Frugal & Zero Waste Tidbits From Our College Road Trip

by Katy on August 15, 2015 · 17 comments

Ashland Goodwill

My older son and I just got back from his two day college orientation, which meant three days away from home since the orientation began at 10 A.M., inconveniently five-and-a-half hours away from home! (Didn’t exactly relish leaving home at 4 A.M. to get there on time.)

I bought a fat loaf of French bread the morning that we left, and assembled a big ol’ turkey sandwich, which I then cut into fourths. I threw some 6/$1 Grocery Outlet yogurts into a cooler, as well as a bag of mini carrots, I then tossed together some rotini and kale pesto. I filled reusable water bottles and poured a cup of coffee into my thrifted ceramic travel mug. Reusable stainless steel spoons and forks also made their way into the cooler.

Thus fortified, we were able to get from point A to point B without buying any food or drinks. We refilled the water bottles at rest stop water fountains.

My son’s dorm room accommodation was included in the free orientation, (Ha, not really free at all!) but I needed to book a motel room. Southern Oregon University is located in the beautiful town of Ashland, home to the world famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which is great, but the downside is that finding a cheap place to stay is never going to happen. I pored through Airbnb and HomeAway listings, but they were more expensive than a cheapo motel. I ended up staying at the locally owned Timbers Motel, which looked decent, was relatively inexpensive and was literally across the street from the school.  I clicked through eBates and Priceline to get cash back and a better deal, which brought the price down to $191 for two nights minus whatever I get back from eBates. It included a continental breakfast, which was a plus. It wasn’t amazing, but it did the trick. And the room? Pretty much perfect.

After dropping our stuff in the room, we went into town for pizza slices. Ashland is full of pricey dining options, but we’d discovered Martolli’s pizza last year and made a beeline for it. Fifteen dollars stuffed the two of us, which included the tip. This ended up being the only money we spent on food.

travel mug

Luckily, the orientation included a dining hall swipe card for both of us. This included a breakfast, lunch and dinner! Plus, there was free coffee, tea, soda and ice water available throughout. I brought my ceramic travel mug to every event and was able to avoid single use cups. There was a tea which included cookies and cut up fruit, and I chose to eat the fruit on a paper plate with my fingers rather than take a plastic fork. Yeah, I got a little sticky, but all that free coffee made me very familiar with bathroom locations, so there was frequent hand washing. We could have easily spent money on food between meals, but we didn’t.

The University bookstore is run by Barnes and Noble, and includes a large section for logo gear. But I knew there was a Goodwill in town, which would be my first choice. I follow The Compact and choose to only buy used, which I rarely stray from. Not surprisingly, Goodwill had a myriad of choices, and my son picked out two $2.99 SOU T-shirts. (The T-shirts were categorized by color, which I’m usually not a fan of, but helped in this case.) He allowed to me snap one quick photo of him in front of the shop, even though the sun was directly in his eyes.

We needed to leave the motel yesterday morning, as we’d be at orientation until after the 11 A.M. check out time. But I chatted with the manager, who let me store the last half of our turkey sandwich in their refrigerator. (Didn’t relish leaving the sandwiches in a hot car all day, even in a cooler.) I also talked to him about how I’d reserved through Priceline, but would rather book directly for future trips as they’re a small business. He told me to call the motel after checking Priceline, and that they’d match the price. Cool. Money for a small business owner instead of William Shatner. (Priceline spokesman.)

The trip home saw us eating the last of the sandwich, plus finishing the carrots. We refreshed our water bottles at an Arby’s connected to a gas station. We may have bought two Payday candy bars, as they were buy-one-get-one-for-a-dime at the gas station.

We were hungry by the time we hit home, but I threw together a quicky dinner of macaroni-and-cheese with kale pesto, as well as some pierogi’s from the freezer, which also got the kale pesto treatment. Mmm . . . kale pesto . . . .

In all we spent:

  • $191 for the motel.
  • $12.50 for pizza.
  • $5.98 for two T-shirts
  • $9.50 for tips, (pizza, school barista and the motel housekeeper.)
  • Around $25 for gasoline. Thank you, Prius and your 50 MPG abilities!
  • $1.48 for two candy bars.

Traveling can be both expensive and wasteful, but with a bit of forethought that doesn’t have to be the case. Being thoughtful and deliberate can save a huge amount of money, plus keep waste to a minimum. College is a huge money suck, but I refuse to wholly give in.

P.S. This trip saw me pick up a dime, a nickel and three pennies from the ground.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Mariana Cisowska @ BrooklynBasedGirlfriend August 15, 2015 at 12:13 pm

We have a Prius as well. It makes so much difference to pay a $20 for gas every 10 days rather than $40-$50 each week. We absolutely love it.


Katy August 15, 2015 at 1:00 pm

It would have been better, except that there are a number of mountain passes to get through.


Annette August 15, 2015 at 1:03 pm

My husband drives a pruis v we took it to Clearwater Fl, From Pa and only spent 160 in gas that was down and back and driving around the area!! love the Prius for long trips


Kristin August 15, 2015 at 1:58 pm

I just went to a sale at the Rescue Mission store today which is near our local University. I am always amazed at how much University branded stuff they have. There’s no reason for anyone in this city to buy new ever. I didn’t buy any of that today, but did score a new-with-tags blazer and two tops, plus another not brand-new top and a skirt, all for $23.


Katy August 15, 2015 at 2:09 pm

Great score!


K August 15, 2015 at 2:15 pm

Got a Tightwad Gazette at a Friends of the Library sale today for 50 cents – yippee! After reading just a little bit, I kept thinking I was reading Katy’s blog instead of Amy Dacyczyn. Katy is our today’s Tightwad Gazette! and I mean that in such a good way.


Katy August 15, 2015 at 3:02 pm

I take that as a huge compliment.


Sharon H. August 15, 2015 at 2:21 pm

My men are sports fans, and I talked them into stopping at the Sheboygan Goodwill before heading to Green Bay for a football game. A sweatshirt that would have been $70 at Lambeau Field was $4 at the thrift store.

A real score, imo.


MamaMinou August 15, 2015 at 3:06 pm

I love the school t-shirt at Goodwill idea! I would never have thought of that. Katy, I’m heading up your way in about a week and a half for my older son’s college orientation at Reed. Will have to leave him there though. Classes start immediately after. Sniff….


Beth August 15, 2015 at 3:11 pm

Sounds like fun and I bet you had lots of one on one time to chat with him during the car ride.

I have been dieing for a vacation and actually tried to reserve a hotel room in a beach area not to far away. No luck as to many city events going on so will research a room for two weeks from now. In the meantime I had a lazy Saturday enjoying not getting up super early for work and rushing around bleary eyed to get ready. Enjoyed my coffee, did a load of towels etc., and took the time to hang them on clip hangers and put out to dry in the sun on my new tri-pod “clothesline” hanger.

Took daughter to downtown city island park where we visited the recently re-opened aquarium and conservatory. We brought refillable water bottles but I treated us to ice cream mid-way through the afternoon from the ice cream truck. We got into this city park now made State park using our state park tag on our license plate, score!

Then we drove over to free parking (I refuse to pay $1 per 15 minute parking) and drove around for a bit until a spot opened up. We then walked along the river on the river walk. Daughter said no to a ride on the carousel, we sat and watched the boats go by and enjoyed looking at the Canadian shore across the river (can you guess where I live?). Drove home and did not stop for snack from the riverfront restaurant or stop for dinner from Culvers on the way home. Got home to find dry towels on my tripod dryer. As I was taking them down I noticed the sound of my neighbors air conditioner but I decided I would not turn mine on as last month running mine for two weeks increased the electricity bill by $40.

As I am typing this have been clicking on Swagbucks on another computer and will now prepare some homemade quac and heat up some re-fried beans, cheese and sour cream for nachos.

I did crack open an ice cold Coors Light Citrus Radler and am enjoying sipping it while I type and click, awwwwwww.


Kim from Philadelphia August 15, 2015 at 7:25 pm

Katie- that’s awesome!!


Stefanie August 15, 2015 at 7:30 pm

I love using Ebates and Priceline together! Especially when you can get an express deal for even less, and it’s so easy to figure out which hotel you are getting. We traveled a lot this summer, and Ebates just sent me $75!


MsSF August 16, 2015 at 7:32 am

I enjoy hearing how resourceful you are, and am glad you had a good time.


Mrs. LC@LooseChangeLiving August 16, 2015 at 11:09 am

Love the Prius! Not sure there is any other car I would want to have.


Cheryl August 17, 2015 at 5:25 am

Kale pesto? Sounds good, I need to replant some as a cursed woodchuck wrecked havoc on the crop I had in my garden. I’ll plant some spinach with it too. Fresh organic greens for pennies.


Christa N August 17, 2015 at 12:38 pm

I have a sophomore in high school who will be starting college early. I love reading your tips about paying for your son’s college as inexpensively as possible. I love the idea of getting the school shirts at Goodwill…..genius!


Barb @ 1SentenceDiary August 26, 2015 at 11:54 am

I’m great at traveling with food and drinks when I’m travelling by car, but I find it sooooo challenging to manage food and drinks when travelling by plane. You can’t bring coolers, for certain, and my daughter is allergic to peanuts so no PB&J for us. We do bring refillable water bottles which can be filled in the airport on the other side of security, and we try to bring at least one meal’s worth of sandwiches and fruit. After that, and for the return trip, we tend to just bite the bullet and buy at the airport. I’d love to hear other ideas…


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