Give Me Back My Five Bucks

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Setting priorities and putting travel on hold

Balancing act

photoThis year has been a bit of a rollercoaster. Everything in my life seems to have been up in the air at some point over the last six months – whether it’s my career, friendships/relationships, health, and travel. I want (and am trying to work towards) a lot of goals, but sometimes plans don’t work out the way you want them to.

That being said, our travel plans to Europe for September have been officially axed. I’m disappointed, because ever since I got back from Germany, I had envisioned going on one international trip each year. Last year was France/Morocco. This year, well I didn’t know where we were going to go, but I was excited that it was going to be somewhere that involved crossing an ocean. :)

But it’s really for the best. Among other reasons, I lost about 6 weeks worth of pay when I was laid off earlier this year. And while I didn’t have to use my Emergency Fund to get by, I still hurt my savings rate and my RRSP contributions for the year. Plus, I have some upcoming medical expenses (not covered under my extended health) that could end up costing me thousands. That alone scares me when I think about planning a trip that will also likely set me back thousands. Straining my budget like that would be too much, and I’m not comfortable with it. Making sure I’m saving enough for retirement is, and likely always will be, my number one financial goal.

Even though I’m disappointed, there’s still a lot to look forward to this year. In the past few months, I’ve been to Portland and Las Vegas. And BF and I just planned a road trip to the Oregon Coast for the Canada Day long weekend. There’s Seattle in August, and as a consolation trip for not going to Europe, we are tossing around the idea of going somewhere else for a week in the fall. New Orleans, perhaps.

You can have anything you want, just not everything. I think about that statement a lot. I can’t just buy whatever I want – nobody can. Even millionaires can’t afford everything on their wish list. :) But my personal health (and the medical expenses that come with it) as well as my financial health are more important than a trip, so that’s what I’m choosing. For me, getting to make decisions about where my money goes remains the most empowering thing about being out of debt. Not owing money to anyone opens up so many doors. It gives you choices, and freedom. It’s something I never want to give up, or take for granted.

As for next year… well, I’m going to have a ton of vacation time available. So that will give us even more time off (and time to save) for a bigger, better trip. :)

Prioritizing travel plans

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barcelona06For the past three months I’ve been quietly saving money for a potential trip in the fall. Thanks to a bit of freelance income, automatic bi-weekly deductions, and Tangerine Bank referral bonuses, I’ve managed to save just over $2,300 – with a goal to end up with about $3,500 by mid-September.

With my freelancing this year, whenever I receive a cheque in the mail, I’ve been using the Tangerine Bank app to deposit the money via Cheque-In. I’ll put away at least 25% of every cheque towards my Travel Fund, and the rest gets transferred over to my PC Financial account to spend/save like I normally would. It has worked out so well that I think I’ll keep doing this going forward, and that will ensure that I always have a bit of money in my account specifically earmarked for travel.

I’ve also got about $700 in Capital One Travel World Aspire Mastercard points, so I’ll have a total of about $4,200 to play with for this Europe trip. I don’t think I’m going to need that much, but I’d rather plan for it than end up without enough cash to do all of the things I’d like to do.

A flight will be about $1,200. Accommodation for 14-15 nights might come out to around $1,200 as well (estimating $80 per person/night using hotel/b&b/AirBnB). Then there’s food, entertainment, travel, etc. which I don’t think will come out to more than $1,800.

It’s a bit tricky to estimate how much everything besides the flight will cost. All we know is that we’re going to Europe, and we’ll either start or end our journey in Paris. We’ve been talking about heading south and going to Spain, because in the end of September the weather will be nicer there instead of going north to Amsterdam and Copenhagen, which was the original plan.

This trip means that I won’t be able to do a few other things that I had wanted to do this year. A tentative trip to Edmonton next month is likely going to fall through. As is our Canada Day long weekend idea of going to the Okanagan. We had also talked about potentially going to Las Vegas with another couple in August, but doubt that will happen either. These axed vacation plans will likely get replaced with more local trips – camping, fishing, hiking, and going back to the island. :)

Do you have summer travel plans that you’re currently saving up for?

The cost of going home more often

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photoLately I’ve been thinking a lot about family, and I realize that I don’t make the effort to go home often enough. This past weekend was great, but I find I’m only coming home for specific reasons – like a field hockey tournament, or a running race. I should be coming home just to visit sometimes.

When I first moved to Vancouver, I went home nearly every weekend (because I still had a PT job there, but also because all my friends were still in Victoria). Then when I quit that job, I started going back once a month. And now, nearly 7 years later? I end up going home once every 2-3 months.

There are excuses, of course. During field hockey season (Sept-March), it’s incredibly difficult to get away because games are on the weekend and I play on a competitive team where you are expected to go to most (if not all) games and practices. I have friends here on the mainland, a boyfriend, work commitments, and travel plans. Then there’s the cost of actually getting home.

When I was in high school, I paid less than $8 to ride the ferry one-way. Now? It’s $16.25 one-way. Add in the $53.25 one-way cost to bring a vehicle over, and a trip home becomes a major expense! Parking my car and walking onto the ferry is an option. I do that quite often, but sometimes a car is necessary. Plus parking is expensive as well (at the terminal it’s $16/24 hours, and at the Park-n-Go I believe it’s $14/24 hours).

Still. I want to see my family more often, and with the health problems of certain family members, I don’t want to miss out. I want to spend more time in my hometown, and if that costs more money and more weekends traveling, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m extremely lucky that the job I have right now offers flexible work hours, so I can take time off it needed to catch an early ferry on the weekends.

I don’t think going home once a month is realistic right now, but I will try to go every 6-8 weeks. This starts in a couple of weeks, when BF and I will head over on the May long weekend. I’d like to go back again in June or July, and then my family and I will be spending a few days in August to watch the Blue Jays take on the Mariners. :)

How often do you see your family? Does cost factor into that decision?

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