Club Thrifty March 2014 Budget Breakdown

Club Thrifty March 2014 Budget Breakdown - picture of notepad, calculator, and cash

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“Isn’t spring supposed to be here?”  That’s what my oldest daughter keeps asking as we continue to endure record-low temperatures, bitter air, and snowstorms on a weekly basis.  One night this weekend was in the 50’s and it felt like a heat wave.  My kids were outside riding their bikes and the dog was running around like he owned the place.  I am so glad that it is getting warm enough to venture outside for more than the mail.  We’re getting cabin fever over here!


Anyway, it’s totally March and I’m totally over winter.  True story.  I’m also counting down the days until I go to Florida with the fam.  It’s six weeks from Friday, bitches….  I seriously cannot wait.  In addition to the Florida trip, we’re also taking a kid-free trip to Las Vegas one weekend in May which will be totally rad. (Flights for four were totally paid for with Southwest Rapid Rewards points.  Woot!)  I cannot wait to see all the crazies and possibly become one of them.  Las Vegas is awesome.

But that’s not what we’re here for, is it?  Nope. 


We’re here for my monthly budget breakdown and all of the excitement that goes with it.  I know you’re pumped.  Wait for it….wait for it…..

March 2014 Budget Breakdown

  • Mortgage: $1,500
  • Groceries: $500
  • Daycare: $600
  • Internet: $45
  • College L: $25
  • College V: $25
  • Gas/Misc: $200
  • Cell Phone: $55
  • Health Insurance: $394
  • Life Ins. (H): $73.31
  • Neighborhood Assoc: $360
  • Florida Condo: $400
  • Electric: $100
  • Gas: $150
  • Sewer: $30
  • Water: $30
  • Sep IRA: $750
  • Roth IRA: $500

Total: $5,737.31

This month’s budget is slightly different for a few reasons:

  • Our utility bills are different here and our water and sewer bills arrive separately.  I hate paying lots of small bills so I am super annoyed by this.  Boooooo!
  • Our annual neighborhood fee is due April 1st so I’m paying it this month.  This fee covers all maintenance of the common areas, trash and recycling pickup, and access to our community parks, tennis courts, and swimming pools.
  • As I mentioned above, we’re heading to Florida in May for a week long vacay with the kiddos.  I already paid the $300 deposit so I only owe an additional $400 for the trip.  It’s due at the end of the month.
  • A lot of people have asked my why my mortgage is so high.  It is not $1,500, people!  We are on a 15-year-loan, but it is nowhere near $1,500.  I just like to pay extra.  That’s all.

Reader Email

Weird things have been going on around here lately.  For example, I’ve been getting a lot of nasty emails and comments.  Here’s one from this weekend:

I read your blog every day mostly because I hate you.  You’re a real bitch, you know it.


Thank you, Amanda.  Tell us something we don’t know.  Moving on……

In Search of Freelance Writing Jobs

One of my writing jobs ended last month and I’m currently looking for at least one job to replace it.  If you’re looking for a staff writer or someone to write occasional content, make sure to hit me up.  At least make sure to check out my new “Hire Me” page and let me know what you think!

Help Me Find a Place in Vegas

I need help!~  I need to get a hotel room in Vegas and I want to know about some of the cheapest deals you’ve ever found and where.  I do have some hotel points to burn but I do not want to spend them in Vegas.  I just want to find a place that is as inexpensive as possible.  Here’s why:

  • I don’t care if my hotel has a casino.
  • I won’t go swimming so I don’t care if my hotel has a pool.
  • We stayed at The Hotel at Mandalay Bay once and the expensive room was a total waste.  We were never there!

Here’s what I’m looking for in a hotel:

  • It has to be in the middle of the Las Vegas Strip.  As I mentioned above, we stayed at Mandalay Bay last time and it was soooooooo far away from everything.  I don’t want to walk quite as much this time.
  • It has to have free wifi.  I refuse to pay for wifi.
  • It cannot have bed bugs.  I’m all about skanky hotels but I do not want bed bugs.  Gross!
  • It has to be cheap.  This is an uber-budget trip and I do not want to spend very much.  Less than $100 per night would be preferable.

I don’t want to spend a lot on a hotel because I want to save my money for hookers and gambling.  (I kid, I kid)  Actually, I plan on doing some of the free things to do in Vegas while I’m there as well as a whole lot of people watching.

What is your favorite budget hotel in Las Vegas?

How did your budget look this month?  Any big upcoming expenses or trips planned?

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  1. It means you’ve arrived when you start getting the hate mails!!! The fact that she can’t stay away makes it even better. I’ve always has good luck with Luxor and Paris and have never paid $100. Try or expedia for the rooms. The kitchen looks good! Well done!!!!!

  2. NY NY is cheap and has a crappy pool area, which is likely part of the reason. Outside of pool season I book there. If I want to swim, I go for the Luxor.

    If you’re a bitch, then we’re all bitches. People are just jealous. No worries 🙂

    1. The Luxor seems so far from everything though, doesn’t it? I want to stay in the middle.

      Oh yeah, we’re all bitches for sure.

  3. I don’t understand why you would read someone’s blog every day if you claim to hate them. What is wrong with some people? Also, I TOTALLY hear you on being done with winter at this point!

  4. Fact: when Howard Stern first started out as the original “shock jock” people who hated him listened on average longer than those who loved him.

  5. I don’t know why but the hate mail had me laughing! I hope you took it lightly and only gave it the worth it deserves, zero. No, actually give it a negative number! 😉

    Kudos for paying extra on the mortgage.

    1. I love getting emails, whether they’re nice or not!

  6. Wow. Hate mail. I guess that means you’ve really made it in the world?

    March is going to be pricier than February was, but hopefully not too insane. There’s a couple of things we’ve got coming up that we’re not sure exactly what they’re going to cost…

  7. No trips planned here, but I do plan on going to Vegas at least once before the year is done, can’t wait! My wife’s Aunt, Uncle, sister and brother-in-law do this Facebook app to get free hotels in Vegas. They’ve gone twice in the past year and I looked into it and now I’m kind of hooked. I have a post about it going up a week from Thursday. Might not be worth everyone’s time but I don’t mind checking in once a day and gaining some points. Hoping to have 4 free hotels within five months. Obviously this doesn’t help you haha so I don’t know why I even mentioned it in the comments of this post, but as far as where I’ve stayed in Vegas I’d recommend Harrahs. It’s middle of the strip and not that expensive but not super cheap either so you should have a decent room.

  8. Free wi-fi and center strip? Hate to break it to you, but that probably isn’t going to happen. You’ll get “free” wifi in the form of the resort fee, but is that really free? If you do manage to get everything you want I would love to hear about it. I have a friend who swears by Bally’s since it is pretty cheap, and center strip. To be it looks a little bleh, but he says the rooms are fine.

    We will probably be in Vegas sometime in May aswell, but then again we now go 4-6 times a year since my in-laws moved out there. Who knows if we will go to the strip this time or not. About the only thing we do consistantly out there now is hike in Red Rocks park, which is beautiful.

    1. I did find something last night. The Travelodge on the strip:

      It’s across the street from the Mandarin Oriental and the lowest rent hotel on the strip I think. It doesn’t have a casino but it does have a pool. Free Wifi and free breakfast even. And the best part is that there is not a resort fee. I found it on Expedia for $87 per night last night. I think I might book it!

      1. I will be interested to hear how it is. I look forward to a review of all the low cost things you guys do in Vegas.

        1. I did book the Travelodge last night. I couldn’t find anything that beat the price, especially with the free breakfast and wifi. We will probably just walk around like we did last time. We do gamble some but we usually just set aside $100 each to do that. I like people watching!

  9. Catina Mount says:

    People are so strange. (Amanda)
    Moving on.
    I love to hear stories of weather in other states. I am in So Cal & I don’t even think we got a winter this year…it’s high 70’s this week. Crazy!
    How do you keep cell phone so low? It’s the last bill I am trying to cut back on…Sprint is probably going to ask me for my first born at the rate we are going. 🙂

    1. That’s the bill for my husband’s phone. He has Page Plus Cellular. It’s a discount carrier that uses Verizon’s network.

      1. Catina Mount says:

        Thanks! I’ll check it out!

  10. I’ve only been to Vegas once, for our wedding/honeymoon. We got a great deal on a suite at the MGM Grand. Next time, I’d pick somewhere with a more central location. Walking the strip in that heat was killer!

    1. Oh yes! Totally. I thought we were gonna die when we stayed at Mandalay Bay. I bet we walked ten miles a day. And the stairs, ugh!

  11. Ha! Amanda sounds like a real winner, and I cracked up because I saw your mortgage and thought, “Wow, $1,500 is so cheap,” but then again I live in New York and a $1,500 mortgage would pay for a cardboard box around 43rd and 10th. As far as Vegas travel, I absolutely always use Priceline. I have never paid more than $90 for a room and it is typically a 4 star+. Because there are so many hotels, you can really get great deals by naming your own price.

  12. Mrs Southboundsavers says:

    Vegas can be insanely cheap if you use websites such as Hotwire and Priceline. We had a very decent stay in the Monte Carlo hotel for $28 a night a couple of years ago. If you don’t feel comfortable bidding, you can use Hotwire, or Priceline’s “Express deals”. With a little research on other websites, you can be around 90% sure which hotel you’re going to get in case you worry about that. Oh and another good thing, it tells you if there is free internet 😉

    1. Nice. Yeah, I’m scared to bid on a hotel without knowing each one. I’ve never done that before!

  13. Tropicana is really cheap and close to lots of stuff, but it smells like old man cologne. Luxor is hard to get into and out of, or it was for us, but rooms were pretty good, cheap, and no cologne smell.

  14. Better a $50 hotel with a $10 wifi than a $65 hotel with “free wifi”! But I hate to pay for wifi too… When I look at your budget I see nothing out of the ordinary and yet you are over $5,000 living in the Midwest. I’ll have to stop telling people they can move to the Midwest and live on $1,000 haha.

    1. If you’re single, with no car payment, you actually can! My mortgage is only $397/month. But it would be really difficult to fit a family in my 1 bedroom, 680 sq.ft. home! Lol! If you don’t care much about what area you’re in, or the school districts, you can get larger homes fairly cheap as well. Like most areas though, there’s a trade-off for going too cheap.

    2. Well, some of the things I paid for this month aren’t regular expenses- like our annual neighborhood dues and vacation spending. I also pay for health insurance out of pocket and most people get it taken out of their paycheck. Most people also have their retirement contributions taken out pre-tax. I pay mine with after-tax funds then take the tax break when I file my taxes.

  15. Not too bad with the budget this month. Do you have an education savings fund in the USA for kids like the RESP in Canada? You can’t please everyone is something I’ve learned over the years so keep on doing what you do. I’ve never been to Vegas before so I can’t help you out there. Cheers mate

    1. We have a 529 Savings Plan for each of our kids. We put in a small amount, like $25, then add in a lump sum at the end of the year. We don’t try to save too much because we have rental properties whose income should cover their college costs when the time comes.

  16. LOL I don’t even know what to say about the e-mail. You are wonderful, not a bitch at all! 🙂

    Like I told you the other day, Flamingo is a hotel I like. If you stalk their website, it’s usually pretty easy to get a good price!

    1. I’ve been looking! That is my favorite casino by far.

  17. Boy, Amanda sounds like a winner! In terms of Vegas, center strip at $100 could be difficult, but not impossible by any means. We like staying at Bellagio, but their cheap rooms are usually around $139. You could also try Caesar’s, Mirage, Planet Hollywood or Monte Carlo. We stayed at Monte Carlo in January and it was like $89. It was ok, nothing spectacular, but a decent price for its location.

    1. Ugh, I just don’t want to pay more than $100! It looks like the Travelodge might be a winner at this point.

  18. Oh, the hate mail. That is always nice to open up and read, isn’t it. The real bitch is jealousy. Anyway, our budget was a little more this month due to new carpet being installed. It did get me my bonus points. so that was nice!

    1. I love getting extra credit card rewards points for big purchases like carpet. Go, you!

  19. I went to Vegas years ago for a wedding at Ceasar’s. We didn’t stay there but stayed across the street at the Imperial. Not the nicest hotel, but it was a good price from what I remember. I wasn’t in the hotel much anyways. It was right smack in the middle of the strip.

    1. The Imperial Palace turned into something else last year. The Quad, I think?

        1. It looks like it’s been renovated but it’s getting terrible reviews! It is cheap though, $103 per night but no free wifi.

  20. I definitely wish Spring was here. It’s been nice but Thursday is back in the 20s. Ugh. That hate mail is amusing; people make no sense. The Florida trip sounds like it will be fun! I think it’s great you alternate between kid free vacations and kid vacations. Best of both worlds.

    1. Yeah, it is. I love going with the kids but we need our kid-free time too.

  21. I’ve been having issues with nasty comments as well. It seems like it’s going around. Fabulous! I like to respond to them, but that’s just me.

  22. Different hotels run different specials all the time – therefore the cheapness moves all around the strip. Priceline, hotwire, booking, kayak, all ways to go. If your dates are somewhat flexible, try not to go when there’s a big conference, you’ll be able to tell by the rates if something is going on! I know someone who went during the annual adult entertainment expo… very busy but very interesting, I’m sure!

    1. Our dates are not flexible. We already have our flights. I’m pretty sure I found a good deal….just waiting to pull the trigger!

  23. I love the hate mail! People are so tough on the internet. In Vegas, I would check out a place called the Jockey Club. It’s not very expensive, and each room has a kitchenette. It’s a “frugal” choice… according to my folks.

    1. Jockey Club, lol. I don’t know why but that name just makes me laugh. I’ll check it out and see if it’s cheap enough!

    1. That would be nice! My goal is to just break even and get tons of free drinks (you drink free when you’re playing most of the time)

  24. Holly, do you not have a life insurance policy out for yourself?

    1. We both have life insurance policies that are paid quarterly, but not in the same month. The premiums for my policies are due this month. I think Greg’s were due last month…or maybe next month? I’ll have to check!

  25. We always stay off strip at the Marriott when we go to Vegas. I loathe crowds and when we stay in the strip there are just crowds everywhere.
    Funny story- when we stayed at Circus-Circus ( for the last time) and went down for breakfast there were these 300lb ladies in tu tu’s that showed EVERYTHING. Our 7 year old daughters were shocked! The look on their faces was comical.

    That hate mail would have been better with spelling errors. 😉 Next time throw a couple in there just to p*ss her off. 🙂

    1. OMG, my kids would love to see 300 pounders in tutus! My kids aren’t going this time. Maybe when they grow up! Haha!

      1. My friend and I brought our 7 year olds to see the Lion King. It was worth every penny. It’s one of my daughters best memories. She still talks about it and how much she loved it.

  26. Are you kidding me with that hate mail!? Who even takes time out of their day to compose something like that?

    Thankfully since my blog is new and fairly undiscovered, I have not gotten my first piece of hate mail. I hope that stuff comes few and far between, because I don’t know how well I’d handle it. That’s the tough part about being in the public eye – while there are some great people on the internet, there are also a plethora of anonymous scumbags who just want to bring others down.

  27. I read your blog everyday (without commenting ’til now) and to Aman-DUH…”You say I’m a bitch…like it’s a bad thing.”

    I just had to chime in on Vegas. The most fun I’ve ever had IN MY LIFE was at the Nine Fine Irishmen bar in the NYNY hotel (who knew a couple cocktails, an irish band, and irish dancers hoisted up on suspended platforms overhead would do it for me?) There’s a piano bar right outside that is a hoot too. But damn, the Nine Fine is a must do for one of your night pub crawls. Then….there’s this little casino gem I can’t resist. I’m not a gambler; the sounds emitted by of all of those slots actually drives me insane as I walk through. BUT, at the MGM, smack dab in the middle, you will find an antiquated horse racing game. It’s an actual old school table with mechanical horses that trot along like it’s 1940, in which you have to physically place and push your quarters in. 20 dollars in quarters and a few cocktails later (if you are lucky enough to get a seat) is totally worth the experience. Ah, I’m jealous.

    1. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…..both of those places sound fun. We don’t have any “real plans” so maybe I’ll check them out. I like the inside of the MGM but have never seen the horse thingy. Sounds like a blast!

      We’re spending Fri night in old downtown then Sat and Sun nights on the strip so we should have time to do all sorts of things. Vegas is just FUN, isn’t it? I like all of the skanky looking Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob impersonators too. I love getting my picture taken with weirdos!

  28. Wow, that hate mail is so ridiculous. Laugh it off.

    I stayed at the Mirage last year in August and I believe it was about $85 a night. Great rooms too.

  29. I live in NY. $1500 for you monthly mortgage payment is a STEAL!

    1. I know, but I live in Indiana. You have much cooler stuff to look at then we do =)

  30. Hey Amanda, last time I checked people who e-mail people to call them a name is the definition of bitch. Piss off.

  31. I can’t believe that people take time out of their day to send emails like that! Wow!

    We go to Vegas often but I can’t say that I have ever stayed in a cheap room. We usually stay at The Venetian or Aria and those both feel somewhat far away. Aria felt a little bit closer. I can’t say I really like Bally’s or Harrah’s but I’ve seen some smoking hot room deals there.

    1. I have been to Bally’s once and liked it. I keep checking for deals there!

      The Venetian and Aria are sooooooooooooooo expensive. They are both beautiful though!

    1. It might be spam but I doubt it because it came through my contact form.

  32. Wow at the email you received… it is just so funny to me that people would really take the time out of their day to send something like that, how sad!!

  33. You have arrived, Holly. 🙂 Hate mail always equates fame and mostly jealously. Go you! I can’t complain about winter … because, well you know. 🙂 We love Vegas too but we end up spending more than $100 a night. My husband generally finds us pretty good deals but I don’t think as low as you want. Sorry I can’t be more helpful but I do agree it does seem crazy to spend hundreds of dollars when you’re in the room so little. I’ve heard good things with using Priceline where you can set your parameters (especially your location) and what you are willing to pay. I admit that it makes me nervous to bid on an unknown hotel but everyone I’ve spoken to who has used it has had a good experience.

    1. I would be scared to big on an unknown hotel! I don’t want bed bugs, remember? LOL

  34. Good point about paying the little bit extra off your mortgage each month.
    How much has paying the little bit extra accelerated when you’ll be free of your loan?

  35. MomofTwoPreciousGirls says:

    What a random email!

    I know nothing of Vegas…my last trip was with my mom years ago and it was mostly comped because she had been many times before…she is there right now celebrating her birthday! We stayed at Caesars and it was gorgeous!

    I’m curious about your trip with your kids…anything you can share on how you’re doing it cheaply? We have never had a family vacation that didn’t involve visiting family and sleeping on couches! We want to do something fun for spring break but everything is so expensive! We don’t do credit cards (totally not ready to get back into those…know our limits) so no rewards or anything. Any ideas? Our girls are 6 & 4!

    1. We are splitting a beach front condo with my parents. This time it’s $1,400 per week (we got a really nice ground floor 3 bedroom-3 bath) but we’ve rented condos for as little as $800-$900 per week before. If you can split a condo, and drive there instead of flying, you can save a ton. I usually find condos to rent at You can search for the size as want and the price range you’re looking for. I usually get the best deals when I book last minute…which I do from time to time. A beach vacation is the perfect frugal trip if your kids love to swim. My kids will swim and play on the beach all day long. Renting a condo also saves cash by allowing you to prepare meals at home. We usually do a big grocery trip when we get there and plan out most of our meals. We are staying in Panama City, Florida, and it’s about a 12 hour drive for us. Totally worth it to not have to buy four plane tickets!

  36. Haters gonna hate. I was thinking that you had a mortgage for a regular sized house! It was interesting reading all of the comments concerning that part of your budget-it’s all relative! Have fun on your trip.

  37. Your post made me and my wife laugh, Holly! Too funny. I stayed at the Imperial Palace when I was like 21 and the location is pretty good, I think. It’s kind of a blast from the past but if you can get over that, I think it’s pretty cheap. No bed bugs when I was there!

    1. I kept looking for the Imperial Palace but found out that it’s been renovated and reopened as “The Quad.” Sounds kind’ve like a college dorm or something, doesn’t it?

  38. I have only been to Vegas once, and stayed in the NY NY. It’s toward the end of the strip, so doesn’t fit the bill. Sorry, I am of no help :\

    And your budget is crae-crae! I love how the highest items are your investments! Way to rock the socks off your money (though, your money might need those socks with how cold it’s been over there!)

  39. Living in Los Angeles, I think we skipped Spring and went right to Summer. It is supposed to be 90+ degrees this Sunday! Winter this year has been very dry (very long fire season) and unseasonably warm.

    The budget individually seems very reasonable, but the total seems a little high. BTW, where is your real estate taxes?

    1. My property taxes are rolled into my mortgage. They’re pretty cheap here in Indiana though- $1,900 per year.

  40. I’ve stayed at Excalibur for less than $40 a night. I also found a deal once for the Luxor for like $35 a night. The cheapest I’ve stayed at was Circus Circus which had dreadful reviews, but I actually found that it was fine. We stayed in the adjacent motor lodge for $20 a night…. but it’s a hike from the main strip.

    1. I’ve heard some crazy stuff about Circus Circus!!!

  41. Gosh that hate mail is crazy! But at least she’s reading your site every day. You should post a few more of those hate mail messages, now I’m interested.

    When we went to Vegas we stayed at Circus Circus (this was in college) and I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have a really good sense of humor or need to save money badly.

  42. I just laughed out loud at that email that you posted. That’s the opposite of what I’d do if I hated somebody – read their blog religiously – but hey, whatever rocks your boat, right?

    Wow, Jamaica, Florida and Vegas all in a few months. I’m jealous! We’ve had some good weather here but obviously it hasn’t been tropical-like. Your vacations are giving me beach envy!

  43. Cheapest I’ve found in Vegas was a Best Western just one block back from the middle of the Strip. This was 15 years ago, so I don’t know if it’s still there, but rooms back then were something like $50.

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