How We Vacation FREE {And Save More $ for Real Food}

November 15, 2013 · 20 comments

Disney castle

Ramsey money makeoverDave Ramsey won’t like what I’m going to tell you today, but it works for us.  Only you know your spending habits and whether or not you can pull this off, so use common sense.  (Have you seen my Real Food Rookie Version of Dave Ramsey’s Money Principles?)

As all of us real foodies know, we need to prioritize our health, and that means buying quality food.  Yes, there are ways to watch the budget when buying real food, but some things, like avoiding mystery meat or mystery milk for two examples, are usually going to be more expensive.  (Read about healthy milk choices here or healthy meat choices here.)

As Joel Salatin says, though:  “Pay now or pay later” and “Have you priced cancer lately?”

So because A. we spend more on real food and it’s a big part of our budget, B. we are committed to tithing/helping others in need, and C.  homeschooling can also be expensive, we usually don’t have money leftover for things like family vacations.  (Not to mention how screwed up our laws are that make it so hard to get ahead these days, while many are getting crazy unfair handouts, but we won’t go there…)

So we began implementing a system that’s working for us.

Before I tell you what that is, I need to add an important point…

Many people can’t even afford food and shelter, so I realize travel is not a big deal in the whole scheme of things.  Showing our kids new places and experiences would be cool, but if we were unable to swing it, there are many more important things that we need to provide our kids with, such as a solid faith, love, giving them a good education, and teaching them about hard work, being a good friend, respecting and helping others, etc.  So if we couldn’t travel at all or as much as we’d like to, oh well, it’s not going to kill them.  However, it became something of a challenge for me to come up with a plan to try and make this happen, especially since our kids are good ages for traveling right now.  Plus we homeschool, so we can go places when others can’t and beat the crowds!  (Although we couldn’t do that when we went to Florida and the crowds were ROTTEN at Disney, as you can see in that shot of the castle above.)

So here’s what we do…

credit card rewardsWe have four credit cards.  We put everything on these cards that we can, like groceries, utilities, clothing, online shopping, and other bills.  I have a master list of which items get the highest points on which card – it ranges between 2% and 5%.  I tried to get our house payment to go through here, too, but they won’t let you do that.  I put all other big purchases through here, though, and when our oldest got a new computer recently, I paid for it and had him write us a check.  Anytime I can squeeze out more points I will do it.

You’ll have to do some internet searching to find one you like (“best cashback credit cards”) – it will depend on where you shop and what you want out of your card, like cash back, gift cards, travel rewards, etc.  We pay a yearly fee on one of them, because with the higher cash back that one was still a good deal.  It takes some time to figure all of this out.

I found a refer-a-friend thing on one of our cards where if you sign up you get $100 and I get $50 – cool huh?  Just email me and I’ll enter your name in:  Or try clicking here.  The rewards on that one change each quarter and you get 5% back on certain purchases.  When we went to Florida we got 5% back on our expensive Disney tickets and gas, right now it’s paying 5% back on all Amazon purchases.

Last year was our first time testing this and we saved up $1550!  Now depending on how much you spend, how many are in your family and how far you’re going, that will determine how long it will take you to save up.  But that amount easily would get us an up North family vacation.  For bigger vacations you can either put some with what you have saved, which is what we did for our Florida trip, or just save up longer.

As I said, Dave Ramsey wouldn’t like this plan because many don’t pay off their credit cards each month and would end up losing money on all that interest.  Thankfully, Kent and I have never paid a penny of interest, and this works great for us.  Let me know if you have any other tips or tricks.  :)


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  • { 20 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 DS November 15, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    Funny you should post this now. We have had a lot of stays at Hilton on HHonors this year, and my husband went to a convention on HHonors pts. and “erase your air fare” with another card. We are now spending on a new card that gives a bonus amount of airline points so that he can go to next year’s convention. I am not on that card since I will apply for one myself later this year. I have done this in the past and it does take a lot of record-keeping. I do not want to pay for a credit card, so I have to remember to cancel this airline card.

    Our water and garbage bill can go on the card at no extra cost, and we now pay even small amounts on credit cards that we used to pay in cash. It adds up. I agree–only do it if you pay your card off every month. My mother always told me “you COLLECT interest, you do not PAY it.”


    2 Susan November 15, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    My former MIL used to do this. I never saw her pay cash for anything. At the end of the year she would use all of her points to do exactly what you’ve laid out here: Travel. Now granted, my former in-laws were fairly well-to-do, so they were going to travel anyway, but they would take all their points and use the money to bump up into first class, or go from a 4 star resort to a 5.

    Another way to make money is shop at Kmart or Sears. We shop periodically at both and they kept hammering me to sign up for one of their cards (not credit), so I did. I really didn’t know what advantage there was until the next time I went to Kmart and the cashier told me I had $9 in unused points and would she like me to apply it to my purchase. Well, duh! So the next time I shopped at Kmart, I paid closer attention to the little stickers that told me “buy this and get an extra 100 points” so I did. I started buying all the things that promised points. With the tools and stuff my husband buys at Sears, and the household paper goods I get at Kmart, I am typically getting between 5 to 15 bucks off each visit. The catch is, however, that the points you earn today, you cant use until the next shopping visit. But whatever, I typically need stuff from Kmart every 2 or 3 weeks anyway, so I just use them up the next time. Plus they will also send you extra coupons in the mail, too.

    Now couple the free cash they give you in points for shopping there AND the free cash you get from your credit cards, and you are golden!!


    3 MrsD November 15, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    I haven’t shopped at Kmart in years. Hmm…I might have to start. Thanks Susan!


    4 Laura West Kong November 15, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    That’s the way we use credit cards too, for cash back, not credit.


    5 Shellie November 15, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    Something I do that helps me is to still keep envelopes, and put the receipts in there to tally. That way I’m not overspending or trying to keep it in my head!


    6 Maryjane November 15, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    We do this too, but recommending this to others should come with a huge disclaimer attached:

    I think Dave Ramsey swings the pendulum the other way because SO many people can’t or won’t pay the bill every month. They tend to view credit cards as “free money”, rather than as instant deductions from their bank account (like debit cards).

    That said — it’s a great way to save a little bit of money on all your purchases.


    7 KitchenKop November 15, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    Maybe I should add caps to my post??? :)

    Seriously, I hope I made the point clear enough!


    8 carolfd November 15, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    You can make those cards pay you back even more if you use for whatever online purchases you do. They are tied in to huge number of stores, including Amazon and Sears!


    9 Kimberly November 15, 2013 at 9:16 pm

    I use one for a cash back bonus. EVERY TIME I use the card I subtract the amount from the checkbook so it isn’t a shock when the bill comes.


    10 Sam Jacokes November 16, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    We just got back from Disney yesterday! Free flights from our Capital One pts. Got a deal on a 2 bedroom condo on and also used points for that. It was only 800 for 8 nights!


    11 KitchenKop November 16, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    Isn’t it so fun to get a great deal?!! :)


    12 Monika November 16, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    We do the same thing to be able to fly home to Europe once a year with our two kids to see my family and home country. We still pay for most of the ticket price out of pocket, but usually one kid flies free and we get 5% back after the trip. On our next trip, because we now have the same card for our business, too, and they let you combine points, we’ll have at least two tickets paid on points.


    13 CK November 17, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    I second the idea. I use, too. For those who have trouble keeping track and not overspending, I highly recommend

    Also, Kelly, the link for the Chase Freedom card isn’t working.


    14 KitchenKop November 17, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    Thanks for telling me! I think I fixed it now.



    15 CK November 19, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    It still doesn’t seem to be working. I tried clicking on it again, but it just takes me to, as if I’m the one who wants to refer a friend.


    16 KitchenKop November 20, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    Wow, I’m such a dingbat, I’m sorry!

    I realized after reading it better that you just need to email me your name and I’ll enter you in. Again I apologize!! (And I updated the post.)

    Kelly (


    17 Chris November 22, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    Several years ago, I got a new credit card with an offer of a cash advance with NO FEES and no INTEREST. I put around $11,000 on it since I was already paying my house off early and used it for my mortgage. I paid that off from the credit card in around four months.


    18 KitchenKop November 22, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    Yeah, Dave Ramsey would have a COW over this, but again, if you’re disciplined, it’s a great way to pile up cash!



    19 icfgirl December 8, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    Kelly, do you pay utility bills if there is a charge for using a credit card?

    We’re looking into this, but every utility we have checked out charges a fee (low, but they add up!) that seems like it wouldn’t be worth it. Maybe it is, if you charge that much and get enough back every year.

    Love your site!


    20 KitchenKop December 10, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    The only way I’d still use my credit card to pay for utility bills is if their fee was lower than the cash back that we’ll get. None of mine charge fees… But I’m double checking that now that you’ve reminded me!



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