4 Ways I Saved on my Summer Vacation
A beautiful photo that I took in Ohio.
Ohio in August. The occasional thunderstorm, barbeques in the backyard and humidity so high, you need another shower as soon as you finish one. (And even that won’t make a difference for long.)
If we wanted perfect weather and an easy drive to the beach, we’d stay home in San Diego. But my husband and I were anxious to see our relatives and college friends, so off we went. We thought we’d done a good job budgeting for the trip by getting a decent price on airfare, staying with relatives and using our Mission Fed Credit Card with free Mission Rewards to buy the tickets, rental car and other needs. But our vacation turned into summer school for the frugal traveler, thanks to our moms. They love us very much and they love reminding us how to save money.
- Don’t eat at a restaurant when you can make the same thing at home.
We are major fans of Skyline Chili, which got its start in Cincinnati. So when we were mapping out whom we would see when, we naturally included our old friend, Skyline. But Mom had other plans. She’d bought frozen Skyline at the grocery, along with hot dogs, buns and cheddar cheese, so we could eat at home and drink our own soda (which is called pop there). And my suggestion to go to La Rosa’s, my favorite local pizza place? No dice. A pizza, purchased with a coupon to make it an even better deal, was waiting in the freezer, and we “dolled it up” with mushrooms and green peppers from the neighbors.
- You don’t need to turn down the A/C.
Having grown up in the Midwest, we had perfected the art of sprinting from the air conditioned house to the air conditioned garage to get in the air conditioned car to drive to the air conditioned movie theatre. For this trip, I had even packed a light sweater, thinking I might be cold. Not so much. Despite my requests, the A/C remained stubbornly at 77 degrees, with the logic being that then it wouldn’t be such a shock when we went outside and it was so hot. (Note: it was still a shock.) Mom’s solution for her whiny adult child: If I was really “that hot,” I could turn on a desk fan or go down the basement. Eureka! I’d forgotten about basements. That’s where they keep the real air conditioning and the extra freezer full of frozen pizzas.
- If you want to exercise, get free passes.
In her golden years, my mom has become a gym rat. She’s amazing. She goes to the gym 4-5 times a week, and really feels bad if she misses a day (even if it’s because her daughter is visiting and wants to sleep in). So for our mother-daughter outing, we went to the gym, once I convinced her that I couldn’t go at 7am because that was 4am Cali time, and I just couldn’t swing that on vacation (or maybe ever). Mom’s gym membership is part of her health insurance and my guest pass was free. We drank water from the drinking fountain and ate granola bars back at the house. Mine tasted more like humble pie. How can I keep my heart rate lower than a senior citizen on beta blockers?
- If you have to pay for something, make sure you get a discount.
I had my heart set on going to the Greene County Fair, with its hog judging, quilting workshops and rabbit costume contest. My hidden agenda was to win one of those goldfish that you carry around in a plastic bag and try to keep alive until you at least give it a name. No need to pay the full admission of $6, though—my husband’s mom saw on the fair’s website that everyone who brought a canned good to donate to charity on Wednesday got in for half price. Don’t tell her that I immediately used that extra $3 to win a goldfish, or that the goldfish food we bought later at the store was $5. I miss you, Nemo.
Along with the lessons in frugality, we had a lot of laughs and a wonderful time. Even if you don’t get to/have to use your Credit Card very often, it’s true what those MasterCard® TV spots say about spending time with your loved ones: Priceless.
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