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Post Disney Vacation Update


I’m back! And I’m feeling awesomely relaxed and ready the talk about my trip:

We left for Disney (via car- we decided to drive, as GF has an airplane phobia) on Thursday July 9th @ 8PM. The weekend prior, GF had stocked up on a ton of snacks, fruits, veggies and deli meat to make subs. We grabbed a large cooler from GF’s mom and filled it with pasta salad, fruit salad, subs (1 each for both of us for breakfast) a pack of bottled water, some fruit flavored waters and apple sauce. We filled the backseat of our car with our bags and all the other snacks.

A couple weeks before we left, GF and I came to a pretty reasonable deal- for the actual drives, she would pay for whatever food we needed (at the time, I figured this would be gas station fare) and I would pay for all the gas. I have to give it to GF, she saved a TON of money couponing, finding deals, and putting together the food for the cooler. As for the gas, there was really nothing I could do. The costs for gas on the way down came to $172.12. The costs for the drive up haven’t come in yet (why to gas stations take forever to debit your account?), but I’m assuming they’ll be roughly the same as the drive down. And then once we were in the parks, we’d (roughly) split costs as we’d go.

I would be lying if I said the ride down wasn’t tough (the ride up was even tougher), but having the food packed and ready to go made it a whole lot easier. The fruit salad didn’t last long (we ate it within a couple hours of leaving), followed by the pasta salad. Unfortunately, when it came time for breakfast, the ice in the cooler had melted and completely water logged our subs (which we wrapped in Saran wrap, not thinking about the ice water), so we stopped into McDonald’s to hold us over until we got to Orlando, which was at 1PM the next day.

I want to talk a lot about costs while we were there since they’re so intimately tied to everything we did. The biggest costs in any vacation were already covered for us:

  • My parents are in the Disney Vacation Club, so the room was covered in their membership
  • The Disney Dining Plan (their form of a meal plan, which covered 1 snack, 1 counter service meal and 1 table service meal each day of your trip) and the Disney Park tickets were covered by my parents. This is something that has eaten way at me since they told me they would pay for it. Originally, I wasn’t going to go on vacation with the family, as I wanted to be “a grown up” and pay my own way if I could, but of course, with the debt payoff plan, I couldn’t afford it and wasn’t going to burden my parents with having to pay our way. They convinced to come by saying they would handle the big expenses in order to have the family together and be able to celebrate my new nephew and their 1st grandchild together. Do I regret saying yes to going? Kind of (for not paying for it myself), but not really. We (and the family) had a fantastic time and I know my parents don’t begrudge me for paying for us, plus I know I’ll be able to get them back one of these days.

We probably could have got by with not paying anything else, but that wasn’t the point of my month off and going on vacation- I ended up spending $358.82 and GF spent $125.00. (Note- GF actually spent about the same as me but for a good part of our time in Disney, I only brought my wallet with me so she wouldn’t have to carry hers. Hence, a number of her purchases went onto my debit card and she gave me the $125.00 for the purchases she made on it). This is actually a whole lot less than I thought I would spend. Here’s the breakdown of how we spent the money:

  • $91.13 was spent on food outside of the dining plan. This included a lunch I got for GF and I in  Orlando prior to getting to the resort. For those of you who never tried- I’m enamored with Sweet Tomatoes, which is a salad buffet/vegetarian chain. GF loves salads, so I wanted to take her here since we don’t have any within 1,000 miles of here.
  • $123.47 was spent on booze- either for myself, GF, someone in the group, or the group as a whole.
  • $148.64 was spent on gifts for people other than us
  • $120.58 was spent on souvenirs for ourselves. What this consisted of was a Terror of Tower themed Clue game (we love board games, especially on weekend nights), a hanging 3-tiered picture frame and some glassware and coffee mugs (I like to collect coffee mugs).

The vacation was amazing and was worth every penny, especially to see family I haven’t seen in some time. It made me contemplate the potential of buying into the DVC, myself, when the time comes (many years down the road).

As for the drive up- it was long and tiring. We left the resort around noon on Thursday July 16th and didn’t get into Erie until 1 PM the following day. I have to be honest- I didn’t take anyone’s advice for the drive back. 1) We didn’t stop at a supermarket to get any food for our cooler 2) We didn’t stop over night at a hotel. Looking back, it was pretty dumb not to do these things, but we really wanted to have dinner in Savannah, GA to get a look at the city and I didn’t want to spend the money on a hotel, when I could sleep in my own bed if we pushed through the night. We ended up sleeping in my car for 3 hours around midnight to get some rest, which may have only made us feel worse. If and when we make this trip again, I’ll definitely have these mistakes in the back of my mind.

If anyone wants more specifics on our trip- where and what parks went to, how we battled the heat, how we tackled the large crowds, etc… feel free to ask me in the comments!

Month in Review- June 2015


Hey Everyone! I hope you’re all having a great week.

It’s July 2nd, so that means it’s time for a month in review. June went by in a flash, didn’t it? The summer months always seem to fly by so fast.

Since I didn’t post on Tuesday, I want to share a couple of items that happened over the weekend:

  • The same couple that I went out with earlier in June, invited me and GF out again; this time for dinner AND a movie (BTW- Jurassic World is AMAZING). I happily said “Yes!” but it also broke my “fun” budget for the month, which I carried $50. It wasn’t a big deal since my buddy asked me earlier in the week and I was able to budget for the dinner and movie out of my paycheck vs. having to dip into my emergency fund. I’m just really excited that I don’t have to say “No” to everything anymore.
  • I didn’t have a debt update to share since my last paycheck of the month is delegated to paying my mortgage and some other smaller bills. If I didn’t have any plans during this week, I could normally set aside $70-80 for a debt payment. Since I went out to dinner instead, I made no debt payment this week.

As for June, there was a lot that happened, so to review:

  • Firstly, now that most of my smaller debts are paid off (with only one more to go below $10,000) I had an internal struggle (The Hard Wins) on how to deal with the the fact that the payoffs are going to be few and far between now.
  • The day after my “Hard Wins” post, I increased my 401k contribution from 4% to 10% (which I mentioned in the comments of that same post). Update: I think this was a wise decision. For one- I haven’t noticed much of a difference in my take home pay. It ended up being about a $60 difference, but it’s definitely not hurting my ability to pay my bills. Plus, it’s awesome to see my retirement account grow so much faster!
  • In the following post (Time Off), I decided to use the month of July as a vacation from paying off debt to both enjoy my vacation to Disney and clear my head so I can hit August refreshed and ready to go. Update: vacation is only 7 days away (yay!) and this Wednesday’s paycheck marks the first paycheck in a LONG time (if ever) where I didn’t have to make a debt payment. I’m using all the extra  money to buy myself some new clothes and to stock up on supplies (more on this on Tuesday)
  • I went out for dinner and drinks with a with an awesome couple, in which my “fun” fund came in really handy (here) and was most definitely worth it.
  • In this post (Birthday Party), I went to a good friend’s son’s 1st birthday party. Since I started an ESA account, I figured I give the gift of some cash for my buddy to start one of his own for his son.
  • In the same post, we began our planning for Disney. Since we are driving down, a lot of you had some great ideas our how to make our trip as fun and as frugal as we can. We’ve incorporated many of the ideas into our plan as we want to spend as little money as we have to on our drive down and then back up.
  • Lastly, we had a little Father’s Day celebration (Father’s Day) where GF did some amazing little things for me, as I am the father to our kids (lol, they’re dogs). We also started cementing our Disney plans and GF used her couponing skills to get us a whole bunch of goodies on the cheap.

As for my debt paydown, no big milestones met this month, but I still paid off $1,592.21. Down to a balance of $48,466.83. Not my best month, but not my worst, either.

Hope everyone has a great holiday!

Dad’s Health and Job Update


I’ve got good news and bad news. Which do you want first?


Good choice. Let’s just get it out of the way.

The trip my sister and I just took to be with my Dad for some scary appointments was met with mixed results. The specialist wasn’t convinced of the preliminary diagnosis my Dad had been given by another doctor. He’s scheduled appointments for additional tests and has ordered additional scans be done. My overwhelming feeling about this is disappointment. Although it does offer a sliver of hope, I feel in my gut and my heart that I know where this is headed and its not good. I wish we could have received a conclusive diagnosis and began to make some plans for the future. Without an official diagnosis, however, we’re stuck in a bit of a holding pattern. My sister and I have arranged for someone to accompany my father for his remaining tests and we plan to make a return trip when the diagnosis is officially being handed down. Not sure yet the exact time-frame for when this trip will take place, but certainly sometime this summer. On the bright side, my Dad did indeed give us money to reimburse the costs of the flight. I still incurred a few additional costs (e.g., I had to park at the airport instead of being dropped off due to the flight schedule, so I paid for airport parking and a couple of fast-food type meals while I was out of town). Nothing too major in the grand scheme of things. I’m certainly thankful that the largest expense (the $425 flight) was covered by my father. I would also be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to thank you all for your thoughts, prayers, and kind words in response to this family crisis we’re dealing with. Please keep those prayers and thoughts of strength and courage coming our way. This has been an incredibly stressful time, as I’m sure you can imagine.

Glad that’s out of the way.

Now, onto something good.

While I was out of town I received a call from the dean of the department where I just had an interview last week. It was so bizarre! In the voicemail message the dean literally said, “I’d like to meet and see if this will work so we can offer you the position.” So, I take this to mean that we’ll be discussing salary and job duties a bit more, but I’m officially being offered the position as long as we can come to terms. That’s very exciting news for me – my first full time job offer since graduating! I’m still very nervous about the salary negotiations given that the job was posted as DOE (salary depends on experience). I need to make enough money to make it worth my while emotionally and financially to move my daughters into full-time preschool (a huge transition psychologically and practically). I know this is such a random and broad question without additional background information – but what is the lowest amount you would accept if you were in my position? (or maybe a better question is – what salary would you try to negotiate for?) To give some more financial perspective, I think full-time preschool at our new childcare facility will run us about $1300ish/month. Also remember this isn’t just any random job – it’s advertised as only available for people with Ph.Ds. (so taking into consideration the extensive training – and accompanying student loan debt). Also, I’ve never given my precise salary but I’ll give you a range that I make between $30,000-$40,000 working part-time from home teaching my two online classes per semester (3 semesters in a year: fall, spring, and summer). That’s a LOT of money for working part-time. I tell you this to explain that I’m not going to accept an offer of $40,000 for a full-time job when I make nearly that much working from home part-time. Also, this job is not a tenure-track position, which means that if I accept it I’m basically taking myself out of the running for ever moving into that type of job position (limiting my future job options). I know every individual is different, every situation is different, and ultimately I just need to meet with the dean and discuss these concerns to see if I can get a salary offer that I feel comfortable with and that I think adequately compensates me for the work I’ll be doing. But I’d still love to hear your opinions on the matter and if there is a “magic number” you’d try to negotiate for given some of the parameters I’ve outlined above. Oh, by the way, my meeting with the dean is tomorrow (Friday)! So, yeah. Get me those suggestions asap! ; )

One final thing – I still haven’t heard back from the dean of the other department (remember I talked to the department head last Friday and was told the dean would likely contact me the beginning of this week. It’s now Thursday and….crickets over here). Should I reach out to the dean and/or department head and say that I’ve received a job offer from another department? This could help me in negotiations, right? And, honestly, I don’t know enough about the job parameters and responsibilities to know which job I’d prefer (since I’ve now talked with two department heads about two slightly different positions: one as lecturer/online program coordinator; the other as lecturer and academic adviser – though both jobs seem to have some fluidity of the responsibilities and could shift across time).

Lots of things to consider. Thanks for supporting me every step of the way with these two potentially HUGE life changes (e.g., Dad health issues and full-time employment opportunity).

Hugs to all you guys/gals!

Guess Where I Am!


On a trip! Wish I could say it was a trip for “pleasure” (even a trip for business would be good), but no. It’s a trip related to the medical issue I referenced here.

It’s really impossible to keep it vague so I’m going to divulge a few more details while still trying to maintain a level of privacy for the afflicted individual….

My Dad has been given a concerning preliminary diagnosis. He was given a referral for a specialist and told to bring a family member to the appointment. Due to a myriad of personal reasons, my sister and I have decided it best if we both fly out to be there in person. I spent $425 on a plane ticket. My Dad did say he would reimburse our flight expenses. Once there I don’t plan to push the subject (so I’m prepared to simply pay for the flight if needed), but if I’m offered a reimbursement I’ll accept it.

I’m talking in the future tense because I’m writing this in advance, but my flight schedule has me arrive on Sunday afternoon and leave on Tuesday evening. By the time this posts, I’ll be preparing to go to the doctor’s appointment.

Any and all prayers, good vibes, healing energy, or simply thoughts of strength sent our way are appreciated. After baring so much of my financial soul here (and, lets be real…I talk about more than just finances, too) I really feel like you are friends. So I’ll keep you updated on the financial implications of what’s happening in my life (family crises and all), and I’d love for you to keep us in your thoughts and send positive energy our way!

Thank you!!!

Financial Ups and Downs


We already know that this month is tough – emotionally and financially!

Here are the latest happenings in this roller-coaster called life…

Good: I got called to do a campus visit interview for the job I recently talked about. It’s really kind of odd. They told me to pencil in 1-4 on a couple different days and they’d get back to let me know which day works for the committee. Very different than my other interview experiences where I’ve had a full day worth of meetings and activities, complete with detailed itinerary and dinner with faculty. I’m hoping this has more to do with the last-minute nature of this job posting and is not a red flag of a potentially low salary (no salary range was listed in the job posting, it just said DOE. I’m very nervous about a surprise super low salary offer, where we might be too far apart to even negotiate).

Bad: Hubs’ truck was making a super scary noise and not braking correctly so he took it into the shop. We were hoping brakes were the issue (they were recently replaced and are still under warranty), but nope. It was related to power steering (he told me more specifics, but I can’t recount the issues here because I’ve already forgotten the names of the leaking/broken parts). Price tag = $1350. Could not have come at a worse time.

Good: We had nearly $900 in our car repairs saving account! I’m going to pay for the repairs on a credit card so I can buy myself an extra month until it has to be paid (note: I still use the credit card for large purchases for the extra assurances and to earn some credit card rewards points, but I always pay it in full when the bill is due). I’ll be able to put $900 toward it from the money we already currently have and the other $450 will come from next month’s budget (since the bill won’t be due until next month). Wiping my brow, thankful we have that savings to cover the majority of the expense!

Bad: I cannot get my husband into the dentist. Cannot do it. Does anyone have any tips on this? From a logical perspective, he totally agrees he needs to go and should really have better oral hygiene – taking more preventative measures instead of waiting until things hit “crisis” level (aka: root canal) and being hit with a much larger bill. So – that’s not the issue. He “gets” it and he agrees. Part of the issue is work-related. Especially with the lower income he’s been drawing he really wants to focus 100% of his energy on work and not take time off for dental appointments. The other part is more psychological. He hates the dentist. I want him to go to a new dentist (an awesome local family-run office who has cut me deals for paying cash and works with me on price), but he refuses to get another dental x-ray. After his health scare in late 2013 when he had a million medical procedures performed, he’s very aversive to any additional procedures. He’s especially reluctant to have new x-rays done because he thinks he’s going to get cancer from all the exposure. He did try to call and have his dental x-rays transferred from his old office, but they send some file format that can’t be opened by the new dentist. The new dentist would even do it for FREE, so it’s really not a cost thing. It’s all about hubs’ fear of dentist/x-ray/dental work and his reluctance to take any time off work. Suggestions? I’m at a loss.

Good: We were officially accepted to a new preschool starting in mid-August! I will be very sad to leave the JCC. They truly have an incredible program! But I really like the new school too and I will LOVE the close proximity to our house and the lower cost! One caveat is it only operates during the school year (not year-round), so I may still enroll the girls in summer camp at the JCC next summer (which, of course, means summer months will be more costly for childcare since JCC costs more). I do like that as a possible compromise though.

What are some good (or bad) things that have impacted your finances lately?

Something’s Come Up


I’ve written this post several times in my head but have had a difficult time putting it down on paper. First, because it’s a difficult subject to discuss. And second, because while I have tried to be as open and honest with y’all as much as possible in many regards (you all know more about my financial life than just about anyone in my real life except my husband!), I don’t think it’s fair for me to bare all the details about other people’s business.

And so with that being said, I’ll tell you now…something has come up.

A very close family member is experiencing pretty debilitating health issues, the full extent of which has yet to be determined. This was a semi-gradual thing, as I started noticing warning signs and symptoms over a year ago. But in the past few months things have reached the next level.

I don’t know what will happen next in terms of this person’s health (though I hope for the best, my fear is that the incident that brought this all to light is really only the beginning of a long road ahead). But I can tell you, in terms of my finances, that I’ll be incurring some additional expenses I hadn’t previously anticipated.

To be more specific, hubs and I have decided that we are going to be making a trip this summer that was previously unanticipated. In the big scheme of things, this won’t be too costly. We went on a trip this past summer and again over Christmas time. So from that perspective, it falls directly in line with last year’s spending habits. It’s just the fact that we hadn’t thought about or planned to take a trip this summer so its money that would otherwise have gone directly toward debt (not to mention the no-income month of May).

I will also say, with the limited medical information I have at this time (hopefully I’ll learn more soon), I think this could have future financial implications as well. I won’t dive into “what ifs” until more is known, but there is a possibility of future trips as well (not just the one this summer).

Our time is so fleeting here on Earth. Remember back when we had 4 new bloggers and we were doing a weekly Q&A series? One of the questions asked, “What is the hardest sacrifice you’ve made to get out of debt?”

We never did get around to answering that question as a group, but even at that time I absolutely knew my answer: Not living near family. THAT is my biggest sacrifice.

When I was in graduate school my #1 goal in life was to graduate and immediately move back by family. When we had kids (during my last year of grad school), that feeling only intensified. But things change in life. Husband’s business was growing and by the time I graduated in 2013 we really weren’t in a financial position to pick up and move. It just didn’t make sense to leave husband’s income and move to a place where he had none. What would we do? Move back in with parents? That wasn’t a desirable option for either of us. The much more reasonable and undoubtedly financially sound decision was to stay put. Husband keeps working his job, I keep working mine, and we keep chipping away at our debt.

But it was a tough pill to swallow.

During 2009-2010 (our early years in Arizona, before we had kids), my grandfather suffered from a series of health issues. He had 3 strokes – each worse than the one before. He had to have multiple surgeries. He ended up living on-and-off in different rehabilitation clinics so he could regain strength and motor ability following each of his health set-backs. Being so far away during that time crushed me. Not only did I hate not being there for my Grandpa, but I hated not being there for everyone else, too. You see, a major health issue like this affects the ENTIRE family, not just the afflicted individual. My poor mother was killing herself to try to be at my grandfather’s beck and call (mind you, the woman still works a full-time job, too). My sister had to run errands, buy groceries, cook food, and help with his meds. My brother went over to mow the grass, check the mail, and walk the dog. And on and on and on. You know who didn’t do anything? ME.

Granted, not for lack of caring. Of course I’d like to share in the burden and help my family! But the distance is extremely difficult. I’d call and chat and try to lift spirits a bit. We visited a couple times a year. But I was unable to help in any of the day-to-day duties that ended up piled on my other family members’ shoulders. That type of guilt is a difficult thing to overcome.

And so here we are again. A different situation, granted – different person, different health issues, different treatment and prognosis.

This type of storm would be so much easier to weather if we were debt free. Absolutely! It’s a big motivator to get out of debt.

But at the same time, it’s a big reminder that life does not wait until after the debt is gone. You can’t just push “pause” and hope everything remains the same for multiple years until the debt-monster has been eradicated.

So I will try to take a balanced approach. Nothing in my debt plan of action will change – I will continue on as usual (paying $500/month toward my balance transfer loan, as much as possible toward my car loan, and all else will be minimums), but I may end up traveling a bit more than anticipated, which means we may have a little less to put toward debt during those months than during others.

All we can do at this time is wait and see what happens. Visit more doctors. Gather more information. Come up with a health plan-of-action. And hope for the best.

What’s the hardest sacrifice you’ve made to get out of debt?

Weekly Debt Update #16- Memorial Day Fun


Happy Thursday everyone!

I hope everybody is having a great (and short) week thus far!

As I originally intended to post this on Tuesday, I want to talk about what we did for Memorial Day. Over the weekend, we decided to have my parents down for a couple days to celebrate. Originally, when I talked to my parents about coming down back in April, they were going to stay for one day (Saturday) and night. We ended up having such a good time that it turned into 2 days (Saturday and Sunday) and 2 nights.

To prepare for our plans, which was to have a picnic, I ended up using a good portion of my monthly “fun” money ($50) to help out. I used this money to purchase the food we “needed” for some picnics. GF also pitched in by paying for 1/2 the picnic supplies plus beer. My folks got down to Erie on Saturday where we just hung out, talked and ate stuff we had around our house. We love having fires, so we spent a good part of the evening and most of the night just drinking beer and relaxing by the fire while our dogs played in the back yard.

Sunday was picnic day. Since Erie has such nice beaches, we were going to have our picnic down on the beach and hang out by the water and soak up some sun. Plans changed pretty quickly that morning. Erie has a very quaint little amusement park down by the water called Waldemeer. My mother thought it would be a great idea to have our picnic there and treat everyone to rides as a thank you for letting them spend the weekend with us. The park ride tickets aren’t expensive ($20-ish for all you can ride) and there’s never a wait to get on, which makes it a perfect place to spent a few hours. Here’s my and GF in the park:


Half way through our stay, I grilled out hog dogs, had some pasta salad and fruit that I got at the store the day before. It was an excellent way to spend time with my family. Later that evening, we had dinner and returned to the park to watch their Memorial Day fireworks (which everyone in Erie goes to watch).

On the actual holiday, the GF and I planted our garden/did some yard work while her mom visited and we had…another cookout! We finally used up the food we bought at the beginning of the weekend. All in all, I ended up only spending $30 for the picnic stuff plus gas to host our families. Last summer was our first experiment with gardening, and we seemed to overload the small plot with too many plants. This year, we’ve stuck to just our favorites: tomatoes, hot peppers, and cucumbers. Here’s a picture of the finished product:


Not only do we love our vegetables, but it’s also a financial save since we tend to go through a lot.

For anyone interested in my debt numbers since last week, here they are:

Loan NameInterest RateOriginal Balance- May '09Current BalanceTotal Paid OffPaid Since Last Week
Sallie Mae 015.25$27,837.24$23,896.61$3,940.63$88.62
Sallie Mae 024.75$22,197.02$18,750.50$3,449.52$69.94
Sallie Mae 037.75$20,692.10$0.00
Sallie Mae 045.75$10,350.18$7,339.83$3,010.35$67.81
Sallie Mae 055.25$6,096.03$0.00$4,840.64$0.00
Sallie Mae 06 and 074.75$6,415.09$0.00$6,415.09$0.00
Sallie Mae- DOE 015.25$5,000.00$0.00$5,000.00$0.00
Sallie Mae- DOE 025.25$3,000.00$0.00$3,000.00$0.00

Like I posted last week- I reached the under $50,000 milestone! Something, I didn’t think I would ever reach!!

Have a great weekend!