Does Anyone Read the Newspaper Anymore?

When I wrote about my experiences in the newspaper, I didn’t really expect to be in the newspaper again. It was something that only happened when I was a kid, and even if I did eventually do something newsworthy, the paper would probably be too outdated by then. But apparently, my picture was in the paper two weeks ago. I didn’t find out until today when I saw the front local page from February 8th:

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While at the Chinese New Year Parade, someone came up to me saying they were from the Mail Tribune and asked for the name of one of “my” kids. I assumed it would probably be something that may be displayed on their website. I didn’t think it would actually get in the newspaper, and I especially didn’t think I would be included in the photo!

In case you can’t tell where I am (because even my own mother had trouble finding me!) I’m the one in all black on the left side of the top picture. You can tell it’s me because what other adult would wear socks with smiley faces on them?

But since it took me two weeks to find out about this feature (and I only knew this when the featured kid showed me how his family was planning on preserving the article today), I do have to wonder: who is actually reading the newspaper these days?

Angel Banquet

This post consists of Part II of my Saturday events. Click here for what I did prior. 

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The place setting on my banquet table, complete with pictures of children to pull at the heartstrings!

I may get some flak for this, but here it goes: I’m a pro-lifer. I believe that every human life is precious, regardless of race, religion, class, disability…or size. I believe induced abortion is harmful, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as it can lead to years of regret. But I don’t believe that believing these things truly makes you “pro-life”. The British dictionary defines pro-life as ” …supporting the right to life of the unborn…” It’s not just about your personal beliefs; it’s about support. If you commit to carry a pregnancy to its natural ending in situations or conditions that are less than ideal, you’re supporting life. If you adopt or provide foster care, or do what you can to allow others to provide these special gifts to children, you’re supporting life. My current way of supporting life is to serve as an on-call housemother for the Magdalene Home, which is a house that provides a safe place and life skills for pregnant and parenting teen girls from Southern Oregon who may otherwise lose their child, drop out of high school, be homeless, or worse. Because Magdalene Home is not state-funded, I’ve been impressed with the executive director’s work ever since I met her. She requests donations, applies for grants, and, most notably, prepares the annual Angel Banquet and Auction, which I was thrilled to attend this past Saturday. 

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The program with the evening’s events

The evening began with appetizers and silent auction bids. Many of the silent auction items looked intriguing, but I’m on a budget, and the ones I was interested in had astronomical bids. (Which I suppose is a good thing, because that means more financial support for the home!) I about filled up on the hors d’oeuvres, which consisted of a multitude of fruit, dips, spreads, and veggies. But the evening hadn’t even officially begun yet, and I soon had to sit down for the dinner to begin!

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Some of the silent auction bids. (I took this picture later in the evening after some of them were already claimed, so just imagine twice as much on the tables!)

I had a table in the back, and thus some people kept on trying to move me up closer where there were some empty seats. But I actually preferred it in the back where I was opposite the stage and could observe the 200 people who came to support a great cause. (Plus, this way I wasn’t awkwardly in front of everyone when the director called out each housemother by name and the ones that were there had to stand up so people could applaud.) The events of the evening consisted of some short speeches from the executive directors and board members, a promotional video about the Magdalene Home that I had never seen before, a keynote speech from a former resident of the home with her healthy, happy family, and a live auction. Oh yes, and food, too!

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The transformed banquet hall with hundreds of supporters.

A local restaurant by the name of Rosario’s catered the main course. I selected a lasagna with yummy fillings that I had never tried in a lasagna before to go with my salad and bread. Dessert was served during the keynote speech, and the young volunteers served each table plates with a variety of finger desserts, such as cream puffs, lemon bars, and raspberry brownies! Since the local Catholic church was really involved in this fundraiser, the least of which was letting us use their building to hold the event, I’m assuming a lot of the attendees were Catholic. My dad was raised Catholic and had told me before that drinking is more acceptable in Catholic denominations than it is in most Protestant denominations, but it was still kind of surprising to go to an event at a church where wine, champagne, and beer were served and alcohol was a sought-after prize in the bidding! Speaking of bidding, I stayed for the live auction even though I knew the prices would quickly go out of my league. I just love listening to the fast-spoken auctioneer and seeing people get excited over each and every prize. Maybe someday I’ll actually hold my number up in an auction I attend!

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Although water and sparkling cider were my beverages of choice, I still somehow ended up with half a dozen glasses in front of me!

Overall, it was a fun night, and quite classier than events that I’m accustomed to attending. To honor the occasion, I wore my favorite dress. I seem to only save this dress for super-special events, as the only other time I wore it was to another fundraising dinner. I got it from Dainty Jewell’s, which is an online boutique started by an inspirational young woman. I love that all her dresses (and skirts and tops too!) can be worn to elegant events without having to worry about any wardrobe malfunctions, because your chest, back, and thighs are all adequately covered! It’s conservative without any hint of frump, and I really love how my black-and-white polka-dotted dress looks! It was also the first opportunity I had to wear a fancy shawl I got for Christmas. My outfit was just one of the many reasons that contributed to making the Angel Banquet a great new experience for me. I was proud to be among hundreds of other contributors dedicated to supporting life!

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I didn’t realize I hadn’t taken any pictures of myself until I returned home.

I would like to thank Magdalene Home for making the Angel Banquet possible and also Dainty Jewell’s for providing me with a super-cute dress!

Happy (Chinese) New Year!

Chinese New Year is officially on February 19th this year, but the city of Jacksonville, Oregon decided to celebrate it a couple weeks early. Each year, the historic town honors the Chinese workers who contributed so much during the formation of the town during the gold rush by celebrating all the culture and festivities that go along with Chinese New Year.

Several years ago, I managed to get a day off of work to attend the festivities with my sister. I hadn’t been able to do it any other year that I lived in Oregon, but it sure was fun! I wanted to make a point of attending this year, but it just so happened that I was scheduled to work. Fortunately, my job for the day was my childcare job. After asking the mom, we both thought the kids would benefit from a fun day at the Chinese New Year festivities. As an added bonus, it saved a bunch of money by learning about Chinese culture just a few miles away instead of heading on a trip to China!

The main attraction is the parade. Tons of local businesses and organizations get involved. Since it was hard to find a parking space at one of Jacksonville’s most populated days of the year, we had to walk a ways to get to the main street where the parade was taking place. We found a nice empty space of curb near the end of the route just as the parade was beginning.

It started off with some cool classic cars.

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The Southern Oregon University Raiders used this opportunity to promote some of their programs, like foreign exchange.IMG_20150207_103821_909

And then there’s one of the Jacksonville trolleys. I took a tour of Jacksonville in this trolley several years ago, and it sure is fun! During the parade, the seats were filled with orchestra members. That sure beats playing in a marching band!

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Being a parade to mainly celebrate Chinese culture, there were several of the traditional dragons. Some of the dragon cast members had fun getting up in kids’ faces and pretending to bite at them!

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There were several different dance groups. Here was the first one in the lineup:IMG_20150207_105108_982

And there were a few costumed characters. The dragon one was more elaborate, but nothing beats the adorableness of a panda!

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Although this is more British than Chinese, these were performers from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, so I guess it sort of made sense.

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Several school groups got involved too, such as the school one of “my” kids attend. Another school made their own Chinese dragon costumes.

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And how can you resist the cuteness of a young girls’ cheer team? They did “Go Rams” cheers, since this upcoming Chinese New Year is the Year of the Ram.

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There were quite a few dragons considering that it wasn’t even the Year of the Dragon. This could be a scary parade for some children!

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One group paraded all the animal years, starting with this year’s Year of the Ram. Although I was born in the Year of the Ram (so does that make this year some sort of special anniversary for me?), I think I would prefer to be Year of the Bunny!

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And some old fashioned cars. I think the drivers had fun breaking all the rules of the road as the zigzagged the entire width of the street!

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And bagpipers. Bagpipers are pretty nifty, even though that’s really more Irish than Chinese.IMG_20150207_110410_225

Then again, the parade celebrated many different cultures, not just Chinese. These flamenco dancers seem to prove that…

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…And hula dancing originated from a different land as well!

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This picture didn’t turn out so great since this tractor was going fairly fast, but this daycare turned a cute little tractor ride into cute little rams!

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A historic-futuristic mashup tourist attraction in Jacksonville is their Segway tours. Oh, how I want to try out a Segway!IMG_20150207_111106_339

And even more dragons…

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The parade ended with a decked-out motorcycle!

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When the parade ended, the festivities were nowhere near complete. Special activities all over town were taking place. One advantage of Jacksonville is that nearly everything is within walking distance, even if you have a couple of tykes tagging along! If I had gone by myself or with someone closer to my age, I probably would have enjoyed the artifact exhibitions and the martial arts self-defense class. Since I was with kids, we ended up jumping in a bounce house (well, I didn’t, although it did look like fun!), making crafts, playing games, and learning origami. Although we only went to the activities marked specifically for children, I even had a bit of fun with the challenge to try to transfer marbles in a bowl to another bowl using only chopsticks!

After several hours, we had to leave the festivities, but the events in my day weren’t over yet! After bringing the kids back to their house, I headed over to my own home to get ready for my next event of the day. But I’ll wait until tomorrow to share that experience!

#ThrowbackThursday: SnowEMT

How’s the weather, East Coasters? Haha, I know it’s cold, stormy and snowy there. But I won’t brag about how nice the weather in Oregon has been and how I could walk outside without a coat yesterday. Instead, I’ll talk about snow!

Winter 2012 was my first real snowy winter experience. It was my first winter in Nebraska, and although it was more snow than I had ever experienced, all the seasoned Nebraskans said that it was one of their mildest winters ever.

So on Superbowl Sunday three years ago (wow, was it three years already?) a large amount of snow finally came and I was trapped at the camp I was living at. I wasn’t really trapped because of the snow, but I didn’t have a car. And no one wanted to brave the weather to visit me or pick me up, so I got to eat all the cookies that I made for my one-person Superbowl party. Anyway, I didn’t mean to tell you about my pathetic party. I wanted to tell you what happened afterward…

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You see, I was taking my EMT class at the time, so that was something that was always on my mind. I had gotten a pretty bad leg injury a few days prior since a giant log fell off of a tractor bucket and onto my leg, so I wasn’t able to do much outdoors. But it was snowing for crying out loud, and I needed to build a snowman!

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“Do You Wanna Build a Snowman” was not yet a song on everyone’s lips, but I certainly would have been singing that as I went out to find a good spot to build my creation. I had decided that I wanted something kind of Calvin-and-Hobbes-esque, like an army of snowmen or a snowman missing a head because another snowman used it as a bowling ball. Unfortunately, the snow was too powdery to roll any snowballs. I did, however, find a few chunks of snow compacted from being plowed off the road, so I sculpted those into a round shape. After stacking a few of those together, my first snowman was complete!

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I had problems building a second one. The snowballs did not want to stack on top of each other. The top one kept on rolling off until the snowballs were side by side on the ground. That’s when it hit me: this snowman was suffering an injury! And of course, the standing snowman must be an EMT!

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I hadn’t intended to make my snowmen as gruesome as the ones Calvin made in the comic strips, but I had to show that the snowvictim clearly needed help. I didn’t have any coal, but I did find some peppermint patties in the camp kitchen that made for good eyes, as well as carrots for the nose. I turned one peppermint eye sideways to represent an avulsed eyeball. Then, with the watered-down remains of a bottle of red hair dye, I splattered “blood” on the helpless snowpatient. But not to worry…

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Soon it was SnowEMT to the rescue! Both of the snowmen feature arms made out of marshmallow roasters, but I put a pair of gloves on the EMT (since that’s always the first thing to do at any scene!) I wanted to put my uniform shirt on him, but was afraid that it would get wet, or worse, freeze to the snowbody. So I found a garbage bag and put that on the center snowball before putting my shirt on. I finished the effect with my stethoscope, but of course, I removed that after taking the photos so it wouldn’t get damaged.

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I don’t much care for freezing weather, and I’m sure that someday I’ll create a lifestyle that will allow me to release my inner snowbird. But I know that snow can also bring about some fun adventures.

What’s an adventure you’ve experienced in snowy weather?

Where in the EU am I Backpacking?

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted specifically about my upcoming European backpacking trip, even though that’s what I spend most of my waking time thinking about! So I thought I’d share a quick update with you.

As a US citizen, I can spend a total of 90 days in most of the European countries. There are a few nations that do not follow this rule, but after three months it would probably be best for me to return to North America anyway. Ever since I started planning this trip, it seemed overwhelming. How would I split up 90 days over about 20 countries without feeling rushed through each city? Plus, transportation fees were also an issue. Eurail is probably the least expensive way to effectively travel throughout Europe, but an unlimited all-nation pass isn’t exactly cheap!

I finally came to a realization that would save me money, travel time, and ultimately, make me a happy traveler who could do more of what I wanted to do:

I would go on a Mediterranean Backpacking Adventure!

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Image source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mediterranean_Sea

The plans aren’t set in stone yet, but starting in either France or Spain, I would travel along the European countries lining the Mediterranean, spending one to two weeks in each city I’m interested in visiting, until I reach the Asian border in Istanbul, Turkey. Switzerland is a landlocked country, but I’d probably go there as well because I like cheese and chocolate. But it wouldn’t be just backpacking. I will volunteer with an organization that teaches English to businesspeople in Spain, retrace the steps of the early church, use my marketing skills to allow small tourism businesses to prosper, visit missionaries, and hopefully find some sort of orphan or childcare organization to help with somewhere along the way!

In total, I am planning for visiting potentially nine countries (including the two smallest nations in the world) and two continents (possibly three if I can find a cheap way to get between Spain and Morocco) in a half of the world I have never seen, leaving in about five months! And I can use all the help I can get!

What advice do you have for me regarding this trip, either for before or during this journey?

15 Actual Ways a Budget Traveler Can Save for a Trip

Have you ever seen these not-so-unique ways to save for your trip?

Instead of a hotel, book a private room inside a hostel. That would be great, except I already stay in the absolute cheapest dorm room in hostels. If I took this piece of “budget” advice, my trip would probably cost twice as much!

Use a credit card to rack up enough airline miles for your trip. I’m sorry, but have you ever stopped to calculate how much you’re spending on your credit card versus how much it costs to just buy a plane ticket? Most of these rewards programs require that you put at least $1000 a month on your card. I don’t even know how I would spend $1000 every single month, unless I was buying a thousand-dollar plane ticket every month!

Fly with an airline that offers free checked bags. Here’s a better idea: don’t take checked bags! Seriously, it’s been so long since I’ve taken checked luggage on a vacation, that I don’t even remember how I filled that bag! A carry-on and small backpack provide plenty of space, and is less that can be lost, stolen, or slowing me down!

If you’re like me, you want to save a lot of money so you can have an amazing trip. But after hours and days of scouring the internet looking for some advice, all you find are these not-so-budget-minded “savings” tips. For awhile, I was convinced that I saved so much already, that there was no possible way that I could save anything “extra” for my trip. But every once in a blue moon, I would find a golden nugget of travel tips. Here they all are in one place so you don’t have to waste as much time as I did!

1. Keep your cash safe for free. Money belts can be handy, but the key to not getting all your money stolen is to distribute your cash throughout your person. A twenty dollar bill inside the sole of your shoe is a place that thieves won’t easily be able to get to!

2. Don’t spend money on beverages. Many saving tips say to order water in restaurants (and if you’re in Europe, be sure to order table water to avoid being charged for a bottle), but this can translate into not even buying beverages at the grocery store. When I travel, I carry a reusable water bottle or reservoir with me, and most convenience stores and restaurants don’t mind me using their fountain when I need a refill. (However, I always ask first, especially if I’m not buying anything else!) This rule applies to alcoholic beverages too, especially since they tend to be the priciest. I don’t drink, and the thought of spending hundreds to thousands of dollars per year on alcohol is one of the reasons I never want to start that habit! If you like to travel but also like to drink, consider that cutting alcohol for one year could save enough to fund a decent trip for yourself!

One more note on water: there are some countries where drinking the water would be unsafe. Do your research ahead of your trip to confirm this. If your destination does indeed have dangerous drinking water, you will have to buy bottled water, but there’s still a way to do it cheaply! Instead of buying individual water bottles each day, buy the biggest bottle you can find in the store. (When I was in Peru, all the convenience stores offered 3-liter water bottles which we would use to refill our personal-sized bottles.)

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I would buy the largest bottles of Inca Kola in Peru, too!

3. Buy multipurpose products. My hands can get dry in certain climates. I also sometimes have trouble falling asleep in uncomfortable or unfamiliar places. And although I enjoy the rush of traveling, it sometimes makes me nervous. I could purchase lotion, melatonin tablets, and anxiety medication to solve each of these problems individually, or I could just get one bar of lavender-scented lotion. (Lavender is a natural herb that can calm nerves and help you fall asleep.) Dr. Bronner’s Castille Soap is a traveler’s favorite, as it can be used as soap, shampoo, dish soap, and laundry detergent, just to name a few. A thermos not only holds soup and hot beverages, but it can be used as a water bottle, and it could even carry meal leftovers! Even a large scarf can quickly transform into a shawl, swimming cover-up, blanket, or head covering. Multipurpose products not only save you money by putting less on your shopping list, but as a bonus it will also save room in your suitcase.

4. Earn more from your savings. No matter how you travel, planning for a trip involves saving up a chunk of cash. Talk with your bank and tell them your plans to see how you can gain the most interest. Sometimes, putting money in a CD can earn you the most interest, even if you have to pay a small fee to cash it early. If your banker knows about your travel plans, they might be able to provide you with special offers, such as exchange-free credit cards and short-term savings plans. These will all vary by your bank’s services and your personal saving habits, so it’s best to schedule an appointment with your bank to see how they can maximize your savings.

5. Make your own food. Cooking at home can greatly help contribute to your trip savings. Generally, the less packaged and processed your ingredients are, the more you’ll save (and it’s healthier that way, too)! Before I leave on a trip, I try to eat out of my pantry as much as possible to avoid food spoiling while I’m away. I also prepare some snacks to take along with me. As long as I have oatmeal, I can throw in just about anything from my kitchen (nuts, sweets, spices, dried fruit, seeds) and make a batch of granola. I also try to eat out for only one meal per day while traveling, but if you’re not as much of a cultural foodie I’m sure you could go with even less dining out. I usually stay at accommodations that provide free breakfast, and then I eat out at lunchtime (since that’s usually cheaper than eating dinner out). For dinner, I’ll either eat my lunch leftovers or fix something in the kitchen of the place I’m staying. Virtually all hostels and guesthouses provide a guest kitchen, and many hotels and even camps are jumping on board with this idea. Because it’s tricky to travel with perishable food, map out inexpensive grocery stores near your destination so you can buy food from there.

Bonus Foodie Tip: Turn your food-making into a memory, like I did with this dessert-building team.
Bonus Foodie Tip: Turn your food-making into a memory, like I did with this dessert-building team.

6. Use your feet. This tip could save you hundreds on travel costs, plus give you a good alternative to your gym membership! When traveling, I stay near downtown so that I can walk to all the attractions I want to visit. There have been days where I’ve logged upwards of ten miles, but that’s okay because it means that I’ll get a great night of sleep! It also adds a new perspective to travel, as the slower place allows you to notice more of the scenery and culture. You can use this tip before a trip, too. I’ve seen so many people park in the parking lot of one store, shop there, and then get back in their car and drive to another store…which is right next to the first store! It’s okay to leave your car in one parking lot. I will sometimes even stick my bicycle in the back of the car so I can bike to places near my destination.

7. Volunteer or get an extra job. The obvious advantage to getting another job is that you’ll make extra money. But even if you don’t get a paying job, I believe a volunteer job provides many benefits as well. Getting a job or otherwise involved in the community will introduce you to more connections. I worked a part-time retail job while going to college, and because everyone that worked there was broke to some degree, we often exchanged ways that we save. You may meet people that could turn out to be travel companions, mission trip sponsors, or simply someone who encourages you to reach your dreams. Some volunteer jobs offer things like free meals, free entertainment, and possibly free travel. This of course shouldn’t be your goal behind volunteering, but it is a nice reward. Another great benefit of spending some extra time working is that these are a few extra hours each day where you won’t be tempted to spend your hard-earned cash!

Sometimes, your job may involve doing some hard work, like going on an all-expense-paid conference in the Northern Wisconsin where you get to jump from the second floor of a building.
Sometimes, your job may involve doing some hard work, like going on an all-expense-paid conference in the Northern Wisconsin where you get to jump from the second floor of a building.

8. Ask for discounts! Many tourist companies that don’t post discount rates may still have them. If you’re a student, AAA member, AARP card holder, veteran, or anything else that could possibly qualify you for a discount, ask about it! Oftentimes at independent and locally-owned businesses, you can get a discount just by asking the owner (often cleverly disguised as receptionist in these small businesses). Even if they can’t offer you a discount on what you asked for, they may be able to throw in a freebie or offer insider information that could help your trip. Ask on a discount for everything, from the food you eat to the bed you sleep in. The worst that can happen is they’ll say no, and the best that can happen is you’ll get everything free! (But don’t expect to get anything for free, and definitely don’t be pushy or annoying when asking!)

9. Enter contests. This isn’t a guaranteed way to save, but someone out there has to win that all-expense-paid trip! I have yet to win a travel contest (probably because I forget to enter every day), but I have won books, food, gift cards, and scholarships that ultimately helped me put more money towards travel.

10. D.E.Y. (Do EVERYTHING Yourself!) I fully back up making homemade laundry detergent (especially since it’s concentrated for easy travel), but as a single person that only saves me about $20 per year. But combined with money saved from patching up my old clothes, making more creative gifts, growing herbs in the windowsill, and making some of my own toiletries and cleaning products, it eventually adds up to a lot! I know I spend hundreds on car maintenance, but if I could learn a few auto mechanic skills, I wouldn’t have to pay nearly as much. The more you can do yourself, the more money you’ll save.

D.E.Y.-ing doesn't mean missing out on the fun, it just means getting creative. Got invited to a costume party? Make your own costume!
D.E.Y.-ing doesn’t mean missing out on the fun, it just means getting creative. Got invited to a costume party? Make your own costume!

11. Don’t sell on eBay. Unless you are selling an in-demand product for an incredible profit, using sites that charge you to sell is often a waste of money. If you’re just trying to sell some items you no longer want, Craigslist is probably the best option. Plus, since you’re selling to someone nearby, you won’t have to spend money on shipping. To get even more local, many communities have Facebook groups where you can buy and sell from neighbors. In my experience, these tend to be fairly effective. Even posting your for-sale items on your social media could garner your friends’ interests!

12. Take care of yourself. The right foods, a little bit of exercise, enough sleep, and taking care of your physical and emotional self will work wonders. You’ll have a better trip (and ultimately, life), and you’ll save money on doctors, medications, and numerous other consequences that you can expect when you neglect your health.

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Biking does double duty: It’s a good overall workout, and it’s a fun way to travel locally!

13. Need something? Phone a friend. Ask your friends and family if you can raid their castoffs before they’re sent to the thrift store. (Of course, offer to let them do the same with your things- you could even plan a castoff swap!) If you’re looking for a specific item for your trip, such as a backpack or an ice chest, ask your friends before you buy one. These kind of items are often kept in storage, and your friend probably won’t mind you borrowing it for a few weeks.

14. Give up whatever you use most. Cut out one frequently-bought item cold turkey. Maybe it’s junk food. Maybe it’s movies. Maybe it’s coffee. Maybe it’s clothes. If you find that you’re craving it, ask yourself if you really want to spend your money on short-term gratification, or use it to take a trip with memories that last a lifetime. Even if you’re only spending money on necessities, think about cheaper substitutions you could make.

15. Take online surveys. These don’t pay much, but can help fill the time when you’re bored or waiting for something. They’re are a ton of survey sites that pay their users, so look up a few and choose which one you think is best for you. (Or sign up for them all!) You can use your earnings to buy gift cards, airline miles, or other rewards.

Am I missing any important travel information? Leave a comment with your best ways to save!