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LOCAL Frugal Activities - Sacramento/California

June 17th, 2010 at 01:20 pm

Great idea for a post! You never know who is lurking, or who will google and find your blog (even if a lot of other SA bloggers don't live near me).

So, I decided to copy HouseHappy and do a similar type blog post.

I will try to make my list from least expensive to most expensive, mostly thinking of things to do for a family of 4 (which is my own experience).

**Go for a walk or a bike ride. Pack up food and make it a picnic.

-One of the many parks in the area (playgrounds, basketball hoops, tennis courts, open space, trails, wildlife viewing, etc.).
-State Capitol/Old Sacramento/Downtown
-Anywhere along river trail. American River bike trail is 32 miles long - longest bike path in U.S., I believe. Easily accessible. Trail spans from downtown (close to us) to Lake Natoma, to the east...
-Lake Natoma (free parking, swimming, biking, hiking, GORGEOUS).

There is almost always enough wind to fly a kite, too. Lots of kite flying with the kids...

{picture credit: http://kstreetgallery.com/Tuthill_limited_editions.html }

**Davis Farmers Market, "Picnic in the Park"

Wednesday evenings, 7 months out of the year. Free live performances and water feature for kids. Bring a picnic and have a great free night. Or shop the market and order food from vendors (usually local restauarants - GREAT food).

**Free/discounted arts/museums

I wouldn't even know where to begin as far as free/discounted concerts and plays for youth, as well as free/discounted art museum admissions throughout the year, etc.

**Rite Aid ice cream, 99 cent scoops, in the old Thrifty locations. All I Can say is, "YUM!" I do not want to go out for any other type of ice cream - there's is the best, and cheapest, too.

**See a Ballgame

Discounted field seating area, and Value nights with $1 hot dogs and $1 ice cream - minor league baseball

**Local Parks & Rec

Tons of activities and camps, for adults and kids, at very low prices. (i.e. there is a summer camp at the park for $15/week - under $1 per hour for grade school kids. We have taken swimming lessons, karate classes, toddler time, workouts/yoga, etc. My aerobics class is $2.50 per hour.)

**Fairytale Town

$55 per year for family membership

IT's a little zoo and park that the kids LOVE. We go there at least every other weekend when the weather is nice - definitely get our money's worth. (It's like $4 to get in, otherwise, per person).

Last time we went they were shearing sheep and handing out free juice.

**Railroad Museum

$60 annually, for family membership. Play area for kids (Thomas the Train tables), and free historic train rides, plus 2 guests outside family, any time, with membership. Plus, the museum is really cool. It's like a giant warehouse with several retired historic trains to explore.

**Discovery Museum

This is a real little and low priced science museum. The kids always LOVE it. We have seemingly unlimited free tickets for this place too (usually from school).

**Aerospace Museum

This is a new gem that we just found. Haven't even been there yet. They have a really cool Star Trek display, at the moment, kids 5 & under are free, and BM has gotten some free tickets at school, too.

**Roller Skating

Family skate - $10 for up to 6 people


$1 games, Sunday mornings and some weekday afternoons


Of course, day/weekend trips would include:

San Francisco (1 hour) - hiking, beaches, good/low cost zoo, lots to look at.
Monterey/Carmel (3 hours) - beaches, hiking
Yosemite (4 hours) - hiking, camping
Tahoe (2 hours) - hiking, rent a cabin with others, rent a boat with others, winter snowball fights/sledding/tubing
Reno (2 hours) - gambling for adults, cheap food and hotels
Northern Coast (I haven't traveled up north much, but hear it is gorgeous)
Disneyland/LA (6 hours)
Vegas (10 hours)

Which reminds me, Washington/Oregon is not a far drive, either. Very scenic.

I know that Disney doesn't jump out as terribly frugal. But, being able to drive there in 6 hours, cuts travel costs considerably. We can do Disney with a very minimal budget. (Vegas is similar. Can drive - airfare and room can usually be found dirt cheap).

On the cheap end of the spectrum is camping, camping, camping. There is a campground about 1/2 hour from us that is very low cost and great for some real star gazing away from the city lights. There are great/affordable public campgrounds all over the state.


For us, personally, the family owns a cabin half way between us and Tahoe. We also have a community pool with our HOA. SO, we can squeeze a lot of "free" activity out of these perks. We are planning a weekend at the cabin in July, with the cost being very minimal.

More Kid Frugie Tips

April 19th, 2007 at 06:07 pm

Just a quick tip for today. It has been pretty crazy at work. I only have 1 or 2 clients in - out of 15 or so - got to get all their payroll tax returns by the 30th. Usually we try to look at some at a more monthly basis, but no way the first of the year. Looking at the workload and how little I have accomplished (one week left) I am thinking next week is going to be horrid. Ack!!!!

Anyway, one thing we have been doing a lot is partaking of all the library programs for the kids. Kids have been having a blast. They have game night once a month, as well as story time once a week, with arts and crafts after. This week we got there about 1/2 hour late but the BM is a little young for most the games - but he has to go for the treats - LOL - little piggie. But anyway, we got there way late which was perfect - games for about 20 minutes and then she read to the kids for about 1/2 hour. Then got some books. BM's little slic of heaven for free. Which reminds me, I come upon the summer conundrum. I usually do a lot of volunteer work and have been on a long hiatus lately with kid stuff. I had found the perfect opportunity - animal wildlife rehabilitation - very seasonal around my work. But since the kids I am a lot more wary of all the diseases and all that - I just can't bring myself to expose myself to the animals. & far less time anwyay. So one thing I had considered was the library. I just don't want to be bored, since I am in an office all day. I want to do something completely different when I volunteer. I like to keep it interesting. So I don't know. Saw the library need volunteers for 1 event, but is next weekend and I'll be working. So I will just have to keep an eye out for stuff like that down the road. & figured the kids have been so spoiled by storytime, time to show some monetary support as well. But I will have to meditate on that in the coming weeks. I think my family might just disown me if I get too wrapped up in anything, so I may just bow out this year from committing to too much. But I am antsy as it has been a few years since I have done much volunteer work.

Anyone who knows me knows I have a habit of spreading myself way too thin. Since having kids though I have really slowed down. But in the back of my head I am counting the days until they don't need me as much I guess and I can spread myself thin again. I think my dh is about completely opposite. I was just pondering this the other day though and I think it is good - LOL. I kick his butt a little bit and he gets me to slow down. Since he is slow and just stays out of my way - works out for the best. Wink

Anyway, another tip though is my coworker said that Home Depot has little project workshops for kids 1 Saturday per month. She said she takes her 3yo-nephew and he really enjoys. Technically the age should be 5-12 or somethiing, but is totally free. So I will have to look at it. My kid is just about 4 but can easily pass for 5 - LOL. Guess they aren't too picky anyway. Might as well check it out 1 weekend and see if he enjoys.


So much for quick I guess - LOL.

Free/Frugie Stuff for Kids

March 10th, 2007 at 07:19 am

Well, this post has been forming in my brain a few days and I have something really cool to add so I finally got to it - with pictures and all.

Les you doubt stay-at home-parents get a little stir crazy at times:

Dh says it was BM's idea, but well, I knew he was a little genius, but I think he had a little help from daddy - LOL.

But this is my free stuff for kids #1 - milk carton blocks (juice too I guess - I see some oranges in the picture). You just take 2 1/2 gallon cartons, cut off the tops, let them air out and dry first please (LOL) and then put them together to form a block. I was wary when dh started the tedious, long-time task of making blocks when BM was almost 2, but about 18 months later he has quite the block collection. & he sure LOVES them. The sweetest thing is he just started giving some to his little brother - figure he needed some too. Another thing he likes to do is build a wall in his doorway with those. Well the uses are endless...

#2 - Well, it was free to us. A relative is teacher and passes off her endless bottomless pit of presents every holiday season. & this is one we weren't really thrilled to get. But whatever. IT was a little bulb that grows into a huge flower. Finally after ignoring it a month or 2, dh got it out and started watering it. The thing has grown so FAST and BIG you see - the kids love coming down every morning and measuring it - too see how far it grew over night - often an inch or 2. I don't know why we were so anti-flower at first. Has been great fun. & it is beautiful.

#3: Science experiments. When my older son was 2 dh got 2 science books they started going through. Granted my 2yo is a lot more like a 4-5yo but definitely can not go wrong at 3 or 4 with these.

Book- Everything Kids' Science experiment book

Book - Science Play (for 2-5 yos)

This makes "science experiment" one of my child's first words. He LOVES the stuff and can't get enough.

So I will share our favorite #1 experiment. Balloon Rocket! You need tape, a balloon (or a few), a straw (courtesy of taco bell I believe - LOL), and a long string. You can put the string anywhere but we tied one end to the top of the stairs and one end to a chair downstairs -makes it really fun. But you can just put it anywhere at an angle or even straight across a room.

Run the string through the straw first before you tie it up. Then blow up a balloon and tape it to the straw, while holding the neck of the balloon closed (a little tricky). Then let go of the balloon and you have a little rocket. That one is so cool - the kids would play with that for hours... They love shooting the balloon up to the top of the stairs!

Go Fly a Kite... (& evils of debt)

March 3rd, 2007 at 07:34 am

The other day I saw some neighbors flying a home-made kite. Interesting. Was made out of construction paper and did seem to fly. For whatever reason they were flying it in the street though - ??? - I mean this is tract housing - there is no room - lord knows why - LOL.

But I thought that would be a project the kids would love - will have to peruse the net for some kite-making websites.

& beyond that I figured I would mention because last year dh spotted some kite on sale at Walgreens or something like that for $1 and picked it up for the kids. Let me tell you, was that $1 well spent!!!!!!! It was so cheap little tin foil thing with some cartoon characters - no idea what ones. LOL. But the kids didn't really care what was on it or how fancy it was - just enjoyed going down to the park and flying it around.

Reminds me we need to dig it out and see if it will last another season.

The weather has been kind of wishy washy over here too, but it is a beautiful clear day today - maybe a good day to fly a kite! We always seem to have plenty of wind too...

Oh yes - and Laura's newest article was pretty interesting...


I am pretty much a in the "self responsibility" mentality, but as I Say over and over I don't think this gives the credit card companies the right to take advantage of people when down (As they are really good at doing) and also it disgusts me how entrenched in controlling legislature the credit companies and mortgage companies are. & this article points it out. I think it alluded to my path with this disgust. I used to look at people in debt as 100% responsible. But over time I See how over and over people are taken advantage of. How too many people without debt problems turn the other cheek because they don't understand what is really going on, on a bigger level. IT is easy to look down on people with big debt problems and assume they just spent too much money on cars and vacations. But this is not very factual for the most part.

This is why I feel financial literacy is so important. The more we are as people are educated, the more we can protect ourselves from all of the financial predators out there. I could spend my time fighting shady car dealerships, shady dentists, shady loan practices, or shady credit card practices. (Even shady CPAs!! Threw that one in for good measure - because there are shady dealers in all trades). But there are not enough hours in the day. There will always be someone out there wanting to bilk you out of your hard-earned money. The best you can do is educate yourself about your personal finances, know how to spot a scam or a bad deal, learn how to make smart choices. That's the best way I see to win this "fight."

Kudos and Shout-Outs

February 11th, 2007 at 07:25 am

Just wanted to say thank you to LuckyRobin & Living-In-Oz

I finally got off my lazy butt and made headway on the house this weekend.

First - I mentioned I had to replace the shower curtain, and extra annoying since it is an odd size. I just mentioned this offhand.

& Living-in-Oz replied:
"Just a household hint, you can put the shower curtain in the washer with a little detergent, bleach, and a few white towels and it comes out very clean. Put it into the dryer on the lowest heat setting for 5 MINUTES(no more or it will melt) and it will come out perfect! I hardly ever buy new shower curtains anymore because this works so well."

So I gave it a try yesterday. I brought down the filthy shower curtain and was a little skeptical. I was lucky I happened to glance a folded white towel on the floor because I Didn't think we had any - was going to use a bunch of white rags, but then remembered we have a pile of white towels in the baby's room - we had used them over the changing pad to protect the pad from poop and such - hehe. So we had a big pile of white towels in there. So I tossed it all the wash and watched it go for a while. I decided hot water should be fine. So I Watched it skeptically for a while and walked away. I put it on super heavy wash settings. An hour later pulled it out, and clean as a whistle. It was AMAZING. Sure I am happy I do not have to go track down this particular sized shower curtain but I am even happier that I do not have to throw that hunk of plastic in the landfill. I am so pleased. Now I wish I could throw the bath tub in the wash too. LOL. I skipped the dryer, the last thing I needed was to leave it in too long and ruin my dryer and my curtain, but was fine, just hung it back up in the shower to dry. Thank you thank you thank you!!!!!

& then I was ranting about static cling and LuckyRobin posted this:
"Okay, this will sound weird but it works. Clean the hairbrush
completely out so there is no hair or dust in it at all, then wash it in the
dishwasher in the silverware holder. When it is done and dry again,
lightly spray it with a fine solution of non-stick cooking spray or olive
oil (I ususally use olive oil in a spray pump) and let it dry. Works
for me, I do it about once a month during the winter. If the brush acts
up again during the month, just lightly spray it again and let it dry
before you use it."

I had been meaning to give my hair brush and comb a good wash anyway but had never thought to put it in the wash. so I did last night. I haven't tried it yet, but I am pleased to have something to fight the static cling. We'll see. Thank you too!!!!!

I actually have gotten lots of great tips - just not enough hours in the day to try them all. But these were both pretty big so had to share. That reminds me, that e-mail dinner subscription thing did not really appeal to me but I mentioned it to dh and he actually sounded like he might like it. We will probably try a free trial then. I did notice when looking at the sample menus that even though I Feel like we cook a wide variety of food, we have a very spanish flair to our food. Lots of onions and peppers and corn, etc., bUT I was looking at these sample menus and they had piles of veggies I never even heard of. LOL. No, I think it could be good to widen the variety in our diet. Well, we'll see, will keep you updated.

Oh - found the link - http://www.savingdinner.com/

Travel & Random Things

February 4th, 2007 at 08:10 am

Well if I go into work today, and remember, I have a couple of awesome recipes to post. We have been eating good over here a couple of simple recipes overall that are not Taste of Home but divine from a cookbook I have. A citrus chicken recipe (about the best chicken I ever have had) and a meatloaf recipe with a bit of spice horseradish and chili sauce we love it.

I also updated the budget and will post it later computer problems for now. I keep all our quicken data and financial stuff on a separate removable hard drive in the house so that data is not kept on our laptop or on any of the computers with the Quicken program just theft prevention. But the laptop has been giving me problems so I Can't access it. I got up early and looked at the budget variances for january but now the kids are awake so I am relegated to the laptop. They are watching Calilou for now and eating breakfast LM is in heaven. I swear if I had a dollar for every time he said Calilou! LOL.

He had a horrid horrid night friday night but thankfully he slept last night. I am exhausted though. Kids are both a little sick sniffly and coughs. Poor boys. Probably didn't help with sleep.

But yeah I have to go into work for a couple of hours at least. Just a mountain of work to dig through will make the week more bearable. It was nice taking a break yesterday though indeed.

Weather looks like it may be quite pleasant today and I am ready to get out of the house!!! I am so done with winter. Maybe tonight we can walk to the park or something before dark we'll see how it turns out I see the sun so it is a good sign woohoo. I hears 70s today I am in heaven...

Well for whatever reason I am little miss travel agent. I think I need to learn some new tricks though. When I was in college and no one had heard of cheap tickets I flew to Vegas fro $60 and New York for $150. I did a lot more travel then (flexibility helped) but never spent much. Anyway, so everyone calls me when they need tickets. I apparently still have the touch because I will always find a better deal than joe blow average, but I think I need some new tricks. The discount sited are just so the norm any more, they aren't the best deals I can't imagine finding a $150 ticket to NY either post-9/11. I don't know how much is just the industry changed or the travel secrets have evolved. But last summer MIL wanted to treat us all to Hawaii but she was absolutely driving us batty because it should be an easy direct flight but she was looking at cheap flights on dicount carriers (which I saw REALLY bad things about delays and such I can't even remember what it was some terrible airline I have never heard of before or since) AND she wanted a layover in LA Ridiculous. With an infant we were like, well, can we please skip the layover at least we will pay the difference. She was being real stubborn so I finally decided to take matetrs in my own hand she insiste on paying for it all, yet being cheap. Sure fine, I understand when you are buying 7 airline tickets you want to be cheap, but just let us HELP already so we don't have a completely miserable flight. So I started looking at all the airports in the area, including ours, and found a sweet deal for about $400/person from Sacramento. She was quite pleased but I had heard to check directly with the airlines for discounts so we did and I think we ended up paying closer to $350/person. Plus it was sweet because they had to all drive up here and we just had a 5-minute drive to the airport ourselves. Can't beat that.

Anyway, I was so pleased dh and I have had it in our mind maybe we will take a trip to Hawaii in the near future that is not bad airfare it costs me more to fly to Kansas LOL.

So anyway, last night my dad called for help re: tickets for the funeral in Kansas next week. They couldn't find anything below $700. I thought I had heard about bereavement fares being a thing of the past but I did tell him whatetever I found I would call the airline directly for a discount if I was him. I couldn't fund much below $800 cheatickets wasn't helping. But I pulled up qixo.com which is a more tedious search but I finally found if they flew from San Francisco and had 2 stops on the way back it was $600. They also had to leave later in the day and come back earlier in the day, not maximizing their time. Since they had already found $700 I figured they would stick with that. But I shouldn't underestimate my dad mr. Frugal pants. He insisted he would take it LOL. I am not sure how my mom felt about that. I imagine she was not too happy they can easily afford another $100/each, and she does not fly well. So he called me later and told me called United directly and got a $500 bereavement fare only 1 layover each way. So I guess my info was wrong bereavement fares are still around. I can just imagine the argument ensuing over there if not for that - let's spend 10 less hours in kansas and take a 3-legged flight on the way back to save $200 total even though I make a very decent six-figure salary and have no debts or obligations whatsoever. Ah, some things will never change - LOL.

No Plans here for Valentines Day, or Superbowl for that matter. You know we tried to have a big superbowl party last year since we have such a giant screen and all. We found most everyone had their Superbowl traditions already we find it hard to get in on it LOL. I am sure this year we could have had a big family turnout at least, but caught me off-guard/last-minute. Will have to try next year I guess. Valentines Day we try to just do special things throughout the year rather than being relegated to the silly holidays. I am sure Valentines will pass by without a thought between the 2 of us, and we will be happy with that! Wink We celebrate our anniversary much more heavily, we find that far more important I guess.

Priorities - Feeling Motivational

January 19th, 2007 at 01:01 pm

Frugality is about setting priorities, not deprivation. Well, at least it is to me.

I just posted a little bit about the philosophy of Suze Orman & Laura Rowley and I guess that is really what it comes down too. I Think you have to have a strong sense of self to be successful financially. Maybe you don't HAVE to, but it sure helps.

I think the best thing my parents ever taught me, which reaches into every aspect of my life, is just to be myself and not worry about other people. I think to many that is the biggest first step in figuring out how to budget and live within your means. Not falling for all the marketing out there, buying things to look cool and please your friends, keeping up with the joneses. & trying to find satisfaction with yourlife outside of material things - I guess that is a big one too. I think a big way my parents taught me this was they were never afraid to be different. & they also never gave into a fad. I remember I thought I Was going to die if I did not get a Cabbage PAtch Doll. My parents never caved. I thought they were horrible because we shopped at Kmart. But my parents gave me a good life and even spoiled me on occassion. But the most important thing I think is they wouldn't give in when I had an impulse and wanted something because of outside influences. I hope I Can be strong enough to say no to my kids the same way because I feel it has served me very well in life.

& once you know what you really want for yourself, set a path and goals to get there. You have to look carefully, and be patient. Because if you can't have it all now, maybe you can down the road - years/decades down the road if you are patient. OR maybe there is something you can never have, you have to seriously list what you want out of your life and how you are going to get there. IF you have too many goals, some will have to be sacrificed. But the upside is only those most important to you will be what you work toward, and what you spend money on. IT is easy to say no to the things that don't matter once you really look hard and see what really matters and doesn't.

Dh and I Were discussing it the other night - we realize we don't put a lot of weight on 2 things - fleeting pleasures (vacations and experiences) or small material things - we are more likely to save for bigger things. To many it really creates the illusion that we are extremely wealthy. Looking at face value at our posessions.

What we have and value:

**A nice house (housing may be expensive but renting is far more expensive and would never get us ahead. Our utilities are dirt cheap and maintenance is low as long as the house is newer. By the time it starts needing more repairs we'll have the cash).

**Reliable Cars - as long as they are reliable and don't have a lot of upkeep they will do.

**Fancy Electronic Toys (computers, games, theatre room. We shop for quality and value, and don't turn our noses up at used. We'll think outside the box for a deal. Dh's theatre room has a nice projector - where it matters - and everything else is not fancy. A big screen t.v. would cost more but we have a 10-foot screen. HE has free HDTV through his computer - projects it in there. HEll of a lot cheaper and nicer than an HDTV thank you). We don't spend much on replacing things or repairs - we shop carefully to avoid these.

**Comfort (electricity will not be set lower than 68 - thanks - LOL).


**Cash in the bank

**Preparing for retirement

**working less and spending more time with the kids

**making less and enjoying our job

**Having a pet

**A weekend away or a nice camping trip

**Not relying on 2 incomes

**Decent HEalth Insurance (believe me I pay well for this! To avoid big insane bills, best we can anyway.)

**Not having debt

What we do NOT value:

**New/Fancy Cars
**A house we can not afford to upkeep
**Electronics - what everyone else has, brand names, etc.
**Home decorating/new furniture
**Being too good to buy used
**Eating out a lot
**Going out a lot
**beauty products & treatments
**most consumer goods
**fancy vacations
**brand names

& so it goes. By not spending a lot of money (or maybe none) on the things we don't value, we have that much more money for things we value.

We put our all into getting a house so that we could stay out in California and not drown in rents and be the ones saying we will never afford a home. & we made it.

I know our theatre room drops jaws. The sound and the picture is FANCY. Never mind the surround sound and DVD player are ancient as dh bought them in college and never replaced. That we got the theatre seating dirt cheap at a going out of business sale. That the decor consists entirely of painted walls and a screen we framed with felt. The room is not going to be featured in a magazine or considered fancy in the least, but the movie screen will blow you away and that is what is important. When the lights are off who cares - LOL.

By simply buying newer and fancier cars there is no way we would have money for a house or a theatre room. So we sacrificed where it didn't matter as much to us. IF we both bought $20k cars, there would go 90% of the down payment on our house. A couple of thousand dollars for a fancy projector is nothing when you don't spend your money on any of the latest electronic gadgets, don't have a car payment, when you just don't buy other stuff.

Oh yeah the reason we were talking about it too is we seem to go in cycles. We will go years with living very tight as we aim for a goal, and then we might let loose and go crazy for a year. The crazy year would be 2005. We were just saying though, you know we could have gone crazy and blew through all our money on nights out and vacations and stuff that would carry no further value to us today. Instead we have a nice new washer/dryer, a laptop which has been heaven on earth for me - I can work while watching the kids or without locking myself away in another room - sometimes I have mindless work to do in the evenings - I do it while I hang out with the family - couldn't without the laptop. We have preschool which is good for everyone in the house, and a gardener which saves SO many headaches. SO we went crazy - we don't regret any of our purchases. Dh has his theatre room, we have 2 decent cars that should last a LONG time. We were saying "so what?" if we have to cut back for a few years as we re-evaluate and put extra money into retirement and as we build back up our cash. At least we didn't blow our money on stuff that we didn't value, that is gone. So we can enjoy what we have for years to come. IT was just interesting as we looked at it that way.

We may NEVER have the money to go on a fancy vacation, to buy NEW furniture, or to eat out more. Some parts of my budget are still as tight as they were as a kid in college making minimum wage. Oh well. There is luckily plenty there for all that we value.

We could value retirement even more and sacrifice some of the fun and fancy things - no doubt. But I think we found a nice balance. I Think too since I love my job I am not in a huge hurry to retire - makes all the difference!

& that is what truly matters.

I am sure everyone's values and non-values will read a little different, and that is fine by me - I don't expect everyone to value what we value. Any mix is fine as long as it is attainable and makes you happy! I think it just gets extra hard with the "keeping up with the joneses" mentality because then way too many "things" flood your "value" list - so many that most of us will never realistically afford. & so goes the debt cycle.

I actually have a rather substantial list (well we both do) of material things we think we might like - and they do tend to be big. But since they don't fit in our overall plans for now they are just on the back burner for now. But I Won't cry about it. We have plenty and I know more things won't make us happier. Why I Am happy to set many things aside... They are at the back of our minds maybe one day when the mortgage is paid and our retirement is set, things we would consider. Then we would value experiences and fancy vacations more. But for now they don't fit with our financial picture and our goals and I think we will live just fine without.