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Posts tagged with: vacation

Weekly Debt Update #17- Time Off


I hope everyone is having a wonderful Tuesday!

For those of you who haven’t read my previous post, or the comment section of the post before that, I’ve decided to take some time off in July from paying down my debt. As you know, I will be taking a physical vacation to Walt Disney World to spend some quality time with my whole family, new nephew included. I will also be using the money I would normally put towards debt to not only fund our vacation (GF and I anticipate spending between $600-$700) but use the money for things I’ve been putting off, as well. I know I want to buy some new clothes and get my car fixed (I’ve had some minor sensor issues for the past couple months) and July seems like the perfect time to get this all done. I want to go into August with renewed energy to finish off the remaining $50,000 in debt in 18 months. What ever money I don’t spend, I’m going to use to refund my EF. I don’t plan on missing any blogs posts during this time off, except for the week I will be in Florida.

On an other note- my fun fund has come in handy once again. Over this past weekend, a good friend of mine invited me and GF out them for dinner and drinks. GF couldn’t make it, as it was pretty spur of the moment, and I ended up spending nearly $50. I’m so grateful to those who convinced me to put money aside for fun every month. Only a couple months ago, I likely would have said no to the request, or worried so much about how much I was spending that I wouldn’t have enjoyed myself, anyways.

And an update on an item that came up last week- I handed in my 401k contribution form to increase my contributions from 4 to 10%. Me contributing to our company’s 401k was never about affordability, it was more so about how quickly I could pay off my debt- every penny was one closer to my original goal. Well, lately I’ve had an internal struggle over putting money towards savings. I think this increase in contributions will ease my mind in this regard. If it doesn’t work out, I can always decrease the contributions back down (the paperwork take roughly 1 minute to fill out), but I know I’m not going to get optimal savings years back.

Lastly, for those interested in how much I’ve paid off lately, here are my balances as of today. I didn’t post an update last week, so the “+/-since last week” is actually from 2 weeks ago.

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$0.00
Sallie Mae 024.75$22,197.02$18,750.50$3,449.52$0.00
Sallie Mae 037.75$20,692.10$0.00
Sallie Mae 045.75$10,350.18$6,577.48$3,772.70$707.05
Sallie Mae 055.25$6,096.03$0.00$6,096.03$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

I hope everyone has a great week!

VA to TN to GA – First Leg of Trip Done


Bear in mind that I am writing this Saturday as I anticipate a busy couple of days so I’m predicting how this is going to go. I will update with exact details if I get a chance.

Updated Thursday morning with reality…initial post is in plain text with updates in italics below the different segments.

This evening we will arrive at one of my favorite places on earth…The Lakehouse. It’s a cabin owned by my extended family on Lake Hartwell in Georgia. It’s secluded and rustic, away from everything and absolutely glorious. We will have completed the first leg of our journey. And the best part, it’s FREE lodging for the remainder of our time away from home.

We actually got here Wednesday morning and our friends drove down with us to hang out for the day at the lake.  As I anticipated the water was still too cold to swim but the kids did jump in a couple of times before heading off to the beach to skip rocks or to the patio to play UNO.

My youngest at 2, sitting on the "beach" at the lakehouse.

My youngest at 2, sitting on the “beach” at the Lakehouse.

Here’s what we’ve done and spent thus far:

Sunday – Picked up Cadet (15 year old twin – eldest) from his mini boot camp weekend and got on the road towards TN. We needed to arrive by Monday afternoon to drop History Buff (15 year old twin.) My goal was to get to Knoxville to sleep but I’m not sure we will make it that far since we have a solid 9 hours of drive time once we have Cadet. Dinner in the car from food we brought from home.

Due to an unexpected LONG break at a gas station due to some medical issues (everyone is fine, it’s an ongoing thing for one of my kids,) we bought Subway sandwiches for dinner to allow the rest of us to sit in the air conditioning while we dealt with medical needs.  I hadn’t anticipate this cost, but it was worth it to keep the others occupied and not sweltering in the car. Cost $20

Monday – Spent the night somewhere between Richmond, VA and Knoxville, TN in a hotel. I made sure it had free continental breakfast I’m sure and today we will have had to fill up the gas tank as we can typically make about 7 hours of drive time on one tank in our giant beast of a car. Lunch was a picnic somewhere fun…rest area or touristy spot. History Buff is dropped off for his week long TeenPact camp. We drove on 2 more hours to arrive at my friend’s house in the Atlanta area. Not sure if we will have had another dinner in the car or wait to eat at my friends.

We did make it to Knoxville and made reservations about an hour out…I was surprised that all the prices were the same: Expedia, Hotel site, calling hotel, but we did get the free breakfast and a late check out since we were only a couple of hours from our drop off point for History Buff.  We enjoyed the indoor pool and sleeping in a bit.  My plan for a picnic lunch at a rest area failed miserably when the rest area was closed, so we continued on to our drop off point at ate a picnic on the local library lawn. It was a great family time and of course, I got emotional dropping off my child so far from home for a week, but I know he’s having a great time!

We hurried on to my friends house, checking to make sure it was okay if we arrived earlier than anticipated and she threw dinner in the crockpot with that warning.  However, not sure why, but I did arrive there are fumes, finishing up our second tank of guess much earlier than anticipated.

At this point only money spent aside from gas (on 2nd tank now) was a night in hotel between VA and TN.

Close, but we’ve now used two full tanks of gas, spent one night in a hotel and bought Subway sandwiches at a gas station.

Tuesday & Wednesday – We spent hanging with our friends. (Side note: They homeschool like us and are planning some exciting things so I’m sure it will be fun. And just for the record, this is the same friend I wrote about HERE, so she knows that spending any money isn’t really an option. It’s so nice to have been able to open up and be honest with someone without feeling judged.)

We actually experience the MARTA system in Atlanta (cost $20) and Legoland (payed for by friend as her son’s birthday party.) She did treat us out for two meals, against my protest, and I reciprocated, by my own desire, with desserts. It was a GREAT time and despite all our years of friendship this was actually the first time ever we visited their home, and we will definitely do it again when I am in a better financial place. 

Our kids at the Lakehouse last summer.

Our kids at the Lakehouse last summer.

At this point, looking forward to Wednesday night when we will arrive at the Lakehouse, I believe the only money spent will be:

  • 1.5 tanks of gas since we left home – approx value $120
  • 1 night in a hotel – approx value $100

My parents will be meeting us at the Lakehouse this week, and in a couple of days I will have to drive by to TN to pick up History Buff and drop off Lil Gymnast. I will keep you posted, but for now, I’m going to enjoy the peace and quiet of the lake and get some work done!

We did our grocery shopping last night, spending less than $100 (more than 1/2 was a gift card I had been holding on to for just this occassion,) so all in all with the food we’ve brought from home and the use of the gift card, I spent $45 cash for the food that will last us at least a week here if not longer.  Yeah!

Family Time


A family member has a home in the Rocky Mountains.  We were actually married in this mountain town.  With our “glamour” travel all over the great State of Texas via Southwest Airlines…we were able to purchase 5 airline tickets (the 3 youngest kids are going with us) from SA to Denver via Rapid Rewards.  I reserved the minivan rental 6 months ago (that is, by the way, the best frugal travel tip that I never read anything about…there’s no risk in reserving a rental car b/c you don’t give a credit card number and you don’t even have to remember to call and cancel.  If you don’t show up to get the car…no harm, no foul).  So I managed to reserve a minivan for $380 for 7 days…but wait…we have free days with National so that will be reduced by 4 days; worth so the final charge for the van will be closer to $160.  I have managed to squirrel that away from my spending money and although I know many of you will say every cent should go to debt…I’m not willing to go to that extreme when it comes to family trips.

This house has been available to me for many years–we are blessed.  The family member who shall remain anonymous believes in paying it forward and is extremely generous…and he might also see this as the least he can do since he lives out of state (not Colorado–this is where he plans on retiring) and isn’t able to help with our aging parents.  LOL…that gives it away!  My kids and I have been going there for years now (yes that also explains some of the debt b/c I didn’t worry much about those airline tickets not being free back then!) Steve and my stepson have been to the house as well.  We have always cooked all of our meals–even before the strict budget–so I don’t anticipate too much difficulty in sticking to our food budget…even on real food.  We have already had the discussion that there’s no need for any shopping (besides grocery) and are doing our homework on free events in the area.  A National Park pass is $20 for 7 days and really…when you are from Texas where going outside is near impossible bc of the heat and the landscape isn’t much to look at when you do…just being in a National Park in Colorado presents plenty of things to do!

There will  be no “pre-trip” shopping madness like in years past.  We all have everything we need for this trip.

So we are taking this budget living, real food eating show on the road!  We leave July 1 and return July 8.  I plan on providing daily spending reports to all of you so you can rest assured we have not gone crazy.  I am prepared for criticism for this decision but also know that we are serious about debt reduction and going on this trip is not going to change that.  In fact, I see it as a challenge to keep up the good work in a different setting.



Life After Credit Card Debt – Ups and Downs


Hello everyone! It’s Tricia here with an update. I know some of you have been wondering how things have been going for my family. Now that Beks has basically paid off her debt, it is the perfect time for an update. Next month we get to meet the next blogger. I don’t know about you, but I am very excited!

First things first…are we still credit card debt free? It pains me to say this. Unfortunately, no. I could easily lie and say we don’t have any credit card debt but that wouldn’t be right. It will be paid off next month, but it’s still there. I can log into our account online right now and see a balance on our card that we can’t pay off. It hurts and I’m embarrassed to have an update with this news. We were doing fine, then I made a big mistake.

We decided that we were going to go on our first ever family vacation. I planned everything down to what we were going to be doing at 8:00PM on Friday night. All costs were carefully calculated on a spreadsheet and we saved up the money to cover our trip. My husband commented that maybe I should be a travel planner. I was pretty proud of myself until we got home. We overspent. I knew we overspent by a few hundred dollars because a week or so before our trip I added a show to our agenda. But the damage was more than that. All the little things added up. Trust me, I will not be pursuing a career as a travel planner anytime soon.

On the bright side, we had a fantastic time during our vacation. We made a scrapbook for our trip (the material for that was another expense I didn’t consider) that I look at a few times a week. It brings so much joy to my heart. Our life was becoming routine the shake-up that a vacation provides rejuvenated all of us. It will be the event in our lives that we will always talk about. No matter what, we’ll always have that experience.

Getting into credit card debt again shouldn’t have happened. We should have waited a while longer before going on vacation and saved up more money. I could have saved 50% on our tickets to the show but I wanted to be close to the action and paid the higher price. There were a lot of could haves and should haves to go around. The bottom line is that we didn’t immediately pay off what we spent so we had credit card debt again. At least next month it will be paid off. While I would love to go on a vacation again, it’s not going to happen anytime soon. Next time we’re going to save up way more than we think we will spend so this doesn’t happen again.

Now that the embarassing part is out of the way, here are some other updates:

  • We added a new member to our family. He is an adorable mutt that was on death-row. We knew there was something special about him when we met him. Sometimes the heart doesn’t talk to the brain. There have been added expenses (like taking him to the vets twice in the first two weeks we had him since I was worried about every little thing!). He’s also chewed four pairs of pants, countless socks, two wallets (including the contents!), numerous rolls of toilet paper, a Wii remote and other things I can’t think of at the moment. I could add up the monetary damage, but I won’t. The joy he has brought us is priceless.
  • Our son is now homeschooled. I won’t go into details, but my son’s school experience became less than ideal so we made the decision to homeschool him. We made an expensive mistake of enrolling him in a online private school. We were nervous about homeschooling by ourselves so we thought that would help and we’d try it out for a year. We were not impressed with the instruction or curriculum so we cut our losses and said goodbye to our deposit on the year’s tuition. After researching, I became more confident that we could develop a curriculum and teach our son ourselves. The materials haven’t been too expensive except for text books and some science kits. The internet has so much available for free. The added costs to homeschool have been worth it. Our son has improved leaps and bounds and we believe he’s caught up enough to go back into a brick and mortar school (more about that later).
  • We still keep our heat low in the house. It became painfully obvious when my son’s friend came over and decided to keep his winter jacket on with his hood up. I had to chuckle as I turned up the heat a little bit. My son comfortably roams around the house with no socks and shorts on. I guess the rest of us are used to it! As an experiment, I put the heat up to 68 degrees one day. My husband and son were both complaining that it was too hot!
  • I changed jobs twice since my last update! I left one job for a nice pay raise and then left that job for another job and took a pay cut. It seems a little crazy, but sometimes you have to take a step back to get on the path you are looking for. I’m pretty sure I’m right where I need to be for a while now.
  • We still live in our small 100+ year old home. It’s been a great starter home, but it’s time to move on soon. I don’t think we need a home that is bigger. I’d love one with a better layout and a larger yard. We would also like to get our son back into school this fall which means a move closer to different school. We have our sights set on an area closer to our families and if all goes well we’ll have a nice down payment saved up by mid-summer (we decided to not dip into our savings to pay off our credit card debt from our vacation). The first time we purchased a home we made a lot of newbie mistakes and we didn’t wheel and deal as much as we could have. I’m ready for the next opportunity.
  • Our son was diagnosed with a probable allergy to food dyes. As a result, many of the cheap foods we ate were now off-limits. Cheap mac & cheese (which my son loved)? It has yellow dye. What doesn’t have yellow dye? The expensive sauce packet mac & cheese. I don’t like to deny our son from all of his favorite foods or I feel he is going to sneak them in behind my back. I want to show him he has a choice and he is an active participant in making that choice so we do purchase more expensive foods without the coloring. This past Halloween he sorted through his candy himself and even looked at the ingredients. He didn’t want the candy with the food dyes. I was, and continue to be, so proud of him.
  • Our business stalled. We made a few mistakes in the beginning and stretched areas of the business and ourselves too thin. Things became really rough once we started homeschooling since that took up a lot of time, especially at first when we were getting the hang of it. We’ve since restructured our schedules and made the business more automated. Things are already turning around – 2012 is looking to be an excellent year.
  • We purchased an HDTV. Those of you who have followed us on our journey know how badly I wanted an HDTV. In a way the TV became the prize at the end of our journey. We didn’t purchase one right away. We shopped around for over a year and finally found the perfect one for us for at a great price. The picture was everything I had hoped for and it was paid for with cash.
  • I realized how much this blog impacted our debt reduction. Now that it’s been almost two years since I stopped blogging, I look back and think about what we were able to accomplish in three years with paying off our credit card debt. The intensity we had back then was way higher than it is now. This blog held me accountable. I truly believe blogging away debt or blogging about your finances is an excellent motivational tool. It may not work for everyone, but it definitely helped me and it has helped others.

That’s enough about my life. It’s time for more celebration for Bek’s debt pay-off and it’s time to wish her and her family well during their life after debt. Congratulations, Beks! I am proud of you! 🙂



And we’re off!

We’ll be spending the week beach camping with family and friends. Beach camping is my favorite type of vacation because it doesn’t usually cost us anything. We cook BBQ meals using our regular grocery budget and we all split the cost of the camping space between the group.

Have a good weekend! I know I will!

If you want to camp at some GREAT spots, check Reserveamerica.com. My top three: Doheny State Beach, San Clemente State Beach, and Carlsbad State Beach.