Saturday, August 12, 2017

Wonder Woman: A Movie Leaves Me Wondering, How Do People Afford The Movies?


Earlier this summer my husband stayed with the kids (no sitter expense) while I joined a close friend for a viewing of the summer hit, Wonder Woman.  Movies have been a huge part of my life, especially during my law school years. I would finish an exam, and then escape to a dark theater and lose myself in the story on the screen, giving my mind a break from the intensity of a legal education.  After graduation movies remained a staple in my life, often seeing all of the films nominated for awards, etc.

Time moved on, I married and children joined the picture.  No longer was a movie a simple pleasure, but one that required paying a sitter ($14/hour) plus admission.  Over time my habit of going to the movies faded.  And as work pressure and parenting duties mounted, even watching a movie at home became a thing of the past.  If the kids were asleep, I opted to sleep as well.

Now the kids are older and I thought I'd venture back out to an old favorite, the theater.  It had been awhile.  Now you select your seat at the point of purchase and hand over $10.50 for a ticket.  The night I went I wanted to get a bottle of water or small soda in case I needed to take a pain pill; earlier that day I had had a root canal (ouch to the mouth, and ouch to my pocket book).  My jaw dropped at the counter; $3.50 for the smallest soda and not basic bottled water.  I'm far too frugal for those prices, and found the water fountain and took the medication in advance of the movie starting.

Wandering into the theater my jaw dropped again.  I believe each and every seat was a huge recliner with drink holders, etc.  It took me a few minutes to figure out how to adjust the seat and then an image hit me -- this is like Rome.  What the heck, we are too decadent in America.  How do people afford to bring an entire family to the movies ??!?!?!?!?

I enjoyed Wonder Women and am glad I saw it with a good friend and supported the production of this movie.  But I will think twice before feeding my movie habit with an outing to the traditional theater.  There is only so much money and I have yet to find a money tree.  We prioritize our hard earned salaries to pay for quality food, travel, and good health care.  Movies are not high on the list.

If you, like me, are turned off by the over-the-top cost of watching a film, here are some frugal ways to enjoy films without breaking the bank:

  1. Be selective and don't watch everything released.  Time is our most precious commodity, and movies can take up a lot of time.  Life is too short to spend hard earned money on a mediocre film;
  2. Borrow films from your local library.  I was patient and this weekend all four of us will watch Hidden Figures for free in the comfort of our own basement.  If the kids lose interest, it didn't cost a penny;
  3. Rent from vending machines, stores, or on-line services;
  4. Subscribe to Netflix or Amazon Prime -- we use Amazon Prime and will watch what is free if the stars align and we have time for an entire movie, or pay a small rental fee to watch one we specifically want to see;
  5. Find out if the theater has discount days, coupons, or find a theater that shows films just before they go to DVD -- they are often a fraction of the cost (but the popcorn is just as pricey); and
  6. Ask for gift cards to theaters for birthday and holiday gifts.  Experiences beat stuff any day.
Thanks for reading, and leave a comment if I've overlooked a method you employ to live frugal but stay current on Hollywood releases.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Efficiency: The Key to a Frugal Life and the Reason I Freeze Leftover Coffee


Efficiency, it is what drives our frugal path in life.  Whether it is ditching US Cellular in favor of the new Google Phone network (a move I made earlier this year, and LOVE it) to asking your insurance agent to look for savings when a policy comes up for renewal to freezing the leftover morning coffee into an ice cube tray to be used in home brewed iced coffees later in the week - efficiency is the driving force behind each decision.  That is our key to frugal living.   Ask yourself, how can you be more efficient in your life?  The answer will likely benefit your health, your wallet, and your Earth.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Avocado Smoothie - Keeping Frugal in the Kitchen


Did one too many avocados land in your grocery cart and now you are wondering how to use this pricier produce item?  My favorite way to use up uneaten avocado is to toss it into a smoothie, giving the drink heft, creaminess, and fiber.


My latest version involved frozen chopped mango, plain whole milk keifer, and a bit of vanilla yogurt along with the avocado.  Blend and pour.


This drink, combined with apple slices, left over bread, and some salami and I had an easy and filling meal that made use of items approaching their end in my fridge.


Monday, July 31, 2017

Frugal 7th Birthday!


Our youngest has recently turned 7, and even with all the over-the-top birthday parties these days our family followed the frugal path.  First there was the party with kid friends at our house.  Why pay for a venue when you have a finished basement.  We hired a former preschool teacher who is a certified art teacher, purchased modeling clay on Amazon, and it was "Art Night".  Classic French sounds acquired on CDs from our local library provided the background music.


The food was pizza from the locally loved Rocky Rocco's -- coupon for $26.99 got us two huge cheese pizzas.  We added apples, grapes, water and lemonade.  Dessert was homemade cupcakes.  Now that we are done with that #7 candle we'll be passing it along to a family with younger kids -- still plenty of burn time left, and no immediate need here in our home.


 Kiddo energy was burned off out back with a short but lively water balloon fight.

Her actual birthday involved opening gifts from friends and family, breakfast featuring her favorite, Morning Buns (acquired at Classens with a buy-one-get-one free coupon), and the most precious gift of all - time.  My husband and I, both self-employed, take the day off for each child's birthday (both summer babies) and simply spend it as a family.  Given our demanding work life, this is precious time.  Below the birthday girl explores the ins and outs of her Rock Tumbler; a great gift for an science curious child.


The afternoon involved time spent together in nature.  Once again we used on Wisconsin State Parks sticker and enjoyed the beach at Gov. Dodge State park.


A final key ingredient to keeping it simple, we had a budget. This year each child has $500 for his/her birthday.  That money has to pay for the party and parental gifts.  Anything not spent is given in cash to the birthday child.  Wow, my kids were looking for bargains knowing that a trip to the Party Store was coming out of his or her wallet.  Watching his younger sister put together a fun party for a fraction of the price a local venue might have cost encouraged him to plan a home party for his 9th coming up later in August.  This has proven to be a great lesson in passing frugal mindsets onto our children.  They don't just put things on a list and hope it will show up, and there is no tossing this and that into the cart with no regard to cost.  We loved this approach and will likely follow it next year.  For the record, those morning buns and birthday meal did not factor into the birthday budget, they were part of our normal grocery expenses.

How do you keep frugal on birthdays?  Leave a comment and inspire.  Thanks for following along.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Composting Again!


Unearthed!  And back to composting we go at our frugal home.  Vines cut down, a small tree sawed and hauled to the curb.  Throw down and old rug (from says when an elder cat had litter box challenges), and there you go.  We can compost again.

Our garden experiment has gone better than expected.  Sited on a slight sloped along the side our house, the recent downpours have not caused flooding.  Harvested so far: 2 hand fulls for green beans, 3 zucchini, and 1 cucumber.  Peppers are not doing well, but we may have a record number of tomatoes along with pumpkins.  All in all the garden is a reason to go outside and putter after a week at the office.  There are small toads and other wonders to greet me after a hectic week of client meetings and transporting kids to summer camp.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Compost Confession


I compost.....most of the time.  Yes, one can compost but take breaks in the daily chore when preserving one's sanity takes priority over preserving the Earth.  Oddly I often find it easier to put my scraps and peels in the heap out back during the fall, winter and spring.  Summer is busy, especially this summer.  Toss in a compost heap buried under the jungle that is my backyard, and well I'm pausing in my compost efforts.  One day I'll have down time to clear cut the jungle and return to my favorite frugal habit.  But not today.  My point with this confession is to underscore that a frugal path has bends and turns, sometimes you are more frugal than other times and that is okay.  It is better to be frugal when you can than never at all.  Adjust your speed to meet you where you need to be and sustain the frugal way.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Daydreaming -- Frugal International Travel



Later this summer my frugal family will explore Iceland.  Why Iceland?  Simply, it is a short flight, approximately 6 hours from Minneapolis (we are driving to MN to fly out, not risking a connection). When you are both self-employed you know the cost of not working, and long travel times add up in cost.  Other than that, Iceland is not an inexpensive place to travel.  We have done a nice job on keeping costs low.  We fly out on a Tuesday and return on a Wednesday, which saved us hundreds of dollars according to the flight matrix we used.  We've rented a "hotel" that is a room with a kitchen, located across the street for a grocery store.  When the cost for two to eat out is $100/meal and you are a couple with 2 kids, eating in is the obvious choice.

We love to travel and plan to do an international trip a year, but after looking at the costs of Iceland we want our 2018 international trip to be to a local that is relatively easy to access, but easier on the pocketbook.  Above is a picture of library books I brought home to examine, seeking ideas.  But advice from actual travelers is always best.  So, my fellow frugalista, what would your recommendation be for a frugal 2018 adventure?