Culture on the Cheap: Visiting Museums for Free!

Culture on the Cheap Visiting Museums for Free!

As you might have guessed from our escapades around Europe this summer, BF and I are kind of culture junkies. Museums are one of our favorite ways to experience a new culture and gain exposure to new forms of expression and ways of life. We love a good art/history/science/music/whatever museum, and seek them out wherever we go.

The downside to museums is that all of the fun they offer often comes at a price. Depending on the size and type of museum you’re visiting, a ticket can range from a few dollars to $20+ per person. As much as I love a museum, I really don’t love paying tons of money to spend an afternoon looking at art. I MUCH prefer to look at art for free, and luckily there are many ways to do that!

Today I’d like to share a few tips for visiting amazing museums completely for free. As long as you’re willing to be a little flexible and/or plan ahead, you can easily take advantage of these opportunities to visit museums for free all around the world. Continue reading

How to Save Money on Clothes (or Why I LOVE Outlet Shopping)

How to Save Money on Clothes (or Why I LOVE Outlet Shopping) _

A few days after my disappointing Stitch Fix experience, I got to do one of my absolute favorite things: shop. I hadn’t been shopping, like full-day, cover-the-whole-mall kind of shopping, in at least four months. If you’re not a shopper, that might not sound like much, but it is for me.

See, despite my generally frugal ways and desire to live a financially responsible life, shopping is a big vice. I talked about this a bit during my discussion of lifestyle inflation and the key factors that have led to it over the years. Shopping is a major line item in my budget; at times, it is a far larger line item than I’d like to see.

But personal finance is personal, and shopping for clothing is something that I really enjoy. I enjoy not only the act of shopping and purchasing new clothing, but also wearing that new clothing – going to my closet each morning to pick out a pretty outfit to wear, and feeling extra confident knowing that I both look and feel good. It is still a struggle for me to accept that it is OK that I love shopping, that I am allowed to spend money on clothes if that is something that I value, but sometimes I just feel frivolous. Continue reading

Super Simple Meal Planning

Super Simple Meal Planning _

I realize that I’ve been talking a lot about food lately. Like, a lot, a lot. But you know what? Food is important! It is delicious and necessary to keep us alive and also one of the most controllable line items in any budget. It’s something I’ve given a lot of thought to over the years and I hope you’ve been enjoying my little bits of wisdom.

Today, I thought I would share one of the best ways I’ve found to save money on groceries: meal planning. Meal planning sometimes sounds scary – I think it conjures images of hours spent clipping coupons, searching for deals, meticulously planning recipes and driving to five different grocery stores each weekend – but over the years I’ve honed a relatively simple meal planning system. All in all, I probably spend less than 30 minutes meal planning each week. Add in an hour door to door for my once weekly grocery trip, and I’m pretty happy with the savings payoff from the minimal time investment. Continue reading

How to “Eat Out” Without Leaving Your Home!

How to Eat Out Without Leaving your Home _

I have often found myself longing for the luxury of a nice meal out at a restaurant. The atmosphere, the company, the delicious food (and not having to prepare that food myself) all sound really appealing. But, in my quest to lower my food spending, I now find myself trying to avoid eating out as much as I might be inclined to.

Eating at home doesn’t have to be a huge sacrifice though, and I’ve learned a lot of ways to make eating at home feel like dining out but for a fraction of the price. Here are my thoughts on how you can create an “eating out” experience in the comfort of your own home. Continue reading

Life’s Simple Pleasures

Life's Simple Pleasures _

I wake up on a quiet Sunday morning with nowhere in particular to be. It’s a perfect, sunny day. The first hints of fall are in the air, and we’ve turned the air conditioning off and slept with the windows open for the first time in months. I laze around for a while, halfway between sleeping and waking. Finally, I’m up, but it’s still not time to get out of bed. I reach for my book and start reading, with the sunlight coming in, and the cool breeze drifting past me. Life is just about perfect.

From time to time, I am struck by the power of simple moments like this, when everything in life seems good and calm. There are a lot of things that money can buy, but moments of simple peace and happiness aren’t among them.

Today, I thought I’d help us all put things into perspective (myself included!) and remember some of the simple things in life that can bring the most joy. Continue reading

Decorating on a Budget: A West Elm Painting Hack

Decorating on a Budget, A West Elm Painting Hack _

Having a well-designed space to call home can make such a difference is your overall happiness. I’ve lived in all kinds of different spaces, from homes in the suburbs to dorms to apartments in the city, and I think that I can be happy in most kinds of spaces as long as I give the décor a bit of attention.

A lot of people think that having a well-designed space means spending a lot of money: hiring a designer, getting custom furniture or expensive art. I patently disagree. If you have a bit of an eye for design (or a friend who does!), all you need is a little creativity to make any space beautiful on a budget. Continue reading

Dining Out Without Breaking the Bank

Dining out without breaking the bank _

After learning just how bad my lifestyle inflation has gotten in the last few years, I’m trying to do what I can to cut back in certain areas. One area in which I noticed particularly egregious spending is in eating out. BF and I don’t indulge in too many luxuries, but we do really enjoy going out to eat regularly. This has come to cost me a pretty penny over the years (don’t even get me started on the madness that was our restaurant spending in France this summer). While I have no plans to cut out eating out entirely (it’s something we really enjoy and value), I have been thinking a lot lately about how we can get the same dining out experience without spending quite as much money.

Today I thought I would share my thoughts on how to dine out without spending a ton. You can still enjoy great food, atmosphere and company without going over your budget. Continue reading

The Great Grocery Price Comparison Experiment

The Great Grocery Price Comparison Experiment _

I recently embarked on what is perhaps my most time-intensive personal finance experiment to date. While I have always felt that I am a smart grocery shopper – shopping at the right stores, taking full advantage of sales and carefully checking unit prices – I figured it couldn’t hurt to verify the frugality of my ways. I’ve never had a price book before, but I have heard the value of them extolled on not a few personal finance blogs, so I decided to give it a try and compile a grocery price comparison spreadsheet of my own.

I began this experiment by creating a spreadsheet listing items I commonly buy in three key categories: household items, toiletries and food. This list is certainly not exhaustive, but I tried to include enough items to give me a good sense of which stores offer the best value in each category. For some items I had a specific brand that I was looking for. For others, there were only certain requirements, and in those cases the least expensive option that fulfilled the requirements was selected for comparison. For all items at all stores, I compared full prices only. All stores have sales, but it just seemed impractical to wait for those sales to come around to put into the spreadsheet. Continue reading