Walden on Wheels


Photo Credit

I learned about this book the other day while listening to the radio.  I haven’t finished it yet, but have found it to be so relevant to my struggles with student loan debt that I wanted to help spread the word!

Here’s a brief synopsis:

Ken Ilgunas graduated from the University at Buffalo with $32,000 in student loan debt.  To get out from under that mountain, he worked a series of odd jobs in Alaska (including night cook and tour guide in a town with a population smaller than a typical college class). Determined not to go further into debt when he entered graduate school at Duke University, he secretly lived out of a van- on campus- while working on his graduate degree.

Although I haven’t finished it yet, I highly recommend this book to anyone who is struggling with debt.  Not only does Ilgunas discuss his own (albeit extreme) how-to strategy for paying off debt, I like that he went deeper.  I’m finding that he’s putting words to some of the emotions that I’ve felt about student loan debt–about how ridiculous it is that a bank would let an 18-year-old sign off on a double-digit loan, or how we all go into college believing that we’ll graduate and immediately make enough money to quickly pay off those loans.  He’s brutally honest about how paying off debt is an exercise in complete frustration at times, but a complete victory at others.  He’s also pretty funny and self-deprecating, which just makes the book fun to read.


Hotel Toiletries: A Money-Saver’s Dream Come True



Photo Credit

I’ve been traveling a lot lately, mostly for work.  I’ve gotten to stay in some pretty cool hotels, and one of my favorite parts has been the free toiletries (yep…livin’ the dream).  Between hotel samples and free samples that I get in the mail, I’ve gone months at a time without having to buy shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and toothpaste*. It might be a small amount of savings, but over time, that adds up!  That being said, don’t be the weirdo who swipes stuff from the housekeeping cart.  Stick to what you’re given.

In honor of my love for all things free, I combined my own experience with a little research to find out what you should take, other than the obvious items (such as shampoo, etc.):

1) The magazines and newspapers in your room: I  wish I had known these were free–I recently stayed in Aspen and there were a bunch of really fun magazines that I didn’t have time to flip through!

2) Soap: I rarely open the soap at hotels, except for the one by the sink.  Take it, though, and use it to freshen drawers, closets, shoes, or your car.

3) Shaving cream and razor: This isn’t one that I often see in hotel rooms, but usually if you ask the front desk, they’ll give you a set for free.

4) Coffee and tea: Free Starbucks and Tazo?  Yes, please.

5) Mouthwash: Keep it in your purse, in your car, or at your desk for your less-than-minty-fresh moments.

6) Sewing kit: These things are lifesavers. Keep one in your purse or desk drawer for when you lose a button or rip a hem.

7) Paper and pens: Hang onto them!  I am forever writing notes and lists at home, and I can’t remember the last time I actually had to purchase pens or paper.

8) Shampoo and conditioner: I know these are obvious, but just in case you pass them over, don’t forget that they’re the perfect size to bring on the plane.  Even if you don’t like the shampoo and conditioner that’s offered, keep the bottles to refill with your own.  I also read a pretty genius tip–after washing the bottles out really well, use them for condiments if you bring your lunch to work.  Finally, a solution to my salad dressing transport problem!

9) Shower caps: Use them in place of plastic wrap when you have to cover a bowl.  You can also use them to cover the bottom of your shoes when putting them back in your suitcase.  No more dirty clothes!

10) Toothbrushes: There are a million uses for these–keep one at work, or store it away for when you have a guest who forgets a toothbrush.  You could also use it to clean your tub or your jewelry.

What are your favorite freebies–and have you found a way to use them creatively?


*While I was looking up suggestions for how to get the most out of the toiletries, I saw quite a few people who recommended collecting the items and donating them to homeless shelters and/or women’s shelters.  I think that’s an awesome idea.  Even if you don’t plan on using the toiletries for yourself, snag them and donate!