This week I’m so excited to feature one of my favorite Chicago bloggers! BreAnna Rood of Crafty Coin is one of the first bloggers I met when moving to Chicago, and she’s become my go-to resource for frugal lifestyle tips in the city and beyond. She’s also a really fun, interesting person, and I’m so glad we’ve become friends. We sat down a few weeks ago (with cocktails, of course) to talk blogging, Chicago, and travel on a budget. Here’s what she had to say. Hope you enjoy her tips as much as I did!
The first time I ever blogged was when I went to go teach English in France. I just wanted to document what I was doing, so I started a blog there and realized I really liked it. It’s actually funny, because in college, I never wanted people to proofread my papers, because writing is kind of vulnerable you know? But then I wrote this blog and all these people said I had a good writing voice. My mom would say “I can just hear you saying this,” and it was really encouraging actually, to hear something I had never thought of myself.
With Crafty Coin, Ty [her husband] and I realized our money was flying everywhere. We moved to Chicago and were going out all the time, getting drinks here and there, you know how it is. So we decided to really cut back and budget, and we made a $50 grocery budget. Important note–Alcohol gets its own budget. I have people comment on grocery hauls like “what about wine??” I’m like “don’t worry wine gets it’s own budget!!”
My friends kept asking how we were saving so much money, so I decided to just write a blog. I knew I enjoyed it from living in France, and not just the writing part, but also figuring out how to make things look, the coding, all of it.
I write a lot about groceries and food, but I don’t consider myself a food blog. It’s a frugal lifestyle blog, and that encompasses a lot of areas. In the beginning I knew I needed to hone in on something and groceries were a natural fit. Ty and I are frugal in all aspects of our lives though, and I try to portray that. This year we built an emergency fund, which was huge. I also have a series called Frugal Fridays, where I post short, easy tips for readers, whether it’s something like how I hemmed my own jeans to how to save on ATM fees.
There are so many ways to enjoy this city without spending money! We live near the lake, and it’s awesome, especially in the summer. Chicago is great because you have the city vibe, but also the Lake Shore path to run on or bike, and the beach is so fun. There are so many free festivals and events too, all year long.
Goldstar is one of the cheapest ways to get tickets in Chicago. There are lots of discounts there, so you can see great performances for a way better price than you would pay elsewhere. I actually wrote a blog post about it! [Read it here].
On when it’s ok to splurge:
Ty and I don’t own a car. We take public transport everywhere. We don’t take Ubers! [My major weakness]. We could afford a two bedroom, but we choose to have a one bedroom to save money. All of these things are big savings areas, but we do spend on some things. We have a Macbook, for example, but we bought it refurbished. Leather is my weakness. I’m wearing leather boots right now, but I bought them at DSW, on sale, with a $10 coupon. I have a nice leather purse but I bought it at an outlet. It’s always keeping things like that in mind.
The tagline of my blog is living frugally without sacrificing quality. There’s definitely a difference between being cheap and being frugal. Cheap is when you don’t care about the quality at all. Frugal is a little more expensive, but it’s higher quality and will last longer and is usually a better purchase.
Ok, just to preface, I’m an executive assistant and my husband is an actor and a nanny. So as you can imagine we’re not high-paid people, but we do pretty well. That said, last year we were able to visit four very different areas of the United States–New Orleans, North Dakota, San francisco, and New York. And we did it all on a budget, of course. Here’s how:
Don’t be afraid of budget airlines! And don’t be afraid to take different airlines either. Sometimes Spirit is the cheapest [it’s not that bad, I promise. I fly them all the time], and sometimes a major carrier is cheapest. It really depends. It’s all about being flexible.
Always look for surrounding airports. When we go to North Dakota, which is where we’re from, we fly into Fargo because it’s significantly cheaper. This is often the case around the country.
Travel light to avoid baggage fees. People think they need so much stuff when they travel, but they don’t. When I traveled across Europe I took a backpack. I’m not talking a hiking backpack, but a school backpack. You can wear the same things over and over. You don’t need more. You think you do, but you don’t. [Traveling light is kind of my specialty – check out my Carry On section for lots of packing advice]
Use Airbnb. And if you’re not planning on being in the apartment for most of the trip, go for a private room instead of an entire place to yourself. Way cheaper. [Sign up here for $20 in Airbnb credit].
Don’t be afraid of public transport. I took it in Europe, we took it in New York, in New Orleans, everywhere. Google Maps tells you exactly what to do, and you get a feel for the city while saving money.
Of course, there are some cases where you should spend more money. Entrance fees to the Vatican or the Louvre, for example, are worth it. (And if you’re under age 26 take advantage of international student discounts!) Or when I was in Bordeaux I had to try confit du canard, this really famous delicious duck dish. Yeah, I’m going to spend 25 euros on that for a one-time experience. But for lunch I’m going to have a baguette and a bag of chips. It’s give and take.
Always have a bottle of wine or whatever you’re going to drink at your place beforehand. Some of my best memories in Europe, in Bordeaux and in Florence, are of my best friend and I drinking a bottle of 5 euro wine and staring at the river, just sitting there talking and enjoying the city. [Plus if you’re in Europe, your 5 euro bottle is going to be better than more expensive wine at home!]
Thank you BreAnna! Aren’t her tips great? What are some of your favorite frugal lifestyle travel or other tips? Also, be sure to follow her blog, Crafty Coin, because she’s saving up for something really special, and I know all you travel lovers will go crazy over it. You can also follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter.