It was my husband’s turn to ring in his 30s over the weekend, and so we decided to head out of town to celebrate. While it may seem a little counter intuitive to be spending money on a weekend away while participating in the Frugalwoods Uber Frugal Month and just after announcing our big 2018 financial goal, our focus is on making a sustainable lifestyle instead of just one really great month or two before blowing all that extra money in the subsequent months.

Like November’s No Spend Month, 2018 will still have plenty of fun thrown in throughout the year. If we can manage to save 52% of our income while exploring Hawai’i, we can certainly do so while staying within the state.

One Dave Ramsey quote that’s thrown around all the time is “Live like no one else now so later you can live like no one else.” In essence, cut things down to the bone until you reach whatever your final goal might be. Similarly, the FIRE (Financial Independence / Early Retirement) community often celebrates miserliness in order to reach a savings rate that’s just a little bit better.

We absolutely plan for the future and expect to be financially independent by our forties, but we also strongly believe in enjoying the every day (and every year) along the way. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, and there are too many stories of lives cut short or altered before reaching that elusive final number.

And so we headed up to Orcas Island midday Friday to celebrate my husband’s birthday weekend. We ended up having 10 adults and 3 kids along over the course of the weekend and had an absolutely fabulous time. I’ve previously written about our love of the San Juan Islands, and this weekend was no exception.


We packed up and headed up to Anacortes to catch an afternoon ferry in order to get up to Orcas Island before the sun set completely. The night before, I prepped dinner so that all we would need to do is heat and serve when we got there. 

Pork tacos cooked up ahead of time

In the past we likely would have picked up dinner on island, which would have cost significantly more. Instead we had a relaxing time exploring the property and allowing the kids some down time after a longish trip to get to the rental house.

With the large group, it was a no brainer to rent a house instead of go the hotel route. And as always, this allowed for a large cooking space and laundry, plus space for us to all hang out together (which was the whole purpose in taking a large group along in the first place). If you haven’t used AirBNB yet, use this link to get $40 off your first month’s stay. I don’t know that we’ll ever go back to staying in hotels.

View from the house included cows first thing in the morning


Saturday morning, we had a nice leisurely breakfast at the house before heading out to explore for the day. Again, while we are spending more money than the absolute bare minimum, we will still choose ways to reduce our costs without reducing value, and making breakfast instead of always going out to a restaurant is one of these. With three toddlers running around, it was actually much more enjoyable than a sit down meal anyway. After breakfast, we headed to Eastsound, Orcas Island’s “downtown” and first poked our heads inside a bookstore. This is where I would usually buy a coffee (even though I’d already made one as part of breakfast) because it was habit any time we went out of town. This time, I passed right by the coffee counter and resisted ordering another drink. I saved $7-8 because my son would have then wanted a hot chocolate as well, plus the calories I didn’t need in the first place.

We then headed to my favorite place to explore wherever we go – the library. Somehow we had never visited this one before, so I was glad to finally go this trip. The library is somewhat hidden from view up a long flight of stairs, so we’ve walked by it any number of times without realizing it was there. We spent a good hour there between reading books, playing with toys, and running around the small park outside. While not my favorite library of all time – that award goes to Lopez Island – Eastsound has a very lovely one, and they actually have Saturday story time! Something I wish we had closer to home because I never get to go thanks to the 10AM or 11AM start times during the week when I work until 2PM or so.

I asked the librarian for the best park to visit, and she didn’t let us down. I wish I could remember the name of the park, but it’s located just outside of the downtown off Mount Baker Road. It’s really good sized, with an off leash dog park, skate park, ball fields, basketball court, and FENCED tot lot, which makes life a lot easier right now. We lucked out and it didn’t rain all day, so we got to spend a nice time running around before lunchtime.

First time on a seesaw and he loved it

We picked sandwiches up at the Orcas Food Co-Op and then headed over to Island Hoppin’ Brewery for a laid back afternoon. It was my husband’s birthday weekend after all, and it wouldn’t be complete without a visit to a brewery. We’re total beer snobs thanks to living in the Pacific Northwest and growing our own hops, and Island Hoppin’ Brewery is one of our all time favorites. We last visited over our 7th anniversary, and we were not disappointed this time around. After eating our lunch and tasting the beers on tap, we filled the growlers and took them back to the house (a lot cheaper and no one has to worry about driving), where we had dinner and then a bonfire in the front yard. January rains a lot, but we sure take advantage whenever we get a break in the weather.


Making the pancakes is half the fun

Sunday brought another breakfast prepared at the house and a slow pack up before heading out to the ferry terminal. You can now make ferry reservations, which is a game changer to not have to wait for hours for a boat, though it doesn’t matter so much when you travel in the off season. Unlucky for us, the ferry had broken down, and we ended up having to wait a little longer to get a boat, but thanks to earlier preparation, we had plenty of food to snack on once we were on board and sailing home. We always joke about never wanting to leave the islands when we’re there, but a broken boat wasn’t exactly what we meant 😉 The weather wasn’t so great (okay, pouring rain), but the boys still have fun watching out the window while we rode along.

Enjoying the ride

Monday now and we’re back to work, already dreaming of the next time we board a ferry and head out of town.



49 thoughts on “A Relaxing Birthday Weekend On Orcas Island 

  1. Sounds like a wonderfully relaxing weekend! We always look for great local parks when we travel as well. P. S. I have never been completely onboard with that particular Dave Ramsey quote either. I like your compromise that will allow you to reach your goals while still enjoying the present moment.

    1. It sounds great in theory (and is great for short term digging yourself out of massive debt) but isn’t very sustainable for the long term.

  2. This seems like an awesome weekend getaway! As you know I’m all about the weekend trips, and heading off to an island with company must’ve been really nice!

    I’m not quite a beer snob yet (give it a couple more years) but I’ve always wanted to brew my own beer at some point 🙂

    1. Seriously, weekend trips are where it’s at. I’d rather have 10 three day trips over the course of a year than one week long.

  3. That looks like a lot of fun! I haven’t ever been to Orcas island but I have heard it is wonderful. We have used Airbnb and cooked our own food for a few years and it is the way to go for sure! It saves us so much money!

  4. Excellent summary! Sounds like a very fun time to me. We also enjoy checking out the local library on our visits to other places. Sounds odd at first to many but with little kids, there’s no better free option on a rainy day.
    I am envious of the brewery stop. I’ve only recently come to the conclusion I need to quit gluten. And I’d become a pretty damn good beer snob up to that point, here in beer mecca Minneapolis. Sigh…

    1. Not just on rainy days – hot ones too, because libraries generally have AC as well. Definitely a kid trip stop anyway.

      We actually have an awesome gluten free brewery up here as well – Ghostfish – though I don’t know if you can get them in your area.

  5. I’ve never been to Orcas but have been to Vancouver Island and taken some boat trips and whale watching in that area. It’s so gorgeous there.

    Seems like you’re doing a great job of balancing the frugal challenge but still having fun and enjoying life – kudos!

    1. Depending on the area of Vancouver Island (not the big cities), it can have a pretty similar vibe to Orcas.

      That’s the goal – not too frugal that we aren’t enjoying the journey, but not so spendy that we wake up at sixty with no end in sight 🙂

  6. Sounded like a great weekend trip for your husband’s birthday. Good call to prep dinner the night before so you wouldn’t worry to where to eat and paying more to go out.

    1. It was a great trip. I really didn’t want to do the prep the night before, but I was sure glad when we had it the next day!

  7. Save 52% of your income and still have great vacations like the one you had at Orcas Island? Talk about doing FIRE right–you rock TLRE! Mrs Groovy and I did exactly what you are doing. We saved 50-60% of our income every year, but still lived. In the 11 years it took us to reach FI, we maxed out all of our retirement accounts and still managed a trip to Italy and visits to 27 different states. It’s amazing what people can do when they have a goal and focus on it. Great read. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Exactly – I have zero interest (and my husband less so) in putting our lives on hold in the race to FI. We’re hoping for a trip to Italy soon, if we can manage the rewards points in time 😉

  8. I’ve never understood changing your life so drastically to have a higher savings limit that you don’t actually get to enjoy your life. That just doesn’t make sense to me. Happy belated birthday to your husband – it sounds like you guys had a great weekend!

    1. Completely agree – your future is never guaranteed so I don’t want to trade in what we have now. Plus, what’s the point of being miserable for any amount of time?

  9. Happy birthday to your husband, welcome to the 30’s club! Fun, I’ve heard Orcas Island is beautiful! That seems like a lovely weekend trip- I find small weekend trips very refreshing!

    1. The San Juan Islands in general are so beautiful. Really our favorite place to be. Weekend trips are so fantastic we end up heading out of town probably once a month 😉

  10. I love how you are able to enjoy life while still saving for the future. I gathered so many great tips from your article. You not only provided a great birthday getaway for your husband, but you did so while saving money. I love it!

    1. Exactly our goal – no point in doing an awesome job saving for the “some day” if you aren’t also enjoying the present.

  11. Happy Birthday to your hubby and for celebrating his day within the boundaries of your financial objectives! Your blog and words are inspiring as always!

    1. Thank you! We had a wonderful time, and while we spent a little bit of money, the trip was 100% worth it!

  12. I love orcas island! We’ve been camping there a few times. Great tips for money saving on trips! Sounds like it was a great weekend.

    1. It really is a magical place, isn’t it? We do a ton of camping but since it’s winter and there was a big group of us, we decided on a house for this trip.

  13. Sounds like you guys had a great time! I love that you balance saving money/being frugal with living life. Because you’re right, you never know when you’re time is up, so you need to live your life now.

    1. We had an absolutely wonderful time. It is a tough balance sometimes, but totally worth it.

    1. Ha yes, the growler fills on vacation are key. We’ve mostly cut back at home, but that’s one area we’re always willing to spend on when we’re traveling.

  14. Looks like a wonderful trip! Awesome that you are able to have a 50+% savings rate and go on amazing trips. GOALS!

    1. Thank you!! And to be fair – the 50% savings rate is the goal for this year. Hopefully we can keep it up and reach it for the whole year 🙂 but yeah, our mini vacations won’t be what keeps us from hitting that number!

  15. I couldn’t agree more with your comments! Trying to live frugally to be financially independent early, but at the same time, enjoying time now because life is so unpredictable! I never understand people that travel and need to eat every meal out. Love that you made simple pancakes in the morning so you can splurge on other things later 🙂 Also, never knew of Orcas Island. Thanks for sharing!

    1. The San Juan Islands as a whole are so worth visiting if you’re ever in the Seattle area.

      We do love eating out – especially trying local cuisine – but it certainly doesn’t have to be every meal 🙂

  16. This sounds like a fabulous weekend. I love the idea of a Financial Freedom Plan and it is lovely to see how well you have blended your big goals with a still having an amazing time. The scenery looks stunning, even with the weather being a bit dull.

    1. The weather was actually great for the PNW in January – close to 50 degrees and not raining was awesome 🙂

  17. these little getaways where you stay in a house and cook food are a great change of scenery! Looks divine! Happy birthday to your husband – I just rang in my 40th so yeah feeling old 🙂 Gotta splurge on the good stuff!

    1. Thank you! And another year just means you’re lucky enough to still be on this earth 🙂

  18. I always like reading your article that involves saving money here and there. My husband and I did it to in order for us to be able to travel around. And the quote from Dave Ramsey, that’s what we always heard when we drove from Ohio to Kentucky on the way home to Texas. The only radio station with clear reception. Haha… Anyway, happy birthday to your husband.

    1. Ha, that’s a funny side note on Dave Ramsey being the only clear station. Saving money in order to travel more always seems to be worth it 🙂

  19. Sounds like a relaxing weekend. We’re planning a trip up in July. I think that’s probably the busy season. Do you think it’s better to stay on one of the islands rather than near the ferry terminal in Anacortes? We really just want to go whale watching.

    1. Busy season peaks Memorial Day to Labor Day. You’ll NEED a ferry reservation that time of year (you can get one out of Anacortes and back on SJI/Orcas). We much prefer the islands for more than just whale watching, but if that’s your focus, Anacortes should be fine (and cheaper). Though it is 100% worth the trip to get out there. Feel free to message me with any other questions you might have! We spend quite a bit of time up there.

  20. I can’t believe I have never thought of visiting libraries in different towns before! That is such a great idea (especially once I eventually have kids many years from now!).

    This is such a good example of balancing spending on things you actually enjoy with reducing costs in other areas. I agree that trying to cut spending to the bone to hit another % saved is not always smart or sustainable. Life is about balance! But the trick is (as you and I are learning) that the balance can tilt a lot more towards minimal spending without losing any value than one would originally think.

    Overall this sounds like a lovely weekend. One day I will visit the PNW… Sigh…

    1. It was a very lovely weekend! And hunting out libraries in new towns is one of my very favorite things to do now 🙂

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