Archive of ‘money’ category

Seven Tips on Traveling with your Significant Other

In the beginning of a relationship, your world is like a little fairy tale. Life is happy and love is wonderful. Your significant other can do no wrong! If their tastes differ from yours, it’s endearing! If they want to do something you’ve never done, you’re game! Anything is fun with you, darling!

Eventually, though, these love-colored glasses start to fade into a secure, comfortable relationship, and you start to notice that you are in fact, very different people with very different tastes. I realized this shortly after dating that J that we were really different. In so many aspects of our life.

Including traveling.

We have very different agendas when we travel. He loves to get to know a place like a tourist — museums, tours, popular restaurants, organized fun. I, on the other hand, like to blend in when I travel and do what the locals do — eat at the hole in the wall places, shop at the one-of-a-kind boutiques, and study maps of cities beforehand so I act like I know where I’m going (sidenote: my proudest moment of our trip to Boston was when someone asked me for directions. Ha!)

We were long distance for two years, so every time we had a chance to travel we visited the other person, which was different than a real trip or vacation. So I was a little worried one of my favorite things in the world (traveling) would be ruined after we got married and I’d never be able to enjoy a trip again. (If I could go back in time to my 24-year old self, I would say: Ease up, princess. Marriage is a partnership. You love J and you love being with him, so you will enjoy traveling with him.)

It’s taken a lot of communication and a little practice, but we are finally at the point where traveling is our favorite thing to do together. Here are some ways J and I make it work.

7 tips on traveling with your significant other

1. Decide on a trip budget and how you’re going to pay for it.

Did you know that money is the number one thing couples argue about? Guess what, that applies when you travel together. There is nothing worse than coming home from a great trip and then paying for it for the next few months in credit card payments. Figure out what you want to do, where to stay, how you’re going to get there, how much it should cost, and then how you plan to save for it. If you can’t afford it, don’t plan it.

2. Spend as much money before the trip as you can.

The last thing you want to be thinking about when you are traveling is money. It’s a buzz kill. You are on a trip to relax or get away, not stress about whether your budget is going to break this month. For this reason, we try to pay for the trip in stages, and as much as possible beforehand. For our recent trip to Boston, we bought our flights in February, booked our lodging in March, bought our Go Boston pass (for all of the attractions we planned to visit) in April, and bought our Red Sox tickets in May. The only money we spent out of pocket during our trip was on food and two $5 subway rides. The trip was sooo much less stressful while we were there since almost everything had already been paid for.

3. Communicate expectations.

Half the fun of going on a trip is the planning, at least for us. We dream about what we want to do, places we want to see, and (maybe most importantly — for me), where we want to eat. When J and I are planning a trip, we communicate what our purpose is beforehand. What is the balance of relaxing to sight-seeing? We make a list of things we want to do and figure out why we are going and what we want to do in order to meet those expectations. Our trip to Boston was most definitely not relaxing, and we both agreed beforehand that we would be on the go most of the time.

4. Come up with your must-do items.

Before a trip, J and I each come up with a must-do or must-see or must-eat list. These are things that if they don’t happen, we would be disappointed. For our trip to Boston, J wanted to go to a Red Sox game. For me it was bike riding around the city and going out for a nice meal. If all of our other plans fell through but we ended up doing those things, we would be perfectly happy. Both partners get to choose at least one thing, then decide what else is on your list and prioritize the rest.

5. Make time to relax.

We like to pack in as much as we can when we are in a new place. But you can only go so long running around without losing steam or needing a break. And losing steam — or worse, getting hangry — is never conducive to a good time. Make time to relax and take it easy. Sleep in. Go out for a long, lingering brunch. Take a break at a quaint coffee shop and scroll through the photos you’ve taken that day. When I look back to the various trips we’ve taken, these are some of my favorite memories.

6. Do something you normally wouldn’t do. 

The root of my hesitation in traveling with J was fear of losing my voice and only doing what he wanted to do. But that’s just silly — marriage is all about compromise, and I have learned so much through doing things outside of my little box. Our trips are so much fun because we each do things we naturally wouldn’t do, together. I would never buy tickets to see a Red Sox game by myself, but I had the best time and loved seeing J’s face light up when he entered Fenway Park. He would never choose to go on a 20-mile bike ride, but he had a great time and it made me really happy. We were riding around in the cheesy duck tour quacking around town at people we saw on the street, and I literally was laughing the entire time. These things make the trip fun, keep things interesting, and you learn a lot more about your significant other by experiencing things they love.

7. Let go of expectations and laugh when things go wrong.

Expectations can ruin a trip fast. Just let ‘em go. And when things go wrong (like the time we got lost biking in downtown Boston during morning rush hour), the best plan of action is to laugh and work together.

What tips do you have when you traveling with your significant other?
Do you like to do more touristy things, or lean towards what the locals do?

PS – Day one, two and three from our Boston trip, in case you care to read more. :)

My Christmas Budget

I find it humorous how every year I am surprised when the holidays roll around. Once the stores start decorating for Christmas we’re all like What?? Christmas ALREADY?? as if it isn’t the exact same day year after year.

It’s so easy to get out of control and spend more than you intend to at Christmas, isn’t it? The season of giving turns into a competition of who can spend the most, and a lot of times we end up in January with a new sweater and a very low bank account.

After a few years of stressful, penny-pinching Decembers, I now include in our monthly budget a little bit to set aside throughout the year to spend for Christmas. It has helped me enjoy this season a lot more and be more strategic in the gifts I give. (If you don’t save throughout the year, don’t panic. Here are some tips for how to pay for Christmas when you haven’t budgeted for it.)

My Christmas budget categories look like this:

  • Gifts for family members: We normally spend $20-40 per person (depending on the gift), so this is the largest bucket of the budget. I try to save as many gift cards and coupons to use for Christmas as well. (So far I’ve purchased three gifts this year using credit card points. Score!)
  • Small gifts for friends, coworkers, neighbors: I don’t give big gifts to my friends (we decided we all had too many other people to buy for!), so usually I bake bread, cookies, toffee or give a bottle of wine to local friends, coworkers or neighbors.
  • Decorations: Christmas tree, wreaths, lights, candles, etc. I try not to buy too many decorations, since we have collected a lot over the last years, but this is one area I always seem to buy more than I originally intend to. It’s fun having a festive home!
  • Christmas cards and stamps: Not everyone sends these out, but I enjoy giving (and getting!) holiday cards in the mail. I am using this year (click on the link for $25 off your order) and plan to order a postcard so the postage costs less.
  • Wrapping paper: Boxes, bags, and wrapping paper are pretty cheap, but add up when you have a lot of gifts. I also try to buy wrapping paper after the holidays on discount so I won’t have to spend as much when the season approaches, but normally still have to spend money on these.

Other: We pay for these things out of our normal December budget, but you can also include an Entertaining category to your Christmas budget if you host a lot of parties or dinners, or an Entertainment category, if you intend to see the Nutcracker or A Christmas Carol, or other holiday-related events each year.

Normally I track my Christmas budget in a boring spreadsheet, with the categories, budgets and gifts I buy all listed together. A little boring, but I love my spreadsheet system.

If you’re not a big fan of Excel, I just discovered Dave Ramsey’s My Christmas Budget, an interactive site to keep track of all your expenses, itemizing it down to the person you want to buy for, decorations and charities you plan to give to. If you don’t have a system for planning a Christmas budget, I highly encourage you to use is, as it’s a lot prettier than a simple spreadsheet. :)

my christmas budget

Do you set aside money each year for Christmas?
What other categories would you include in your budget?
Do you like to buy your presents ahead of time, or wait until the last minute?
How much do you spend per person in your family?

PS – I wasn’t paid by Dave Ramsey for promoting this, just think it’s a good tool. But Dave, we should talk.

The Mixed Emotions of Check Writing

The day before we closed on our house, I went to the bank to pick up the cashier’s check that included our down payment and any leftover closing costs that the seller wasn’t taking care of (I plan to detail all of our closing costs in a post soon. Those pesky hidden costs!).

I went to the bank on my lunch break, just a few minutes from my office. Normally the line is long and I was prepared to wait a while, but that day it was unusually quiet and I walked straight up to a teller.

“Hello, how may I help you today?”

“Could I please get a cashiers check for this amount?”

I hand her a small piece of paper with a number written. Maybe overkill, but I wasn’t about to announce to the rest of the lobby the amount I wanted to withdraw from our savings.

“Sure, just fill out this piece of paper.”

She gives me a cashier’s check withdrawal form. I fill it out with shaky hands, double checking every box, every number, every detail, and then hand it back to the teller.

After a moment, the teller hands me a check. “Here you go, have a great day!”

She hands me a check with more numbers than I’ve ever written in my whole life. In less than five minutes I had withdrawn the money that took me years and years to save. It was almost too easy. I stared at it, partly in awe that I’m an adult with this much money to withdrawal, and partly in horror that I’m about to give all of it away.

After a good long minute, the teller asks if everything is alright.

“Oh yes, it’s fine! I just took out my life savings.”

And then I held onto that check for dear life until I gave it to the lawyer the next day.

Has anyone else experienced that paralyzing jolt of fear/excitement/anxiety when they write a huge check?

Ways We Are Saving for a House

House hunting is like going on the most expensive shopping trip of your life — you’re looking to buy something that costs over six figures. Yowser. That’s a lot of money! We have been saving for years, and yet it’s still going to be a small fraction of the total cost. A little intimidating, eh? In order to put down the most that we can, we’ve stepped up our savings a bit in the last six months. Here are a few ways we have been saving…

Ways we are saving for a houseWe keep our expenses low.
This one is a no-brainer: we spend less than we make, and save the difference.

We continue to keep our expenses low.
Our salaries have increased slightly in the last year (either through inflation or job changes), and with each raise we haven’t changed anything in our budget except giving. Any new income we get goes to our house savings, so it doesn’t really feel like we got a raise until we look at our savings.

We reduced savings in our Car Repair Fund.
We have a “car repair fund” to cover car insurance, car fees and car taxes and usually throw a little extra to cover car repairs and oil changes, since they don’t really qualify as emergencies but aren’t things we want to pay with our regular budget. But in the last six months, we reduced the amount we save each month to the minimum (what we need for our bi-annual car insurance payment) and the rest we save towards our house. We’ll continue to save more after we buy a house. (Read more about our different savings accounts.)

We stopped spending money on decorations and DIY projects.
Aside from a few patio plants, I haven’t spend any money on decorations or home improvement or DIY crafts since March. We don’t want to buy something or paint any of our current furniture and risk it not fitting in with our new place.

We stopped spending money on clothes, accessories and shoes.
Since May, I have tried not to spend any money for my wardrobe. It’s forced me to get really creative with my outfits, especially at work since my coworkers see me all the time. I’ve been wearing a lot of dresses and skirts, mixing with tops and cardigans.

We save mileage checks.
Any time we use our car for work, we get paid about $0.50 for each mile and those paychecks go to our house fund. We don’t travel that often, and the checks are never that much, but hey — every little bit adds up.

We stopped contribution to our Roth IRA.
Back in March we decided to stop contributing to our Roth IRA. Again, we’ll continue to save for our Roth once we buy a house, but right now we feel it’s more important for Present Us to have this money than Future Us. (In case you’re curious, we haven’t stopped contributing to our 401(k)s because we want to still get the employer match.)

We are saying no.
Eeks. This one is the hardest. There have been a few really awesome trips and fun events and fancy dinners that we have had to decline. We know we won’t always have to say no, but for now this is a unique season of saving for us, so we want to be extra intentional with this time in order to get the best deal.


What other ways can you think of to save for something big, either a house or something else? 

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