Have you ever taken a prepaid vacation? Maybe you went to an all-inclusive resort, a cruise, or a tour vacation. By prepaying before you go on the trip, you cover the cost of lodging, food, transportation, and oftentimes gratuities and incidentals like phone calls. We just got back from a prepaid Disney vacation, and I am convinced it’s the best way to enjoy Disney World.
Our family got back from our epic week-long Disney trip two weeks ago. It was the very first trip Mr. ThreeYear, Junior Three Year, and Little Three Year had ever taken to Disney World. I’ve been several times throughout my life, but we were never interested in making a trip with the boys until now.
First of all, my brother-in-law is a big Disney fan. He and my sister have gone multiple times since they’ve been married six years ago, and they invited us to go with them about a year ago when they started planning the trip. Second, they agreed to plan 100% of the trip for us. If you’ve ever been to Disney, you know that to get the best experience requires some major planning. And my brother-in-law was more than up to the task.
He read Disney blogs, researched the ways to get the best deals on places to stay, reserved our fast passes exactly sixty days before we left so we could get the best ones, and even filled out our online Disney Destinations profiles for us. All we had to do was pay for the trip and show up.
Disney World is very expensive, unfortunately, especially when it comes to food, so we made the decision to go all-out on this trip, which will be our one and only Disney trip while the boys are young.
One of the benefits that appealed most to me as our family started on our journey to financial and location independence was the idea of leisure time, of having time to rest, enjoy our friends, see new things, and linger over meals.
Life is so hectic. It’s “go, go, go” all the time in our society. It’s “what’s your side hustle?” “What day of the week is your child free from activities?” (if there is one).
One of the appeals of technology several decades ago was the idea that it would free us up to have more leisure time. To sit and linger over a meal with family. To plan coffee dates with friends. To sit in a park as a family and do nothing and feel no guilt about that. John Maynard Keynes, an economist writing in the 1930s, imagined a future where the work week would last fifteen hours, and our biggest problem would be what to do with all our free time. I’ll give you a second for a chuckle.
Now, Americans have less leisure time than ever. In an article from 2016, The Atlantic notes that “elite men in the U.S. are the world’s chief workaholics.” The upper class in this country stays at the office longer, takes less vacation, and just works more than the middle and lower class.
Moving to a new home can be tough on kids. We took mine from the only home they ever remembered and asked them to move 900 miles South, to a 1000-square-foot smaller house with a very small backyard. It was hard for them to see the immediate benefits of that decision (benefits like a close pool, relatives right down the road, and no snow in the winter). All they saw was an unfamiliar new space that felt different and didn’t feel like it belonged to them.
So to convince them to move, we used the oldest parenting trick in the book. We bribed them. While you’re may tsk at the idea of bribing your kid, let me expound for a minute on the benefits of bribery: 1. It works. 2. It gives kids something to look forward to. 3. It gives them some sense of negotiating power when, in all actuality, they have little to none. Feeling like you have control in an uncontrollable situation makes you feel a little better about things.
For Little ThreeYear, we told him we’d finally get a dog. We realized that with our fenced-in back yard and both of us working from home, a dog would be a much more feasible addition to the family than it had in the past.
We told Junior ThreeYear that we’d decorate his new room however he wanted.
He wanted to paint it black.
I worked my creative wiles and convinced him that black accents would look much better than a completely black room. We looked at the myriad options online and found a couple of pictures that he liked as inspiration.
On the night before we moved into our new house, when we were doing the final walk-through, we discovered, under a rug and desk that the previous owner had left, a giant hole in the carpet. A tense negotiation commenced between our real estate agent and hers. Finally, she could no longer deny that she’d been trying to hide a huge hole in the carpet and agreed to pay to have it replaced. Continue reading “The $217.27 Bedroom Makeover”
Last month, we moved from our home in New Hampshire, where we’d lived for six years (and a total of eight in the town), to Davidson, North Carolina.
Despite massive spending last month to get settled (thank you fifteen year mortgage for mountains of equity to help get through that), I expect our new home will be a financial boon. We’re closer to family, so we’ll spend less on travel to see them. We’ll be able to spend more on travel to places we’ve been itching to go as a family (Hawaii, Ireland, Australia) and we’ll have the time to do it. We took out another fifteen year mortgage with a low interest rate, which we plan to pay off early. It’s our only debt.
While I’m not working as an ESL Teacher next year, so we won’t have my income to save and invest, I expect to spend this year figuring out ways to lower our expenses–through an energy audit, shopping at Aldi, and new cell phone plans.
We’re definitely temporarily spending more with our move, as last month’s spending shows. But ultimately, through gas savings, food savings, property tax savings, and do-it-yourself savings (yard and house cleaning), I expect to see our overall spending decline and our overall savings increase in 2019 (because we’ve got a net worth goal to reach!).
Merry Christmas! The ThreeYears are currently in Chile. We just got back from a side trip we took to the San Pedro de Atacama desert, in the northeastern part of the country, close to the Bolivian border. San Pedro de Atacama is the driest desert in the world by amount of rainfall received, but it’s also nestled in the Altiplano of the Andes mountains, so there are mountain-fed rivers and streams and salt lagoons everywhere.
Mr. ThreeYear is from Chile, and his entire family lives here, so we visit as much as we can, usually for about three weeks. We plan a side visit to one or two spots we’ve never visited for each trip, so that we can see somewhere new in South America. This year, we picked the San Pedro de Atacama desert, because Junior ThreeYear wanted to visit a desert and see an observatory.
San Pedro de Atacama Desert is a tourist destination, so it’s quite pricey. Here’s what we did to plan a great trip without breaking the bank.
Luckily, in the last few years, a number of discount airlines have sprung up in Chile. We eventually decided on JetSmart, an airline with several flights per day from Santiago to Calama, the airport nearest San Pedro. We did an online search from the US just a week before our trip, so we could have gotten better rates if we’d planned ahead more. We looked at JetSmart and Sky, another discount carrier in Chile, and eventually chose JetSmart for its prices and flight options. JetSmart is definitely no frills, as we found out. The planes are new and clean, and you have ample space between seats, which was very nice. However, if you took anything bigger than a small carry-on (8 kilos or less), you’d be charged for it–about $16 online per bag, $21 at the ticket counter, or $37 at the gate (the prices increase as you get closer to the plane). Also, you have to print your own boarding passes or download them to your phone, or you’ll be charged $8 per boarding pass at the ticket window. Soft drinks, coffee, and a small selection of snacks and sandwiches are sold on board (a Coke or a small container of Pringles is $2.50).
The four of us carried two backpacks and two carry-ons, one of which was over the size limit, as we found out at the gate (the website where we booked the tickets was not clear about size limits of carry-ons). Luckily, the gate agent took pity on us, and said she wouldn’t charge us since it was close to the right size. We boarded the flight and flew two hours up to Calama, a small mining city in the middle of the desert.
We paid a total of $540.12 for four tickets from Santiago to Calama. We probably could have gotten a better deal if we’d booked earlier, but we thought $135 per person was reasonable.
The Rental Car
By far the best decision we made during our trip was renting a car. We booked the car online via Priceline, and paid $115.49 for four days and three nights. Last time we tried vehicle leasing at VinsAutoGroup.com.sg. We rented through the local company Econorent and booked a four-door Nissan Sentra.
At the airport, we picked up the car, then drove to San Pedro de Atacama, after getting directions, because Mr. ThreeYear didn’t have cell service in the airport (he has an international plan through work). Driving through the desert was eerie, at first. Everything is so vast, dusty, and rocky. Continue reading “Our Trip to the Desert: San Pedro de Atacama”
On Wednesday, the school year starts for the ThreeYears. The Junior ThreeYears start fifth and second grades and I return to my two school districts to teach ESL.
This is the second year that I’ve been off in the summer. We spent part of it on an epic road trip, then spent the rest of the summer enjoying how beautiful New Hampshire is in August.
I didn’t work this summer. Aside from writing blog posts 2-3 times per week, I did not write or do freelance work. I did not take online classes for my master’s. I just took care of my kids (ok, that is admittedly work, and a lot of it. But I didn’t do other work).
We had lots of beautiful time at the beach, the lake, and at home to hang out. I wasn’t particularly good at making the kids keep up with reading or math, or any other schoolwork. They mostly played. We used a lot of the strategies I wrote about here to keep ourselves occupied.
I tried to rest as much as possible, and think. I read a lot of books. I watched some TV. I wrote in my journal, something that’s gotten short shift since I started this blog. I followed links I read about on other blog posts.
Here are ten things I learned, or learned about, this summer, that I thought I’d share:
1. Quitting Social Media is Possible.
I watched this TED talk by Dr. Cal Newport, then read his book, Deep Work. This guy is not on social media, and he’s young. But he’s rejected it his whole life. He says the three common objections that people have for quitting are not true objections: it’s a fundamental technology. No it’s not, he says. It’s a form of entertainment that is addictive. It’s vital to my success as an entrepreneur, etc. Actually, he argues, doing work that is thoughtful and profound is rare and valuable in this day and age. And you can only do that type of work by shutting down distractions. What’s the harm? It’s no big deal if I’m on FB/Twitter/Instagram/SnapChat/etc. It’s more harmful than you think, he argues, as these technologies are designed to be addictive, and as you spend a larger and larger portion of your day on social media, your attention becomes more and more fragmented and you permanently lose your ability to sustain attention. Continue reading “10 Things I Learned This Summer”
Summer looks and feels a little different for most of us, but for those of us with kids, there are some big logistical challenges to overcome. My friend who has works full time starts planning her kids’ camp schedule in February. Another friend who works part time has her husband work remotely on days she goes into the office. I’m home with my kids all summer since I’m a teacher, but I definitely need a plan for fun and sanity.
Read on for how I’ve finally figured out, after many summers, how to include both, without spending a fortune.
Two years ago, after seven and a half years as a stay-at-home mom, then two years as a part-time marketing manager, I did an abrupt career change and became a part-time ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) teacher at my kids’ elementary school. It’s been such a wonderful way to make a difference, earn money, and see my kids every day.
And the best part of it is that when summer finally arrives, the boys and I are off! We are free to enjoy the summer, go to the beach, and have playdates.
Last weekend both of my boys celebrated birthdays. This year, those celebrations looked a little different than this time last year. Last year, I decided to do a homemade birthday party extravaganza. Unlike Mrs. BITA’s homemade party, which seemed to be lovely and fairly easy to put together, or Mrs. Frugalwood’s family gathering, the ThreeYears’ homemade Minecraft party was a lesson in what not to do when creating a homemade birthday party.
Don’t get me wrong. The party was a straight-out hit. I had no less than four small people tell me “this is the best party ever!” with zero trace of sarcasm in their tiny voices. They were having major fun, which may have had something to do with the Brewing Station, with six bottles of sugared soda that they got to “mix” into different potions.
But the party planner almost did herself in. In my efforts to do it myself, and reproduce Pinterest, I drove myself nuts. I made a homemade Minecraft piñata, for the love of all things holy. I created the aforementioned Brewing Station, and affixed handmade labels to each of the two-liter bottles of soda in six phosphorescent artificial colors. I made recipes for the potions they could create, and had my boys weigh in on how realistic the colors were for each potion (“No, Mom, that’s a Potion of Healing, which is red, not green”). Continue reading “Breaking “the Rules””
Do you love to garden? Is Spring your favorite time of year, when the flowers start blooming and there’s color bursting out of every bed?
I absolutely love to create flower gardens. I also know I could spend a small fortune buying plants and shrubs to create the perfect landscape around our house.
Since our family is on a three year journey to double our net worth and become location independent, it’s not a priority to spend a lot of money on landscaping when we’ll be selling our home soon. But I love to constantly improve our gardens and so, have learned to save lots of money but still create beautiful flower beds.
I’m listening to the birds chirp outside my window. We’ve left the window cracked over night. Unheard of, even a week ago. Yesterday the temperature rose to 72 and the sun shone all day. Our stream was swollen with melted snow rushing downstream.
Spring hasn’t arrived, unfortunately. It’s a trick of New England, a trick of nature to give you a golden taste of the glorious summer ahead, to get you through the rainy, muddy, dreary next two months. But I believe the snow may melt this time, and my son told me a flower was blooming, so I am hopeful that some of this good weather is here to stay. Continue reading “Get Out of Town, Already!”