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Free Travel, Yes, Please!

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I previously wrote about the two $650 vouchers Princess and I received for voluntarily giving up our seats on a flight to Texas to visit Gymnast and my parents last summer. The original tickets cost us either $11 or $64 each, I can’t remember now…we had to spend a couple of extra hours at the Dallas airport, but otherwise, were not inconvenienced at all.

But we got $1,300 from American Airlines for the inconvenience and have a year to use them. I used part of one of them to book our Thanksgiving flights to Texas. Score!

I wanted to use them for some of Gymnasts travel, but because he is only 14, American charges a $150 unaccompanied minor fee in addition to the flight charges. And they expire before he turns 15.

Tickets Booked

With expiration looming and not wanting to waste them, I booked an additional 4 roundtrip tickets with our remaining voucher. (And I will still have $160ish dollars left.) Guys, we got 7 roundtrip tickets from our vouchers for those two seats we gave up on one leg of our trip!

With that being said, the 3 of us are going to Chicago for part of Princess winter break. She hasn’t seen her paternal grandparents in almost a decade and has had VERY limited contact with her dad in the last 6 years, plus I will get to see Gymnast in a city I love and History Buff has never been. We have free accommodations and both kids know they have to save their spending money. Score!

Problem Solved

I posted earlier about the issue I was having with when to send Princess to Texas for her week alone with my parents (her first time to request this.) Therefore, we decided to avoid all the issues we are having with the summer, and she will go for her Spring Break.

Gymnast will be coming here for his Spring Break, but again, I didn’t find it economical to use the vouchers for him. But I’m hoping I can use the remainder of the vouchers for his summer travel after he turns 15. The expiration date gets extended by a year as we use them.

I am so freaking excited. Travel is in my blood, I crave it as most people crave breathe. It’s been one of the hardest things to give up. For the past years, it was satisfied with the kids’ competitive sports.

Now if I could only work it out to get some additional travel vouchers, I would be a happy camper! Do you have any cheap…rather FREE travel resources or tips? I really need to stick with free until I get more out of debt.

Still Chipping Away at the Budget

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Hello from a very snowy Nova Scotia! My flight was indeed canceled, which was briefly devastating (until I looked at my work schedule and realized I could shift my vacation a day). Air Canada has been experiencing issues with their new booking system and I was in the thick of that mess. I tried to change my flight well before the storm (and before my flight was canceled) but never got through. Ditto after cancelation. However, I was able to find a new flight myself (no thanks to Air Canada) and I am finally here. Snowfall accumulation is 30 inches (!!!) of snow at my mother’s house. It all came down on Wednesday. 

I’m planning on not spending money. We’re about 20 minutes from town here, so it will be home-cooked meals and quiet nights. 

Financial updates:

I didn’t yet find out what my compensation will be for 2020, which is disappointing. We’ve been waiting for an eternity for department budget approvals at work this year. In the meantime, I’m still working on my personal budget. I feel torn between two ways of handling things:

  • The envelope/jar method: take out cash, put in envelopes, don’t go over.
  • Using all cards and tracking everything by viewing and categorizing each transaction. 

Either way, I’ll have my budget spreadsheet going. I’m fairly averse to envelopes/jars of cash, but I also haven’t given this method a chance. I do like the protection and convenience of cards. Cash can be lost or stolen! I’m curious if there is a possible hybrid method here, too. Jars for categories I need special attention paid to. If I’m being serious though, I need help in all categories. 

I remember first hearing about jars watching a Canadian tv show called Til Debt Do Us Part hosted by Gail Vaz Oxlade (who has recently been in trouble for choice words on Twitter). It looks like it aired in the US as well. A lot of people really swear by this method! But I have questions, like: Where do you keep the envelopes of cash? Do you actually withdraw all of your spending money each paycheck? How does this work with e-commerce being so prevalent in 2020?

I’d really love to hear from readers about this because I am beginning one of these two methods next week.

Next big financial goal

My next big goal is to reduce my monthly fixed expenses. They are out of control. Granted, I am automatically paying more than I need to for a number of expenses, such as my student loan and line of credit. But I also have a number of subscriptions, memberships, and revolving expenses I would like to examine and ultimately limit.

I’m spending today breaking down my budget into categories and I will share the new numbers in my next post, completely transparently. I know I’m getting a decent raise this year, and I plan on keeping the same standard of living I have today. I’ll automatically divert any extra funds to debt or my employer-matched retirement account (which is already being matched to the max at 3%, but I’d like to contribute more).

I know that I need to be disciplined financially or I will never be a homeowner. I’m doing mediocre at best right now. I’m chipping away at debt, not adding any debt, saving regularly. I still contribute to three savings piles each month. But you, the readers, have front row seats to the gratuitous frivolity that also exists in my financial life. I could be paying off debt considerably faster.

I read your comments, and I am really thinking hard about how to apply your feedback. Thank you for reading and commenting while I sort this out!