Give Me Back My Five Bucks

Budgeting for Portugal

Before RD goes off on his annual 5-week work trip at the end of this month, we wanted to budget for Portugal, and at least book our flights to Portugal. But since a big goal of ours this year is to save for a down payment, going off on a 3-week long European vacation seemed a bit extravagant. We can afford to go, but it doesn’t mean that we should go if it means sacrificing a bigger financial goal that we hope to achieve.

So after thinking about it for a while, we decided on a pretty good compromise – we’ll reduce our vacation from 3 weeks down to 2 weeks, and spend the additional week off as a staycation where we can get as much autumn hiking in as we can. It actually works perfectly because we still get to go to Portugal, but we’ll also get in a bunch of regional hiking in that we weren’t sure how we were going to fit into the summer months.

Right now we have a preliminary budget sketched out for our (now) 2 week trip:

  • Flights (Vancouver-Azores, Azores-Lisbon, Lisbon-Vancouver) – $2,450
  • Accommodation (14 nights) – $1,200
  • Food – $1,000
  • Car rental (7 days + gas) – $450
  • Transportation – $100
  • Miscellaneous – $200

Our budget came to $5,400 total. We have about $500 in travel rewards points to redeem, so I’m thinking we can do this trip for under $2,500 per person.

For our itinerary, we plan on spending 1 week in the Azores (split between Faial and Pico), and 1 week on the mainland in the Lisbon area. I’ve been to Lisbon, Sintra, and Faro before, but RD hasn’t been to Portugal at all. So it will be interesting to see if it’s as amazing as I remember it being. :)

In order to save money, we’ll be trying to book AirBnB for most of our stay so we’ll have access to a kitchen. Our trend when traveling is to cook most of our meals in our rental anyway, but I’ve added a bit of padding because I’m sure we’ll go out for food more often than usual in Portugal. We also decided to forego renting a car for the mainland portion of the trip. Instead, we’ll just take a train from Lisbon to Porto, and save our car rental for the Azores.

Any suggestions to this budget are more than welcome!

April 2017 Goals

There’s no way around it, April is an expensive month – and travel is the reason why. We went away for the Easter long weekend (also for RD’s birthday), I had to buy baseball tickets for my family’s annual trip to Seattle (now that the Blue Jays are a good team, we have to play premium prices – baseball isn’t cheap anymore!), and we wanted to book our flights to Portugal for September because our flights are very specific and the prices are really good right now. PLUS, I’m headed up to Smithers for 4 days at the end of the month to speak at a writing retreat/conference.

All this spending goes against our goal of saving for our down payment, but we’ve made conscious efforts to scale back our trips, and I’m currently on at least a 3-month shopping ban. We also plan on doing a major purge of our belongings in the summer – including selling RD’s car, as well as a (somewhat) valuable painting that will never hang on our walls. I also have a nice Leica camera I don’t use anymore, a good amount of clothing that I can try to sell or donate, as well as some kitchen items (juicer, blender, etc.)that can go.

Anyway here is the budget for April:

April 2017 Goals:

  • Be open – I’m sure some of you can relate to this, but speaking is basically the hardest thing for me to do. I’m introverted, but can do presentations and lead meetings when needed. I’ve also gotten quite comfortable leading meetings and discussions at work, but speaking to large crowds is something I’m just not used to. So when I go to my speaking gig at the end of the month I want to be open to whatever happens. I know my presentation will resonate with some people, but it might not be for everyone. And that’s okay. I want to be open to meeting new people and also being honest when I don’t know the answer to something. I’m not an expert, but I’m passionate about blogging, social media, and being online … and I know enough to help people get started. :)
  • Be budget conscious – Since I have an enormous budget this month, I won’t be able to save anything aside from my automated retirement contributions. So I really want to monitor my budget and make sure I’m not spending unnecessarily.

Those are my only goals for the month. To be honest, this month has been really difficult so far – which is why my monthly goals are so late. Between preparing for RD to leave, freelancing, the personal finance conference, gearing up for work to start getting busy, lots of people wanting to visit, and my upcoming speaking gig, I’ve been stressed. Usually I’d have at least 2 or 3 more goals I’d try to accomplish this month, but honestly I don’t think I can do much more than this. And I think that’s okay! May will be better. I hope. :)

How is your April coming along?

What do you look for in a job?

Recently I was head hunted for a management position with a different company in the same industry. It would have been a promotion with a higher salary, and with the type of organization I was interested in working with. The opportunity came as a bit of a shock because I’m happy where I am, and haven’t actively looked at job postings at all for the past 1.5 years. So while I was flattered that they were interested in me, I knew I was never going to seriously consider the position. And after talking it out with a few friends and stressing for a few days, I knew I had made the right decision.

This experience got me thinking again about what I look for in an employer, and how much that has changed over the years as my career has progressed. When I first graduated, jobs were pretty easy to come by, and I spent a lot of time chasing dollar signs and job hopping. While I was concerned with the integrity of the company, admittedly I was more concerned with my salary. And because of this, in the first four years of my career, I was able to double my income … but my resume looks pretty horrible. :)

Related: Why I don’t want to be self-employed

Now the job market is a lot tougher, and my career direction has become a lot more focused (which means less jobs to choose from). 10 years ago, I was a marketing generalist by choice. I knew that by not specializing in anything, I could try a variety of different roles to find what aspects of marketing I enjoyed and where my strengths were. Now, it’s safe to say I’ve become a specialist with a somewhat niche skill set. With a decade of experience under my belt, I know that a pay cheque isn’t everything, but I also know that I have the luxury of saying that because my salary is comfortable.

Related: When it’s worth it to take a pay cut

Deciding not to pursue this job opportunity has really reinforced what I want out of my career. I’m also happy to see that the gamble I took by entering into this industry 3 years ago (by taking on a junior position) was a good decision, because this isn’t the first time I’ve been head hunted before. It seems that this type of marketing is always in demand, and there just isn’t a huge pool of people to choose from here in Vancouver.

Aside from salary, here are a few key things that I look for in a job and a career:

  • Work-life balance. Overtime cannot be avoided in this fast paced, deadline-driven industry, but there has to be a trade off. Because my job isn’t my passion, I value my time away from the office. I want a 40 hour/week career and flexible hours because so many things that I love (like freelancing, sports, and travel) happen outside of the office.
  • Good people. I don’t necessarily want to become best friends with my co-workers (and I’m a pretty introverted person), but being able to be social while at work is more important than I realized when I first started my career. When I look back at all the jobs I’ve had, the best ones were where I’ve had friends.
  • A company I can believe in. I want to be proud of the company I’m working for, and I like knowing that they are helping to make a difference. Whether it’s through the work that they do, or through giving back to the community, I love companies that help make lives better. :) AND I find it so inspiring when others around me truly believe in making the company better.
  • Ability to learn. Getting stuck is a huge concern for me. I want the ability to keep on learning and growing as an employee, and if those options aren’t available to me, eventually I’ll have to look elsewhere for employment. And that’s not something I want to do, because I also value…
  • Long-term potential. I want to be able to stay with a company long-term. Job hopping is tiring and stressful. Finding a role I can settle into is something I value, and it looks good on a resume when you have stayed in a position for at least 3-5 years.
  • Location. I’m done commuting long distances, but it’s hard to get by in the city without a car. I drive a lot for field hockey and hiking as it is (where transit is not an option), and where we live right now, I wouldn’t even consider applying for jobs that aren’t located within walking distance of a SkyTrain stop.

What do you look for in a job (and in your career)?

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