Well, I am not totally crazy. I am NOT a big vacation person, overall, because usually vacation is expensive. I am not a fan of spending a lot of money on a fleeting experience. I've said it many times, and I stand by it.
That being said, these low vacation prices are enticing.
I am a little more enticed by this Florida thing now because the airfare is so extremely reasonable (cheap).
I still REALLY want to go to Hawaii, but the discount just isn't really there. We are looking at airfare more expensive than the last time we went. I just heard a report the other day that Hawaiian hotels were offering more amenities, like use of a Wii for a week, or complimentary coffee. Sorry, that ain't going to do it for me! LOL. Regardless, we have a free room anyway. But yeah, we need more than that. They said hotels were resistant to lowering rates because it would be harder to raise them again. Fair enough, but it's just not going to sell people like us.
The Alaskan cruise post reminded me though, I have been seeing some insane deals on Alaskan cruises. I guess that's another industry that has been pretty hard hit. I was looking into it recently. (More on a whim than anything). We could drive up to Washington and set sail from there. The expensive part for us is we literally have no warm clothes.
So basically, as much as I would love to go to HAwaii, we may end up doing Florida, Colorado and Alaska instead. What the heck.
Well, we need to prioritize. But with deals like these, places like Florida and Alaska make take priority in our near future vacation plans. Which were simply "no plans" before... We really had no near term vacation plans before - but to vacation in state, go camping, do some 3-day weekends and staycations, etc. The thing is we can go to Florida or Alaska on our existing bare bones vacation budget. Well, I am in then!
I guess that's the other thing - it's not that I never want to go on vacation. I am just good with something exciting once every few years. That's plenty for me. Alaska Cruise is on our "short list" of things we would like to do, eventually, some day. The time has maybe arrived sooner than expected.
We may have to resort to drawing vacation destinations out of a hat though. Too much to decide!
Archive for May, 2009
Well, I am not totally crazy. I am NOT a big vacation person, overall, because usually vacation is expensive. I am not a fan of spending a lot of money on a fleeting experience. I've said it many times, and I stand by it.
Out of curiosity, I whipped up a Quicken report to see how our spending was compared to last year. Mostly because I feel like we have been spending a lot of money lately!
I guess I see the big picture now (which it is definitely good to look at and appreciate). The year has definitely been good. & the numbers show why.
Income is up $6500 over last January through May.
Most of it is salary/bonus.
Extra $500 in Ebay income, over last year. (Interestingly, this really dried up in May so no May income in this area. The economy is changing here - not so many deals on games, etc. Maybe people are realizing they can sell their own stuff on ebay instead of giving it away for pennies???).
Plus an unexpected $1k.
Expenses on the other hand, were the same as last year - no change.
Of note, we have only used half the auto fuel that we did this time last year. (Largely attributed to less driving with no more preschool in the boonies).
We've been more charitable, which surprised me. Ah, 100% to the school. That explains things.
$2500 less in childcare, with BM DONE and with LM going far less this year. (We are on a waiting list for more hours, but it is still closer and cheaper).
We've definitely been eating out more - which has been our splurge lately. & a nice one to have.
We've saved about $1k on our mortgage payment (with the refi), but spent about $1k more on "stuff." Actually, stuff and outings. Includes Little League, bowling, replacing kitchen items, GPS, tent, etc., etc.
Most every other category was about the same as last year.
Total spending for year, thus far, $25k. Right on target. Absolute spending limit is $5k per month (average). We try (have always tried) to limit our annual expenses to $50k. But medical adds $10k to the mix.
According to Quicken, I have $10k to spare ($10k income over expenses). Which is precisely how much has gone into our savings and IRAs this year.
So yes, I felt like we were splurging more, but saving even more. Yes, and yes.
In other news, MIL is completely driving me nuts. I told her about the airfare (I'm ready to BUY) and she tells me she is not sure if they are going or not.
Gah! Seriously? All that pressure, just for a "Oh, it's very up in the air. Will decide in July."
We will see... I am super glad I bowed out though. I don't do well with "spontaneous."
BM was invited to a birthday party in July. So he said. I thought, holy cow, we better get on the ball (July birthdays for the kids).
It turns out, when we got the invitation, it was a JUNE party. LOL. But it served its purpose to kick my butt in gear.
Dh and BM wanted to invite his whole class. & this is doable if we get invitations out before school is out.
I am not so thrilled with this idea, but frankly, who is going to come anyway? (I could be so wrong, huh...). So, whatever.
Well, let's start at the beginning. Great Grandma gave the kids $20 to spend. They were all set to go out and SPEND it. Okay, it's a gift. No issues with that. But it still felt really wrong all the same to go spend money to spend money. We were just about to go out to Target when I finally asked the kids if they would rather go buy toys, or treat us to Chuck E Cheese? They chose Chuck E Cheese. Grandma often gives them cash with a Chuck E Cheese Coupon, so I thought it was a nice compromise. They certainly don't need more toys. (99% of them bought by dh's side of the family in the first place).
So we were at Chuck E Cheese discussing the birthday situation when we decided to have the party there. The place is hell on a weekend, but quite nice on a week night. So we can do the party on his actual birthday.
Later I was perusing their website for party packages. Seriously, $13/kid. For just about NOTHING. $5 in tokens, and some pizza/soda. Who pays for this stuff? There were perks like balloons, tickets, and toys, but eh. Not much of a deal.
Instead, we can show up and have the party there, regardless. We can buy tokens for the kids ($5/pop, sure). We can bring in some balloons from the party shop next door (not even necessary) and bring our own cake, which we'd have to otherwise (or pay extra for). We can order some pizzas/drinks. They don't cost that much.
I loathe party favors. I am happy to skip them since the kids will probably buy crappy toys with their tickets. Win-win.
In the grand scheme of things, this will be an easy party. I am pleased with the idea.
I'd be happy to skip the family/home party. But I am not sure dh's family will be so accommodating. We will see. The thing about that is dh usually does most the work anyway. If they must have a party, he can deal with it.
Dh did talk about doing something in San Jose actually - since our entire family is there. Now he is thinking. But in the grand scheme of things I don't quite *get* why we owe the grown ups a party.
We got the "bad" news that it was indeed a stroke that my father suffered. A "small" one, but a stroke all the same.
He will probably be put on disability. They are saying it will take 6 months to see if he recovers.
For now we are very much on "wait and see" mode. More tests, more appointments, etc. He does not return to work until Monday, from vacation. Phew. It's nice they have time for this all to sink in before they figure out their next steps, etc.
My mom is not in 100% health and I imagine we will spend many future weekends helping them out - with whatever they need help with.
They are entirely too young for this!
In other news, our kids are completely spoiled. They are going to Disney World this fall. MAke that 4 years in a row for them (DLand, DWorld, Dland, Dworld).
MIL has been pushing and we were not interested in the least. Considering finances, time off, etc., etc.
Silly me! I really thought she had let it go, though it has been brought up many times.
Yeah, what do I know.
It came up over the weekend and she pretty much said she would help pay (she's never invited us on a trip and not paid) if dh's dad was still working in the fall. He's not expected to - he is supposed to be laid off in June - and retiring.
Anyway - I honestly think she is completely full of crap. Like she only says that so we will go this year, which is her whim, obviously.
BUT, dh does have his GRandDad there. We had been talking about going next year anyway. I've personally been sidtracked with dreams of Kuai though. We figured MIL would pay and we'd do both, regardless. We certainly couldn't do both on our own. Florida is far more expensive since it would be airfare for four, as opposed to 2. My budget does not do airfare for FOUR!!! IT would need some major revisions, that is for sure.
Anyway, she mentioned my BIL could not get the time off, as I hemmed and hawed about money and vacation time. I finally told dh later that he should take the opportunity. IF the three of them could go for "free" then they really should go. They went without me last time. & I survived. & I don't mind putting off paying for ourselves to go to Florida in the future.
My only wish this year was not to travel anywhere. So hey, everyone is happy!
I know my MIL was a little annoyed by our conversation though. We just bought our GPS and we are talking about going to Hawaii next year (airfare for TWO being our only real expense - maybe $800 total). & I assure you she was rolling her eyes when we brought up Florida was not in our budget. Well, MIL, I don't know what world you live in, but I need more than FOUR MONTHS to save up for a vacation, for FOUR, to Florida. YEesh! So yeah, that whole thing, drives me nuts. Which is kind of where our resistance came in the first place. Let's plan a trip like a year or 2 in advance, like normal people. Maybe we can pitch in a bit! I Can assure you we wouldn't have just spent $500 on toys if I thought she would "win" this whole Florida thing. !!
Dh and I have both been a little tired of these last minute trips, on some level. I am personally tired of MIL controlling all things vacation in my life. Since I don't GET much vacation time. But the fact of the matter is dh and the kids have a lot more time to spare, than I do. & I do think they should take advantage. Particularly if there is any truth to the matter that the vacation gravy train would run dry in retirement. Seems reasonable it could. So just in case, I think they better go.
It's 97 degrees here. BLECH!
A local blog was featured in the paper today. Excellent article and excellent blog.
It's about eating well on a small budget. LOVE it. Mostly my personal philosophy except I know hardly nothing about cooking.
I am definitely bookmarking this one.
I've never been a fan of tofu or soy in particular. I guess with age I am less adverse to it.
I have surprisingly become a fan of soy beans, but dh was scared to deal with it. He just didn't know how to cook it, etc. I kept bugging him to buy some and I'd figure it out. Yeesh.
Alton Brown came to the rescue. We recently caught a Good Eats about soy beans. & the best way to cook them? MICROWAVE! Dh was then sold. !
We also tried this recipe - divine:
In other news, the weather was so HOT we finally opened up dh's "window sill herb growing kit" we got him for Christmas. I figured the warmth would be good for the little seeds.
The heat did its job. Instructions said 7-10 days for things to start growing. Um, how about 2-3 days?
The front window sill (spacious) has proved a good spot for out little herbs. If our little pots and prepackaged soil don't do the job, this may kick our butts into doing a DIY window herb project. That being said, the only problem is the cat. Hope she stays out of them... Will see!
We could try outside. I have no idea how herbs do in the heat though.
Well, for now they are growing, well and FAST! Cilantro, chives, basil, oregano and ???.
Our front window mostly faces east. Maybe a smidgen to the south/east. South or Southeast is recommended. Close enough I guess. Getting sun is not a problem!!
Back from "vacation" I guess.
We went to go help my parents and see how they were doing, etc. My dad has had a series of medical tests, but no results yet (not expected until Tuesday I guess). He was starting to feel a bit better late last night. As time progresses we are convinced it was probably a small stroke. He had other symptoms that have since been ruled out as drug side effects, etc., etc. Though I guess we should know more next week.
His vacation is over next Monday, and if he turned a corner, he may be able to return to work without even telling his employer. Will see. Otherwise it seems he is well covered for disability, etc., and after talking to everyone and their brother it seems the general concensus is with time, and maybe therapy, he should (shortly) be back to 100%. Though his doctor did say something like there is only 50/50 chance of full recovery. But everyone else tells us otherwise. 100%! From their personal experiences. Positive thinking is good.
His mental function is pretty amazing overall, so I felt better after spending so much time with him this weekend. Trouble communicating, yes. But otherwise he seems fine. & it certainly isn't getting him down.
He certainly can not drive. We spent the weekend doing yardwork and housework, cooking, and playing chauffer. My mom can not do a lot so I know they really appreciated the help. (The GPS came in handy with the whole chauffer thing!)
The hardest part for my dad is sitting still. We noticed he did better with rest. But like hell he will actually rest.
So that's the long and the short of it.
I spent a couple of nights at my parent's house and I slept like a BABY. LOL. It was divine. I slept in until like 10am the other morning - I don't remember the last time I slept past 8am. I am not much a fan of sleeping in. But it is nice once in a while. Certainly would never get so much peace and quiet at home.
Since we were going to help my parents and were worried, I didn't exactly look at the long weekend as a "vacation." But it ended up that way. We just had a really nice, simple weekend. My dad and I took the kids for a walk to the creek by their house the other day. The kids spent most of the time in Grandma's pool and on my parent's tire swing. We didn't really do much else. I expected it to be a hard weekend and came back amazingly refreshed.
We decided to come home last night since everything seemed well under control. I wouldn't be surprised if we spend many weekends there though in May/June.
I told dh I had the maybe the first twinges of regret ever for not being closer. BUT that didn't really last very long. Dh and I discussed much how if we lived closer we just wouldn't necessarily have the TIME to help them out. We would both be working, for sure. It's such a catch 22. In the grand scheme of things we can help plenty - the distance is not long. I appreciate that we are close enough to help substantially. Dh has all the time in the world to help them, if nothing else. The distance is give and take.
Of course, the weekend wasn't all "good." We went swimming yesterday for a long while and it was a bit chilly so we spent a good chunk of the time in the hot tub. We have noticed BM is a little sensitive to pool chemicals. He gets bumps on his elbows and knees which seemed to worsen over the weekend but get better with bathing. (It doesn't seem to matter which pool - so generically figure it is the chlorine).
So we spent a chunk of time in the hot tub/pool and I made sure to rinse him off real good when we got out, hoping to lessen his skin irritation.
Well we got home rather late last night and when he undressed for bed we realized he was pretty much covered head to toe in a pretty bad rash. Ugh. We called the doctor and stocked up on Benadryl. I think it's safe to say he won't be hot tubbing again for a long time. Though we are not quite sure what is going on, the hot tub is easy enough to avoid. He's fine; just itchy. & red.
We actually had a fun BBQ to go to today, but not sure we will be up to it. It wouldn't be the worst to have a day to laze around the house.
Completely off topic, but dh and I were having a discussion about healthcare on our drive home last night. We were talking about healthcare costs and obesity, etc. I had told dh many times that most of the SAHMs I know did not cook. At all. That fast food seems just as much a way of life for 1-income families as it does for 2-income families, around here.
I don't think dh believed me, but it has come up a few times. I truly appreciate all his home cooking and the good examples he sets for our kids (which they would NOT get from me - I was raised in a horrible environment as far as food). Our kids will eat anything - their experience is completely opposite of mine and I am very appreciative they haven't taken to my bad eating habits.
& what dh feels is the "bare minimum" or what is expected of him, he doesn't realize is a truly huge gift in our society. I told him the "bare mininum" is frozen meals or meals out as far as I was concerned. In this day and age. To him, the bare minimum is a home cooked meal every night. IT's his "job" in his eyes.
So anyway, as we were discussing it he said he was starting to believe me. I guess the women at tee ball were talking about how they never cook, etc., the other day. & I guess dh had to bite his tongue. He was thinking, "Pffft. It's not that hard and certainly not that time consuming." Clearly eating well (healthy home cooked meals) is a priority for him.
I told him I appreciated him biting his tongue. Something he is not usually good at. But yeah, I could just see him telling a bunch of women that "cooking is not that hard." LOL. He could really get himself into some trouble.
I need some positive thoughts for my family.
Last week was a little dramatic as my dad thought of quitting his job. They had decided, prior, to stay in the pricey Bay Area and to retire there they will have to work longer. Well, my dad will. He will be working until the bitter end regardless. He LIKES working. Probably where I get it from.
Anyway drama at work, and unsure if the place will survive anyway, thinking of quitting for sanity and maybe a little pre-emptive too. Of course, this means a large possibility that they may just retire and move (like, anywhere - because anywhere would be cheaper). Though they aren't sold on Sacramento (summer heat & lack of engineering jobs) I guess I can work on them. At least housing prices are rock bottom.
So I Was both a little bummed and worried about all this. My dad had a 2-week vacation coming up and was basically going to "sleep on it." I know they will be fine. But you know how it goes.
Fast forward to Monday. I am home sick and feel like hell. I am trying to REST but dh wakes me up to tell me my dad is in the emergency room.
Details are vague, but in the end it seems he suffered a "mini-stroke."
That was the original diagnosis. They sent him home and he has a slew of tests and doctor appointments. They sent him home after CAT Scan showed no signs of stroke.
I started out panicked because my mom hands the phone to him and I realize talking to him how dire the situation is.
Things calmed down when they sent him home.
This morning he had an appointment and no one called me. I started calling around noon but phone is busy all afternoon. I finally talk to my dad around 3pm, who sounds horrible and I can barely understand what he is saying. I talked to my mom who tells me he sounds worse. Yeah, no kidding.
So of course this got me MORE worried.
I guess the unofficial diagnosis is TIA (mini-stroke - which means 30% more likely to suffer a stroke). However, dh told me from his internet reading that a TIA is when the symptoms last less than 24 hours. So it worries me it's been longer and he sounds worse.
He has some appointment to ultrasound some artery tomorrow (to check for blockage) and a MRI later in the week.
I guess once we got more info yesterday we thought, this sucks but we will get through it. Today I guess it is sinking in how serious this all may be. He can not speak very well and can not write either. No one has assured us the damage is not permanent.
His mother had PArkinson's so they are evaluating him for that. He also has an appointment with a neurologist.
I watch that show Medical Diagnosis way too much. Where it sometimes takes YEARS to diagnose these things. I only hope we can have more answers sooner.
My dad is only 57...
He's one of those who has 9 lives. If anyone can beat this thing, whatever it is, he can do it. I think it's the only reason I am not falling apart right now. We weren't going to go see them until Thursday, since I wasn't feeling well enough to travel yesterday, and things had settled down. Now I am not so sure.
Anyway, my family has had a rough few days. Some positive thoughts would be appreciated.
It's been spendy!
This is a purchase we have been looking at for about 2 years. No rush. We had decided to buy one for Christmas, but dh wasn't impressed with prices, etc. I don't remember precisely why we passed up the purchase. Just felt it wasn't time.
So yesterday he saw an ad for a decent deal and looked into it. We ended up finding it at Wal mart for about $190. We were originally looking at some of the $100 ones, but they didn't really have the features we wanted. Which I think is why we decided to wait. Instead, this one has way more features than we were even considering.
We went to a wedding out of town yesterday and tried it out. It is AWESOME! LOVE it! We have been borrowing dh's parents' GPS for more and more trips and have become increasingly reliant on it. It really makes travel so much easier! Some of the added features are that it tells you speed limit (incorrectly at times though) and has a lot of traffic data. It correctly predicted a traffic slowdown due to construction, on our way home. It also has bike and pedestrian modes, which we haven't explored. It if actually has like bike trails on it I will be in pure heaven.
It also tells you all the nearest police stations, gas stations, hospitals, etc. I am sure the older one does too, but it wasn't so obvious/easy to find all of this data.
It's a Garmin and was very similar to dh's parents' GPS, so we didn't have to spend any time figuring it out. Though I enjoyed playing with it on the long car ride. IT even chastised me for using it while the car was moving. Hey, I was a passenger! LOL.
I've decided I know the perfect place for frugal people to get married/have receptions, in California anyway. If they want something truly elegant, go for a public golf course!
We had our wedding and reception at a public golf course in San Jose. IT was A+.
Cinnabar Hills Golf Club:
Not sure if we had ever been to another golf course wedding or reception, until last night. I was JEALOUS! Why hadn't we heard of THIS place?
Picture does not do it justice. The views were just incredible!!!! I know, I know, we didn't do half bad. But if I saw this place I would have picked it.
Boundary Oak Golf Course in Walnut Creek, CA
Which reminds me, we haven't been back there since our wedding. We will have to go back for an anniversary lunch next year for our 10-year. The though just never occurred to us before. But suddenly the idea seems so simple and exciting.
I also have an interesting article to share:
"Summer Vacation: What Should Isaac Do?"
I shared because I have been reading these father/son articles for a while and find them interesting.
I also thought this was a particularly interesting topic.
I think I'd sum it up to, "It depends on the Person." Though considering the economy, if my kids were graduating high school today, I would have them strongly consider summer jobs. Simply because I think if they had a job it would be harder to find another one down the road, etc. I think it's a fair lesson in these times to not give up a job! I think in these times we have to ask, do we really have the luxury to not work and put vacation ahead of reality?
That being said, I am extremely practical and I come from an extremely practical family. If I said I was traipsing off to Europe the summer after high school, my parents would have thought I had lost my mind.
Of course, delving further into it, though my college experience was not exactly easy, looking back I am amazed at the balance I was able to achieve. I know often this debate comes up (working in school, etc.) and it becomes very black and white. If you had to support yourself at all you become in debt and miserable and you miss out on everything. & many people who had a positive experience on their own feel that having a free ride and not working when possible means a lifetime of irresponsibility. Obviously the truth is somewhere in the middle. Everyone's experience is unique.
As for me, I worked all through college out of necessity. However, I always took the summers off. I never took summer classes and I even got a full month off work every summer. I met my spouse in college and we dated. I would drive to visit my friends who went away to college, most of my weekends. I look back on college VERY fondly. I remember a lot of leisure and fun times. Sure, I probably never worked harder in my life, but I made sure to have plenty of balance, for my sanity.
I even planned a month long trip to Europe during my month off one summer, but my friend ditched me because she wanted to spend the whole summer there. She felt sorry for me and my responsibilities (rent, tuition, etc.)
Looking back I don't even regret it. Most of my friends have traveled Europe extensively, and though I have been to Europe, I admit I haven't had quite the same experience. That being said, I have learned over the years I am of the more practical side and I am not sure I would have particularly enjoyed the trip. I feel personally it was for the best, for me.
Since most of my good friends do have major wanderlust (probably as a result of having little responsibilities and deep pocketbooks to dig, in college) I have thought about it much as we age. A lot of the same friends seem to have a fair amount of discontent in their lives. I know in our college years I was the "boring one" who had to work and had a serious relationship. But when you fast forward a decade I can't describe the joy that my children have brought to my life. I feel I have been on my own completely exciting adventure. I guess I personally feel being practical and "boring" has paid off in the long run. But it could maybe be summed up as easily as "balance is important."
Experiences are also relative. Compared to my parents' college experience I had much more leisure and freedom. So I was never going to sit and cry I didn't have money in pocket and entire summers free to do whatever the hell I wanted. I was blessed to have food, shelter, education, and leisure, to boot. I always felt extremely blessed for what I did have.
& I have also been blessed with plenty of travel opportunity in adulthood.
So the practical side of me says Isaac should work. Of course! That being said, he needs to find balance in his life. & he has to find it in the way that makes HIM happy.
This is largely why I stray from planning my childrens' life down to every detail. I could end up suggesting completely different paths in college, for each of them, based on their personalities. I always cringe when people say that, "My child has to do x, y, z, because that's what I wish I did." Or because, "That's what I did." I try not to have a lot of preconceived notions. Probably easier said than done, but I do try!
It's been a while since I have made a "big purchase." You know that dh makes plenty - hehe. But he does all the research and shopping, when it comes to anything electronic.
For whatever reason, I am the tent buyer.
The tent process has been rather long. We have been searching reviews on the tents we see in the sales ads, and haven't come up with much. The quality of most of these isn't great and we rather spend a little more for something that will last.
Overwhelmed with all of the choices online, I found a recommendation for a few tents and narrowed it down to one. The price was $115 new though could easily find on sale for $95. I think we kind of aimed for $100 after looking around a bit. Meaning we didn't want anything much cheaper. $200 was probably our upper limit.
So today I was perusing all the tents on sale in the ads before I finally made our final purchase. (We had put it off to May and then just got busy).
While online I saw a tents @ Overstock ad. I have shopped Overstock in the past though seem to have less luck with it any more. But I hadn't looked at all so I thought I would peek.
I immediately came across "the one." I just loved the tent and it had nothing but glowing reviews. Price was on sale for $199.99.
Overwhelmed with all the tent options this is the first one that really "stood out."
I looked @ Amazon and saw it had free shipping (possibly no sales tax) for athe tent at $189. I wasn't surprised that Amazon had a much better deal than Overstock (considering shipping and all). Has been my experience lately.
I was looking up further reviews on the tent though and came across the tent at REI for $159. It was funny because I came across it quite by accident. & shipping was free if we were willing to pick it up at the nearby store. win-win.
I did one last look at biz rate and also checked REI coupon codes. This was by far the best deal - it didn't even pop up on any price searches.
I am pleased. With taxes and everything the total was closer to $170. But the full price of the tent was around $220, so I am happy with the price. I think for another $50 or so we got much higher quality than we were originally aiming for. Which we were definitely open to spending a little more for.
It should be ready to pick up next week. Woohoo.
It's literally the only tent we have looked at in our price range that didn't have one negative thing said about it. So I am pretty optimistic about it.
When it arrives we will be doing some backyard camping (nice if it does arrive before next weekend - it is estimated to). & we will be taking it camping in June. I think this year is just a "backyard camping" year, but if it works out we intend to use it more.
Since I don't expect to use up our vacation budget this year, it comes from there. We have the cash, of course!