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The Cost of Travel

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We are in GA visiting my parents (who met us here from TX) for a long weekend.  It is a weekend that I’ve dreaded and greatly anticipated for months now. I had budget $250 for the trip, but in reality it will really only be $100 to cover the gas to get here and home.  So that’s good.

We got a really sad piece of news upon our arrival.  The decision has been made to sell the lakehouse (shared family vacation home owned by my dad and his two siblings jointly, inherited from my grandparents.)  I guess I had in the back of my mind that in April when we leave our tiny space, we could come here for a bit and kind of use it as a base for some travel if we don’t find housing immediately and if I’m still not sure where we will settle.  (Keeping myself open to any possibility.)

And with that news, my fingers have been busy researching travel with family, pets, last minute flights to anywhere, etc.  And I’m curious to know if any readers here have ever traveled for any length of time.  My thought is that by that time my monthly commitment (since rent, utilities will cease to exist) will be quite low.

So I’ve started looking at different ideas:

  • Camping
  • Living in a 3rd world country (met a family this year who spent a year in Panama living on a farm so their kids could learn Spanish, how cool is that?  And they have 10 kids!)
  • Using sites like AirBNB, Kayak and other economic, out of the box travel sites.
  • Just getting in the car and going with no set plan or destination

I don’t really know.  I like the idea of taking a break from “real” life these days and especially right now as I am wrapped in the many mixed emotions I deal with being around my parents.  Obviously there is alot of time before anything will be settled and even more so, there are tons of details I would have to address to make any of this happen.

But I’m just wondering, has anyone ever traveled for a few weeks/months and what was your experience?  I’ve found some families who do this and blog about it so I’m checking there too.  Do you have any blogs like that you follow or recommend?

This is in no way shape or form a plan for the future, just me exploring options and being prepared for whatever opportunities may present themselves.


An Anniversary of Sorts

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This month celebrates a year with no regular child support.  I was trying to remember just how much he had contributed this year since he warned me that he would not be able to help last Sept/Oct.  I think over the last 12 months I’ve gotten right at $1000 total in support.

While this definitely created a burden and we had to cut back a bit, we did it and we thrived.  One of my goals back in November was to become independent of it and the twin’s adoption assistance.  And I’m proud to say that I think I’ve met it and exceeded it.

By picking up the two classes at the homeschool co op I was able to pay for the kids’ classes. And by living on last month’s income and picking up extra work here and there, I was able to buy each of the kids some new school clothes (a must for the littles since they still out grow everything every year and a blessing for the twins since they are primarily responsible for their own clothing purchases) and school supplies.

So today I am grateful that we continue to thrive despite unexpected financial down turns, for continued work at times when the “extra” is needed most and for this blogging experience that has continued to keep me in check and on a smart path financially.


Cheap(ish) Birthday Day-Date

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It feels like months have already passed, but hubs’ turned the big 33 the first week of August.

I don’t talk a lot about our relationship on the old bloggy, but given the celebration over his birth I just want to brag on him a minute.

First, he’s a worker. Always has been. When, in this day and age, it seems like everyone is trying to avoid work in favor of the next big “get rich quick” scheme, hubs actually enjoys working. Instead we have the OPPOSITE problem – it’s hard to get him to take a day off!

With all my Dad’s health issues, my last minute trips out-of-state for doctors’ appointments, and starting back to work full-time, hubs has stepped it up BIG TIME! He’s never once complained when I’ve asked him to grab the girls from preschool so I could stay to work late, or when I’ve left him by himself to care for the girls while I’ve flown to be with my Dad. He’s helped out with cleaning and laundry around the house. A little secret is that I’m a terrible ironer. So hubs’ faithfully irons all my work clothes for me so I’m looking pressed and sharp at the office!

I could go on, but we’ll leave it at that. The point is that I really wanted to do something to make hubs feel extra special for his birthday this year, but I didn’t want to spend a lot of money to do it.

A few months back I started thinking of ideas for hubs’ birthday. What could I do that he really enjoys that doesn’t cost a ton of money? He’s not a big “dinner and movie” type of guy. There’s nothing he really needs right now – no clothing, no cologne, etc. I’ve done the homemade picture/craft gifts before. Then it hit me.

Hubs has a small collection of guns. Me, on the other hand….I’ve never shot a gun. In fact, they kind of scare me. Ours are all locked safely away but I’ve made comments before about how if we ever did have a home invasion, I’d be more likely to shoot myself than the robber! Hubs has tried to convince me to go to the gun range with him, but it’s just not something I’ve really cared about and I’ve never made it a priority. Before having kids it would have been easier, but now it requires special planning, paying a babysitter, etc. And I just didn’t think it was worth the effort.

Soooo, why not schedule a little day-date to go to the gun range so hubs could shoot his guns and he could show me a little about gun safety/handling/shooting, too?

So that’s just what I did!

I started off by lining up a babysitter (which was the most expensive part of this date, by the way).

Then a few days before the date I decided I needed to tell hubs what was going on. He loves surprises so I hated that I’d have to tell him in advance, but there are different shooting ranges for different types of guns and I wanted to let him pick which gun(s) to use and I needed enough time to be able to go buy some ammo for whichever gun(s) he selected. So to try to still make it fun and exciting I decided to make a scavenger hunt. I wish I would’ve taken pictures of the clue cards but I didn’t even think about it! Basically, I had everything set out so he saw the first clue as he walked in the front door. All the clues were about things related to going to the gun range (e.g., one clue said we’d need to wear casual clothes and directed him to go to where he keeps his casual clothing for the next clue). The final clue lead him straight to the gun safe and directed him to select which gun(s) he wanted to take to the gun range! He was surprised and very excited for the weekend!

When the weekend rolled around, I had a babysitter come first thing in the morning. We went to the gun range while it was still early so it would be a bit cooler. As it turns out, we already had enough ammo so I didn’t have to buy anything in anticipation of the date. At the gun range I paid for targets and ear plugs. It was a whopping $7 per person. We spent a couple hours there, then went to a good brunch restaurant to eat. After everything was said and done I spent:

$14 – gun range

$26 – brunch (including tip)

$40 – babysitter

Total:  $80

Granted, eighty bucks is the most I’ve spent on a gift (I believe) since we started our debt-reduction journey. But, as I mentioned, the babysitter was the most expensive part. For someone with willing family in town or if trading childcare with someone else was possible, the total gift would have only been $40!! I feel like that was a pretty good price, considering the enjoyment hubs got out of the gift and the quality time we were able to spend with each other (a true rarity now with me back at work full-time!) And, really, we didn’t have to do brunch. So really we’re talking about a birthday gift that was under twenty bucks (considering just the cost of the gun range).

I think it was a good compromise of not going too crazy with cost, selecting something hubs really enjoyed, and getting to spend some fun time alone together.

And now that I’ve practiced, I feel significantly better about the gun in the lockbox by the side of our bed. Don’t mess with me! ; )

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TVs Anyone – Just Comical

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As I previously mentioned, my ex-husband, Little Gymnast and Princess’ dad recently moved across the country.  Also, as previously mentioned, he stopped paying child support last October due to financial troubles of his own.  Hopefully with this move and the promised job, that will change soon, but when it does it will come as a complete blessing and not something I’m banking on. We are NOT going to discuss him anymore, so please don’t start down that road.  Moving on…

Due to his move and his purging, our house is over-run with TVs.  Remember we will in essentially 3 rooms (2 bedrooms and 1 open living space, that is right at 900 square feet.)  We already have 3 TVs.  One in the main living room where we play video games and watch Netflix, one in the boys room for another game console and one small one that sometimes doubles as a computer monitor for laptops and most just stays put up.  What in the world are we going to do with 2 more good sized TVs?

Of course, the kids won’t let me get rid of them since they are from their dad.  And I understand that for now.

But right now, I’m just giggly that with all that is going on and all that we don’t have…here we are a family of 5 with 5 TVs.  We have 3 rooms and 5 TVs.  We don’t even have cable, don’t really watch TV and we have 5 TVs.

Oh, the irony.  So for now, our dining room that will someday house a table is a storage space for TVs.

Sidenote: He actually brought them several things from his home.  Nothing practical or particularly of interest to them.  But in this matter, I guess it truly is the thought that counts, and I know there is something in all this “stuff” that they will hold on to, since they can no longer hold on to him.

 

 


Winning the Lottery

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Winning the Lottery…Boy, wouldn’t that be great!  Do you ever lie around and dream of all the things you would do if you won millions of dollars?  I know, I do, especially when the billboards shout it in your face that the winnings are over over $200 million.  Even the kids have started making “plans” with their fortunes.

So as a fun school activity this week we gambled!  I went and bought a couple scratch off tickets for each child and we played the game.  But even more important then the fun “dream” discussions we had, and hopeful anxiousness as they would scratch off their ticket, were the discussions on chance, and percentages, odds and valuation.

It was so good to hear the thought out discussion as the kids discussed what else could have been with the $10 we spent on the tickets rather than “flushing it down the drain.”  It didn’t quite work out since we ended up $20 ahead in winnings when one $3 scratch off won $30.  But I was proud that the kids all decided to share the earnings and get a treat rather than reinvest and take a chance of losing it.

We finished off the excursion with verbal math problems throughout the day on chance and odds.  They had a blast and what a fun way to do “school” this week as we review all our computation rules as we get ready to dive into Geometry for the year!


My Thoughts About My Month Off

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I hope everyone is having a fantastic start to their week, even after the bad news we all got (Ashley’s Father). Ashley- if you’re reading this, my heart goes out to you and your family during this time.

Writing this post seems pretty trivial after this weekend, but now it’s nearing the end of my month off from paying off any debt, I want to provide everyone with my what my feelings have been during this time:

  • I felt like I had more money than ever before. Which was true- I’ve never been able to spend like I spent this month without incurring extra. And even with this fact in mind, the money is all gone, sorta- I put $500 into my savings.  But I can plainly see how people’s expenses can grow to meet their income, and it a lot of cases, exceed their income, without a good deal of oversight.
  • I felt good spending the money. It was awesome (and greatly needed) that I bought new clothes. It felt good to be able to spend “freely” in Disney. We’ve certainly enjoyed eating out and going for ice cream and the other activities we did that we normally wouldn’t have.
  • But I don’t want to make it a habit. I had a ton of money to spend, I spent it, it felt pretty good spending it, but I don’t want to make it a habit. In the short term- I have the goal of paying off debt while saving as much as I can for retirement. In the long term, I may be debt free, but I don’t want to live with a mountain of stuff only because I’ll have the money available. I think this may be obvious to a lot of you that I wouldn’t want to end up this way after spending so many years tackling this debt, but I want to reiterate it here for my own peace of mind after all the spending I did this month. It was a fun month but not the lifestyle I want to live.
  • And at the end I’m no happier than I was. At the end of this month, with all the money I spent, I didn’t leave this month any happier than it began. It may be because I still have a mountain of debt to payoff, or it may be because after all the “stuff” I bought, it couldn’t buy me happiness, just like the cliche saying. The Disney trip made me unbelievable happy and I’ll always have those memories- but it was over in an instant and we we’re back to everyday lives, albeit with some added post-Disney depression.
  • However, it did make me ready to go again for more payoff. I think this was the biggest outcome I got from the month off. TBH- I was feeling very mentally drained towards the end of June, which I think you could all tell, so this allowed me a little bit of R&R. But now, I’m READY to get back into it! Like an athlete that had to sit out a year due to injury, I’m going to hit the next half of my payoff with a full head of steam, (while still having that oh so important life/payoff balance :))

What are your thoughts concerning my month off? Have you done anything similar? Was it worth it or did you regret it? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll have one more week of my month off (but I pay my mortgage this week, so it won’t feel like it), at which point I’ll be back with my weekly debt updates and my month ending reviews.

Have a great rest of your week!


Education Excitement

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*THIS IS NOT FINANCE RELATED, so if that doesn’t interest you, skip it.

I’m not sure how much I’ve shared on here about the twins education, and I won’t go too far, but we have reached a HUGE milestone and I am so proud of them and their hard work.

A little background…

When the twins were placed with me, 2 weeks before their 13th birthday, it was quickly discovered that while they were avid readers and their reading comprehension was way above level.  Their writing skills and math skills were horrid — and that is not an exaggeration.  Within the first year, I had them evaluated via the schools and their levels were early elementary school or below…this was in 7th grade.

Of course, as a homeschooler I wanted to pull them out and get to work, but that was not allowed, nor would have been wise since the goal for those first two years they were here was for them to be able to return home.  So we started doing remedial work at home along with their public school work.  And we made a little headway, but as a mom, it was like pulling teeth.  I know it was extra work for them and they were really not used to school being so important.

Ok, so fast forward, 9th grade, the year they were adopted I was able to pull them out and we got busy.  A wonderful woman at our homeschool co op really worked with me and tutored them, I continued doing weekly math with them. Etc.   I think you get the picture…lots of hardwork and headaches and failures and triumphs and tears and slamming doors.

So the news…

The twins completed their end of the year testing…using the TerraNova test for those of you who are interested.  (Also, an FYI, we order standardized tests from Seton Testing, so these are the same tests that are given in public schools for those not as familiar with homeschooling.) We did the complete battery and across the board both twins are on or above grade level with the exception of math.  EVERY SINGLE SUBJECT, we are caught up!  And for math, they are both now solidly on a high school level.

These boys have literally caught up on 12 years of math in just 2 years of hard work.  Super proud mama here!  And History Buff worked so hard last year, that there is a solid chance that he could graduate early.

We will be tackling Geometry this year, so wish us luck.  We are getting started this week with hopes of completing the school year by the end of April again.

I hope you will celebrate with me, these boys have worked SO HARD and OVERCOME so much and I couldn’t be more proud.