The weekend before last we went to the Boston Local Food Festival on the Greenway in Boston. While we used the opportunity as our one fancy “nom out” for the month (see this post for details on our monthly adventures), there were loads of free samples, a cooking competition, and demonstrations all for free. We even got free parking using Spot Hero**).
There are so many great, free activities in any city, and this post is a guide to what’s available in our own neck of the woods. However, most of the tips are valid across the country. This doesn’t cover the most touristy things you can do for free in Boston (freedom trail, etc), but Boston on Budget has a great article covering that base for your reference.
This is not a sponsored post, but there are affiliate links to TransferWise, a company we enthusiastically support and reached out to.
I love technology. So much information at our fingertips, such almighty power compared to twenty years ago. So why is so much banking technology awful? At work I could spin up a network of VMs in minutes, so why does it take multiple days to make a transfer of funds from one bank in Massachusetts to another bank in Massachusetts? Why? Why does it need to be that way?
The worst culprit by far has been international transfers and exchanges. We have family outside of the US, and occasionally we like to send money overseas. Our first experience with transferring money was just painful. We searched around, trying to find the best combination of rate and fee for our use case.
I am spoiled. Fergus is in charge of cooking, and for good reason: his food is delicious (plus he enjoys cooking). Some mornings I literally wake up to the offer of breakfast in bed.
Yet as I write this Fergus, is away on a business trip. And I can’t cook. And I hate cleaning the kitchen. What’s a frugally minded, culinarily-impaired engineer to do? Since we only go to restaurants rarely (and they have to be special, not just a convenience purchase), eating out is not an option. That would be weak.
We went on vacation to Montreal earlier this month! During a snowstorm! And it was fun!
We live in the Boston area, meaning we’re about a five hour drive away from Montreal. And yet, in our years living around Boston, we’ve never visited Canada. A foreign country, with a foreign language (in Quebec province), right there, close enough to take Fluffster along for the ride. Granted, most people there speak English, but I still got to order a croissant in French.
At this point you might be wondering why “straw” is in the title, much less “new straw.”
We do not take extensive inventory of the fridge or the cupboards before heading out, and we certainly do not go in with shopping lists. We practice lazy, but frugal, grocery shopping. On a typical month, we spend right around $300/mo on groceries, and when we used to really cut back, we spent slightly over $200/mo on groceries for the two of us. For context, the USDA “Thrifty” food plan for a two adult family is $386.40 as of April 2016.
And more importantly, how much time and effort does it take?
Fergus and I try to have a balanced view of financial planning – we’re not about to spend all our evenings and weekends working just to reach retirement a little sooner. At the same time, we’re not going to spend hard earned money on a fancy car or house that really won’t improve our lives when all is said and done. Most of our decisions seem easy. Do we need a new couch? No, ours is just fine and Fluffster loves it. Should I buy that dress? No, I already have three dresses, and that shade of green reminds me of pea soup in a bad way.
Some questions are a little more nuanced, like what is travel hacking and what’s the cost/benefit analysis?
Fergus and I went to Cafe Fleuri at The Langham in Boston, where we spent $42 per person to eat at the “Chocolate Bar.” Plus tax and tip, the entire trip was over $100. It was a really interesting experience that we don’t regret (even though we probably won’t do that ever again). This post explains the insanity.