Gear store.

Thanks, Brad’s Deals!

 


Why I’m beyond grateful for my IHG points right now…

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Thank you IHG points!

Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever been as grateful for my points and miles hobby as I am right now.

We are renovating our house and we will be living in a local Staybridge Suites for the next 10 days totally free thanks to my International Hotel Group (IHG) points.

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The living room of our suite

The renovation includes gutting the kitchen (see gory picture below) and replacing the floors throughout most of the front half of our house. Its a huge undertaking! While we technically could live there during the remodel, it would be really rough (no kitchen AND no floors!?!), especially with a 3-year-old.

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What used to be my kitchen

Instead of roughing it there at the house, we are spread out in a spacious 1-bedroom suite with a living room, full kitchen and separate bedroom area.

We are splashing in the hotel pool every afternoon, enjoying the incredible free daily breakfast, and taking advantage of the hotel’s evening dinner buffet three days each week, which includes beer and wine (shockingly, also free).

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The kitchen area in our suite

How did I come by enough points to fund an extended stay like this? Well, earlier this year I earned almost 60,000 IHG Reward Club points by hand-writing and mailing in over 90 postcards during IHG’s Priceless Surprises promotion.

This Staybridge Suites usually requires 20,000 points per night for reward stays, yet I was able to get our room for only 5,000 points per night thanks to the IHG PointBreaks program.

In a nutshell, PointBreaks are IHG hotels at which you can book award night stays for only 5,000 points per night. Each quarter, IHG releases a new list of PointBreaks, and they only offer a limited number of rooms at each PointBreak hotel for 5,000 points.

Since PointBreaks offer such a great value for your points (sometimes there are even a few InterContinental Hotels on the list!), they are popular and book up quickly.

I knew that this remodel was coming up, so early this spring I was watching closely for the next round of IHG PointBreaks to be released. I was pleasantly surprised to find a local Staybridge Suites on the PointBreak list, right about when we would likely need somewhere to stay! I booked as many consecutive nights as I could find in early June, which was 10 nights for a total of 50,000 points.

In the end, our 10-night stay (including all of that free food) cost me nothing more than some stamps and a cramped hand. This is why collecting points and miles is amazing – if you put in the work, it can bring so much goodness to your life!

Are you an IHG Rewards Club member? Please share your experience in a comment below!