I once met another blogger who said to me, “I’m not that frugal. I like spending money. Like you.”
Like me. That part sat with me for a bit, because it’s not true. I actually don’t like spending money at all. And I think I’m super frugal. But I’m extremely value-driven and I always want to maximize not just my money, but my resources, too. In that sense, I’m not afraid to spend money if I think I’m going to get something valuable in return. So today, I’m doing something a little different by showing bits of pieces of my own version of frugality. Here are some things I did over one weekend that fit that more-for-less vibe.
1. I Booked a Trip for Less
My husband and I had trouble deciding where to go on vacation this year, because we had a couple more restrictions than usual:
- Not too hot in August
- Less than a six-hour plane ride
- Good for kids
I bought our plane tickets on Saturday. To ICELAND! Spending money on vacation doesn’t seem frugal, but stay with me. Because Iceland is e-x-p-e-n-s-i-v-e. The roundtrip tickets cost $443 each, so for three people, the total would be $1,329.
I had a bit of a dilemma: To use points, or not to use points?
I don’t use points for every trip, because sometimes it’s more strategic to just pay out of pocket. Because if you use points for every trip big or small, then how will you save up points for those fancy business-class seats? Plus, the travel hacking opportunities in Iceland are sadly few and far between. There are only one or two chain hotels to use points on, and redeeming flights through airlines costs a whopping 45,000 points per ticket. Not only was that a bad value for the points, but for three tickets that would have set me back 135,000 points, which I didn’t have.
But I did have 100,000 Chase Sapphire points. The cool thing about the Chase Sapphire cards is that there are multiple ways you can redeem the points. One option is booking travel through their portal for a discount.
If you book travel with your Chase Sapphire Preferred points, each point is worth 1.25 cents. In this case, it would have cost 35,440 points per ticket. That’s better than 45,000 points, but there’s another option. If you book travel with your Chase Sapphire Reserve points, each point is now worth 1.5 cents. That’s a difference of 6,000 points just by using the Reserve card!
I spent 88,602 of my Chase Sapphire points to cover the $1,329 in plane tickets. I saved about 18,000 points by redeeming through Chase Reserve over the Preferred card. I also chose to fly United instead of Icelandair, so we each can earn 5,000 frequent flier miles from the actual flight. You never know when those points might come in handy later. Then I started estimating the rest of the expenses so I could figure out how else I can make the trip cheaper. We have two cash back cards with about $780 currently on them, so if we continuing spending on those cards, we should have about $1,000 to shave off the lodging and car costs. All in all, I’m thinking the whole trip will cost about $2,000, or $667 per person. Not bad for a week in an expensive country!
2. Applied for a New Rewards Credit Card
Two reasons why I’m looking for new cards to sign up for:
- Since I blew through 88,000 Chase Sapphire points, I gotta find a way to replenish them.
- We have a big expense coming up soon (summer camp), so that will help us meet new minimum spends.
I saw that the Chase Ink Business Preferred card was offering 80,000 points after spending $5,000 within three months. My husband applied, but didn’t get approved right away, so he has to call the credit card company to clarify a few things. If he doesn’t get approved, I have two other backup cards he can apply for instead. I don’t want the spending opportunity to go to waste!
3. Socialized for Free
On that Sunday, my friend had a brilliant idea to host a hot pot lunch party at her apartment. There were seven of us there, all Asian-American, so it was like an unofficial Asian-American Club meetup. My friend spent $30 on supplies from Chinatown, and at $4.30 per head, this was definitely a frugal get-together. Besides it being an inexpensive way to hang out, hot pot is interactive (you’re cooking together), homey, and fun.
It was nice to bond with people who grew up under similar circumstances. For example, many of us recalled the same types of stories:
- Doing adult things when you were a kid, because your parents can’t speak English that well. Like calling the cable company when you’re 10 years old to haggle over why the bill increased by 20 cents.
- How our parents have no idea about our interior lives or thoughts. The first thing they ask when they call you is, “Did you eat?” But they’ll never ask you how you’re actually feeling.
- The only people who would be able to survive an apocalypse are Asian moms, because they are savvy as hell.
Not only were we in good company, but we were spoiled by this wonderful hot pot spread:
4. Repaired a Pair of Jeans Myself
One pair of my jeans split open on a side seam. It doesn’t matter how expensive the jeans are, I wear them really hard. You see, I would win an Olympic medal in Speed Walking if such an event existed. (Editor’s note: it kind of does!) It was a pretty easy sewing job, and you can see the before and after below. If you’re wondering why the jeans look so different in the second picture. it’s because I washed them for the first time this weekend. With raw denim, the color fades significantly when you do that.
As I was writing this, I wondered how much I spent on my sewing machine, a vintage Bernina Record. I checked and I paid a little over $400 for it back in 2007. That was a huge splurge for me, especially since I wasn’t making much money at the time. But somehow I knew that a vintage machine made out of Swiss parts was most likely a better bet than newer machines made out of plastic.
5. Decluttered by Listing My Old Clothes to Resell
Decluttering AND possibly making money? That’s the best of both worlds. Then I can use the money to refresh my wardrobe, instead of using new money taken from my paycheck. I spent most of my Sunday working on listing eight items for sale online, woohoo! It took forever since I’m testing multiple platforms and had to list the same stuff, like three times. But this has been on my to-do list for half a year now, so I felt so productive accomplishing this finally. Also, I have so many thoughts about Poshmark right now, but I’ll save them for another post.
What are some frugal things you’ve done lately? Have you ever been to Iceland? What tips do you have?
The Luxe Strategist is a New Yorker saving half of her income. She chronicles her money-saving strategies on her blog.
Image via Unsplash