Non-Consumer Portland Vacation

I visited my brother in Portland, Oregon last week, and since I love Portland and I love my brother even more, it was a great trip. Without discussing it, we managed to almost entirely avoid spending money and do fun free activities. My only splurge was taking my brother out to dinner and drinks one night. Otherwise, it was an almost entirely non-consumer vacation.

We cooked at home twice. My brother picked me up from the airport and when we got back to his house he had made a delicious quiche. The only problem with it being so good is that I had seconds and then ate another piece for lunch the next day and realized I’d eaten half a quiche in less than 24 hours. The next night he made a delicious soup, while I assisted him washing and chopping the vegetables. He even taught me how to slice an onion, which I had been doing wrong all my adult life! I’d been cutting it in half sideways instead of top to bottom.

We took advantage of Bank of America’s Museums on Us program to get in free to Pittock Mansion, which was the home of the publisher of The Oregonian. It’s billed as an architectural wonder that soars 1000 feet above the city’s skyline. The home was gorgeous, but efficient, creating an interesting paradox of a modest mansion. The view of Mt. Hood from many of the rooms was spectacular.

We took walks every day with his dog, either in the neighborhood or at a nearby park. That’s a photo of her at the beginning of this post, modeling the sweater she wears when we go outside. One sunny day we took a two-hour walk on the trails up at Mount Taber, which also has stunning views of the area. Another day we walked the paths of the Rhododendron Gardens, over lovely bridges connecting ponds full of ducks. We had fun identifying the different species, including one with a blue bill. There were many more colorful varieties than the standard mallard.

I used my Editor’s Guild Card to get us both in free to the new local movie theater in his neighborhood, where we saw Up in the Air. I had already seen it and loved it, and my brother loved it as well. Even though this is a frugal measure specific to me, most of us have some kind of discount cards or passes we can use. Make sure you get the most out of your triple A card and any other memberships you have, as well as gift cards and certificates.

We visited friends, old and new, including Katy Wolk-Stanley from The Non-Consumer Advocate, maven of all things non-consumer and my favorite blogger. It was so great to meet Katy in person after a year of exchanging emails and reading her blog. She truly makes the lifestyle of The Compact seem fun.

My brother’s friends gave a spectacular dinner party where I got to see some of his friends I already knew and meet others I’d heard about for years. The food was absolutely delicious, and guests brought wine and beer to supplement the libation offerings, which included a ginger/whisky concoction. The host and hostess really inspired me, because even though their house was small, they don’t let that deter them from having dinner parties often. They made room for several dishes on a table and the 20-plus guests were free to eat wherever they could find a spot. They avoided the temptation of paper plates for a big party and used a set of plastic dishes that could be easily cleaned and stored.

We didn’t have time for the ultimate non-consumer activity of visiting the area Goodwill stores, where Katy always seems to find amazing deals. I’ll have to leave that for the next visit.

Our visit was packed with fun activities, and the perfect balance of socializing and just hanging out. I didn’t feel deprived in the least, and I don’t think my brother did either. We both had a great time.

What non-consumer activities do you enjoy while on vacation? Please leave your tips in the Comments section.


  1. Compact UK says

    So pleased to hear that you had such a wonderful vacation, and at such low cost!

    I will have to train my mum to my new frugal ways when I go visit her in Japan soon. So thank you for your tips, I will try my best to apply them on my trip.

  2. Anonymous says

    Hi Angela
    no tips from me, but it sounds like you had an absolutely wonderful time. Just goes to show that you don't need to spend lots to enjoy yourself!

  3. Kate Sommers says

    Did you go to Powell's book store? It's such a great place.
    I still picture your brothers as the last age I saw them…somewhere around 6 and 8 years old.

  4. Betsy Talbot says

    How cool to meet one of your virtual friends in person! I loved reading about the details of your weekend – it makes it easy for other people to imagine a life of frugality for themselves when they see what it really looks like.

    And your brother sounds like a great guy with fun friends. We live in a 1000 square-foot townhouse and manage to throw parties for 15-20 people on a regular basis (on just one floor!). It can definitely be done, and people who say they need more space for entertaining are not really trying very hard.

    My favorite hostess lives in a space smaller than mine and throws the best parties I've ever been to in my life – and she does at least one dinner party a month!

    I can't wait to meet you later this summer on my road trip through California.

  5. The Non-Consumer Advocate says

    It was also great to meet you in person. Too short an evening though, as I feel we could have chatted all evening.

    Give me a shout out next time you're here and we'll hit the thrift shops together.

    Katy Wolk-Stanley

    "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without."

  6. Angela says

    Compact UK- The great thing was that we weren't even trying to be frugal, those were just the things we wanted to do, so it was effortless. Have a wonderful time in Japan, and don't beat yourself up if it's not entirely frugal- it will be a lot harder there, but what an amazing place to visit. I'm envious.

    Thanks Judy- It's so true!

    Melody- Of course you don't HAVE to cut it that way, but that's how you use the rings to your advantage to end up with small pieces. When I cut it sideways first, I end up with some long pieces. It's hard to explain, that's why it was good to watch someone. I don't watch cooking shows, but some of my best dishes come from watching someone I know make them first.

    Kate- We didn't make it to Powell's this time, but I love that bookstore and will definitely plan an entire afternoon there when I go back with my husband. I can barely remember my brothers at that age, but they were cute! They still are.

    Betsy- My brother IS a great guy! And he has such nice friends. I agree that dinner parties don't require a lot of space, and this was a great one. The food and the company was what was important. Yes, martinis in the groovy kitchen- can't wait!

    Katy- Yes, I'm sure we wouldn't have had any trouble with an extended evening- yes, I will take you up on that! I feel like I saw Goodwills everywhere we went, but maybe we were just passing the same ones!

  7. Julie says

    Hi Angela—late to the party here, we moved 6 weeks ago and I'm still trying to catch up with my favorite blogs. Your post reminded me of a visit to the Pittock mansion ages ago—probably 30 years ago! We used to visit Portland pretty regularly, as it's only about 3 hours from here in Seattle.
    My favorite frugal thing to do on vacation is people watch: go to a cafe or whatever type of eating establishment you like (preferably one with outdoor seating somewhere in Europe, hah!) and just watch the world go by. You can learn a lot about a place that way. A little eavesdropping, if you can understand the local language, also proves informative! :-)

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