Money Mistake Monday – Not Buying A Plug-In Cooler Earlier.

Since this is a very recent purchase, I cannot say that I knew about this money mistake until just last week…but now I know I should have done it a long time ago! Before we left on our week-long yurting trip up north, we decided to look around to see how much a cooler would be that you could plug into both your car’s cigarette lighter and a regular old wall socket. We figured that if we could get one both big enough to bring food and drinks with us on the trip and that would survive days without needing ice, it would be worth every penny. And after looking around for a few days before we left, we settled on a big Coleman cooler/heater combo unit from REI.

This is what is called a “thermoelectric cooler”, which keeps cold food 40° below the ambient temperature and hot foods at 110°F to 140°F. So if the temp in your car never goes over 70°, the items in the cooler would stay at 30° – and since we were driving north to Big Sur, the temperature was guaranteed to never go that high. In fact, it never really went above 60° the entire time we were gone, so it worked perfectly.

So before leaving for the trip, we stopped at the grocery store and picked up peanut butter, bread, cheese sticks, yogurt, juice, carrots, some fruit, and a few other things we figured would enable us to not stop for food along the way and to avoid eating out every meal while staying in the yurt. It worked perfectly and we even had food left over! The only meals we paid for were 2 dinners – everything else we ate right out of the cooler. We had it plugged into the lighter socket the whole time we were in the car, and when we got to the resort we just unplugged it, brought it into our yurt, plugged in the AC converter, and we had a fridge inside our yurt stocked full of food. I cannot believe we never bought one of these earlier.

The cooler itself was $99, but I had a 20% coupon for REI because I am a co-op member, so it really was only $80. Add in the converter I picked up at Target on-sale for $12, and for $92 I now have a fridge and/or oven I can take with me everywhere. This one time outlay of less than $100 is going to save us a ton of money that we normally spend on eating out while on the road or on vacation. Plus, we get to eat healthier foods rather than side-of-the-road snacks that we would probably be getting out of vending machines. If you do a lot of road trips or staying at hotels and would like to save money on eating out, I highly recommend looking into one of these type of coolers. It is definitely money well spent!

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Comments (7)

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  1. Mike says:

    How big is that thing? It looks like a full sized fridge!

  2. David says:

    Its about the size of a regular cooler that you buy anywhere – its not really that big. It’s big enough to bring food for days though!

  3. I’m actually more interested in the adapter. I have a electric air pump that plugs into the cigarette lighter in the car, and I can’t find an adapter so I can plug it in the house. I’m getting tired of hauling my ab ball out to the car to air it up.

  4. david says:

    We got ours at Target on sale for $12, but I also saw them at REI as well.

  5. Tom says:

    That thing looks awesome! My Uncle had built in a cooler in his van and had put installation around the outer edges and you could put a little lid on top. We tried to see how long the ice could last and it lasted up to about 10 days! So, if anyone wants to get even cheaper and has a van, try that little technique 😉

  6. Patrick says:

    I bought a small cooler like that for my car a couple years ago when I was making regular 6-7 hour road trips. It is large enough to fit lunch and drinks for two people. I love it and use it on every road trip over 3 hours or so. I never bought a wall converter though, because I’ve never needed it.

  7. ant says:

    I want one so that I can save money while on vacation- you can buy food at a grocery store and keep it in the cooler in your hotel room (if the room doesn’t have a refrigerator). Not for all the meals, of course, as food is a part of the fun of vacationing- but enough to make a huge difference in the vacation budget.