No Spend September: Days 5-7, Labor Day weekend

Labor Day Weekend would normally cost probably at least $100.  I should look back at Mint and compare this LDW with the last two.

Day 5 was a NO SPEND DAY, despite the hullabaloo.  It was Tour de Fat, aka the biggest holiday in Fort Collins.  We hosted a breakfast at our house before the bike parade.  We provided eggs and bacon (already in our fridge) and then we had everyone bring an item, potluck style.  I went as a “Golden Girl” because I was a girl in all gold.  I already owned the gold leggings, gold skirt, gold shoes, gold belt, and gold jewelry, and then I borrowed gold makeup and a gold shirt.

STAND BY FOR PICTURE…I only took photos with my polaroid that weekend.  Cool, but not convenient.

After breakfast we biked to the parade and then made the mistake of going to the festival.  I end up at the festival every year, and I mostly hate it every year because it is full of half-naked drunk folk and their children.  The only redeeming part of the festival was the Honeymoon Cabaret show we happened upon in a secretive sideshow tent labeled “Le Tigre.”   I can’t even describe what we witnessed in that tent.  It involved a dress made out of fake (hopefully?) hair and pasties that looked like chewed gum.  HORRIFYING, but worth it.

It was quite nice to not be tempted by beer because a) it saved me probably a good deal of money and b) I didn’t have to stand in any lines!  I had a massage scheduled for later in the day (I have a membership so this is a regular part of my budget) and it was totally worth it to show up and not have her chastise me for being dehydrated.

My Tour de Fat survival tips:

  • Costumes don’t need to make sense so use what you have.
  • Watch the parade, don’t ride in it.  It is slow and you will probably fall down or get mad.
  • Avoid the festival and having to park your bike because you’re gonna have a bad time, unless you love challenges and huge groups of people, and/or you hate yourself.
  • Get everyone together beforehand because you’ll lose them immediately when you get downtown.
  • Basically, dress up, watch the parade from the south side of the route, and then leave immediately.

On Day 6, we went to see Built to Spill and Lucero at Red Rocks.  We had tickets prior to No Spend September so we didn’t have to pay for those.  We normally buy dinner on the way to Red Rocks or eat at the venue, but instead we got everyone to leave early and we took our portable grill so we could have a cookout.  I spent $10 at King Soopers for stuff to grill and a case of sparkling water (this covered both me and Andy’s meals) and filled my car up with gas ($26).

The show was excellent.  The company was excellent.  It was a beautiful way to end the summer.  And then we drove home and the peanut gallery in the back spent most of the time telling me how My Brother, My Brother, and Me sucks and he could make a much better podcast.  FYI, MBMBaM does not suck and it’s hilarious so listen to it.

The crew of the new podcast "Drunk Jerrod Hates Everything"

The crew of the new podcast “Drunk Jerrod Hates Everything”

Day 7 was spent resting and grilling.  It was also a NO SPEND DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Total spent on Labor Day Weekend: $36

Total fun had: All of it

Total number of beards in our group at Red Rocks: Five–three very full beards attached to glasses, one that hates everything, and one who shares my love of pop music.



No Spend September: Days 3 & 4

It’s been a few days, but I’m still holding strong!  Here is the update for September 3 & 4.  On Thursday, I had a lunch date scheduled prior to deciding to do No Spend September with a friend I haven’t seen in almost a year.  I was not going to miss the opportunity to catch up with her at one of the only times we were able to find to get together, so I called this a “need” and did what I could to minimize my spending on lunch.  We went to Rise! A Breakfast Place because it’s “our place.” I had the Rajas & Eggs because it is a) one of the lowest price entrees on their menu, and b) it’s soooooooooo good.  I would normally order coffee, but I stuck with water because coffee easily tacks on $3-4 once tax and tip are factored in.  I spent $10 total on brunch.

HOWEVER!!!!  I countered this spending by doing a mystery shop at a convenience store after work.  I signed up to start mystery shopping through IntelliShop last year.  I only do the ones that are worth it to me–they don’t take a lot of time or effort, don’t require negotiating (so all auto shops are out) or a ton of lying, and pay well.  I end up making about $20-30 every couple of months for minimal effort.  For Thursday’s shop, I went to a convenience store to check out the bathroom, gas pumps, and hot food/coffee area.  It basically involved inconspicuously snapping a couple of photos, purchasing a beverage, and then spending less than five minutes writing a report on what happened.  I was paid $10 for the shop and $2 to reimburse the energy drink I bought.  It canceled out what I spent on brunch.

Spent: $10 on brunch, $2 on the mystery shop.  $12 total

Earned: $12

Friday was also a success in my book.  I am involved in an international women’s social, cultural, and service organization called Beta Sigma Phi.  We have “secret sisters” each year that we give gifts to at each of our monthly meetings.  It’s fun and a nice little pick-me-up each month.  This is a “need” because it’s a requirement for each month, but I still wanted to get the most bang for my buck.  Sierra Trading Post had a coupon for an extra 40% off on Friday and I bought two months worth of secret sister gifts for $15 (we have a $10 threshold for each gift) and saved $28 off of original prices.  I shop at STP for my secret sister because I can use coupons and their existing discounts to get really nice, good quality gifts for not a lot of money.  I can’t go into detail because there is a good chance she’d read this and figure out I’m her secret sister.  Trust me, they are great gifts.  I was slightly tempted to shop for yoga stuff with the coupon, but I didn’t allow myself to even look at what was available.

Frugal in Fort Collins Rules for Shopping at Sierra Trading Post

  1. Always use a coupon.  (Sign up for the emails, follow on Facebook, and check coupon sites to find coupons.)
  2. Only shop when that coupon is a minimum of an extra 35% off (that happens like once a week at least).
  3. If you can’t find free shipping, ship to the store because it’s free!

We had two birthday parties to attend on Friday night.  I was a little worried that I would be tempted to have a beer or spend money, but I held strong!!!  I started at a 30th birthday party for a lovely friend who is my hair twin and personal finance blog soulmate.  She was an excellent hostess and offered me sparkling water instead of beer, and I shut down all the enablers (you know who you are).  The second birthday was a 40th birthday celebration at a brewery.  Breweries all have self-serve water so I hydrated like nobody’s business.  Then we went to the Mayor of Old Town.  THIS IS WHERE THINGS GOT HARD.  There is a gose from WeldWerks Brewing Co. in Greeley that is unbelievably delicious and of course it was on tap.  They also had Pliny the Elder on tap, which is basically beer perfection.  I stuck to club soda and smelled Andy’s beers for my flavor fix.  We headed home early so we could get ready for the Fort’s biggest holiday: TOUR DE FAT!!!  Stay tuned for the Tour de Fat post.  It involves a Golden Girl and a burlesque dancer in a hair dress so you don’t want to miss it.

Spent: $15 on gifts

No Spend September: Day 2

Another successful day on the mission to only spend on Needs for a month.

I walked to the Max to get to work and had several meetings that filled up my day.  Our office provides coffee so when I can’t get coffee at home, I can get it at work.  I ate leftover roasted red pepper and tomato bisque for lunch because Andy ate the spaghetti with meat sauce I was dying to eat.  The sacrifices we make for love…

After cleaning out the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry, I realized I HAD to go grocery shopping.  I initially thought I was only going to get a couple of things, but I ended up stocking up so that we would be able to eat for a minimum of two weeks.  For tips on how I shop for maximum savings with maximum sanity, see Saving on Food, Part 1: Groceries.

For dinner, I was inspired by this post on Smitten Kitchen:

I cubed a large cucumber, a ripe avocado, and two heirloom tomatoes and mixed them with a large dollop of plain nonfat Greek yogurt.  I stirred in a little of a dill dip mix that Andy found at the farmer’s market.  Then I chilled it for a couple of hours in the fridge and let the flavors meld.  OMFG, this salad is a game changer!  Andy and I agreed that it would need to become a constant in our fridge.

Because we can’t live on salad alone, I also made a pizza with whole wheat crust (the kind in a tube because ain’t nobody got time for homemade crust on a weeknight), heirloom tomato slices instead of sauce, a generous sprinkling of basil, fresh mozzarella (thanks, half-price manager special!), some shaved parmesan, sliced uncured jalapeno cheddar bratwurst (again, thanks, half-price manager special!), and some artichoke antipasto from Trader Joe’s.  Andy said, and I quote, “This has to be one of the best pizzas you’ve ever made, and it’s not like your other pizzas aren’t great.”  I would call that a win.  Unfortunately, I don’t have photo documentation of the pizza, so I’ll just have to make it again.

We play Geeks Who Drink on Wednesdays so that was an activity where I knew there would be some temptation to spend money.  The whole reason bars and restaurants do Geeks Who Drink is to bring in people who are going to spend money on a normally slow night.  I usually try to order either a beer or an appetizer or something, but I stuck with club soda.  I like the carbonation and taste, and it’s hydrating.  If no one at our table had been purchasing food or drinks, I would have felt bad about not buying anything and taking up space at the restaurant.  However, we’re there every week, Andy tipped extra for the service I received, and the other five people at our table ordered food and at least two drinks each.  As soon as No Spend September is done, I’ll resume buying something during trivia because I like to support local business, but for now I’m sticking to the goal at hand.  Bonus: I won a beer so I can use that to save some $$$ when teacher training is done!  And our team won by 10 points!

Day 2 verdict: Success!

Spending: $153 on groceries, and I only used my car to go to the grocery store.

Income: $.60 interest income



A Day of Celebrating Fort Collins



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Thanks to The Scoop Blog Network and Feasting Fort Collins from my Celebrate Fort Collins win, we had a gift certificate for a small cheese board at The Fox and the Crow, located next to Sprouts at Drake and Lemay.  After several weeks of being sick and two days of cleaning the house from top to bottom, we were ready for a break and a couple of beers on a patio.  Neither of us had been to there yet, so we decided to give it a go.

This place is awesome.  The patio is comfortable, the service was excellent, and you can’t beat cheese and beer.  We’ve been looking for a spot to fill the hole in our hearts left by Cranknstein (RIP), and this may be our new haunt.  It’s in Midtown so closer for us than Old Town, the beer was reasonably priced, and there’s cheese (try the mycella if you like blue cheeses).  The cheese and meat boards are a little on the pricey side, but the sandwiches and small plates are pretty standardly priced and you know the quality is going to be impeccable.

Combined with our Fort Collins Passports, we enjoyed a cheese board and two local beers each for a total of $15!

Three of us took this same picture and instagrammed it with the caption "This is happening."   It was unplanned.

Three of us took this same picture and instagrammed it with the caption “This is happening.” It was unplanned.  Notice the classic roller rink carpet.

To continue Celebrating Fort Collins, we got a group together for rollerskating at Rollerland.  We had passes for four people for open skating with skate rentals and two runs in the laser maze.  If you have not rollerskated while an adult, it will show you exactly how old you are.  I am currently suffering from a sore hip flexor, a bruised hip, and sore ankle muscles.  Do you ever think about your ankle muscles?  You will have a couple hours of rollerskating.

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We were surrounded by children so we had to take our own pictures.  I think if you cross your eyes you can probably make it look like one blurry picture with all of us in it.
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We played classic roller rink games like the Dice Game (stop on a number and the die decides your fate) and Stretch (do the splits over some cups that move continually farther apart).  I would just like to publically state on the internet that I lasted the longest out of anyone on legit rollerskates in Stretch before I fell and broke my elderly hip.  It probably had something to do with rollerblades being straight up cheating and me being two feet taller than all the other rollerskaters.

When our aching, sweating bodies needed a break, we took on the Laser Maze.  It turns out that this is damned near impossible.

It looks easy.  It is horrible.

It looks easy. It is horrible.

The Laser Maze involves running into a room filled with lasers and trying to make your way to three buttons while not running into the lasers.  Your friends can mock you from the outside because your failures are streamed on a screen into the lobby.  Evidently you can win candy if you get this done under 25 seconds.  The closest someone in our group got was Tiffany, who clocked an insanely fast 28 seconds.  My personal best time was just over a minute because my butt wanted to touch every laser.  The slowest time in our group was 400 seconds due to penalties from just running straight through.

The determination after this outing is that skate night needs to become a monthly activity and none of us are ever doing the laser maze again.  For a total of $7.50 for admission and skate rental, it is a very low cost way to spend an evening.  We skated for about 3 hours, got a great workout, listened to mostly terrible music, and had a ton of fun.  The only way it could be better is if the Hunt Club was still there serving creepy strip club sushi.*


*That would actually be worse.

Fort Collins Passport


Enjoying a Jalapeno Cilantro Margarita at The Laboratory last summer

Enjoying a Jalapeno Cilantro Margarita at The Laboratory last summer

Reasons why you need to do this immediately:

A. You get 2-for-1 drinks at 30 different places around Fort Collins.

B. There are other goodies in the passport.  For example, last year’s included a free wheel of MouCo Cheese and a free burrito at Illegal Pete’s.  The Passport folks also do periodic parties for passport holders.

C. It’s good from Memorial Day to Labor Day, aka the greatest time to be in Fort Collins because it’s beautiful and most of the students are gone.

D. It’s on sale for only $15 until May 22, and then only $20 after that.  If you think about what you get for the investment, it’s a screaming deal, especially if you were planning on doing some patio drinking anyway.  You basically get 30 drinks for the cost of 3.

E. It’s like being in a secret society.  When you get your passport out at a brewery or restaurant, everyone else with a passport is like, “Hey! Me too!” and then you can have discussions about your best passport adventures.  You can plan special passport outings with your passport-holding friends and then you can all Instagram your drinks and passports together (see above).

The Passport is also available for other cities, so if you’re in Boulder, Brooklyn, Colorado Springs, Denver, LA, Santa Barbara, DC, or Columbia, MO, you can drink on the cheap in style too.

Tax Time

It is tax season!  I utilized my Celebrate Fort Collins winnings this week and had Jason Speciner at Long Green Planning prepare my taxes.

Awkward photo courtesy of Jason Speciner

Awkward photo courtesy of Jason Speciner

That is an invoice for $0, and there is literally nothing better than that, except for the GIANT REFUND he got me!

Ok, ok, it’s not that giant, but it was way more than I wanted to be loaning the government interest-free over the course of last year and I will be glad to have it back.  When it hits my account, I plan to put half in my emergency fund, a quarter in my travel/yoga teacher training/tattoo fund (I have a lot of goals for this money), and a quarter toward my credit card (currently at 0% interest so I’m not stressing too much, but I am annoyed that I had a few months of not paying it off completely).

Jason also reviewed my return from last year and found money that I had missed doing my taxes by myself.  Lesson learned: there are reasons why people utilize tax professionals and if anything is even slightly complicated, you’re probably better off having one of them do your taxes for you.  It might be cheaper to do it yourself, but you may not actually be saving yourself any money.

Since I had such a great experience, I highly recommend Jason Speciner, CFP for tax prep (opinions are my own and I’m not receiving compensation).  Also, he is a CSU graduate, has a Shaq jersey on his wall, and evidently has a dog named Cosmo Kramer (according to his website), so there are many reasons why he is awesome.

Since this is a blog on living fabulously on the cheap in FoCo, new tax prep clients get $25 off their first year prep fees (tell him I sent you so we both get the discount).


Let’s grab a beer (for cheap).

In FoCo, craft beer is a way of life, but it can also put a huge dent in your bank account if you aren’t careful.  Those small purchases can add up big time.  So what are my favorite ways to drink on the cheap in Fort Collins?

1. Go on a New Belgium Tour.

Our friendly tour guide telling us about the bottling process.

Our friendly tour guide telling us about the bottling process.

This is going to require some planning or extra lack of planning.  NBB tours are insanely popular because you get a FREE 90 minute fun and informative tour of the brewery, there’s a slide at the end that will ruin your skin forever, and you get tons of samples!  But if you want to go on a weekend, you’re going to need to plan at least a month and a half out, or two if it’s a weekend when lots of people are going to be in town.  Tuesdays-Thursdays generally have more availability, but you may have to take time off if you are a M-F, 9-5er like myself (more like 8-5, let’s be real).  If you’re horrible at planning ahead, find someone who booked a tour and has open spots, or show up at the tap room and get on the list for cancellations.  You might have to wait a while, and there’s a chance you won’t make it on a tour at all if it’s a really busy day, but hey, you’re at the NBB tap room.  Play some ring on a string or Rolle Bolle and enjoy it.

2. Go to the Bar.

There is a very real chance this is actually a PBR, but it was probably only $1.

There is a very real chance this is actually a PBR, but it was probably only $1.

Cheap draughts, a huge bomber selection, and most importantly, vintage arcade games, giant Jenga, ping pong, and skeeball.

It’s also not 100 Octane the Rec Room, so that’s a win in itself.

3. $5 growler fills at Black Bottle Brewery.

We recently discovered that you can fill a growler at BBB for $5 on Wednesdays and Sundays!  The $5 fills are limited to their standard brews, but Black Bottle makes great beer.  If you need a growler to fill, ask anyone because they probably have 14 like we do.

4. Play Geeks Who Drink.  

We will destroy you.

We will destroy you.

We are addicted to the Geeks Who Drink bar quiz.  It’s fun, you can win free beer and gift cards, and there is a quiz happening somewhere in Fort Collins on almost every night of the week.  Not for the easily offended.  There are also usually drink specials during the game.

5. Follow your favorite beer bars on Facebook or Instagram for updates on specials.  

Some probably tweet too, but my Twitter account is almost solely used for bitching about terrible service.

6. Go to Matador.  

First of all, it’s like Chipotle but locally owned and the food is as locally sourced as possible.   Second of all, it’s CHEAP.  Like “ARE THESE PRICES REAL?!?!?!?!111” cheap.  Their bottled beer is $1.63 a bottle.  They draught beer isn’t much more.  They have an awesome selection of local beers.  Their hot sauce will kill you if you’re not prepared.

It’s not hard to get a delicious beer for not a lot of money in Fort Collins.  Where are your favorite craft beer bargains?