Frugal intersections

Occasionally Quite often, I find an amazing intersection between frugality and a whole slew of other life values. Since it’s the holiday season, I’ll focus on our three of our recent ones, which feel seasonal: eating on the road, visiting loved ones and holiday decorating.

In November we decided to visit one of our dear friends who currently lives in Chicago. This happens to be a 10+ hour drive from us, so this could only mean one thing- ROAD TRIP. Now as you already know, I absolutely hate being in a car, but recently decided to make the best of it. In that spirit, I knew that driving it all in one go will be a little crazy, as at any point of time the drive could turn into a winter nightmare. With that in mind, we splurged on 2 nights midway (Cleveland area). We first stayed in an amazing La Quinta, where we even got to splash around in a hot tub. On the way back it was a much less inspiring Super 8. However, both cost around $70 with taxes, were pet friendly and were sufficient in allowing us some rest. That covered our lodging needs, but eating on the road remained a challenge, since we are vegan. The frugal intersection? Packing our own food!

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Check out this swanky La Quinta lobby.

Now, there’s nothing that revolutionary about that idea, and we do it every time when we travel. Even before we were vegan, we would often travel with our dogs. In the summer, this made stopping for a bite to eat impossible, unless we packed food and then all of us could spread out for a picnic on the grass. Our food ranged from PB-J through wraps… This time around, we realized you can travel with enchiladas! We’ve now successfully made a tray of enchiladas to take on 3 different trips, and not only are they great for the road, they last for at least one meal at your location as well!

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… Ok, these also have vegan “beef” and a side of home fries. Not how we eat them on the road 🙂

In a loose recipe, we grill up an onion, some peppers, broccoli when we have it, strained black beans (two cans for 20 tortillas), a cap-ful (I fill up the cap from the spice bottle) of cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, and then some paprika, chili and salt to taste. We roll this up in tortillas, filling all 20 from the pack, and cover it in enchilada sauce. We source both the tortillas & enchilada sauce from Aldi’s and we’ve done this successfully with all 3 different kinds of sauces (the red is our fave). We bake this for 40 minutes, and then take the full tray covered in foil, or fill up Tupperware to take with us (The Tupperware allows you to use a microwave, the tray needs an oven or you’re eating them cold). Vegan food stays well, so we’ll eat this for days. And unlike some of our previous “grab and go” items, it’s appealing enough to actually want to eat. A vegan frugal win. Our friends even ate some too once we finally arrived in Chicago.

Ah- Chicago! Since embarking on our frugal journey and focusing on savings, I’ve been incredibly conflicted about travel. It didn’t seem to align with my values, and saving goals. However, we haven’t seen our friend, C., forever and I’ve missed her a lot. C. is a great friend, who is planning to move to LA next year, meaning she’ll be even further away. We used to live closer and visit more frequently, but had only seen her during the 2017 Women’s march since moving to New York. Spontaneously, chatting to her in September, we decided to visit this Thanksgiving. This was very out of character for me, so when I made the in-the-moment decision, it was clear that it needed to happen. Yes, the car rental, gas, and two hotel nights, plus some food and drinks in Chicago clocked in at +$600… but this is why we save. The reason we live frugally is so that occasionally we can spend money on choices which are meaningful to us. For us, this includes spending time with loved ones. This intersection works by frugality creating the resources needed to pursue these types of intentional opportunities.

I’m going to be honest, this decision to spend money on travel was a huge struggle for me. How do I save while spending? The answer is, this is still an equation. Money in vs. money out. As we had some additional gigs and work bonuses in November, we still added quite a chunk to savings, and put away money that month. Ultimately (and I realize I’m now in a privileged position) because of our life choices, including downsizing and overall frugality, we’re not in a place where 600-700 dollars a month will break us. Seeing C., exploring Chicago, eating a vegan “turkey”, the Magic Lounge adventure, and letting our old dogs reunite was priceless. If you’re struggling with this type of decision and can afford it, I strongly recommend you do it. This experience has encouraged me to travel more while still pursuing and believing I’ll reach my saving goals.

Once we got home from Chicago, Mr. Sweetspot opened his show, and left right after to teach a workshop (obviously, loaded with a tray of enchiladas). As he’s not big into Christmas, I decided to decorate on my own and surprise him. One of the benefits to owning acreage- free greenery! I took our pup (and a small ax) on a 2 hour long hike, during which we collected all kinds of assorted evergreens. I got enough to make a nice wreath, and a “podlaznica”. If that last bit read right to you- congratulations- you’re the other Polish-American well acquainted with old customs. Without getting into too much detail, a “podlaznica” is a small version of an upside-down Christmas tree you hang from your ceiling for luck. I discovered this researching old Polish customs a few years back for a party, and fell in love with the tradition. It also lines up perfectly with micro-homing, since it takes up no floor space. I made some special ornaments and an amazing banner, which is an intersection of frugality, nerdyness, and creativity (yes, I totally have a favorite Christmas movie).

So as you can see, there are intersections of frugality and veganism, frugality and friendship and frugality and … holiday spirit? I also find constant overlaps with frugality and environmentalism, although not detailed in this post. In general, I find frugality has been incredibly enriching to all aspects of my life, and complimentary to a whole slew of my beliefs, which balances it perfectly into the “sweetspot”.

How about you? Have you found any interesting intersections?

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