Category Archives: Ways to Save Money

Free Entrance to National Parks in 2023

This is incredibly useful and is going to save me some money! It tells you how to get into national parks for free--in the US and Canada.

Over four hundred of America’s national parks are free everyday.  But nearly 125 of them aren’t.  Luckily, the park system does offer free days, so you can go enjoy our beautiful country while remaining completely and totally frugal.

National Park Free Entrance Days for 2019

Prior to 2018, there were weeks-worth of free National Park Days. But in the years since, the number has been cut down to just five days.  If you want to visit on a free entrance day, you’re going to have to plan a little more carefully.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Fees will be waived on January 16, 2023 in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

First Day of National Park Week

Before 2018, there were five free days in the month of April recognizing National Park Week. Ever since, though, you only get in for free on the first day of the celebration. This year, that date is April 22, 2023.

Great American Outdoors Act Day

To celebrate the 2020 passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, you’ll be able to gain free admission to parks on August 4, 2023.

National Public Lands Day

Admission will be free on September 23, 2023 in honor of National Public Lands Day.

Veterans Day

You can get into national parks for free in celebration of Veterans Day on November 11, 2023.

Which National Parks require an entrance fee?

I’ve been lucky to travel a good bit in my time. National parks always bring such a sense of awe and wonder. It’s one thing to wander around in the woods in your backyard. It’s a completely different thing to spend time in pristine, protected wilderness.

Some of my favorite national parks that will be waiving their fees on free days are:

There’s a ton of others, too. I was surprised to find the ones in my own back yard that I never knew existed. To find some near you, you can check out the National Park Service’s website.

Free Entry to National Parks Year Round

If you fall into any of the following demographics, you can get a free national park pass. You only need one per vehicle to get into the park, so if anyone in your family falls into one of these categories, you could theoretically get the entire clan in for free.

  • You are a US citizen with a documented disability.
  • You are a 4th grader. Eligibility starts on your first day of fourth grade and ends on your first day of fifth grade.
  • You are a member of the military or a military dependent.
  • You are a federal lands volunteer with at least 250 hours under your belt.

You can learn more about each of these programs here.

Not-Free Annual Pass

Depending on how often you visit national parks, it might make sense to invest in an annual pass. there are different prices for different parts of the population.

Annual Pass – $80

This is the pass for the vast majority of the populace. You’ll have to pay an $80 annual fee, and you can get it if you are:

  • An American citizen between the ages of 16 — 62.
  • An international visitor.

If you’re just visiting one park that has a per-car fee, this pass might not save you money. But if you’re doing multiple entries or visiting multiple parks, it might keep some cash in your wallet.

Senior Annual Pass – $20

If you’re age 62 or over, you can get the annual pass for just $20 — which is far more likely to save you money over the $80/year option.

Senior Lifetime Pass – $80

Want the senior pass to last beyond this year? You can pay $80 once and hold it for the rest of your life, which is a pretty great deal. You can only get this pass if you’re age 62 or older.

Getting into Canadian National Parks for Free

The first way to get into Canadian national parks for free is via a Canoo mobile app. This method is reserved for those who have become Canadian citizens in the past year, or immigrated to Canada in the past year.

The second way to get into Canadian National Parks for free is to be young! Anyone under 17 years of age can get into national parks for free all the time. Find out more about the youth program here.

We’d love to hear about your national park experiences! Tell us about them in the comments section.

How I’m Fighting Inflation

As of writing, the latest inflation numbers put us at 7.1%.

That’s down from the pandemic peak of 9.1% in June of 2022.

When I first started this blog, we were three-and-a-half years out from the initial start of the Great Recession.

Frugality was all the rage. A lot of the Millennial ‘influencers’ you see around got their start writing about how the heck to scrimp by under the adverse circumstances of our youth.

I’m not thrilled that we’re here again. It was always inevitable that we would end up back here eventually, but the circumstances this time are pretty frustrating.

Woman punching towards the camera with pink hand wraps on. Fist is in focus. Woman's face isn't.

How I’ve Been Combating Inflation

As inflation has risen, I’ve changed up the ways I do things to try to assert power over what could very quickly spiral into budgetary devastation.

So here’s what I’ve been doing. I hope it inspires you to pursue creative ways to give yourself some wiggle room, too.

 

Went the Summer with no AC in my car: $750

Right in time for summer, the AC went out in my car.

I was hoping it would be a simple fix. But after taking it to the mechanic, I learned it wasn’t.

There were cracks and canisters and labor — the price of which had recently gone up thanks to rising inflation.

Going through with the fix would cost me $750.

I decided to keep that money in my bank account instead.

My hair resented me for it.

But I didn’t really care.

IT WAS $750.

 

Took advantage of checking account bonuses: $700

I had a few payments come in from new clients this year. Before I got those initial ACH deposits, I researched bank account bonuses.

Good checking account bonuses are a few to several hundred dollars. The requirements to earn the bonus tend to come with:

  • ACH deposit requirements. Occasionally you’ll run into one that lets you do transfers to qualify, but it’s not as common for checking accounts.
  • Debit card transaction requirements. Not all bonuses comes with these, but when they do, you’re usually getting something like $2 for each debit card transaction.
  • Time requirements. Usually these deposits or transactions have to happen within 30, 60, or 90 days of opening the account.

I also did one savings account this way. Even with Fed rate hikes, I’m still likely to earn more money through a high savings account signup bonus than I am through interest — even with rates above 3%. I ended up getting the high rates and the bonus, so that was a win.

This worked with the way I have my money allocated. Yours may look different.

 

Lowered my internet bill: $360/year

I filled out the super easy application for the Affordable Connectivity Program and started saving $30/month on my internet bill.

Legit! It took less than 48 hours to apply — and that was over a weekend.

You can qualify for this program based on income. And income limits are higher than you may think.

But income is not the only way to qualify. Check out all the ways you can qualify to start getting $30+ off your internet bill, too, with the Affordable Connectivity Program.

PRO TIP: On top of the ACP, make sure you’re negotiating your internet bill every time your contract renews. It’ll save you even more money.

 

Went through my online subscriptions with a fine-tooth comb: $360/year (so far)

It is super important to go through your checking account and credit card statements every month for so many reasons.

One of those reasons is to make sure you’re cancelling any auto-renew subscriptions you’re not actually actively using.

A lot of times we forget about these subscriptions while the company keeps billing us in the background. But staying aware of all your charges is a great way to remind yourself where you can cut expenses.

This was especially important to me since the pandemic started. In 2020 and 2021, I had allowed myself to spend a little bit more on these subscriptions. After all, we weren’t really spending money on entertainment elsewhere.

 

Taken advantage of free Covid tests through insurance: At least $800

We still take COVID-19 seriously in our house, so we go through a lot of tests. Especially on those occasions where we decide it is safe to socialize with others.

We get our Covid tests free through insurance. I have no idea if or for how long this will continue. But for now, you can get up to 8 tests per month for free through private insurance, and 2 through Medicaid.

 

Booked Travel on Points: $1,000+

2022 was the first time I had traveled since before the pandemic. I had a lot of travel credits through various programs. Some of them could be renewed by making a purchase I was going to anyways through the reward program’s shopping portal.

Others were expiring for various reasons. So I used them. On work trips. On family trips.

And they saved me oodles of money. I got far more than $1,000-worth of accommodations for $0.

 

I am almost winning this battle against inflation.

If I take the numbers I was paying before the pandemic and account for inflation, it costs about $4,250 more to run my household on a bare-bones budget than it did back then.

The math is imperfect here. But that’s a very rough, probably underestimate.

My inflation-fighting measures saved me at least $4,000 last year. Though there is one trip I might not have taken if I hadn’t had expiring travel points on hand. So take that for what it’s worth.

Overall, I got pretty darn close to neutralizing inflation in 2022.

But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel like I’m getting KO’d by it every single day.

 

How are you fighting inflation?

Let me know in the comments! Or, join me in the discussion on Instagram under #inflationchallenge.

 

 

How to Recycle Old Candle Wax into New Candles

RECYCLING CANDLES

This happens to me a lot.  I have old candles that I love that end up burning weird so that there’s a lot of actual wax left, but not enough wick to burn it.   In the past I’ve just sadly thrown them away.  NEVER AGAIN!

Here’s how I upcycle all that old wax into new candles. These can be for personal use, or serve as really easy, home-made gifts.

You will need

Materials:

  • Double broiler, two pots of similar size, or a tin can.
  • Wax from old candles.
  • Wicks (I get my wicks from Michaels).
  • Container for new candle.
  • Pencil or popsicle stick.

STEP ONE: Gather old wax.

This round’s victim was my Chocolate Aunt Sadie’s candle.  Burned in the past mostly around Valentine’s day, it would have me salivating within seconds.

Aunt Sadie's Chocolate CandleThe first step is to get a spoon and chip the wax out of your container.  The metal circle that holds the wick in the bottom will probably be stuck.  Just use a spoon to pull it out from the bottom once you get there.  Then break up the wax into meltable, even chunks.  I was going to reuse the container, but mine ended up looking like this:

Unusable

So it was off to the recycle store with that mess.

STEP TWO: Set wick.

I had a couple of votive containers I have been using over the years.  I originally got them at the dollar store.  So I just used a couple of them as my new candle containers.  Before I melted the wax, I prepped the containers by lining up the wick to the bottom center, and wrapping the wick around a pencil that would hold it in place while I poured:

prepping wick

 

STEP THREE: Melt wax.

Then I actually melted the wax.  You could use a double broiler, but I have nothing that fancy.  I just filled a pot with a couple of inches of water, brought it to a boil, and then stuck a tin can with the wax chunks in it so it would melt without ruining my pot.  I bent the can so that when I poured the wax out it would act as a spout.

IMAG1277NOTE: Be mindful and careful when burning the wax! Do not leave it unattended.

STEP FOUR: Pour candle.

After the wax was melted, I poured it into two of my containers, almost as full as I wanted them.  I then let them cool completely (which took overnight in my case, but will vary with the original candle you used.)  Then I melted down a little bit of the wax I had saved to top them off so they would burn right.  I let that cool, trimmed the wick, and I was done!

homemade candle

I got two new candles out of something I would have previously thrown away.  I’m keeping one, and I haven’t decided yet whether to keep the other or gift it.  I was surprised at how easy the entire process was:  the longest part was waiting for the first cooling.

I’m never throwing another candle away again.

Saatva Black Friday Deals 2022: The Best Sleep of My Life

A few years ago, this company called Saatva reached out to me and asked if I’d be interested in trying out their products. They sent me some sheets and pillows, and honestly it’s been the best sleep of my life ever since.

Saatva also makes things like mattresses and comforters. I’ve been frequenting their shop ever since.

The thing about Saatva is that they’re incredibly high quality, but with that quality comes a relatively high price. These aren’t your typical Walmart sheets, so they’re going to cost you more than Walmart prices.

That’s why I try to shop Saatva when they’re having a sale. And, boy, do they have some great ones.

One of their best annual sales is the Black Friday Sale. Here’s everything you can expect for the 2022 Saatva Black Friday Sale.

Is Black Friday a good time to buy a mattress? Yes. Black Friday is the best time of year to buy a mattress. Over the summer, prices on mattresses are the highest they’ll be all year. Then, over Labor Day there are some pretty great sales. They can even rival Black Friday in some cases. But generally speaking, the prices dip even lower the further into Fall you go.

Early Black Friday

luxury mattresses you can comfortably afford shop loom and leaf saatva

Last year, Saatva kicked the shopping season off with its ‘Black Friday in October’ sale. This sale ran from October 14, 2021 to October 16, 2021. The deal was up to $400 off your total purchase.

It was the first Black Friday sale Saatva ever held that early, and it ended up getting extended a few days through the 18th.

This year, they didn’t run an ‘Early Black Friday’ sale quite so early per se, but they did offer a similar deal in October.

Through October 27, 2022, you were able to get $200 – $400 off your purchase with the Mattress Extravaganza. The amount you saved depended on how much you spend:

  • Spend $1,000 – $2,249 to get $200 off.
  • Spend $2,250 – $2,499 to get $225 off.
  • Spend $2,500 – $2,999 to get $250 off.
  • Spend $3,000 – $3,999 to get $350 off.
  • Spend $4,000+ to get $400 off.

Will a Saatva mattress sag? Saatva makes super high quality mattresses, so they’re highly unlikely to sag. However, if you personally have repeated issues with sagging mattresses, you might be interested in the Saatva HD Mattress. It uses 12.5-gauge steel coils that are 25% stronger than the industry standard.

Second Early Black Friday Sale

The Early Black Friday Access sale is here! And it’s running through 11:59p on Nov. 18, 2022.

UPDATE: This deal was extended through Nov. 21, 2022!

With this sale, you can get anywhere from $225 to $500 off. Here are the spending tiers for the discount:

  • Spend $900 — $2,199, get $225 off.
  • Spend $2,220 — $2,999, get $250 off.
  • Spend $3,000 — $3,499, get $300 off.
  • Spend $3,500 — $3,999, get $350 off.
  • Spend $4,000 — $4,499, get $400 off.
  • Spend $4,500+, get $500 off.

Did Saatva prices go up? They sure have! I’ve counted four price changes in the past year. Each time the increase has been marginal — prices on mattresses in particular have gone up by $40-$80 ish total, depending on model. The product is still worth the price, in my opinion, but it does make shopping sales all the more important.

Saatva Black Friday

Saatva’s 2022 Black Friday sale has launched!

From Nov. 22 — 27, 2022, you will get the same deal that was offered during the Early Black Friday Access Sale:

  • Spend $900 — $2,199, get $225 off.
  • Spend $2,220 — $2,999, get $250 off.
  • Spend $3,000 — $3,499, get $300 off.
  • Spend $3,500 — $3,999, get $350 off.
  • Spend $4,000 — $4,499, get $400 off.
  • Spend $4,500+, get $500 off.

PLUS, during the Black Friday sale, you can get $225 off Adjustable Base Plus bundles.

Is Saatva made in China? No, Saatva is not made in China. Every last mattress is made in the United States.

Cyber Monday

In 2021, the Cyber Monday deal didn’t just last one day — Saatva ran the sale through the entirety of Cyber Week.

We can be relatively confident that the base Cyber Monday deal will stay the same as the prior two sales. When Saatva ran its Early Black Friday sale, it went out of its way to assure customers that they wouldn’t get better deals if they waited to shop longer.

They wanted to give people plenty of time to place their orders and get it shipped in time for the holidays, which also alleviates strain on supply and delivery chains.

We may or may not see them do something similar to the Black Friday sale, where they throw in a unique bonus discount on top of the discount-per-amount-spent.

We’d expect either the Black Friday sale to be extended a couple of extra days, or the Cyber Week sale to start on Saturday. It’s highly unlikely that Saatva would leave people without holiday savings over the weekend.

Who is Saatva owned by? Saatva is owned by co-founders Ron Rudzin and Ricky Joshi, representing the furniture industry and entrepreneurial circles respectively. Saatva is privately owned.

 

15 Unique White Elephant Gifts Under $25

This post is in collaboration with Etsy.



Wanna be the most popular person at this year’s white elephant party?

Let’s make that happen with some quirky, weird, and totally unique white elephant gifts for under $25 that allow you to win at gifting while still staying under budget.

Totally Unique White Elephant Gifts

These unique white elephant gifts are quirky enough to grab attention, but practical enough that everyone will want them!

 

1. Jellyfish Hanging Air Planters

Image of three planters hanging against a wall. All three are inverted, with cute, smiling jellyfish heads serving as the planters and with the plant coming out the bottom looking like jellyfish tentacles. Colors of jellyfish from left to right are purple, blue, and orange.

Price: $21.60
Where to buy: FunUsualSuspects

These hanging jellyfish air planters are adorbs! They come with the plant already in tact, and you can upgrade your order with some nutrient spray to keep it healthy and growing while still staying under $25.

2. Oh, look! More jellyfish air planters!

Hanging air planters. Inverted, with white-painted shells serving as the planter at the top, and the plant coming out the bottom looking like jellyfish tentacles.

Price: $19.95
Where to buy: RootBotanical

Okay, I couldn’t decide which jellyfish air planter to include because these were both pretty awesome. This one from RootBotanical is made from a real-life seashell, hand-painted white. They come in different sizes — the small and medium sizes keep you under $25, and the large option just barely breeches the limit at $26.95.

3. Scratch-Off Map Poster

Woman scratching off the gold on a foil map to reveal the countries underneath. Map background is white. Map is hanging above a desk.

Price: $23.99
Where to buy: MapsInternationalUSA

Any one who’s been on a Zoom call with me over the past 2 years knows how much I love my scratch-off map. Plenty of you have asked where you can get your own!

While this isn’t the exact scratch-off map I have, it is a slightly more affordable version that’s sure to be a hit at your white elephant gift exchange.

4. Cheesecake Candle

transparent glass plate and silverware sitting on lace tablecloth. On top of plate is a piece of cheesecake. If you look closely you can see a wick coming out of the top, revealing that it's actually a candle.

Price: $15.00
Where to buy: DessertAnyoneCandles

Give that cheesecake a second look. Do you see the wick coming out of the strawberries?

I KNOW! I thought it was real, edible food, too! There are tons of eye-deceiving options from DessertAnyoneCandles for your white elephant party, but the cheesecake was my fave.

5. State Scent CandleWhite candle in glass container. Pink label with flowers in background. In foreground is the outline of the state of New York in blue. Text reads 'Madame Flowers New York Adirondack Blossom 7.5 oz (212g) soy wax candle Made in Raleigh, NC'

Price: $22
Where to buy: MadameFlowers

Isn’t this a fun idea? MadameFlowers makes state-scented candles for a number of states. While New York Adirondack Blossoms is the one pictured here, there are also options for:

  • Washington state Columbia Mojito
  • Illinois Prairie Wildflower
  • Michigan Lakeshore Breeze
  • California Pacific Orchid
  • Virginia Skyline Flora
  • New Jersey Highland Garden
  • Georgia Forest Shade
  • Alabama Fairhope Orchard
  • Louisiana French Magnolia
  • Florida Citrus Sunrise
  • North Carolina Pine and Bayberry

If you’re a NC lover, there are also separate scents for various cities, like Wilmington, Asheville, Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and Charlotte.

6. Dinosaur Mug

Three dinosaur mugs with gold leaf accent painted on. Green Brontosaurus mug, Orange t-rex mug, and blue stegosaurus mug.

Price: $24.64
Where to buy: letteroom

Equal parts quirky, cute, and usable-on-an-everyday-basis, these dino mugs make a great white elephant gift. Plus, you get ALL THREE for under $25.

While they’re definitely a great option for your budget, they do ship from the UK. So you’ll want to order earlier rather than later to get them in time for your event.

7. Tabletop Glass Fireplace

Small square wood base platform with rocks in the center. Flames coming out from the rocks with glass panels sticking up around them on all four sides.

Price: $17.60
Where to buy: 1Man1Garage

This tabletop fireplace looks so fancy! Yet it’s still well-below the $25 mark. Can pretty much promise you’ll be the only one who shows up with anything like it.

 

Funny White Elephant Gifts

Some of the best white elephant gifts are wonderfully weird and funny. Let’s check out some odd and hilarious options for this year’s party.

8. Sasquatch Candle

Candle in black metal container with faux foliage mixed in the top layer of wax. Walking through the 'landscape' of the candle is a toy big foot figurine.

Price: $17.99
Where to buy: BoWinston

HA! This sasquatch candle is just weird enough to be ridiculously popular at the white elephant gift exchange.

9. Socks with your face on them

rainbow striped socks with a man's face printed over

Price: $6.99
Where to buy: PersonalizationLab

These super quirky socks are either going to be a hit or a flop — depending on your personality and relationship with everyone else at the party.

You’ll actually upload a picture of YOUR OWN face to be printed on these custom socks. Whether they end up being the most popular gift everyone’s clamoring after or the one everyone’s trying to pass off on to somebody else, they’ll definitely leave people talking.

 

10. Bruce Willis White Elephant Gift

Three round wooden ornaments on white wood table. First ornament reads 'Welcome to the party pal' with image of bruce willis and police car etched in. Second reads 'Yipee-ki-yay' with image of Bruce Willis, watch, tv news mic, and helicopter etched in. Third ornament reads 'Now I have a machine gun ho ho ho' with image of limo and machine gun etched in

Price: $18.00
Where to buy: SalvageandSparkleNM

Get SUPER meta with your white elephant gift with these Bruce Willis ornaments. You can catch Bruce Willis in the White Elephant movie this year. (I know. Ha. Ha ha. Ha.)

Plus, your Bruce Willis white elephant gift will give everyone the opportunity to debate whether or not Die Hard is, in fact, a Christmas movie.

11. Christmas Coal Popcorn Stocking Stuffer

Small box of popcorn sitting on top of a knit Christmas stocking filled with popcorn. Box reads ' What is 'naughty' anyways? Dell Cove Spices & More Christmas Coal Popcorn Gourmet Black Popcorn Kernels Net Wt 16 oz (453.5g)'

Price: $10.00
Where to buy: dellcovespices

The perfect gift for when you’ve been naughty, but Santa doesn’t want to leave you completely empty-handed.

This gift looks kinda small (though it won’t look that way once it’s fully popped,) so you might want to pick up two of them if you’ve got a $25 budget.

Holiday-Themed White Elephant Gifts

I have this bin in my basement full of gifts to be regifted. Most of them are holiday-themed, because I get so many holiday decor gifts from random people and you can only really use so much of it.

In the past, I’ve brought these gifts to white elephant parties and real talk?

They’ve consistently been one of the most popular items. Apparently while I’m over-decored, other people just can’t get enough!

My gifts were $FREE.99 thanks to my pre-planning, but you can find plenty of popular holiday-themed white elephant gifts for under $25. Here are some cute options.

12. Christmas Potholder Set

Six red potholders filled with cookie mix and plastic spatula. Each potholder reads in white print (1) 'Christmas calories don't count.' (2) 'Have a sweet Christmas' (3) 'Baking Christmas Cheer' (4) 'We whisk you a Merry Christmas' (5) 'Baking Spirits Bright' (6) 'Tis the Season to Bake Cookies'

Price: $7.99
Where to buy: TheSpottedZebras

These super cute potholders come complete with spatula or whisk included.

The cookie mix isn’t, but at just $7.99, you have plenty of room left in your budget to pick some up at the grocery store.

13. Eggnog Candle

White candle in glass container. Red label reads 'Eggnog 12 oz 340g Handpoured in Texas'

Price: $16.00
Where to buy: WindingWickCandles

Scent can bring back so many memories. This great Eggnog candle from WindingWickCandles allows you to spread holiday cheer and stay well under budget.

14. Paper Lantern Stars

Dark night with tens of hanging paper lanterns shaped like stars in various colors lit up from the inside.

Price: $12.50
Where to buy: KuliTribe

Super pretty, right?!

These paper lanterns light up from the inside and come in eight different pattern options.

15. Christmas Gift Box

Gift box with shredded paper filler. Includes Wooden sign reading 'It's the most wonderful time of the year', fancy handsoap, a red 'tis the season' candle, a wooden 'Merry Christmas ornament' in the outline of an ornament, and faux plastic foliage with red berries and a pinecone

Price: $20.00
Where to buy: LDsavvyDesigns

Spread holiday cheer with this Christmas gift box! Included you’ll find a:

  • Wooden sign with holiday greetings.
  • Bath & Body Works foaming soap.
  • Holiday-scented candle.
  • Ornament.
  • Either a mistletoe bell or berry spray.

 

Okay, so these are some ideas for this year’s white elephant party. But I’m interested to hear, what have been your favorite gifts from white elephant parties past?