Frugal Novice

Fall Car Care Tips

This is a sponsored post partnered with Grogan’s Town Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram. All opinions are honest and are my own.

A lot is written about preparing your vehicle for summer, and for winter, but it’s a great idea to do a fall checkup on your car, too. If you’re a parent, you’re probably about to put a lot more miles on your vehicle with carting kids to school and activities. Check the following items (or have them checked at your local dealership) to see if you need to make an appointment to get anything fixed or replaced, and get your car in tip-top shape for back to school.

  1. Check your battery and have it replaced if necessary. Time flies and it’s easy to forget when you last replaced your battery. We had some issues with our minivan and were shocked that our battery was over 3 years old! Thankfully replacing the battery solved our problems, but it’s good to be proactive and make sure your battery is good before you end up stalled on the side of the road somewhere. Be sure and check that the connection is clean, tight and that there’s no corrosion.
  2. Check all fluids. These include: engine oil, power steering fluid, brake and transmission fluids, antifreeze, and even your windshield wiper fluid.
  3. Check hoses and belts. You want to make sure they are not cracked or showing signs of excessive wear. This is a great time to make sure everything is secured appropriately, too.
  4. Check the brake system. Do this annually (beyond just the quick check at your vehicle inspection) and also have brakes, rotors and drums inspected at each oil change. Why not have your brakes in great condition before things start to get icy in the winter?
  5. Check the wipers. Replace worn wiper blades so you can be sure and see clearly when you’re driving in the rain.
  6. Check the tires. You want to make sure the tire pressure is at the manufacturer’s recommended amount, and that the treads aren’t too low. You also want to watch out for uneven wear (and especially for bald spots where the tread is completely worn down), which indicates that you should have your wheels realigned.

San Marcos Staycation/Vacation Ideas

This is a sponsored post partnered with San Marcos Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram. All opinions are honest and are my own.

When people think about vacationing in Texas, most will think of the coast, especially during the summer. But now that fall is almost here, it’s the perfect time of year to hop in the car and visit other places around the state. My first recommendation? San Marcos and the surrounding area. There are so many fun things to do beyond just floating the river and visiting Schlitterbahn. Here are some fun things to do on a fall getaway or staycation:

Wonder World Cave and Park. This attraction has something for everyone – a cave tour, a wildlife park, anti-gravity house, observation tower, and more. This is a great spot for families!

Three Dudes Winery. This winery has a tasting room and terrace, and is perfect to sit and relax with friends or your significant other.

Outlet Mall. If you like to shop ’til you drop, you will LOVE these outlets. There are two sections filled with tons and tons of stores, and there are great eating options in the area too. This would be perfect for a trip with your friends, and you could follow up your shopping excursion with a trip to the winery.

Meadows Center Glass-Bottom Boat Tours. Visitors on these tours will learn about the local ecosystem and will get a close look at turtles, prawns, various species of fish, and other aquatic animals. You can also add on to your boat tour and take a stroll through their floating boardwalk. This would be a fun outing for families with younger kiddos, or nature enthusiasts.

Reasons Your Check Engine Light Might Be On

This is a sponsored post partnered with Texan Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram. All opinions are honest and are my own.

I’ll fully admit that I’m not incredibly savvy when it comes to car care. I know to get my oil and filters changed on a regular basis, and I know to make sure our tires are properly inflated, but when the check engine light comes on, I’m always unsure as to why.

When in doubt, it’s always good to take your vehicle in to the dealership you bought it from – they’ll have a team of mechanics adept in handling your particular type of vehicle. And according to Consumer Reports, if your check engine light is blinking rather than steady in can indicate an emergency, so pull over right away if that’s the case. In the meantime, though, here are some things that might be causing your check engine light to come on:

Your gas cap is loose. Let’s all hope this is what our problem is! If your gas cap is loose or missing, the fuel system pressure isn’t maintained within the fuel tank, and that might cause the light to come on.

You need new spark plugs or coils. Worn plugs can cause a variety of issues including an engine misfire. A worn coil can create the same symptoms, and can cause the car to shut off unexpectedly.

Your oxygen sensor needs to be replaced. An oxygen sensor helps monitor how much fuel is burned. Over time this can get covered in oil ash, which reduces the sensors capabilities. Most cars have 2-4 sensors; your dealership can scan and tell which sensor needs to be replaced.

Fun Tailgating Tips for Fall

This is a sponsored post partnered with Lustine Dodge Jeep. All opinions are honest and are my own.

Fall is here, which means it won’t be long at all until we’re in the middle of prime tailgating season. If you haven’t ever tailgated before, it’s a fun fall tradition you should definitely try! You can make tailgating even more fun if you’re prepared – check out these great tips for how to ramp up your tailgating game:

1.  Pack a kit. I’m all about being prepared, and tailgating is no exception. A toolbox with all its various compartments can be the perfect vessel for housing all the things you might need: spatulas, a bottle opener, a can opener, tongs, plastic ware, trash bags, paper towels, baggies, wipes, hand cleaner, and any seasonings you might use often when grilling.

2. Use a six-pack box (like the kind for bottled sodas or beer) to house all your sauces. Keep your A-1, Tabasco and BBQ sauce from spilling out in your car by putting a bottle in each compartment. It’ll also make it easy for you to cart the sauces around!

3. Make it easy for people to find your car. Get some helium balloons and float them high up so your friends can easily find you among all the other cars around.

4. Think smart with which vehicle you bring. A compact car isn’t going to have as much room for storage. A minivan can work well (try adding plastic drawers to the back to organize all your supplies) and then of course trucks are optimal with all the surface area a truck bed provides!

5. Create a disposable cooler. Another use for your drink boxes is to line them with trash bags (use at least two layers to prevent leaks), fill them with ice, and voila! You’ve got an instant cooler that you can easily toss when you’re done with it.

Beach Road Trip Options for the Perfect Texas Weekend Getaway

This is a sponsored post partnered with Cuero Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram. All opinions are honest and are my own.

If you live in Texas, you know just how huge the state is. It can take forever to get from one part to another, but the benefit of such a large area is that there are lots of options for road trip vacations. And one of the best places to vacation? The beach, of course! 

Just hop in the car and hit the road to one of these great Texas beach towns, and you can kick your feet back in the sand before you know it.

Port Aransas/Mustang Island: With 18 miles of shoreline and wide, sandy beaches, it’s no wonder it’s been ranked one of the best beaches in Texas. There are great things to do year-round, including festivals and events like the annual BeachtoberFest, the Whooping Crane Festival and Texas SandFest. 

North Padre Island/Corpus Christi: North Padre doesn’t get as much attention as South Padre Island, but it’s a great beach destination and has the benefit of being incredibly close to Corpus Christi, which provides a lot of dining and entertainment activities. The island offers abundant nature, seashore breezes, scenic views, and a relaxing, laid back community of coastal homes and vacation spots nestled in the dunes and along the water’s edge.

Matagorda Bay: This area boasts 22 miles of beach accessible by vehicle. Tent camping is also allowed on Matagorda Beach, and for the “treasure hunters” out there, you’ll find a lot more than the customary seashells – people have found driftwood, bottles, sand dollars, and even old Spanish coins.  

Tips For Buying A Used Car

This is a sponsored post partnered with Star Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram of Abilene. All opinions are honest and are my own.

Buying a used vehicle is a great way to get a lot of bang for your buck – you’re more likely to be able to afford vehicles with all the bells and whistles, like navigation systems, heated seats, and built-in entertainment systems. I’ve bought almost all of my vehicles used, and it’s been a great choice. For some people, buying a used vehicle can seem a little daunting, though, so here are some tips for making sure your used vehicle is a smart buy:

Buy a Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle. You’ll have peace of mind knowing your vehicle has been inspected, serviced, and repaired as needed. Because of this, it’s being sold with an extended warranty, and that is really valuable. Buying certified pre-owned lets you know you haven’t bought a lemon. 

Research the vehicle. You can look up the VIN number to see if it’s been in any accidents, or if it’s been damaged by a flood or fire, for example. Small fender benders wouldn’t scare me away, but a major crash in a car’s history could spell trouble. Not only that, some damage to the car could render it undrivable legally, so its best to know before you go.

Look for a car with decent mileage. This doesn’t always mean super-low mileage, because in a used vehicle that can be very hard to find. An average of 12,000 miles per year is considered the norm, so break down the total mileage by the age of the car to figure out if the car has a low or high average. 

Get Your Car Ready for Back to School

This is a sponsored post partnered with Apple Valley Hyundai. All opinions are honest and are my own.

It’s just about a month until kids go back to school (has summer flown by for anyone else?) and it’s a great time to start thinking about how to get organized. We often focus on the home – having things ready for lunches, making it easy for the kids to pick out their clothes, and creating a space for working on homework.

One often-overlooked space for back-to-school readiness is the car. If you organize your car the right way it can make drop-offs easier and pick-ups more pleasant. Here are three tips for getting your car in A+ shape before the new school year arrives:

1. Use seat organizers. I’m sure you’ve seen these before – they hang down the back of car seats and have various-sized pockets for housing different items. This can be a great way to make sure you have all the things your kids might need. Kids forget breakfast? No problem – keep granola bars or small cereal boxes in some of the pockets! Have a four-year-old with a boo-boo that threatens to derail your morning? Have Neosporin spray and band-aids at the ready. Think about what you wish you’d had on hand this past school year and make a list to stock your car well.

2. Use shower caddies to make for neater eating. You can find these at the dollar store, and they’re an amazing way to let kids eat in the car without making a huge mess. Just place all the components of their breakfast (or dinner, if you’re out running errands – last minute school supply shopping, anyone?) and it keeps everything contained.

3. Get a cooler for your car. If you’re often carting your kids around to soccer practice a car cooler can make your life so much easier! It plugs right in to your car’s cigarette lighter and allows you to have cold drinks on hand. It’s also a great way to keep fresh fruit, carrots, or cheese sticks around for healthy snacks.

Cool Car Features for Families

This is a sponsored post partnered with Reedman Toll Chevrolet. All opinions are honest and are my own.

When you’ve got kids like we do, your priorities in picking a vehicle are a lot different than if you’re buying a car as a childless person. Flashy features don’t matter as much. Instead, it’s all about what makes life with children easier. Here are a few cool car features that every family should look for in their new vehicle:

Entertainment System. This isn’t the simple DVD player setup you might think of. Nowadays, the players can stream shows and music, which broadly expands your options when on the road. You can even add WiFi hot spots to your vehicle so devices can stay connected no matter where you are.

Vacuum Cleaners. What parent wouldn’t like to have a vacuum at the ready? You can easily say goodbye to crumbs and other messes with a feature like this in your vehicle.

Hands-Free Liftgate. How many times have you gone shopping with the kids, only to get out to the car with your hands full? Many vehicles now have a back hatch that can open with just the wave of your foot underneath the back bumper.

Remote Start. This can literally be a “cool” feature in the heat of summer, when you can have the AC running before you and the kids even get in the car. The great thing is this feature that used to be hard to come by is now much more common.

What features would be included in your dream car?

Keep Your Car Clean – Even With Kids!

This is a sponsored post partnered with Junction Auto Family. All opinions are honest and are my own.

I have three children, and we are in the car a LOT – especially during the school year. Each of my children brings items into the car as we’re out and about. They like to bring toys and books, which is all good and well until we have the equivalent of a toy store in the back of our vehicle! And that’s not even starting to address the things we accumulate while we’re out. Let’s just say it gets messy FAST.

It doesn’t always happen, but it’s a goal of mine to keep our car presentable; my standard is having it clean enough that we wouldn’t be embarrassed to offer someone a ride. Here are a few ways I’ve learned to manage the mess:

Schedule car washes. Taking the car to be washed just wasn’t on my radar, but now it’s something we do at least twice a month. When we get it washed we always follow it up with cleaning out and vacuuming the interior, so this ensures that we have an opportunity for deeper cleaning every couple of weeks. If you’re averse to spending money on a car wash, you can schedule a weekend day to do it yourself at home – or better yet, make the kids do it! It can be a fun task that they might actually enjoy, and it might help the kids think twice before they make a mess in the car since they know what all goes into keeping it clean.

Make smart car food choices. I think most parents will agree it’s pretty unrealistic to suggest a no-eating rule in the car. I have instituted this rule on occasion, and it definitely makes life harder. When we’re running late in the morning, it’s easier to let the kids eat breakfast on the drive to school. I’ve learned that we have to pick the right types of food – granola bars work well; cereal with lots of small pieces does not – and that we need to package food in the right way to help keep crumbs at bay.  When the children do bring cereal, we put it in a larger baggie, filling it only about ¼ of the way. You don’t want leftovers, because those will inevitably be spilled. I prefer to give the kids drinks in cups with lids because juice boxes often get unintentionally squeezed and make a big mess.

Always throw trash away when you get gas. You’re standing around waiting for the gas to pump anyway – why not be productive? This will help keep trash from piling up and seeming like a daunting task to tackle. You can also try to create the habit of having your kids each throw trash away when you get home each day.

Provide a basket for each child in the car.  Go to the dollar store and get each of your children a small basket. Every so often have the kids bring their basket in and purge the car of various toys and items that have made their way into the vehicle over the past week.

Keep baby wipes on hand. These are great for cleaning spills, wiping down the hard surfaces in the car, and cleaning up the kids, too. Quick wipe-ups help prevent stains from setting in and can curtail a sticky mess before it spreads.

Hyundai Palisade: The Ultimate Family-Friendly Car

This is a sponsored post partnered with Central Avenue Hyundai. All opinions are honest and are my own.

As the mom in a family of five, I’m always on the lookout for family-friendly vehicle options. When you’ve got that many people riding in your car on a daily basis, it’s got to be something that’s roomy and that functions well. I was excited to discover a new option for us to consider – the 2020 Hyundai Palisade. Here’s what makes it a great car for families:

Plenty of seating. The Palisade can be configured with either 7 or 8 seats, perfect for a family and even a few guests along for the ride. If you choose the 7-seat option, there are captain’s chairs in the second row, which makes it easy for kids to get to the back row.

Available 3rd Row Power-Folding Seats. Having plenty of cargo space is an important feature in a family vehicle, because with kids comes stuff. It’s awesome to be able to have seats that fold down with the push of a button – if you’ve got your hands full, it’s incredibly easy to make room for any large items (tuba from band, anyone?).

Available Blind View Monitoring. When you’re driving with kids in the car, it can be nearly impossible to be driving distraction-free. This feature helps you know when cars are coming up in your blind spot, helping prevent you from distractedly changing lanes into a vehicle, and making it even easier to keep your kids safe.

Smart Cruise Control. Like I mentioned above, distracted driving can be a challenge for parents when there are noisy kids in the back. Smart cruise control detects vehicles in the lane ahead of you and automatically slows the vehicle down to maintain a safe distance, preventing you from accidentally rear-ending someone.

With the beauty of the Palisade and the smart and safe features it offers, it’s a perfect family vehicle.

Tips for Bargain Road Trips

This is a sponsored post partnered with Elliott Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Carthage. All opinions are honest and are my own.

We love to take road trips in our family. Yes, there’s something to be said for the ease of flying, but road trips are where memories are made. The random little stops you find along the way, the silly games you play as a family to pass the time, and the crazy stories that come about after hours together in the car on the road – they’re all a part of the charm, and they’re all things your family will talk about for years to come.

If you’re taking a road trip, you already know one major benefit – it’s typically so much cheaper than flying somewhere. This is especially the case if you have multiple children. The cost of driving two people somewhere (and even staying at a hotel) is pretty much exactly the same as the cost of driving four people.

There are lots of things we’ve discovered as a result of our many road trips that help save even more money, and I thought I’d share some of the tips with you in case they can help you too:

Buy travel-sized bottles at Dollar Tree: You can actually find travel-sized toiletries here, too (and everything is a dollar, so you know you won’t be overcharged), but if you have a pricey shampoo you just adore, package your own travel-sized items instead of shelling out more money to buy small sizes of your favorite products.

While you’re at Dollar Tree… if you’ve got kids, stock up on a few fun little surprises to unveil along the way. You can use these as prizes for road trip games, or as rewards for good behavior, or even just as something to break up the monotony of sitting in the car. Buy some candy (not chocolate! You don’t want it to melt in the heat of summer) to save, too – then, when you stop at gas stations you won’t have to pay higher prices for snacks and trinkets because you’ve already got your own! If you have room for a cooler, bring your own bottled water and other drinks, too.

Check travel sites for hotel deals: Many sites like Hotwire, Priceline, and even Expedia offer mystery hotels for drastically reduced prices. If you’re not super picky about what chain you stay at, you can end up getting a really nice hotel for a truly bargain price. We’ve stayed at hotels before that would typically be way out of our price range, but are totally affordable by taking advantage of these mystery deals.

Research gas prices: There are apps galore out there that let you know what gas prices are down the road so you can plan ahead where to stop and get the best deal in the vicinity. Don’t wait until you’re out in the middle of nowhere and are forced to pay a higher price because it’s your only option.

Plan ahead for activities: Don’t just wing it when you get to your destination city. Look up what activities there are to do, and more importantly, hunt for coupons online. You can typically find discounts for places and end up saving lots of money by buying tickets ahead of time rather than at the door/gate.

Five Great Texas Cities for Summer Road Trips

This is a sponsored post partnered with Lonestar Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram San Antonio. All opinions are honest and are my own.

If you live in Texas you know it’s pretty much big enough to be its own country. Did you know if you drive from El Paso to Texarkana it’d take you about 12 hours? It’s huge! Luckily, though, if you’re in the Hill Country, there are tons of great cities all within a few hours’ drive that make great vacation destinations. Here are a few you should add to your must-visit list:

San Marcos/New Braunfels: While these are two separate cities, we usually visit both when we visit one. San Marcos is a favorite for me because it’s got amazing outlet stores perfect for stocking up on back-to-school clothes, and our whole family loves New Braunfels because of Schlitterbahn water park. Gruene is another small town nearby – just hop in the car and take a short drive to get there – that has great live music and a restaurant called the Grist Mill that is a favorite.

Fredericksburg: This is a great town for a weekend visit. It’s small, so you can see it all in a day, but there’s a laid-back vibe that’s great for relaxing and enjoying time with your family or friends. Stay at one of the many B&Bs and you’ll have a place to visit after everything closes down for the day. There are tons of restaurants, stores, and wineries to visit.

Austin: It’s the state capital, so it’s kind of a given for places to visit in Texas, but this city is more than just the heart of downtown. The surrounding cities have a ton to offer, too, and you can avoid the traffic and crowds if you hit the outskirts. Georgetown, Leander, Round Rock (catch a Round Rock Express baseball game – they’re a blast!), and Cedar Park all have great local restaurants and opportunities galore for walking, biking, canoeing, fishing, and enjoying the outdoors.

• San Antonio: This is another city that many think of when planning a Texas vacation, but it’s for good reason – there is SO much to do. Whether you’re visiting the Alamo (it’s smaller than you think it is, so be prepared!), cruising down the river along the River Walk, or enjoying some amazing TexMex, it’s just a lot of fun all around. If you visit, get a hotel along the river and you won’t even need a vehicle – you can walk (or take a boat ride) to get to all sorts of shops and restaurants.

You might live in one of the cities/areas I mentioned above, and if you do, I encourage you to view your city like a tourist and enjoy a staycation!