Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

The one in which I care about Future Me’s money

Tomorrow’s paycheck is the first of my $1,500 contribution to 401(K). If all goes according to plan, as of December 15, 2009 I should have $16,500 in contributions.

If I can do this I’ll be very proud of myself … on so many levels, beyond just the financial commitment.

To date, I’ve contributed ~$28,000 to retirement funds, beginning in 2006 when I first started working (and nope, I’m not looking at the current value). 

Maxing out the 401(K) would be absolutely fabulous (I do not usually use the word fabulous – but an additional $16,500 in retirement accounts would, indeed, be fabulous).

It would also ease the pressure on retirement contributions for 2010 (the year, I hope, I begin grad school). I also hope to squeeze in some travel before school starts – planning a mother-daughter trip to China, and would really like to go to the Galapagos (from my “big-ticket dreams travel” list).

The one in which I care about Future Me’s memories

The problem is, I don’t know if I can find a travel companion to Galapagos. But I really want to go. So maybe I can get paired up with another single lady for a double room and avoid paying the singles supplement fee.

Maybe I should just go for it – say that if I can max out the 401(K) for 2009, and save $10,000 for retirement for 2010, then I’m just going to take off and head to the Galapagos islands for a week?

That’d be motivation…

I’m being pretty good to Future Me, eh? I hope she appreciates it when she’s an 80-year-old rocking out in her rocking chair, listening to oldies such as Brad Paisley and Maroon 5, and NOT eating cat food.


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Friends in high places

And by “high”, I mean “foreign.”

One of my high school friends is working in Japan right now. I have a standing invitation to visit her – accomodations and tour-guiding provided!

I am so itching to take advantage of her offer!

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Last night, on a lark, I decided I want to go out of town for a getaway this weekend. I thought it’d be a good way to get some R&R and go on a little adventure.

I bought up the idea to CB, who did not share my enthusiasm. Part of the reason is that I currently have more discretionary income than he does, and part of the reason is that I tend to do things more spur-of-the-moment than he does (but I still google for coupons, no matter how spur-of-the-moment! 😉 ).

To be honest, I was disappointed. There goes the romantic weekend escape. I try to think about how I’d feel if the situation were reversed. Might I feel uncomfortable that my significant other offered to pay for the bulk of the vacation? Might I feel that the trip, on such a short notice, wasn’t well-thought out?

I might, and CB probably does.

The rule of personal finance is that you can’t have everything you want, every time you want it. The rule of relationships is that you can’t have everything you want, every time you want it. (Hey! They sound suspiciously alike…).

So, I’m trying to deal with this situation, well, in a constructive manner: acknowledge my disappointment, empathize with his situation, work out a suitable compromise that will be fun and budget-friendly, and then move on.

After talking about it, we decided to go for a day trip instead. The good thing is that this weekend just got MUCH cheaper. Still traipsing around the beach. Still kayaking. Still having fun in the sun. Just minus the two nights of hotel and the additional food expenses.

This little exchange just clarified what a messy topic money can be in relationships. And this is only one weekend that we’re navigating.

How do people do it with much bigger decisions – Should one parent stay home? What sort of protection will the primary caregiver receive in exchange for giving up his/her earning ability? What house to buy? Which set of in-laws will get more help? How should inheritance be treated? Should there be a prenup? What’s a fair way to set up a prenup? So many questions. So many minefields!

Share your experiences on money and relationships in the comments!

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Is it forgotten
like a long-lost letter?
Or is it a reminder
of somewhere better?

So the girls’ trip of 2009 went being from a week in Mexico to a weekend in Vegas to… undecided.

This is because my friends and I are ALL preparing for one standardized test or another (and I thought it ended with the APs and the SAT. The joke is on me). Given our schedules, it doesn’t quite make sense to be going away in the next few months. But I’m not giving up on the dream, I’m going to try to get everyone together in June again.

Being practical really stinks sometimes.

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Some college friends and I have been planning a girls’s trip (~$1,000 per person) for 2009. After all, who knows if we’ll be able to do something similar in the future?

But the worsening economy and job market, combined with doubts about my own job security, made me hesitant to spend a substantial sum on a luxury item – a vacation. (By hesitant, I mean, a tiny voice inside my head is yelling “it’s ridiculous to spend $1K on fun when none of your peers who have been laid off can find a job!!”

On the other hand, I really want to go. I have saved up a healthy emergency fund. I don’t spend extravagantly. I’m only young once. Who knows how long before my friends and I are tied to family, children, graduate school, or other financial obligations? But maybe, all these reasons are just excuses for being dishonest about my financial situation.

Suze Orman has a show where she answers viewer’s questions on “can I afford [insert expense here]?” Most of the time, she says NO! That’s what I think she’d say if I ask her about the vacation.

I remember reading one of her books (forgot which one… she has so many!) where she highlights the perils of “financial dishonesty.” Basically, the story goes:

Joe X is laid off. He had already put a hefty deposit on an island vacation with his buddies. Instead of acknowledging his new financial reality (i.e. no job, no income) and forfeiting his deposit, Joe decided to go on vacation anyway by using his credit card.

When he came back, he found that a prospective employer had called him for an interview and that his house was flooded. If he had stayed home, he would’ve known about the interview and perhaps gotten a new job, and he would’ve noticed the water leak and prevented it from becoming a flood that destroyed his house.

Suze’s conclusion? Joe going on a vacation that he couldn’t afford = financial dishonesty = increased debt + continued unemployment + water-damaged home.

Obviously, Suze Orman is of the Financial-Karma-Is-A-B*TCH school of thought.

I mean, I really don’t want to end up like Joe X. So, though it pains me, the girls’ trip of 2009 will have to be downgraded. Instead of a $1,000/person on a cruise or Mexico, maybe we will settle for a $300/person long weekend in Vegas.

What do you think? Can I (or, should I) take a $1,000 vacation this year?

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You Only Live Once fund

Most of my cash savings are in the Freedom Fund (held at one financial institution). I do have an online savings account at another firm that I rarely check. For a while I’ve considered consolidating these two accounts, but decided to let them be.


Because I’m going to make the online savings account my Big Ticket Travel Dreams fund. Some of my big-ticket travel dreams are…

  • cruise the fjords in Tierra del Fuego (the southern-most tip of the world in Argentina/Chile)
  • luxuriate in the picture-perfect blue-and-white San Torini, Greece
  • ride the train to Tibet and butter my toast with yak milk
  • pretend I’m Charles Darwin and explore the Galapagos Islands
  • snorkel with the fishies in the Great Reef Barrier, and
  • shake hands with Mickey Mouse at Disney World

And, I’m sure there are many, many more trips that I want take to before I’m gone.

So, I’m keeping this fund out-of-sight – it’s not a fund for a down payment, or graduate school, or even emergencies (although I imagine in a dire emergency I’d have to dip into it). Rather, it’s my Completely Selfish fund, my Pick Up And Go fund, my You Only Live Once fund.

And… I want to fulfill TWO big ticket travel dream by the time I’m 30. I have less than 7 years left, so I better get on it!

What are your big ticket dreams?

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Wanting to get away…

I’ve been getting the itch to go travel lately.

It doesn’t even have to be somewhere out of the state – a weekend get-away would be really nice.

And I know this is an oxymoron, but does anyone have recommendations for not-terribly-expensive bed-and-breakfast places in San Diego or Santa Barbara region?

I’m thinking of under $150 a night, double occupancy.

One place I’ve read about is the Franciscan Inn in Santa Barbara – does anyone have had good (or bad) experiences there?

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Money is only money

So I thought about the Hawaiian vacation some more… and while I don’t think it’s irresponsible of me to go, the vacation will cost close to $1,000, and $1,000 is still $1,000 is still a not-insignificant part of my goal.

But you know what? Money is only money.

One summer in college, I got a scholarship worth 1,000 euros to study in continental Europe for 4 weeks. My university housing took up 350 euros. The bus/subway pass took 64 euros. I paid another 100 euros for a university-sponsored weekend trip. But really, no regret there, ’cause I saw a Vermeer (!!!) So I had less than 500 euros to last me 4 weeks (that might sound like a lot… but it was still took effort to not go over).

I splurged on some things (tickets to several museums and castles, riverboat tour, coffee with Baileys, calling cards home, a bottle of wine), but I also tried very hard to stay within the budget. I ate eggs and cereal most nights, I washed my clothes in the bathroom sink, and I managed to leave that summer with ~150 euros left over.

BUT, if I could do it all over again, I would do it differently. I had a good friend who was in London at the time, and he invited me to visit. But I didn’t because I was afraid of missing a couple days of class and because I wanted to save some money from my stipend. London isn’t going anywhere, I thought.

In hindsight, though, I should have gone. Now this friend is married and away at law school on the East Coast, and he’s in a complete different stage of life than I am, and we don’t really talk at all now because of our busy lives. Frankly it’ll probably be ages (if ever) before I see him again. London is there, sure, but London, in the summer, with a friend to show me around, while I’m in Europe as a carefree college student, isn’t.

And that’s why I say, fie on the price of jet fuel and airline bankruptcies driving up air fares. I bought my plane tickets last night. I’m going to Hawaii. Aloha indeed!

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I’ve decided to take a week-long vacation in the fall so I can 1. visit a dear friend, and 2. luxuriate in the sun.


Can we say, Hawaiian getaway!?! -Insert excitement here-

So along with the excitement of planning a vacation, there’s the equally exciting task of planning a vacation budget.

Flight: ~$400 round-trip (still have to buy the tickets…)
Accomodations: FREE! Perk of visiting a good friend!*
Gifts: $50 – for myself & friends / family
Food: $150… is that realistic? I can bump this up to $200 if necessary
Transportation / Entertainment on island: $200

So, at the high end, I’m looking at $900. A big chunk of my vacation budget, yes, but that’s what it’s there for… vacations! I have enough $$$ to enjoy six blissful days of fun-in-the-sun.

*Of course, I want to thank my friend & her parents for their hospitality, so I need to bring a hostess gift. Any ideas? And do I have any Hawaiian readers?

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NYC round-up

Since I’ve came back from NYC several days ago, I’ve had a chance to get a rough tally of how much I’ve spent.

The good thing is most of my spending went to “experiences” instead of “stuff.” I spent a small fortune on dining out. I don’t even want to know how much the total tab is… must be up there in the $600+ range… but the food was good. (Think steak, baked clams, prosciutto & melon, sushi, tea, scones, smoked salmon, mimosas, tiramisu, chocolate mousse, and many, MANY more helpings of deliciousness).

I also went to a day spa with a girlfriend ($160), took cabs from the airport to and from the city and whenever I was too tired to walk or it was too late to take the subway ($250+?), bought some work clothes ($130+), watched an off-Broadway play ($40), visited museums & went on tours ($80), got some decorative accessories & a pillow from flea markets ($45), purchased some good books ($35), etc. etc. etc.

Basically, I spent alot. But you know, I’m only in NYC once (well, at least for the near future). I’m also just really glad I at least saved SOME money from my first paycheck.

But uhm, no more spending like this now that I’m home.

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