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Reflection: Four Years Ago Life Was Pretty Crazy


I’ve spent some time reflecting recently – I always do this in the springtime. Generally, I take a little time out of each day and journal some of my thoughts/feelings. I consider how far we’ve come (myself personally and us as a family).

Our lives as a married couple started four years ago. We got married on March 18, 2019, and promptly moved to Atlanta from Charlotte four days later. At the time, my husband had got what seemed like the job offer of a lifetime. So, we canceled our larger wedding plans, got hitched at the courthouse, and moved within two weeks’ time.

When we made the decision to move to Atlanta, we both thought it would be a positive change. However, when we arrived there, we discovered it was anything but that. Not only was my hubby’s dream job not what it seemed to be, but we were also close to being homeless again as soon as we got there. Here’s how it all unfolded…

Discovering The Scam

Before making the decision to move to Atlanta, my husband and I went down to scope out the area. Plus, he would be in charge of running a Porsche shop there. He had to sit down for an interview and get to know more about his responsibilities. Over the weekend that we visited, we both felt like this would be a great opportunity for him. Both of us were also excited to live in a new city too (we’ve always had the travel bug).

After getting back to Charlotte, we told our family and friends that we’d decided to make the move. We set a date for our quick wedding and made our plans to leave.

We were in Atlanta for less than a month when things started going wrong. It was clear that there was something amiss at the shop my husband had been put in charge of. His paychecks were irregular, if they came at all. Eventually, customers started coming to the store asking about the owner and accusing him of stealing their expensive cars.

As it turns out, that is exactly what happened. The owner stole these Porsches, put them on a boat, and sent them to Germany – where he was. He had no intention of coming back and things were going down hill quickly. On top of that, we were staying in his home (as part of my husband’s pay).

When the mail came, we were getting foreclosure notices, along with a lot of other worrisome details. So, I decided to do some background checks on the employer. He was an international criminal and we were stuck living in his home, my husband working for him. At the time, we didn’t have any connections in Atlanta. It was just the two of us. And it was beyond stressful.

One of my husband’s clients came in and they were talking. As it turned out, he had a studio apartment available to rent. We worked it out to at least get out of the owner’s house. However, we were paying $1,300 per month for a 450-square-foot apartment that had bed bugs, outdated appliances, and plumbing problems.

Better than being homeless though!

And Then COVID Happened

My husband found another job in the area and we started making a life for ourselves in Atlanta. We made a few friends and life was improving. As you know, about a year after we got married and moved there, COVID turned the world upside down.

COVID selfie

In Atlanta, COVID restrictions were difficult. Then, the summer of 2020 brought a number of riots to the city. My husband’s shop closed down, he was home with me throughout the day. Things were difficult. In fall of that year, my family in NC needed some help, which had us traveling back and forth to Charlotte a bit.

After some consideration, we both decided moving back closer to home would be a good decision. My mom offered to help with moving costs and that was that. We were back in North Carolina by December 1. Luckily, too, because we found out one month later that we were expecting our first child.

Four Years Later

Things have drastically changed in the last four years. My husband now works from home full-time. We work alongside each other for two very different companies – and I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s great having him home throughout the day and he has a much more fulfilling career. We don’t have to scrape change to buy the things we need and we are making progress towards our goals all the time. It took a lot of hard work to get here, but I couldn’t be happier with how far we’ve come.

All of this to say, if you are standing in the middle of the hellfire that can be life sometimes, hold on. Things can and will get better, especially if you put in the work.

6 Travel Hacks to Save Money While Traveling


Traveling is something I never really did as a kid. I remember one sole trip to Disneyworld as a child, but the rest of our vacation time was spent at home playing outside or visiting family. Even in my own early adulthood, there was very little travel. I had no money to travel and then when I finally got a full-time job, I had no time! But with my Dad’s early-onset dementia and my brother’s untimely death at age 39, I’ve really had a lot of life “stuff” shake me and make me realize that I can NOT put off my dream of travel until the kids are older, or until retirement, or until whatever fill-in-the-blank time has come because I may never get the time.

At Arch Rock in Joshua Tree National Park, February 2023


Travel does NOT have to cost a fortune

Even though I’m committed to fitting in more travel opportunities and experiences, it doesn’t mean I want to break the bank! I’m only interested in traveling within our means, saving up in advance, and paying cash as we go! I don’t consider myself a pro at this point (we’re just really beginning to dip our toes into the travel waters!), but I have learned a few tips I wanted to share and I’d love to learn more tips from others, too! I 100% believe that some travel (when budgeted and done wisely) can co-exist alongside efforts to get out of debt. Life is about balance, folks!

1. Set a budget and stick to it

This seems so simple, but I think so many people plan a trip based on the destination and/or the experiences and don’t think about price until they see their credit card bill at the end of the trip. I do the exact opposite. I set a budget and save up for a trip well in advance. That way when I’m planning everything (places we’ll stay, things we’ll do, places we’ll eat), I have the budget in mind and I know if we splurge on one thing, we’ll need to cut back someplace else. This keeps expenses from spiraling out of control and I’m pretty good about coming in under budget at the end of the trip!

2. Pack your own food

One of the key places where we often try to save is in the food department. When our family went to California in February, I had planned and brought food for 3 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 1 dinner, plus snacks. We still got to eat out some, but we’d pick a good dinner spot and save leftovers for lunches the next day and really stretched our dollars. Sometimes the trip is about food (e.g., when we went to Vegas last year, it revolved around eating at different restaurants), but if the trip is more about the experience, then it’s wise to save money on the food!


I splurged on a Mickey Macaroon at Disney (100% worth it!!), but we ate microwavable oatmeal cups packed from home for breakfast and made PB&J sandwiches to eat for lunch while in the park. Did you know Disney lets you bring in food? They do! Take advantage!

3. Use credit card points to pay for hotel and/or airfare 

Last year I took the plunge to upgrade my normal credit card to a travel rewards credit card. I do NOT recommend credit cards for folks who are drowning in credit card debt. But I like to use them to earn rewards, and then pay them off in full each month. My previous credit card also had rewards, but I’d keep getting these $25 gift cards to Home Goods or Old Navy – nothing that really excited me or pushed the needle too much. But my current travel credit card has been amazing! I used it to book my hubby’s flight to Nashville next month (my flight is covered by work), so it cost $0 out of pocket. And for our California trip last month, I used it to pay for 2 nights of our hotel, which helped dramatically with cost savings. I earned some points just for signing up, and I referred my hubs, and earned points when he signed up as well.

If anyone else is interested, consider signing up with my referral link (I get some extra points, but there’s a huge 75,000-point sign-up bonus for new users right now, too).  I had never leveraged travel rewards cards before, but am really excited about the benefits and plan to keep using them! A hotel or flight is waaaaay better than the occasional $25 gift card, in my opinion!

 4. Purchase through a cost-saving service

I’ve found that sometimes we can get better savings when we book through a serve or agency. For example, my husband and I booked through Costco Travel when we went on our honeymoon and saved compared to the same trip when I’d priced it out myself. Travel agents also often include some type of perks. For example, this summer my mom has generously paid for our family to go on a cruise. She paid the cost of the cruise – which is bulk – and we are paying our own way for excursions, gratuities, and any add-ons. She booked through a travel agent and even though the price is the same as had she booked through the cruise directly, the travel agent promises upgrades like chocolate-covered strawberries and champagne in the room upon arrival, etc. So even if there isn’t a monetary advantage, there may be other perks or advantages for the same price.

5. Learn the art of the carry-on

I’m still working on this one! Last year I went to Peru for work and on the way home I missed a connecting flight due to the added time of having to retrieve my checked bag at customs and re-checking it for the next flight. My travel companions only had carry-ons and made it through on time. I have another international work trip this summer, and even though its 10 days long (!!!) I am committed to somehow fitting everything into a carry-on. Not only will it save time and energy, but learning the art of the carry-on will save me money when I travel for leisure with family. I’m going to practice in April when I travel for a work conference. I’d normally pay the $25 bag fee each way(!!!), but I am going to make it all fit into a carry-on. Any tips for this, leave them in the comments!

 6. Leave the kids at home!

Finally, I know not everyone has the luxury of this, but one last tip is to leave the kids at home! Obviously, the more people you’re paying for, the more costly it’s going to be. We have intentionally planned some trips with kids (like when we went to California last month) and some trips without the kids (like when we go to Nashville next month). I share custody with my ex-husband, so we try to plan adult-only trips when the kids are scheduled to be with their Dad. That saves on childcare and allows us a quick getaway when we’re only paying for 2 instead of 4. More importantly, I think it’s healthy and good for spouses to have time alone together to intentionally reconnect without any distractions. So if you are able, alternate trips with the entire family versus with just the adults.

Last year hubby and I did a quick weekend Vegas trip without kids. That trip was all about the food, and our fanciest dinner was in the Eiffel Tower, which we NEVER would have done if we were also paying for kids! And honestly, the food was just okay. I recommend skipping the fancy dinner and just paying to ride up to the top of the tower for the million-dollar views, instead!

Bonus: Double-Dip Business and Pleasure

Again, not possible for everyone, so this is an unofficial bonus, but I’ve talked before about double-dipping business and pleasure travel! My Nashville trip next month is actually for work! I’ll be presenting at and attending a conference from Tues-Fri. Hubby is flying out Thursday night and staying through the weekend, and us traveling back together on Sunday. This helps immensely with travel savings because some of my costs are covered by work. And we get a fun weekend getaway at a fraction of the cost!

Share all your travel tips! How do you save money and still travel? Also, how do you pack 10 days’ worth of clothes (and a mix of business and casual) into a carry-on! I need allll the advice!

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