Thrifty and Frugal Living

Friday, March 27, 2015

Frugal Travel Tips



I recently traveled to the Cincinnati area to surprise my Mom. I took this vacation on my own and I did so for very cheap. Here are some tips that you can use when planning your next vacation.

If you are flying:
 
*Use a "budget" airline.
     -I used Allegiant on this flight and paid only $200 for a round trip ticket from St. Petersburg/Tampa to Cincinnati. This is VERY cheap. I only found one other flight that was $399, all the rest were around $500. My flight was also direct. All of the more expensive airlines involved a layover in another city. (NOTE: Do your research! Allegiant and similiar airlines are known for delays and cancellations and lack some comforts that other flights may have.) 
 
*Eat before arriving at the airport and pack snacks in your "personal item" (purse, backpack, etc. that you take on the plane with you) to avoid expensive airport food/ drinks. Do this even if you aren't hungry in case there are delays or someone gets nauseous on the plane. 

*See if a friend can drive you to the airport or take a shuttle:
      -If you are gone for more than a day or two, you are not going to want to do long term terminal parking. It is ridiculously expensive and you will have to worry about your car while you are gone. I normally offer a friend $20 or a 12 pack of beer each way for dropping me off/ picking me up. Just make sure it is someone you can rely on. If that fails, a cab or airport shuttle (I have used SuperShuttle a few times) is still normally cheaper than parking.

If you are taking a bus or renting a car:
 
*Use coupons:
     -Many of the city coupon books that are sold yearly in large cities have coupons for car rentals. I also check Retail Me Not for coupon codes of all types (including cars). You can search "car rental". In addition AAA and some colleges/ employers offer discounts on car rentals. Ask around. I was able to get a great deal from Expedia on an Alamo car rental ($78 for 3 days, 4 hours with a mid-size car).

*For car rentals, keep it clean and fill the gas tank:
     -Most rental companies charge a ridiculous amount if the car is dirty and if the tank is not full. I also keep my gas receipt and I take a picture of the mileage/ gas gauge when receiving and returning the car. I have had to use these in a dispute with a rental company in the past.

*Pack a cooler if on a long road trip.
     -Minimize your spending roadside by packing a cooler full of water, soda, sandwiches, yogurt and other assorted food items. Top it with ice and grab your snacks from the cooler when you pull over for gas. This will help to avoid costly snacks and drinks at gas stations or fast food on the road (bonus: you will probably eat healthier too).

*Look for gas card deals.
     -My local grocery store (Publix) has specials where you can save money on gas cards if you spend $50 in groceries. Since you will probably be spending $50 on groceries regardless, this is a great way save money off of your gas fill-ups. This is also a great way to "save" towards your vacation. If you have your gas paid for, then that is one less expense you have to worry about when the time comes. Note: make sure the gas station you get the card for is available in the areas you are traveling through. 

Do not eat out every meal. 
     -Just because you are on vacation does not meal that you have to eat out every single meal. Eating out can get expensive (and unhealthy) even if you are only eating fast food. If I am staying at a hotel with a fridge, I buy lunch meat, cereal (if free breakfast is not included), milk, cheese and bread. If I don't have a fridge it is bread, peanut butter and snack bars. We can then can eat meals in the hotel. Bonus: this comes in handy when we are hungry late night or too tired from walking all day to go out.

Track your spending. 
     -No one wants to do bills while on vacation. However, it is very important for you to keep track of all your spending while you are traveling. You don't want to end up coming home completely broke. Or worse, coming home early because you ran out of money on day three. If you are aware of your spending, you can pace your money throughout the trip. A method you can use is to use all cash on your vacation and divide it up into equal envelopes for each day. If you borrow from one envelope, you will have to do cheaper (or free like the beach or pool) activities that day.

Sign up for Groupons / Living Social deals for the area you are visiting. 
     -Sign up for the deal websites several months before your vacation. This will allow you to purchase tickets for many activities in advance at a discount price. I recommend reading Yelp or TripAdvisor reviews if you are unfamiliar with the company offering the deal. Note: make sure the expiration dates are past your visit and make sure you will be able to use all the certificates you purchase.

RESEARCH
     -I know that this is not what you want to hear. However, to get the best deal you will have to do some work on your computer. If I had purchased my plane tickets at the first few websites I had searched, I would have paid at least double. I also originally thought $180 was a good car rental price. After half an hour or so of research I found $78 for a better car. Your vacation is going to be unique to you in date/ location/ travel method/ etc. As a result, only YOU can find the best prices. 

Do you have any more Frugal Travel Tips to add? I hope this will help someone plan a frugal vacation. I know that sticking to these tips will help me take more vacations in the future.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

March Fit Snack Box + Giveaway


*sponsored

My goal for next month is to eat healthier and exercise more. This can be hard to do when you have an overnight job like I do. There are not a ton of healthy overnight options for food. If you forget to pack your lunch..you may find yourself in trouble. That is why I like to keep my work desk full of healthy snacks. I am *slightly* addicted to subscription boxes. I am also a huge fan of snacks. I have found the perfect combination of these two loves: Fit Snack.

Fit Snack is a a subscription box with healthy, delicious snacks that are delivered to your doorstep monthly. This box is a little different in that you receive bonus items and they also donate a meal via Feeding America every time you buy a box. How cool is that? Here is my March box:


This box was packed! First up were Compete energy bites. These are my new addiction. They come in little pods to keep them fresh. They taste like little chocolatey brownie bites and they have caffeine!


 Next up were two items from Simply 7 Snacks: Quinoa Chips and Lentil Chips. I didn't think that I would like these, but I really did. I actually ended up dipping the Quinoa Chips in the Sunbutter that I will be sharing with you in a moment. It was a really delicious and healthy combination.



 I also received a Level Life caramel chocolate peanut bar. This was okay. It wasn't the best tasting protein bar I have had, but it wasn't the worst either. It only has 4gm of sugar which is really awesome. I will probably need something a little more sugary to kill my serious sweet tooth.


The next item is one that I have not got around to trying yet: Oven Baked Organics gluten free pancake mix. I am saving this for a family breakfast that I have coming up. I am thinking about adding blueberries and raspberries to the batter. Yum. 
 

I also received Lenny and Larry's "The Complete Cookie" in Lemon Poppy Seed. The only bad thing about this HUGE cookie is that it was supposed to be two servings. That did not happen. It was so delicious that I ate it all in one sitting. I will say that I felt extremely full afterwards though. It is definitely delicious and filling. These come in a lot of different flavors and I can't wait to try them all.


I received a sample of Sunbutter also. This is what I used on my Simply 7 Quinoa Chips. I wasn't sure if I would like this since I am such a huge peanut butter fan. However, it was pretty good. I found myself rolling and squeezing the package at the end to make sure I got it all. I could switch to this over peanut butter. 


NOGII Protein Powder was also in the box. I received both Vanilla Bean and Cocoa Chocolate. The samples were 1/2 a serving each. So, they are more to try the flavors. I do wish they were full samples. I tried the vanilla bean and it was pretty tasty. I like that you can add things to these basic flavors. I added berries to mine! 


The last two items in the box were created by Fit Snack. I love that Fit Snack makes some of their own snacks too. I received an Almond and Pumpkin Mix. I gave this to my Husband and he loves it.

 
 Last but not least was one of my favorite items: the Fit Snack Veggie Chips. These veggie chips are incredible and some of the best that I have ever tried. They include a nice variety of vegetables too.
 

See how gorgeous the Veggie Chips are? They have the perfect amount of salt. So good. I actually prefer the taste of these to potato chips. The Fit Snack packaging comes with healthy tips. The Fit Snack box also came with a product card that had a full body energizer workout on the back. I love the fun little extras. I have learned some great tips from Fit Snack.

I am very impressed with Fit Snack. It had a large number of products and it was definitely worth the money. There isn't really anything in the box that was bad and most of it I really loved. I would definitely recommend Fit Snack.

SIGN UP BONUS:

If you subscribe using my link for Fit Snack you will also receive a free bonus gym bag!


GIVEAWAY: 

 You have two chances to win a Fit Snack box! You can enter the Fit Snack Giveaway on their page and you can enter to win one free box here at Thrifty and Frugal Living using the Rafflecopter below. Thrifty and Frugal Living giveaway ends 4/13/15 at midnight.


*Disclaimer: I received a free box in exchange for my own honest opinion. This post also contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Gourmet Eats that Fight Hunger with #GiveandGrub



Did you know that 700,000 people in our Tampa community go without food every day? What if you could help end hunger in the Tampa Bay area just by eating a delicious gourmet meal? Well, you can! Let me introduce you to the Give and Grub food truck which was created by The Laser Spine Institute and The Tampa Bay Lightning. As a member of the Tampa Bay Bloggers, I was invited to a special event to try Give and Grub for free and learn more about the truck.
 
Give and Grub donates a meal if you do one of two very simple things:


1. Share the hashtag #GiveandGrub on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest). Note: make sure your account is public for this to work! Re-tweets work too! If you want to donate a meal RIGHT NOW, re-tweet this: 



2. Buy a $9 gourmet meal from Give and Grub.

Let's talk about these gourmet meals. The Give and Grub food truck has clever Tampa Bay Lightning names relating to all of their dishes. Four of the dishes are even inspired by the favorite foods of certain players. Here are the items on the menu: 

Hedman's Steak Tacos

Chicken Parmkos Sandwich

Callahan's Mac Slam

Cooper's Candied Burger

Bishop Bowl

Hat Trick Chicken Sliders

Slap Shot Chicken Salad

I was able to try several of the gourmet meals and they are delicious. My favorite by far was the Hedman's Steak Tacos. They are arguably some of the best steak tacos that I have had. No hot sauce needed. I also really loved the Callahan's Mac Slam. It is delicious mac n'cheese with onions and peppers and a boursin cheese sauce topped with kielbasa. I am really wanting to try the Cooper's Candied Burger. It looks amazing. We were also treated to an exclusive new menu item: 


This new dish is called the ThunderSteak Sandwich with CrossCheck Sweet Potato fries. The sweet potato fries were my favorite with the sea salt, marshmallow and butterscotch drizzle. Yum.

We were joined at our special event by some very special guests including two of the Tampa Bay Lightning cheerleaders and my favorite: Thunderbug. 


Thunderbug is SO much fun! He also loves sliders. 

If you are wanting to donate to charity, this is an easy and great way to do it. The Laser Spine Institute has already donated over 25,000 meals through the Give and Grub food truck. Wow! At our Tampa Bay Blogger's Give and Grub event, we donated 2800 meals through just our social media shares. Amazing! Now it's your turn. 



Acu-Life 360 Hot and Cold Universal Therapy Brace Review #aculifebrace



*sponsored

You all know by now that I have a lot of physical pain. I have pain in my knee, back, right elbow, neck, wrist, foot and ankle. I am always looking for newer and better pain relief products. I have tried a lot of different things. When I find something new that is so simple and yet so incredibly genius it astounds me. This was the case with the Acu-Life 360 Therapy Brace by Health Enterprises, Inc. 

This product is very unique in the fact that it fits not just one body part....but three! That is right; three. The 360 Therapy Brace is designed to fit your Ankles, Elbows and Knees. Mind blown. To make this product even better, it is a hot and cold therapy brace. You can microwave it. You can freeze it. You can even toss it in your fridge for a slight cooling effect.
 

 The brace also comes with extenders (those are the black strips in the above picture) in case you need them. I have tried this brace out every way imaginable. I have used it cold on my knee, elbow and ankle. I have also used it hot on all three areas. I am in love with it. If you are microwaving the brace, it only takes 10 seconds to heat it. 15 seconds if you want it really hot. That in itself is incredible, but what really sells this brace for me is the fit. 

 I have struggled many times to try to wrap a heating blanket or hot/cold pad around my knee and elbow. It never works. Most of the time I end up holding the heating device on and it only touches part of my knee/elbow. This Acu-Life 360 Universal Therapy Brace is the perfect solution. It fits my knee snug. It fits my ankle well with a small gap of fabric at the bottom of my foot (not where it is heated and not an issue). In order to wrap my elbow perfectly, I do need assistance. However, I can wrap it loosely by myself and it works well enough that way. 

The top two photos are my knee, the bottom two are my ankle

The 360 Therapy Brace gets impressively warm after only 10-15 seconds in the microwave. I think that this is my preferred method of using it. The heat lasts a decent amount of time (normally I end up taking it off before the heat has ran out). I have found that the skin on my elbow is much more sensitive than my knee or ankle. Therefore, I heat it less or have to let it cool down before using it on my elbow.

 Overall, I am VERY happy to add this genius brace to my collection. I would highly recommend it. The 360 Hot and Cold Universal Therapy Brace retails for $19.99. 
Health Enterprises, Inc. was also kind enough to send me another product to try: the Ultra Wrap.
 

 Wraps are great for when you have a body part that is acting up but you are forced to do a lot of movement. For example: work, a day at the amusement park, a marathon, etc. I have used wraps and also tape in the past. They are normally hot and uncomfortable. This Ultra Wrap is different. Here are the product features:

-Reusable: wear 10+ times
-Unique cushioned support and 4-way stretch 
-Wicks away perspiration
-adjustable and easy to apply 
-Hypoallergenic, Latex & Neoprene Free
-2.5 inch x 60 inch in size

This wrap is so incredibly soft and comfortable to wear. I wrapped my knee before work one day and I forgot I had it on until after I was home and changing. It didn't leave any marks or painful spots on my skin where I was using it either. It comes with a velcro-type closure that sticks really well. This is another great Acu-Life product that I would recommend.The Ultra Wrap retails for $12.99.

How do you deal with your pain? Have you ever used Acu-Life products before?


*Disclaimer: I received products for free in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are completely my own.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Collage.com Photo Blanket + Giveaway #CollageBlanket


*sponsored

Are you looking for a unique gift idea? Do you want to gift something that will be used often? I have the perfect solution for you: a photo blanket from Collage.com.
 
Collage.com allows you to personalize your blankets in almost any way you wish. First you choose if you want a 50" x 60" or 60" x 80" blanket. Then you choose fleece or velveteen. Once you make this choice you jump into the editing screen. You can pick the number of photos you want on your blanket, the arrangement, the background, the border, you can add text and you can even make the photos into a shape. I decided to make a photo blanket with pictures of my pup. I was seriously tempted to just choose one picture and make a paw print or bone on my blanket like this: 


In the end, I decided that I wanted to maximize the photos of my dog on the blanket. After playing around for about on hour, I decided on three photos and the gradient background with his name at the top. The end result was gorgeous! 


I received the 50" x 60" fleece blanket. I had to place it on the bed in our guestroom in order to take a picture of the entire thing. It is definitely a decent size. I was really impressed with the gorgeous details and how well the photos transferred from a digital upload to the blanket. Here is a close-up of one of the photos:


I thought it was pretty funny that you can see the dog hairs in the print on the top picture. In that picture he is laying on his white "puppy blanket" that seems to trap dog hair. Of course the Collage.com photo blanket has one tough critic that it has to satisfy: Tequila himself. 


He investigated the blanket as soon as it arrived. He not only approves, but he has tried to steal it from me several times now. I *sometimes* share it with him. However, it is my blanket.
 
I do admit that I was a little nervous about it being a fleece blanket. When I hear the word fleece I think of those thick, uncomfortable sweaters. Luckily, this blanket is nothing like that. The blanket is REALLY soft. It feels more like a softer cotton than the fleece I am familiar with. It is a thinner blanket, but it is quite warm. It is perfect for keeping me warm on the couch in our freezing cold Florida house (we keep the air turned down low). 


I was very impressed with the quality of this photo blanket. It would make a fantastic gift. You are going to want to buy one for yourself too while you are at it. Collage.com also mentions that this fleece blanket would make a great wall hanging. I love this idea!
 
Collage.com also carries photo books, calendars, posters, photo pillows, wrapping paper, phone cases, photo beach towels, ornaments, tote bags, shower curtains and more. How cool would that be to deliver your photo gift wrapped in photo wrapping paper with the same picture(s) on it? Follow Collage.com on Facebook for some great deals (including Free Canvas Friday).

GIVEAWAY: 

One lucky reader will win a personalized 50" x 60" fleece photo blanket of their own design! Ends 3/29 at midnight.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Disclaimer: I received a free product in exchange for this review. All opinions are completely my own.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Block Out Background Noise with #Plugfones



*sponsored

Life is LOUD. If you are anything like me, then you have a lot of background noise in your life. My Husband likes to play video games and my laptop where I do homework, write and work on blog posts is in the same room. I also have a work cubicle that is open air and exposed to dozens of people talking at the same time and the phone ringing. I definitely need some help with background noise. When I found out about Plugfones, I knew that they would be perfect for me. 


Plugfones come in different colors with creative names such as Contractor, Motorhead, Performer, Ranger and Executive. They come with the usual earbud ends so that you can use them to listen to music. However, they also come with foam earplugs that are interchangeable. These allow you to drown out background noise and focus on the task at hand. They have a noise reduction of 25 decibels.


I have been testing these out and they do a decent job of drowning out background noise. I can still hear music, gunfire (from video games) and the loud television through them with just the foam earplugs. However, the noise is considerably less. If I use one foam earplug and one regular ear-bud with music, then I can't hear much in the background. This is definitely my preferred way to use them. I can actually concentrate quite well with my favorite songs playing in the background. The sound with the Plugfones is decent considering that they only cost $24.95.

The only thing I didn't really like is the way that you interchange the earplugs and earbuds. You have to pop them off of a thin plastic spike and it is a little difficult to do. I also am afraid I am going to tear the foam when I do it. 

Overall, I am enjoying my Plugfones. They are recommend for air travel and I will be excited to test them out when I fly in a few weeks. For now, I would definitely recommend them for students or anyone with a lot of noise in their life.
 
DISCOUNT Code:

Use code EARPLUGSTHATROCK to receive 10% off your Plugfones purchase! 


*Disclaimer: I received a free product in exchange for this review. All opinions are completely my own.