The Costs of a Trip to Texas


The comments section on this post were all over the place! I’d talked about making a trip back to Texas and about half of you were supportive of the decision….

Yes, a trip back home would be a good thing!

You can’t place a value on time spent with family.

There are no guarantees in life – spend time with your loved ones while you can!

….and the other half of commenters were not. In particular, many people voiced that they thought this was an impulsive and not well thought out decision. And guess what guys…’re right!!!

You are absolutely right that this was a knee-jerk reaction to having just seen my family and being dissatisfied with our visit (not the visit itself, mind you, but the lack of time I actually got to spend with my family). I was sad and mopey and my husband caved and agreed we could go back to our hometown (Austin) for a visit.

But after reading your comments (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: thank you for all of your comments – particularly the dissenting opinions! You give me a different perspective and force me to examine my thought process and behavior), I’ve decided an analysis of costs is in order.

But before I dive into the analysis, let me give you a little info on the timing of this visit so you have a fuller scope of information. First, we’ve decided not to go back for Thanksgiving. It’s simply too soon and we need a good solid month of work (for the hubs in particular) to try to build up some cash reserves. So Christmas time, it is. Several people suggested waiting until the Spring so we could visit at a non-peak travel time. Unfortunately, Spring doesn’t work as well with husband’s business. No one (very few people) wants to get his or her floors done during the holidays. It’s messy and dirty and costly and people just don’t want to deal with it. But as soon as the holidays end, the Spring season gets busy! So it makes sense for us to go during the holiday time because it’s already a time that’s slow anyway so there’s less of a missed opportunity cost in terms of missed income. In contrast, there’s a HUGE missed opportunity cost in the Spring because being gone for 7-10 days could translate to a missed job that would have netted us a thousand dollars or more! It’s not a chance we want to take.

So here’s my trip cost analysis:

Gasoline would be the biggest expense in this trip. In the past, my Mom has generously helped us to offset some of the gas costs, but I want to do my analysis without this added help because it is not a guaranteed thing.


I did all the math and, as you can see, we’re looking at about $400 in gasoline costs for the trip. Just FYI, at each step of the equation I was making conservative estimates (i.e., conservative estimate for price of gasoline, number of fill ups, miles per gallon, etc.).

The only other costs would be for food and if we decide to stop in the middle and get a hotel for a night.

In terms of the hotel, we should be able to find someplace for $100/night. One overnight on the way to Austin and one overnight on the way back to Tucson = a total hotel cost of $200

I think we could bring snacks and pack a breakfast and plan to only stop for lunch and dinner on the first day; breakfast and lunch on the second day. I would estimate these costs at about $60 (x 2 for the round trip = a total food cost of $120.

Here’s a summary for everything included:

Gasoline = $400

Hotel = $200

Food = $120

Total Expense = $720

All of these estimates are on the conservative side and there are so many ways that we could try to bring these expenses down (e.g., pack lunches so we only have to eat out for dinner; do something similar to our Utah trip and only stay in a hotel one-way, while opting to drive straight through the other way). If we work hard, and particularly if we end up being gifted with some gasoline money, I would think we can make the full round-trip for $500 or less.

A few people said not to travel at Christmas because we would then have to purchase gifts that we might not otherwise. This isn’t true in our case. Our families tend to shower the kiddos with gifts, but not as much with the adults (which is as I prefer it) so there’s not an expectation of gifts. Plus, we have an (albeit meager) Christmas fund, so we have some money saved up for any expenses that arise. This aside, anything we do while in Austin would come out of our regular budget. If we’re there for a week, for instance, we would use our grocery budget that week on food and/or entertainment while in Austin. In this way, we’re not saving money (which would, of course, be nice) but at least we’re not spending over and above our regular budget.

So there you have it.

I know many will still say that this is not a wise idea and should wait a few months. It’s fair for us to have differing opinions. But what I want to take from this is that I have really thought through all of the expenses and know in advance what type of investment we’ll be looking at. I’m a little embarrassed to say that we have NEVER EVER done this in the past! Even with our Utah trip this summer – we just kind of go and “wing it.” This is the first time I’ve sat down ahead of time to do some research and really figured out the costs of things up front. It seems so obvious and, yet, it’s just not something I’ve ever bothered with.

So this has been another learning lesson for me. Even for those who remain steadfast that this trip should not be happening, I hope you take some solace in the fact that you still rubbed off on me at least a little. Maybe I didn’t take your advice 100%, but now I’m not entering into this trip blindly. Instead of it simply being an impulsive knee-jerk reaction to being homesick, I’ve taken the time to really think things through on a financial level and to weigh the pros and cons ahead of time.

For that, I thank you!

How do you budget for travel when you go out of town?

The Part Time Job


I’ve bitten off more than I can chew…so this past weekend I resigned my part time job, and I felt horrible about it.  One because I really enjoyed just getting out of the house and my typical routine and being around other adults and just doing mundane tasks that I didn’t have to bring home.  Oh, and the bi-weekly deposits into my newer emergency fund were nice.

I went in for what I assumed would be my last day this past Friday, and realized just how much I appreciate and respect my boss there.  She is rock steady, a micro manager without being a micro manager and I didn’t want to lose that relationship I’ve started to build with her.  I didn’t want to quit.  So I let her know the circumstances and offered to just come in on Fridays and do project work.  And she took me up on it!

So what was a part time job, is now really only going to be a few hours per week, but I think it’s a good compromise and I’m glad it worked out for both of us.

Since this money really only funded my EF it won’t really affect my  debt payoff journey, but will continue to contribute to my baby steps to become more financially sound in the long run.  Baby steps!

Making Do: Family Picture


Full disclosure:  I actually wrote this post back in August. I have no idea how/why I forgot about it until now, but I wanted to publish it as part of my “making do” series (see others here, here and here). So, as you read, sorry about the dated language (i.e., I mention October being “almost a year ago” when….clearly its been a full year at this point since last October, lol). At any rate, enjoy!

The first week of preschool the teacher sent notes home with our girls asking for us to bring a recent family photo to school for a special project. It turns out that the kids used the pictures to draw their own versions and each was hung on the wall side-by-side for parents to see.

You should have seen the photos that the other parents had sent with their kids. They were beautiful! All professionally done family portraits that I’m sure will be held onto and looked back on for years to come.

Us? We’ve only had 2 professional photos done with the girls in their whole lives. The first was a “newborn” photo shoot (I say “newborn” in quotations because the girls were born very prematurely, so they spent the first month of their lives in the NICU. As a result the newborn shoot that is usually done in the first week of life was actually done when they were 3 months old).

The second professional photo was taken last October at the Sears studio (using a Groupon) for our family Christmas card.  I suppose that was recent enough, though its nearly a year old at this point and we’re all wearing our “Sunday best” in a very posed position, so I wasn’t fond of using it as our “recent family photo.”

Instead I decided to select a photo that my mother-in-law had taken with her iPhone when she was in town visiting last month. We had gone to a local ostrich farm and let the girls feed the animals. In the photo, Chris and I are each holding a girl and there are ostriches all behind us.

There are so many imperfections about that photo:  we’re all hot and sweaty, Chris and I are wearing sunglasses, and the girls aren’t even facing the camera. But its the real “us.” And I love it.


I don’t have a digital copy of the family photo since my MIL had sent us a printed version only, but enjoy this photo of Bailey from the same day at the Ostrich farm.

I’m so glad that we used this for our recent family photo.

We’ll have our turn to get professional photos down the road. Right now I’m putting more monetary value on trying to find us a reasonable kitchen table to accommodate our whole family. Professional photos really aren’t making the top of the list. And you know what? We’ll survive just fine.

Hey now, remember that goal to get a suitable kitchen table to accommodate our whole family? Wow, almost forgot all about that! Needs to happen ASAP!

Modified Money Envelope System


Well the month is almost over and I wanted to report on how my modified money envelope system has gone.

Remember, I decided to do a modified money envelope with only 2 categories: groceries and eating out. Instead of a traditional envelope I used the two compartments in my wallet and designated one for each of these purposes.

How did it go?

Well, as with anything new, I think there were a bit of some growing pains.


There’s really only one. Because the money was stored in my regular wallet (instead of a big, bulky envelope), at the beginning of the month I would sometimes forget it was there! Twice I went to the grocery store and paid with a debit card out of habit, then got out to the parking lot and face-palmed over not using my cash!! This was frustrating and annoying to try to reconcile with the cash I had on hand (by subtracting odd dollar amounts when I didn’t have correct change, etc.). Just a bit of a learning curve as I tried to re-learn to use CASH ONLY instead of debit.


I really, really paid attention to that money dwindling! These are categories that I usually go over on and this month I basically told myself that this cash was all I have in the world (even though we obviously have more money in the bank). So when the money started running low I had to get creative with making meals at home and using ingredients we had on hand. Instead of just putting it on debit and worrying about how I’d gone over budget later, I was forced to really work with ONLY the cash that I had allotted to these categories, no more.

Overall, I think the system worked great! After learning to spend my cash instead of automatically defaulting to debit, I didn’t have any problems. I’m definitely going to keep it up next month.

One potentially negative in terms of my grocery budget……I don’t know how but last month and this month I’ve run out of money well before the month was over. In both cases I’ve been forced to eat out of our freezer and pantry. That’s all well and good and helped me from going over our grocery budget. BUT, our freezer and pantry are both looking pretty darn bare right now. Our freezer, in particular, has rarely been so low on food! I’m hoping that with Thanksgiving next month I’ll be able to stock up on a lot of sale-priced meat (turkey is at a once-a-year low in November); and on the bright side of things, I have the room in my freezer to spare fore stocking up on some meat and other freezable food. However, I’m going to have to get crafty on how to stock up since I still don’t want to increase my grocery budget. That will be a challenge for next month. Fun times!


The House


My house sold!  The signed contract isn’t in hand yet, but we got the offer on Monday and on Thursday we came to terms.  It will close next month.

What a total and complete blessing!

For those of you into numbers, this means the house sold in 1 week and we got almost what we asking for it.  I have no idea what this means for me monetarily, and am not ready to ask my dad that question but in terms of psychology and stress, this has lifted a huge burden off my shoulders.  Now I can look forward without worrying about how my decisions affect anyone but me and my kids.

Thank you for all your support and encouragement and even gentle nudges to do better as I walk this path.

I will be posting a new budget this week, but in reality it won’t really take affect until December since I need to finish paying bills from getting the house ready, etc.  More on that later…just wanted to share this exciting news.

The Year of Becoming an Adult


Hubs and I have been talking a lot about different life things lately.

This year has been a big turning point for our family. We’ve really committed to the decision to get rid of our debt and we’ve made huge improvements in this area (yes, we still have an enormous amount of student loan/medical debt, but we’ve eradicated all credit card debt and drastically slashed our license fee debt, while also lowering our interest rate and making big progress on our car loan debt).

And as the end of 2014 draws near, we’ve been discussing big goals for next year. After some  discussions, we have decided to declare 2015 The Year of Becoming Adults!!!

Now, this may sound strange. Yes, husband is 32 and I will be turning 31 soon (my birthday is on New Years Eve!), so if you look at age you would certainly think of us as “adults.”

But you guys know all our dirty little secrets. You know we’re not full-fledged adults yet….at least not from a financial perspective.

In 2015 we’re hoping to change that!

Right now (and through March 2015 – one full year of blogging), I am going to stay steadfast in putting every extra dollar toward debt. I’ve talked before about how at that time I might reassess things and move at a bit slower pace. We have decided that with at least some of our “extra” money (currently put toward debt), we are going to make some big strides toward becoming more adult.

  1. First, we’re going to make a will. This is not going to be fun and I am not looking forward to it. Part of the reason we decided to make 2015 the year-of-adulthood is because I don’t want to deal with this type of paperwork as the holidays approach (maybe not an adult way to handle the situation but, hey, I’m working on it).
  2. Second, husband will get life insurance (hopefully!). I have my life insurance all in place, but we have had a LOT of struggles with getting him insured. After some talking, we’ve decided to put it on hold right now. Hubs’ medical mystery illness (discussed here) occurred at the end of 2013 so we want to get past the 1-year mark, hoping that this will make a difference and improve our chances of getting him covered. We’re also probably going to go with a different company than the one we’ve been dealing with, but we’re still looking into options.
  3. Third, we’re going to open retirement accounts. You may recall that after we paid off our last credit card I created a new savings category called “savings for Roth IRA.” So I already semi-started this by at least setting money aside on a monthly basis. In 2015 we’ll actually open an account and get this all started on an official basis.
  4. Finally, we’re going to open college savings accounts for our girls. We haven’t talked exact numbers yet (regarding #2 and #3), but at least some money will be set aside monthly (probably in a 529) as a college fund for each of our children (we have 2).

I know this all flies in the face of a Dave Ramsey-eque model of debt eradication.

For any who are unfamiliar, Dave suggests having only a $1,000 emergency fund while working on eradicating debt. He also advocates stopping contributions to retirement and kids’ college accounts while in debt reduction-mode.

Honestly, though, the idea of not doing these things (i.e., saving for retirement especially, and putting at least some money aside for college) scares me. We just came up with our grand 2015 vision and haven’t talked numbers yet. Plus, its difficult to talk numbers when our income is so variable and I’m on the job market and could potentially have a big change in income in the coming year. This is something we’ll have to sit down and discuss at length in the coming months.

But numbers aside, I just wanted to let you guys know about our plans. I know these thoughts and ideas are going to ruffle some feathers because the goal of this blog is debt-eradication and switching gears from full steam ahead to a lower gear of debt-reduction is not necessarily a popular decision.

I haven’t decided what I’ll do come March 2015 in terms of blogging. I love the support and advice I get from you all and if readers are interested in me continuing at that point (with the knowledge that debt reduction would be done at a slower pace) then I may continue to write and contribute. But I don’t want to upset readers and/or cheapen the mission of this site in any way by taking sole focus off of debt-reduction.

We’re not at that point today so it’s not as if any big decisions need to be made right now. I just feel like I want to be honest and open with you all, as you have been so supportive of me on this journey. I want you to know where it and I, as a person, are headed.

Do you have any big goals or resolutions for 2015? What financial goals are you currently striving toward?