How to Take a Road Trip for Less than $300!

Ready for a vacation but don’t have a lot of extra money? That’s ok! A couple of years ago, Jason and I were able to go on a six night/seven day road trip for less than $300 total! Road trips are the way to go if you want to do a vacation on the cheap. Not only do you save on airfare, but you can take food along as well. On our route, we started out in Green Bay, WI, then traveled to Louisville, KY, to Gatlinburg, TN, Asheville, NC, back to Louisville, KY, then home to Green Bay. I have broken down our trip into the categories of gas, hotels, entertainment, food, and credit card rewards in order to share our money-saving strategies.

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10 Freezer Meals with Recipes and Shopping List

One of my favorite ways to save money is to create a meal plan that details exactly what we are going to eat for the next week or two. This helps prevent impulse buys at the grocery store and the purchase of unnecessary ingredients. Having a plan also helps to avoid food waste. If I know we have some particularly busy weeks coming up, I will make freezer meals ahead of time. It is soooo nice being able to just pull a meal out the freezer and either toss it in the Crock Pot or the oven, and know that we will have a healthy, easy meal ready for dinner that night.

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Birthday Bargains!

Do you have a birthday coming up? Mine has long passed, but that doesn’t mean that you still can’t take advantage of these great birthday deals sent right to your inbox! Opt in for the emails from these companies, then sit back and enjoy watching the birthday freebies flood your inbox. I recommend signing up for the mailers during your birthday month so you receive the birthday coupons AND anniversary coupons around the same time. You may even be able to eat free your entire birthday week! Here are a few of the deals I received this year during my birthday month:

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Deals of the Week–Aug. 30, 2020

Does anyone else get a high from scoring some major deals?! I sure do! I grabbed some great deals while out couponing today and would love to share them with you so that you can partake in the wealth! Many of these deals will still be available next week.

My couponing plan typically begins on Sunday by reviewing the newspaper coupons. I then review all my rebate apps, including iBotta rebate deals (use referral code AYNCTJO to get started), Fetch Rewards, and Checkout 51. Finally, I review all of the local store ads. I cross reference the sales in the flyers with the coupons and rebates in order to locate the best prices. Don’t forget to check ALL of the ads–I have scored some of my best deals at Menards, including free razors and $0.09 canned foods (and yes, they do take coupons)! After the cross referencing, I check out the Krazy Coupon Lady (KCL) app to see what finds she has located for the week.

Next, I write out a list of deals that I want to nab, organized by store, then I sort my coupons out according to which ones I will need where. I set these coupons that I know I will need in a separate part of my coupon organizer. I always bring my whole organizer because you never know when you will find an item on clearance that you happen to have a coupon for! I have gotten some great items for next to nothing by doing this. My key stores this week were Wal-Mart, CVS, Walgreens, and Target.

I first went to Wal-Mart, where I had planned on buying several items, but unfortunately, they didn’t carry a few I was looking for. However, I browsed the clearance section, and boy, am I glad I did! They had a huge discount on a wide variety of sunscreens and one brand of sunless tanning mousse and wipes. Many sunscreens were only $2.00–originally close to $10! I grabbed some sunless tanning mousse for $2.00 as well, also marked down from $10. An 80% savings? I’ll take it! I would highly recommend a trip to Wal-Mart in order to build up your sunscreen supply for next summer.

I also grabbed a great deal on some Tide pods, thanks to the ladies over at Krazy Coupon Lady. I printed a coupon for $2.00 off a 16-ct Tide Pods from, then redeemed a $2.00 iBotta for the same product–bringing it down to only $0.94!

My next stop was at CVS, which unfortunately, was kind of a bust. I was all set to grab a great deal on Crest specialty toothpaste listed on the Krazy Coupon Lady site. The deal was that if you bought two Crest specialty toothpastes (in this case, the gum health and the whitening), you would get $4 in Extra Bucks to be used at a future date. There was also a coupon for each of these products in the CVS app that you could “clip” to your phone, then redeem a $3 off iBotta for each item. Unfortunately, the store was out of the gum health toothpaste that was part of the deal. My plan was to buy the whitening toothpaste at that store, then purchase the gum health one at another CVS that had it in stock in order to receive the $4 Extra Bucks. NOTE: Both of the items Do NOT have to be purchased at the same store to receive the Extra Bucks. When you use your CVS card, it will automatically keep track of how many items you have purchased towards the Extra Bucks award. Pretty neat, huh?

Well, that plan didn’t pan out, but I did learn an important lesson. When I went to scan in my receipt into the iBotta app in the car, I found out that it was the right item, but CVS was not one of the stores where the deal was allowed. The lesson here is, always verify that the deal is available at the same store in YOUR AREA, as the local deals may differ from the ones listed on Krazy Coupon Lady. Oh well, lesson learned. The CVS manager was grateful enough to return the item for me.

Luckily, my next two stops went perfectly. I went to Walgreens, where they had a Walgreens app coupon for $6 off of three Crest, Scope, or Oral-B products. These items were on sale for $4 a piece, AND there was a 6,000 Balance Rewards when you purchased three participating items. I purchased a Scope mouthwash, a Crest 3D charcoal toothpaste, and an Oral-B toothbrush. After the coupon was applied, the total was $6. With the $6 Balance Rewards considered, that equals three free items!

I also picked up a package of Bic Soleil razors, which had a Walgreens app coupon for $4.00 off of one. There was also a Checkout 51 rebate for $3. The original price of the item was $7.49. After all of the coupons and rebates were applied, it brought the total down to $0.49! Not a bad stop!

My final stop was at Target, where I purchased three Nivea shave gel, one Wholesome sweetener, and one Glade plug-in oil warmer. The Nivea shave gels had a deal where you would receive a $5 Target gift card when you purchased three. There was also a $1 off of one Nivea shave gel iBotta coupon that could be redeemed up to five times. There was a Target Circle coupon through the Target app for 20% off a Wholesome sweetener product. I also printed a coupon for $1 off from On top off those, there was an iBotta rebate available for $4 off a Wholesome sweetener! Score! There was a coupon for a free Glade plug-in in the paper this Sunday. (Don’t forget to get your plug-in refills for cheap at Dollar Tree!) The total at checkout came to $15.09. I received $7.00 in iBotta rebates and a $5 Target gift card…making the total for all of the items only $3! Not too shabby.

What deals did you find this week? What are some of your favorite couponing websites and apps to use?

20 Things to Buy at Dollar Tree (And Four to Skip)

I looooove Dollar Tree! The first time I went there to buy essentials, I saved over $60 versus what I would have spent at Wal-Mart for similar items. They have consistently impressed me with their quality, making me a repeat customer. Over the years I have learned what products are well worth their dollar at Dollar Tree, and which ones leave something to be desired. That knowledge I will pass onto you in the post! Without further ado….here goes the list:

20 Items to Buy at Dollar Tree

1) Face Wipes–I consider makeup removing face wipes to be an essential. It makes it so much easier to remove my makeup after a long day, something that is so important for skin health. I have tried many brands of wipes, and have found that these are on par with ones that cost five times as much. There are a variety available at my store, but my favorite are the cucumber ones. They even have a locking lid to help keep them moist.

2) Lotion–Lotion is another great find at Dollar Tree. They have multiple options in this category as well. One of my favorites is an oatmeal lotion that is very similar to Aveeno. They also have a brand called Dermasil that is very thick and paraben-free, if that matters to you. Their lavender and coconut lotions are the perfect size for my travel bag.

3) Air Freshener Refills–Have one of those Glade/Renuzit/AirWick plug-ins, but hate paying for the pricey refills? Enter Dollar Tree. They have air freshener plug-ins in three different scents for a buck a piece. They work as well as the name brand at a fraction of the price.

4) Baskets and Tins–Come springtime, Dollar Tree has the cutest tins and baskets! I bought several to use at my wedding. My favorite are the tins that are very comparable to the ones sold at Hobby Lobby.

5) Exfoliator–Dollar Tree makes a great exfoliator that rivals those at pricier bath and body shops. Also looks high-quality and makes a great addition to a gift basket 😉

6) Body Wash–There are several body wash options available, of which I have tried several. The tropical one smells and cleans great, as does the cocoa butter one. There is also a Caress knock-off, which I have not tried but will be this winter when a little extra moisture is needed.

7) Thank-You Cards–We bought all of our thank-you cards for my bridal shower and our wedding at Dollar Tree! They come in packs of 6 or 8–what a steal! There were even some that matched our navy and yellow colors. They looked very high-quality and I don’t think anyone knew they were from Dollar Tree (until they read this post anyway.)

8) Pretty Much All Other Cards–Are you good on thank-you cards, but need a birthday/anniversary/sympathy card? They have them all–two for a dollar. I usually keep a few of their thank-you and sympathy cards on hand for those unexpected occasions where you need a card but can’t get to the store.

9) Baby wash and Baby Oil Lotion–Dollar tree has a solid baby wash at a great price. It may be thinner than Johnson’s and Johnson’s, but it still has a nice lather. They also make a baby oil lotion that is comparable to more expensive brands.

10) Hand Sanitizer–Yes, you can still find some out there! I have found both smaller travel bottles of sanitizer with a carrying case and larger refill bottles at the store. Please note that there is currently a limit of two per customer.

11) Pink Salt–After reading about pink salt and how much better it is for you than traditional salt, I hopped on the band wagon. The same size bag that is sold at Dollar Tree is $3.98 on Amazon!

12) Apple Cider Vinegar–Another healthy living find! Apple Cider Vinegar, with the “mother” can be found for only a buck! I didn’t notice a difference between this and the Bragg brand. They also sell a quality coconut oil as well.

13) Holiday Decorations–Dollar Tree decorations are a great way to get in the festive mood on the cheap. I have purchased several fall decorations there, including a large, decorative scarecrow and a chalkboard pumpkin that I still put out every year.

14) Dinnerware–Let me let you in on a little secret–all of my dinnerware came from Dollar Tree! The dinner plates, the salad plates, the bowls, and the coffee mug—all a dollar a piece. My entire set cost $32 and looks comparable to those sold at higher-end stores. I have had my set for two years and it still looks like new.

15) Gift Bags–Don’t you hate it when you need a gift bag, so you run to Target only to find that all of the bags will cost you at least $4?! Gift bags are another item I always stock-up on from Dollar Tree. You can get two decent size bags for $1. We used these for gifts for our rehearsal dinner, again matching our colors, and they looked as though we spend much more on them than we did.

16) Tissue Paper–To go in your gift bags of course.

17) Dishwasher Detergent–For the longest time, my dishwasher was leaving a yucky film on my beloved Dollar Tree dishware. I started buying the Dollar Tree powdered dishwasher detergent and POOF!, the film disappeared. Part of their marketing plan, perhaps?

18) Laundry Soap–Dollar Tree has a fairly solid laundry detergent and fabric softener, provided you don’t need to buy the high efficiency kind. I have used it happily in the past when I couldn’t score a couponing deal on other brands. The dryer sheet work well also.

19) Hand Soap Refills–The hand soap refills are very comparable to SoftSoap brand, at about one-third of the price.

20) Gifts–I have made cute little gift baskets/bags out of all Dollar Tree products in the past. Many of their bath and body items look high end–and the bath bombs, exfoliator, lotion, and face masks make for a nice gift for someone who deserves to be pampered.

4 Items to Pass On

I had originally planned on this list containing five items, but when it came down to it, I could only think of four items from Dollar Tree that I had ever been disappointed in—it’s that good! That being said, I would recommend passing on the products below.

1) Pads and Pantyliners–Don’t buy these unless you want a throwback to your teen years of bulky, diaper-like pads.

2) Cotton Swabs–I personally think these are OK, but my husband is scared he is going to puncture his ear drum with them due to their smaller ends. If you are picky about your cotton swabs (or your ear drums), you may want to pass on these.

3) Baby Wipes (at least the non-name brand) The larger package of baby wipes at Dollar Tree are very thin and flimsy. I found that I was using two to do the job on one in other brands. However, they do sell Huggies brand, which is less of a deal, but are much higher quality.

4) Cotton Balls–These are soooo small. If you are using them for toner or eye makeup removal, be prepared to use a handful. Similar to the wipes, the larger package is the inferior product. I have found smaller packages there that contain larger cotton balls that work well.

And there you have it! What are your favorite products at Dollar Tree?

How We Paid Off $50,000 in Student Loans in 2 Years

Let’s go back to early 2018. I (Dawn) was over $50,000 in student loan debt due to my return to nursing school and subsequent master’s program in my mid to late 20’s. At the time, I was living on a CNA salary, which was about $17,000 a year. I took out the max available to me in student loans, assuming I could sign up for loan forgiveness when I was through with school. Honestly, I wasn’t even concerned about the loans. I was set to pay my 10% each month for *hopefully* only the next 10 years, then have my debt wiped away by the government.

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