2 Month Checkup and Super Cheap Diapers

Frugal Girl had her two month checkup and got a mostly clean bill of health.  She has been growing well with weight at 12lbs 10oz (81%), 23 1/4″ tall (83%), and a head circumference of 15 1/2 (83%).

I am still amazed at how different she is from her brother.  For example, she is content to lay down by herself, something that her brother never tolerated.  It will be fun to watch her grow up and see what kind of personality she develops.

Shae spent the best $10 ever when she bought a corded baby swing at a garage sale.  The low setting makes me nauseous to watch but Frugal Girl seems to like it.

In other news, our diapering expenses have been cut in half.  We initially invested $500 for cloth diapers when Frugal Boy was born.  You can read more about our decision to use cloth and why we love them here.  Now that Frugal Girl is wearing those same diapers, the cost per kid has gone down to $250.  Even after two and half years of use, the diapers are still in really good shape.  I think we’ll be able to get another two years out of them quite easily.

10 Tricks to Save Money While Traveling

I think we can all agree that vacations are a lot of fun, but paying for them is not quite so exciting.  Here are 10 tips that we personally use to stretch our travel dollars farther.

1. Rental Car without the Airport

Booking a rental car is a great way to see the sights, but rental cars can be pricey.  An easy way to save 50% when renting a car is to book from a non airport location.  You can easily find the closest location by opening Google Maps, going to the arrival airport, and searching for “Rental Car”.  We recently booked a compact car (Toyota Yaris) for $125/wk.  The same car, same rental company, airport price was $225/wk.  We took an Uber taxi from the airport to the rental counter for $8 each way.

2. Uber/Lyft vs Taxi

Technology keeps advancing and one of the exciting innovations that has come about is the ability to better match resources to the people that need them.  Uber and Lyft are two ride sharing companies that use the internet to connect drivers looking to make money with passengers looking to get from point A -> B.  Both of these services are cheaper than a traditional taxi company because the new technology cuts out the costs of a human dispatcher.  I expect that ride sharing will become even cheaper when cars become self-driving.  Download the smartphone app before you leave home and make sure you setup an account as well, that way you won’t be fumbling during your precious vacation time.

3. Corporate Rental Code

Yet another tip for renting cars, and this one also applies to hotel rooms but check to see if your employer has a corporate rental code.  Chances are good that if you work for a large corporation, they have deals in place for both business and leisure rental rates.  In our case, we were able to shave off another 10% from advertised rates.  Even if you don’t have a corporate code, you might have an AAA, AARP, or other membership that can reduce the price a bit.

4. Buy Admission Tickets Online

If you are planning on seeing the sights, it pays to buy advanced tickets online.  Not only do you get to skip the ticket counter at the destination but you can also save money.  We used TicketsAtWork.com which was available through Shae’s employer.  The discounts ranged from 10-40%.  Most of the attractions we went to offered tickets through their own websites and many of them had some form of discount.  If you are planning to see a bunch of attractions you may be able to find a bundled “City Pass”.

5. Reciprocal Memberships

Do you have a membership to a museum at home?  You might have free or reduced admission to a bunch of other museums.  Our children’s museum membership ($120) gives us access to the ACM reciprocal network.  Some of the attractions that we went to would have cost upwards of $60 for our family of four to enter, but with our reciprocal memberships they were free!  It does not take long at that rate to pay off the membership and then some.

6. Early Bird Dinner Specials

Yes, the blue hair special.  You might be laughing or rolling your eyes, but we actually took advantage of this twice on our most recent trip.  While it varies from restaurant to restaurant, we were able to save about 40% by eating between 4-5:15pm.  As an extra bonus, I think the portion sizes were a bit smaller so it was healthier.  We really don’t need to eat ginormous restaurant portions.  Finally, if you are traveling with kids, know this.  Eating earlier before your kids crash hard at night lets you go to a bit fancier restaurants.  We weren’t as nervous about getting angry glares from fellow patrons because the places were practically empty!

7. Forgot To Pack

Inevitably you forgot something at home.  Maybe it was a pair of sunglasses, a cell phone charger, or just some toys to keep the kids entertained.  Dollar Tree is perfect for picking up little items.  My pair of sunglasses broke on the trip.  Not a problem!  $1.07 later and I had a new pair.

8. Preparing Meals

I know, you are on vacation and the last thing you want to do is cook or brown bag it, but let’s face it, it saves a LOT of money.  Sometimes paying a bit more in lodging to get a kitchenette or kitchen can actually save you money overall, provided you are willing to do some eating in.  We tried to keep our eat out/in ratio at 1:4.  For every meal that we ate out at a restaurant, we would prepare four other meals.  Obviously you can find a ratio that suits you.  Part of the fun of traveling is trying new foods so don’t limit yourself too much.  You can eat PB&J at home.

9. Pack light

Airline baggage fees seem to be extraordinary these days and it will probably only get more outrageous in the future.  So stop and think to yourself, “Am I going on vacation, or is my wardrobe going on vacation?”.  My recommendation is to pack no more than a week’s worth of clothing and yes, it is okay to wear a pair of pants more than once.  If you are traveling for more than a week, plan on doing laundry.  DollarTree has big detergent bottles that are way more economical than the detergent vending machine at the laundromat.  Also, it is okay to share a suitcase with another family member.

10. Say No to Convenience Charges

Finally, just say no to convenience charges.  Like weddings or babies, you are going to be a victim of price discrimination.  Would you pay $16 for an umbrella at your neighborhood swimming pool?  Probably not, so why are you going to pay $16 for one on vacation.  The tourism industry is a well oiled machine and that machine is geared to pump as much money out of you as possible.  Simply being aware of the markups will help you avoid some of the traps.

How to Stop Telemarketers & Scam Phone Calls on Your iPhone

While this post is written for iOS/iPhone there is likely a similar feature on Android.  I do not know the step-by-step process for that system, but if you do please leave a comment.

Ugh… telemarketers and robocalls are the worst.  You have just drifted off to sleep or sat down to eat when your phone goes off.  You don’t recognize the area code, it must be a telemarketer.  If you are like me, you find it infuriating, but what can you do?

I have had my phone number for about eight years now.  I shouldn’t have to change my number to avoid getting called two or three times a day.

Do Not Call Registry

“The National Do Not Call Registry gives you a choice about whether to receive telemarketing calls”

This government run consumer protection program lets you register your phone number with the FTC.  Legitimate telemarketers will check the government list and avoid calling your number if it is on there.  You can check if your number is registered or not by going to donotcall.gov

I checked my registration while typing this post and it said I registered on 9/2/2009, but the screenshot I posted above with all those telemarketer/spam calls was taken just this week.  So what gives?

How to Block Robodialers and Scammers

While the Do Not Call list is great for stopping respectable companies, it does nothing to stop unscrupulous scammers.  If you block one number they just call from a different one.  You need some way to only allow known good numbers through.  We can do that by setting up a whitelist.

Here is how I put an end to scammers on my iPhone 4S running iOS 9.

First, go into Settings > Do Not Disturb

Then turn on “Manual” and set “Allow Calls From” to All Contacts.

Scroll down and set “Silence” to Always.

There.  Now only numbers in your address book can call you and make your iPhone make noise.  All other phone numbers will be silenced automatically.

That is all well and good, but what if you need to get a phone call from someone not in your address book?

Extra Bonus Step

Let’s say that you are selling something on Craigslist and you want strangers to be able to text or call you.  How can they, if you don’t know their phone number to add it to the whitelist?

The answer is pretty simple.  We just need to setup a free Google Voice number that forwards to your phone.  While that may sound tricky it isn’t too complicated.

Create or login to your Google account.  Go to https://voice.google.com

From there you can setup a new Google Voice phone number.  Then you link your existing phone number and set the Google Voice number to forward calls and messages to your existing phone number.

Finally, add your new Google Voice number to your address book on your iPhone.  Now you can hand out your GV number to strangers without risking your primary phone number.  The best part is that GV includes a spam filter.

If you ever do start getting bombarded with scammers on the GV number and Google doesn’t automatically filter them out, you can change your GV number for a small fee.  Your family and friends will always have your primary number which won’t have to change.

How many scam calls do you get a day?  Have you found any other solutions to getting rid of them?  Leave a comment.