The Average Hustle

Travel – Life – Money

Wedding Welcome Bags And How We Didn’t Spend A Fortune

We planned our Las Vegas wedding very quickly (our engagement was only 2 months), and a hot topic of conversation was whether we would have Welcome Bags or not. Initially, I was against the idea because I didn’t want to spend a ton of money just to have someone throw it in the trash. Then, just before we got engaged, we went to a wedding in Chicago that had awesome welcome bags. They were not special because they had a specific theme or were gorgeous and expensive like ones I saw on the internet. They were awesome because they had food in them that we actually wanted to eat! After that, we easily decided that we would have Welcome Bags, but that they wouldn’t have a Las Vegas theme or a Wedding theme. They would simply be ‘Drunk Food’ themed. Nothing better than a bag full of snacks when you’re in Las Vegas for 3-4 days!

Even though we had decided we would have Welcome Bags, didn’t mean that we all of a sudden had a crazy budget for them. Luckily, two things came into play here: 1) We only needed 10 bags because we were having less than 20 people at our wedding (mostly couples), and 2) I had been saving Amazon Gift Cards for months by using Swagbucks (affiliate link). These two things allowed us to make the bags really nice without busting our $250 Welcome Bag budget. When all was said and done, we actually came in way under that! Here’s the breakdown:

Bought On Amazon With Gift Cards

  • 12 Medium White Gift Bags – List Price: $6.86 – FREE
  • Nabisco Cookie Variety Pack 24 Count – List Price: $17.99 – FREE
  • Sickness and In Health Wedding Favor Bag – List Price: $11.99 – FREE (a smaller bag that we filled with non-food items and put inside the bigger gift bags)
  • Advil Tablets 50 Two-Packs – List Price: $10.99 – FREE
  • Planters Nuts 48 Pack – List Price: $15.08 – FREE
  • Band-Aid Travel Packs 12 – List Price: $11.55 – FREE

Bought At Costco

  • Box of 36 Full Size Candy Bars – List Price: $18 – $18

Bought At Giant

  • Box of Individual Pringles – List Price: $7 – $7

Bought At Work

  • Travel size Poo Pourri Bottles – $5.95 each – FREE
  • Purple Tissue Paper – $10 – FREE
  • If you haven’t tried Poo Pourri and you’re a little shy in the bathroom, you absolutely should pick up a bottle! You use it before you go and it really helps with the smells!

Bought On Etsy.com

  • Thank You ThankYouVeryMuch Cards – List Price: $18 – $22 After Shipping
  • Hair Ties – List Price: $1.20 Each – $16 After Shipping (We had ours customized to say “To Have And To Hold Your Hair Back S & W Las Vegas 2016”
  • These links are not affiliate links. I just loved working with the vendors and want to support small businesses!

Bought At CVS In Las Vegas Once We Arrived

  • Water Bottles for Each Person – List Price: $2.99 for 6 – $9

As you can see, our Out-Of-Pocket Costs were only $72 (not even half of our original budget)! But I was extremely happy that in each bag, they were able to have 2 different types of cookies, 2 full-size candy bars, 3 packs of peanuts, 1 Can Of Pringles, and 2 water bottles. Also included in the “In Sickness And Health” bags were 2 packages of Advil, Bandaids, Poo Pourri, and a hair tie.  Plus, we were able to write custom thank you notes for each person! We got a lot of compliments on our bags and we’re really happy with the $72 we spent on them! We also included our itinerary and a list of free things to do in Las Vegas that I designed and printed at home.

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Can You Duplicate This For Your Wedding Bags?

I firmly believe that each person is in a different situation. Can you make this exact bag for this exact amount of money? I’m not sure, but you could get very close! Instead of exactly duplicating us, try to think of things in your situation that would help you pull it off!

  • Use Swagbucks or save gift cards in another way! Especially if you have a little time before your wedding to plan, having the Amazon cards was really helpful for us. You could potentially get everything there if you aren’t picky!
  • Have a smaller wedding or only give bags to out of town guests.
  • Think of things that can benefit you. Luckily, I work at a place that wraps gifts and my boss gave me the tissue paper for free. Do you scrapbook and can make tags or cards with stuff you already have? Does your work get a lot of promotional size bottles of lotions or shampoos? Use those! The sky is limitless here.
  • Don’t settle on a theme until you’ve done your research. We didn’t try to use only Las Vegas items or insist on certain things until we saw what was available. Not limiting yourself will make the process a lot less stressful.
  • Have fun with it! Making the Welcome Bags was one of my favorite parts of wedding planning! Have you ever stood in the candy aisle at Costco and been able to pick out any candy you wanted? It’s so fun! I’ve never needed 36 full-size candy bars before, so this was a great day for me 🙂

I hope this gave you some great tips on how to make your Welcome Bags fun and affordable!

Benefits Of A Las Vegas Wedding

As you may remember, we’re getting married in Las Vegas (in only a few weeks!). Now that we’re almost entirely done with our planning, I’m really enjoying the benefits that come with a very small destination wedding! In fact, after watching several friends have traditional weddings and the stress that comes with them, I have nothing but love for our upcoming event. Here’s just a few reasons I think Las Vegas is the perfect place to get married.

  • Even with flights, hotels, the ceremony, dinner, and a suite for the reception, our wedding is costing a quarter of the average wedding in the United States. I can’t tell you how happy I am to not spend $20,000-$30,000 on just one day!
  • Not only are we not spending a fortune on the actual wedding day, but we’ll be staying in Las Vegas for several days before and a day after the wedding as a part of our budget. This gives us a fun trip in addition to the festivities.
  • Las Vegas is the center of customer service, so I haven’t had any problems booking and finalizing the details. Everybody is accommodating and ready to help in any way they can.
  • This certainly won’t be a benefit for everyone, but I relish the fact that I can only take 1 suitcase and therefore don’t have to spend too much time buying decorations or worrying about DIY projects. I picked places that look nice already and I’m glad I don’t have to stress or shop a lot.
  • Because we live in Washington DC, it is slightly cheaper for our friends and family to fly and stay in Las Vegas than it would have been for them to come here. If you also live in an expensive city, consider a destination wedding!
  • There are plenty of activities for our guests that don’t require us to entertain them 24/7. Even if you don’t gamble, there’s many other activities and some of them are even free!
  • The weather is almost always nice. I’m not worried about the weather even though we’re getting married in the Fall! It’ll likely be sunny and 85.
  • There are restaurants that will satisfy even picky eaters. Not only am I not worried our guests will find food during their vacations, but our venue can easily accommodate food allergies as well.

As might be expected, I’m very excited about our wedding!

3 Tips For Visiting DC In The Summer

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Last Saturday, we did something we wouldn’t normally do in the middle of the summer heat: we went to a museum. This may seem weird to you because museums are great all the time, right? Right (kind of)! We live in DC where the summer season gives us high heat (90’s for most of July and August), high humidity, and thousands of tourists. So why did we venture out this weekend? The National Gallery of Art is having a Hubert Robert exhibit that we wanted to see. The exhibit was awesome, but heading to the tourist-laden Mall reminded us to share a few tips that might make your summer trip to DC just a little better.

  1. Enter the museums through back entrances. All of the museums have at least 2 entrances: the one facing the Mall where almost everyone tries to go and one on the back side of the building. Many museums have side entrances as well. A quick walk to the back of the building (the entrance NOT facing the Mall) will cut your line-waiting time at least in half, maybe more.
  2. Focus on The Less Popular Museums in the Middle Of the Day. The Air and Space Museum is amazing. You should definitely go to it, but try to do it when it first opens. Then, when the peak of the day comes, you can head to the Gallery of Art or the National Museum of The American Indian (my favorite). There will still be plenty of people in these museums in the height of the summer travel season, but we found there were significantly less than at Air and Space and the History Museum.
  3. For Crying Out Loud, Drink Water. Bring your own, buy some at the outdoor vendors that surround the Mall, or even buy some in the museums (supporting the free Smithsonian museums is something I never mind doing), but do stay hydrated! There are some water fountains in the museums, but you could have a real problem on your hands if you don’t focus on hydration.
  4. BONUS TIP: Please check your luggage at your hotel. No one wants you holding up the line while you try to take your suitcase and carry-on through security.

Have you ever gone to a popular destination in the middle of summer? Do you have any tips?

We’re Getting Married!

I can hardly contain my excitement, guys: We’re getting married!

No, this won’t turn into a wedding blog, but I’m touching on it here for two reasons. The first is that it’s an exciting and happy time in our lives (the life part of our blog). The second is that we’re getting married in Las Vegas (the travel part) on a budget (the money part)! See, it works for all aspects of The Frugal Hustle!

Because I know some people do care about this stuff, I’ll hit quickly on a few points for you.

  • We’re getting married in Las Vegas this Fall after only a few months of engagement.
  • We’re only inviting 30 people to come with us, so we’re being quiet about it on social media. We don’t want hurt feelings and we feel like there will be less if people aren’t anticipating an invitation.
  • Our budget is hovering between $7,000 and $8000. Still a lot of money, but significantly less that the national average.
  • That amount includes a full week in Vegas, flights, hotels, clothes, rings, and the actual wedding/reception. After all is said and done, we’ll clue you in on how we did it and the final numbers.

Thanks for going on this journey with us! Do you have any tips for planning a Las Vegas wedding?

It Might Be Worth It

About 10 days ago, I realized one of my headlights was out.

After putting almost $1500 into my car in May, I was less than excited for even this minor problem. Whenever possible, I try to do things myself in order to save money, so I looked on Youtube to see how easy it would be to change my own headlight. It turns out that I have one of those cars that isn’t easy at all. Since I don’t have the tools or skills to remove an engine panel, I determined that the best course of action would be to pay someone to do it for me.

After putting in calls to two different mechanics, I realized this wouldn’t be as cheap or easy as I had hoped it would be. They both mentioned that my car is difficult to get to the lights and would only give me a wide range of prices – mostly in the $80-100 range.

Say, what?!? For a headlight?

Look, I know I live in a high cost of living area, but it’s a single bulb! Are the prices really that marked up here?

Luckily, I remembered that the place I get my oil changed often changes lights as well, so I took in in for an oil change and light bulb. They quoted me a price less than the mechanics AND it included an oil change. Perfect! Get it done!

When I saw them pull my car out, I went up to the desk to pay and the woman at the front desk told me that they couldn’t get my bulb out, so I only need to pay for the oil change.

I politely asked the girl what she meant and she said she’d check with the guys in the garage. A few minutes later, she came back and confirmed they couldn’t get the bulb out, but that if I had 10 more minutes, she’d try to do it herself.

Less than the 10 minutes later, I had a working headlight!

After paying for the services, I gave her a $10 tip. I wouldn’t normally tip for an oil change, but I was seriously impressed with her willingness to get a little dirty so I wouldn’t have to find someone else to fix the problem.

Sometimes, it’s worth paying a little extra for really great service, especially since she could have just as easily let me leave with the excuse that they couldn’t do it.

A Quick Trip To Raleigh, NC

Raleigh Globe

On Saturday morning (and my 29th birthday!), we took a very quick trip to Raleigh, North Carolina! We spent several days in Raleigh a few years ago and we were excited to return to visit some of our favorites. We started off with our 4 hour drive turning into about 7 hours. Needless to say, leaving the DC area on 4th of July weekend wasn’t the best decision we’ve ever made. We left early in the morning though and got off the very packed freeway to enjoy some jaunts through small Virginian towns.

Once we arrived in Raleigh, we visited 2 of the free museums there since we missed them on our first visit.

North Carolina Museum of History – We started here because we aren’t very familiar with North Carolinian history. We were surprised at the scale of the museum! It’s first and third floors were full of exhibits. It was definitely worth walking through!

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences – This museum was absolutely huge! Taking up 2 city blocks, there’s several exhibits along with windowed labs where you can watch scientists do their research. From the outside, there’s a huge globe that is a large 3 story movie screen from the inside. This museum was easily my favorite of the two.

After the museums, we walked a few blocks downtown and browsed menus before stumbling upon a cute store I remembered from the last time we visited, but could never browse because it was closed.

Deco Raleigh – There’s nothing I love more than stumbling across a unique store! From Raleigh-made items and North Carolina goods to candles and kitchen supplies, it would be easy to find something for yourself or a gift here. I was particularly fond of some rather provocative mugs (“I’m a Grown Ass Lady and I do What I Want” by Emily McDowell) and I regret not picking one up!

After shopping a bit, we had to stop back by our hotel to cool off and change for dinner. With the temperature at 90 degrees and 90% humidity, we got quite sweaty on our walk around downtown. Plus, since it was birthday dinner, we put on a little nicer clothes than we normally would have. We had 7:00 reservations at The Pit – easily our favorite place in Raleigh!

The Pit – North Carolina BBQ is my absolute favorite. I love the vinegar over slow roasted pulled pork. They also offer a sweet potato corn bread that makes my mouth water. More importantly, we haven’t yet been able to find good BBQ in DC, so we grab it whenever we can find it. If you do nothing else in Raleigh, go to The Pit!

the pit

Boxcar Bar + Arcade – After dinner, we spent an hour in this awesome arcade bar! We only spent $5 on tokens, but it was even more fun than I remember arcades being as a kid. Plus, everything in Raleigh is so much cheaper than DC, so it seemed like a shockingly cheap place to drink.

Milk Bar – Our last stop before crashing in our hotel for the night was this open-air bar across from our hotel. It was cool to sit and people watch for a while, but since neither of us drink a whole lot, we weren’t too interested in more than just one drink. On the plus side, they did have Bold Rock on tap, which is our favorite Virginian cider.

Overall, this trip was just as fun as we remember Raleigh being! It’s a small city, but definitely worth a trip, especially if you appreciate a culture that places an emphasis on eating and drinking locally.

More Details:

Where We Stayed: Hampton Inn & Suites Raleigh Downtown. We know that there are much cheaper hotels available, but we’re big fans of Hilton. Hotels are usually where we splurge.

What We Spent: About $250. Our hotel was the bulk of that, but the figure also includes gas money, dinner, the arcade, and drinks.

Would We Go Back: Absolutely!

Favorite Place: The Pit. We craved the excellent BBQ for several weeks before we went!

How I Make Money Online

As you might have noticed, there are many people online who share their amazing online income levels every month. From freelance writing to social media management to successful blogs, they manage to make a full-time income while working on the internet. While I’m in awe of them anytime they post, that’s simply not my reality. Winston and I both have full-time jobs that provide our income. We’re in the lucky minority who seem to really enjoy our jobs, so we won’t be quitting for online work-from-home careers anytime soon.

With that being said, I did find myself needing a few extra bucks several years ago and searched the internet on how to do it. Right after college, I joined a volunteer organization, and spent the year in Baltimore working for a very low stipend. The work was rewarding, but the money, not so much. I joined in August and almost immediately started freaking out about how I’d be able to buy anyone a Christmas present. That’s when I started searching online and found Swagbucks.swagbucks-share-1490-v2

It got me maybe $30 by Christmas time, but I was able to give small gifts to each of my family members along with some homemade sweets. Looking back, I can’t imagine the gift or the sweets were very good, but everyone understood. I was 22 and volunteering full-time – my family was just happy I’d made it the 600 miles home without hitchhiking.

Here it is 6 years later, and I’m still chugging away at Swagbucks. My interest levels wane occasionally and I give it up – sometimes for months at a time – but I always find myself coming back to it. For the amount of time I spend online, it allows me to at least make a few bucks here and there.

The basic synopsis is that you sign up and do tasks online for Swagbucks that are equal to 1 penny. When you get a few dollars, you can cash out for Amazon gift cards (my favorite), Starbucks gift cards (my second favorite), and a variety of other gift cards that I’ve never really used. I usually do a few special offers that involve giving someone my email in exchange for 10-45 points or surveys that give me 60-200 points.

It seems tedious and it most certainly is. I give myself 1 hour when I wake up in the morning to get as many points as I can and then I call it a day. The best attitude to take into Swagbucks is one of casual indifference. There are some days that few things credit and I give up after 20 minutes. There are other days that I make $3 in 20 minutes. I’ve learned to expect nothing and be very happy when I get something! I usually average $15-20 a month. Even though this seems like a low amount, I’ve found that it adds up for when I need a gift. When birthdays and holidays come around, it’s nice to be able to go into Amazon and have money waiting for me instead of pulling it out of my account. Currently, I’m saving for Christmas.

If you’re interested in trying it out, it doesn’t cost anything to open an account. You will need to give Swagbucks your address before you cash out, but other than that, you can stay as anonymous as you want. I’d suggest opening a spam email and following the Swagbucks facebook and reddit pages for tips on what’s crediting that day!

In the interest of full disclosure, the Swagbucks links above are my referral links. When you sign up, I get a referral percentage. It doesn’t add up to much, but I do appreciate every point!

Confession: I Love Pretty Things

“I adore pretty things and clever words.”

pretty things
I found this photo on Pinterest!

I found this quote on Pinterest several months ago and it speaks to me on many levels. I was an English major in college and continue to love reading and writing more every day, so the clever words are never far from my mind (even if they don’t always come from me). The part that used to be hard to admit is that I also really love pretty things.

I’m stereotypical in only one way: I love girly things – the shiny, the pink, the colorful.

I started to realize this when I got out of college. Two days after graduating, I found myself faced with a 600 mile move and no money for a moving truck. Luckily, I had no problem getting rid of the stuff I accumulated in college because none of it was pretty. Useful, maybe, but not pretty. The funny thing was that I was perfectly happy having nothing over having something that wasn’t exactly what I wanted. I was also able to fit everything in my parent’s minivan with plenty of room to spare for them, me and my grandma to all ride comfortably as well.

How Does This Affect My Money?

I’m lucky in many ways, but the first is that I value money and I’ve spent many years figuring out how to handle it in the best way for me. If not for a little part of my mind telling me to save instead of spend, I would have easily found myself in mounds of credit card debt, but surrounded by lots of beautiful things.

The key here is that I love beautiful things, not stuff in general. I don’t want to consume simply for the sake of shopping.

Now that I’m in my late 20’s, I do find myself more willing to spend money on things I love – beautiful things – than I used to be. This is something that isn’t often talked about on personal finance blogs: the part where I decide to use my money on something I love that other people find frivolous.

How Do I Continue To Save When Buying An Unnecessary Item?

  1. The biggest way is that I simply do not buy anything that isn’t exactly what I want. I didn’t have coasters for almost a full year before finding some beautiful blue and white ones. We didn’t have dining room chairs for 6 months.
  2. In addition to not wasting money on things I don’t want, I also make sure it’s in the budget. No matter how beautiful, I simply refuse to buy anything that I cannot afford. I will save for it just like I would a big trip or other expense.
  3. I don’t have an affinity for brand names. This saves me a ton of money by itself (though, I’m not judging you if you do!). Because I do not personally chase a name, it allows me to shop in small boutiques and even go vintage. One of my favorite pieces is a blue candy dish my mom bought me last Christmas. It’s old, she spent maybe $3-5 on it, and I happen to think it’s beautiful.
  4. I always make sure to tell people when I’m looking for something. My parents are huge antiquers, so I added a few of the things I was looking for to my Christmas list.

All of these things have allowed me to enjoy the things I love, while continuing my financial goals!

Summer Travel

We have a few trips coming up in the next month and I’m really excited for them! It seems like we have several trips in a short time, but this is exactly why we’re careful to save money the rest of the year. I’d hate to get invited to a wedding of a close friend and not be able to go.

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Las Vegas – Winston is heading to Las Vegas with his best friend next week. They make an annual trek to their favorite city. When he gets back, he’ll be writing a few in depth posts about how he plans his Vegas trips and what he does to save money there.

Raleigh, NC – Birthdays are the best! Mine is coming up in just a few weeks, and instead of having my normal party or dinner, Winston and I are planning a short trip to Raleigh, NC. We’ve been once before and absolutely LOVED the city. For starters, the BBQ in Raleigh is amazing and I can’t get it out of my head. That’s why we decided to go to Raleigh – entirely so I can have good BBQ on my birthday! On the first trip, we planned several days in the city and even went to a Hurricanes game. This time, we’re doing it much shorter since we’ll be heading to Chicago a few weeks later.

Chicago, IL – In the middle of July, we’ll be heading back to the Midwest for a wedding that I’m really looking forward to. Dancing, drinking, food…weddings are the best! Chicago is where we’ll spend the bulk of our time, but we’re also making stops in Indiana and Wisconsin. Nothing beats a good Midwestern Road Trip!

Are you doing any travel this summer?

Ways We Save Money Living In Washington DC

This isn’tDSC_0056 a guide on how to save money while visiting DC (We’ll put one of those together soon!), but a list of a few of the ways we save money while living here! If you happen to live in a low-cost area, you might look at this and think it’s crazy, but it’s important to us to find small ways to save.

1) Pick A Smart Location. One of the things that drew me to DC in the first place was the metro. Despite some of its recent problems, I’m looking forward to a year or two from now when metro is running at its normal capacity again. However, when I first moved here, I realized that living right by metro can raise your rent anywhere from $200-500. I’m not paying that and luckily Winston felt the same way. We live about a 20 minute walk or 5 minute drive from metro, and it actually works out perfectly! We can still easily access bars and restaurants, plus live close to friends, but we’re saving thousands every year.

2) Ignore Certain Trends. I love to eat, but there is a certain meal that I will never get on board with – Brunch. Right now, DC has a huge crush on brunch. I don’t go many weeks without an invitation to eat eggs and drink mimosas, neither of which I would normally have a problem with, but DC restaurants have turned it into a see and be seen event. Instead of a normally-priced meal, restaurants have started doing prix fixe pricing and that usually averages at $25-30 with an optional mimosa or bloody mary add-on for another $10-20. No thank you!

3) Pregame. Even though I’ve given up on brunch, I live in a major city because I like to go out and do things with my friends. This is where pregaming comes in. We already have wine, beer, and usually some whiskey at home. Having a drink at home before you leave can easily save you $12 in this city.

4) Eat At Home. DC has a lot of fantastic restaurants and we do occasionally spend the money to eat at them. Most nights, though, we cook at home and try not to get caught up in eating at the hot new places.DSC_0022-001

5) Take Advantage of Local Gems. We live in Washington DC! It may have a high cost of living, but it also has free museums and monuments, historical neighborhoods, and plenty of other free activities. The other thing I didn’t even realize when I moved here is that travel can be affordable as well because of DC’s placement on the East Coast. The ocean is 2 hours away. Same with the Shenandoah Mountains. New York City and Philadelphia are only 4 hours away. So much to see!

None of this is going to save more money than living here costs, but it does make it a little easier! Whether you’re in an expensive city by choice or for work, finding a few ways to save might help you enjoy it a little more!