I finished credit card churning a pair of Southwest cards a couple of months ago. The combined total point reward was 110,000 miles, which just so happens to be enough to earn the valuable Companion Pass.
Basically, the companion pass is a BOGO, buy one, get one, on airfare. It is good for the rest of the current year (2018) and all of next year (2019).
We’ll probably burn up 40,000 points to fly our family of 4 to a wedding this fall. Frugal Girl still flies free until she turns two years old, and the companion pass means that Shae can fly free anywhere with me now too. So that just leaves a round trip ticket for Frugal Boy and myself. The same trip would be about $900 in airfare at current prices.
As part of a larger road trip over Memorial Day weekend, we stopped in Saint Louis to visit the regularly hyped City Museum. This destination has been on our bucket list for a while and we finally visited it!
The 600,000 square foot museum occupies a former shoe factory. The ferris wheel on the roof along with the giant praying mantis sculpture are dead give aways that you are about to have a great time!
Frugal Boy, sporting an “Old MacDonalds” happy meal box on his head, was unabashedly enthusiastic.
We parked in a nearby $5 surface lot and walked the block to the entrance. There is a closer parking lot for twice the price. Do you like the school bus hanging off the corner of the building? You can go into that and look down!
The museum has a bit of a cult following, and can roughly be summarized as a “love it, or hate it” division. If you love climbing around jungle gyms and crawling through tiny labyrinth tunnels, start planning your trip. If that doesn’t sound fun to you, or you don’t want to keep up with your child, then go somewhere else.
Headlamps are advisable for many areas of the building. We spent three hours there and covered maybe 70% of the grounds. A 1:1 adult to child ratio would be recommended.
Right off the main lobby on the first floor there are already plenty of “crawling holes” as Frugal Boy calls them. Some simply loop around while others will inexplicably go off to a different level of the museum. You really have to follow your ward into each hole because you don’t know where they’ll end up otherwise.
Sometimes they dead end.
And other times they connect to a larger passage.
Frugal Boy, age 4.5, was just about the right age for the museum. He had a complete blast and was usually yanking our arms to go explore another section. Frugal Girl, age 14 months, was delighted to do as much as she could, but her little feet were too small for some of the ironwork sections.
I really liked this part of the museum were you could crawl John McClane style through ‘vents’.
The only thing missing was a lighter and cut up bare feet!
Frugal Boy was kind enough to stop and take this picture of me squeezing through a particularly tight bend.
One of the points of reference that we developed to help navigate the place was this aquarium on the 2nd or 3rd floor.
It was right by the exit of the 10 story curly slide. Yes, you read that right. I was so sweaty that it wasn’t much of a slide down. Squeaaaaaaakk.
Outside is more metal work, wire mesh, and rebar. All of our tetanus shots are up-to-date.
There are two planes that are suspended in the air that you can climb to.
It pays not to be scared of heights!
Up on the roof you can climb up the inside of the rotunda. We didn’t have time to do it on this trip, but there is always next time!
The “Caves” were probably the favorite sections for our family and age mixture.
After a while you start to get a feel for how the craziness is laid out. I was able to get this video showing Frugal Boy and Shae emerging from one spelunking area.
Are you wanting to go to the City Museum but aren’t sure if it is right for you? Leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer it. We had a great time and cannot wait to go back!
Summer reading programs are about to start across the country. If you cannot make it to your normal library, you may have something smaller and closer that you can utilize.
Little Free Library
These tiny sharing kiosks are great. The premise is pretty simple. A landowner who loves books builds a little library. Then anyone can come and take a book, leave a book, or just browse. Check out the map here to see if there are any near you (not all libraries are shown on the map, so don’t be discouraged)!
You never know what you will find and depending on how active the area is, the stock is always changing!
They come in all different shapes and sizes too! Frugal Boy has gotten very adept at spotting them.
Some owners put a lot of work into their libraries. I really liked this one that mimics the house design.
Did I mention how fun it is to chat with the owners? In my experience, the owners have been retired and are happy to spend some time chatting with you about their libraries and life experiences. Now that is a great resource!
The last one takes the most amount of work, because you actually have to know how much money you spend. It is also probably the most accurate. I made a quick mashup of our expenditures for the last full year (2017). I put essentials on the left and luxuries on the right. Shelter and food are fundamental in my viewpoint, so they get put all the way to the left. I could have split out Groceries and Eating Out to better characterize them as necessity vs luxury, but I was feeling lazy.
Two major expenses that will be dropping off in the next few years will be Childcare and Education/Tuition. The Misc. (pink) category is a catch-all and contains some fat that could be cut out.
Finally, you might notice that I put College Savings all the way to the right, indicating that it is the most cuttable budget item. Let’s be frank. Any parental financial assistance is a bonus. Our goal is to cover all costs after scholarships but if they need to take a loan that’s fine too.
Last year or maybe it was the year before that I snagged an old wheelbarrow that my neighbor was throwing out. The bucket was in fine shape, but the handles had seen better days.
A new wheelbarrow costs around $50. I bought some steel replacement handles for $14.
I could have gone cheaper with some $8 wood handles, but I figured that the steel handles would outlast everything else. Our garage is tight on space, so this cheapo wheelbarrow lives outside all year long in our garden.