Minimalism without waste

We’ve been living in our new apartment for 3 months now and moving can have many benefits. For us it was a great excuse to purge mercilessly any items we could so that we wouldn’t have to move them. As I spoke about during the great moving purge.

As I work towards minimalism, I am also trying to do it without waste. As I removed the excess I want to do so with this quote in mind.

Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do, or do without.

 

This post is part of my 30 day writing challenge. Each week I will be focusing on one topic. This week I have chosen to focus on Minimalism. If talking about minimalism is your thing, don’t forget to come back everyday until Monday when I choose my new topic for the week. Since the start of the challenge I’ve discussed ideas on Travel, Money, and Parenting. 

The easiest way to cut possessions down would be to just grab a trash bag and start picking things up and dropping them in. Tossing them would be the quickest resolution. Just garbage bags taken to the dumpster.

It’s a lot more work to go through things carefully and separate what is truly trash from things you can use up, re-purpose, reuse, sell and donate.

Donate it!

The first thing we did, and what we tried to do the most during our purges was donate. We also tried to sell things but that was a lot more time and effort consuming. So the default was getting things out of the house through donations.

The recipients of all these items were predominantly stores like Goodwill and Savers. However, when I saw something I knew some one might want we put stuff aside for family and friends as well.

While we had time constraints with clearing out the apartment, which made donating the most reasonable choice. We did have some success selling some items like this stroller for $50.

The stroller we sold for $50
The stroller we sold for $50

Use it Up!

Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do, or do without.

Our bathroom is a great example of an area where I am trying to apply minimalism without waste.

Before moving into our new apartment we had things set in multiple places because we had storage(closets) in multiple places. ( Lots of storage leads to doubles).

Moving helped us consolidate things together. One of the surprises I had, was discovering how many little bottles of hotel soaps, shampoos and conditioners we had accumulated. (Even more then are pictured.)

The closet
The closet

It’s clear in this bathroom closet that there are just too many things.

Some culprits were fancy bars of soap that I’ve had for probably 3 years if not more. I had partly used body wash bottles even older then the fancy bars of soap. I grew up using a specific bar of soap, not loofahs with body wash so after a test or 2 they just sat there unused.

Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do, or do without

So in the bathroom we are focusing on the use it up. After our move I said to myself first, and then to the family, that I was putting away the big bottles of shampoo and conditioner. That we would be using up the little containers we had accumulated. Also instead of going out to buy more dove soap ( which is what I grew up using). We would be using the body washes until we used up all the bottles.

Could I have just thrown out the little bottles to clean out the space in one fell swoop? Yes I could have, but it just seemed wasteful.

So here we are still using the items in the closet. On the plus side we haven’t had to buy any hand soap, shampoo, lotion… well we haven’t had to buy anything really for the bathroom other then toilet paper.

So if you need financial motivation to USE IT UP. It seems like it’s a pretty smart financial decision to use up the stuff you have instead of just throwing it out.

Wear it out

Much like the use it up section, wearing it out means making do with what you have on hand.

The thing that comes to mind for me, is a pair of jeans I own. During my minimalism journey I have also taken to the capsule wardrobe challenge.

As I started this challenge I let go of some clothing that went straight to the donate pile.  But I kept a lot and I am slowly going through it with every new 3 month rotation. Currently I am on my 3rd capsule wardrobe challenge and am set to start the 4th one soon. In essence completing one for every season.

As I’ve gone through the rotations I’ve noticed that I don’t really own very many jeans, and that they all seemed to have something wrong with them. Great comfort but getting old and have ripped knees. A newer one that doesn’t fit quite right and is a tad to tight on my waist. Another fits great, no holes but has an atrocious stamp in the front, a brand marker.

Fit's great! but why, why does it have that giant gold stamp?
Fit’s great! but why, why does it have that giant gold stamp?

In this instance I have chosen wear it out. Instead of getting rid of my jeans and going to buy some new pairs. Even if I were to buy them at goodwill, I have decided that the whole process would be a waste. Specially when it comes to the stamp one. It fits great … it’s just not my style. So I’ve decided to make it the staple pair of jeans from here on out until they disintegrate. So I am making do.

At this time I don’t feel motivated enough to go to a store and waste time and money buying an article of clothing I already own (jeans). Even if it is a bit unsightly.

So that’s me right now on my minimalist journey. I still have a box or 2 of papers to go through and my spring capsule to build. Everything else I am trying to use up. wear out, make do or do without.

Want some more inspiration, Check out this post by the Zero Waste Home blog. Bea’s trip to Burning man peaked my interest and I have been binge reading through her archives. Though her message is different it complements minimalism well so check it out.

Do you enjoy the idea of simplifying through minimalism? How do you purge stuff without being wasteful?

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The Great Moving Purge

While I don’t think I had ever heard the term minimalism growing up the word hoarding I was familiar with. There were shows about it after all, and while our home never looked like that. There was enough clutter to make me feel anxious.

This post is part of my 30 day writing challenge. Each week I will be focusing on one topic. This week I have chosen to focus on Minimalism. If talking about minimalism is your thing, don’t forget to come back everyday until Monday when I choose my new topic for the week. Since the start of the challenge I’ve discussed ideas on Travel, Money, and Parenting. 

Minimalism

When I started this process I didn’t have a goal in mind. While I had read articles by people who had purged up to 75% of their possessions that wasn’t something I had set out to do.

Even the term minimalism hadn’t came to me. There was just to much stuff. Space had become more cluttered as my family of 2. ( My son and I)  Grew to 3( my mom). Then 4( Mr. Roamer), then 5( Minnie).  As more people came more things came with them. Even Minnie who owned nothing came with a requirement for space. Space for diapers, wipes, clothes, and a space to sleep.

While I continued to slowly go through items and remove them. Things were slow. What changed for me was that I no longer had those big cross country moves forcing me to go through a big push into reducing my things. During my college years I traveled cross country 2-4 times a year. Purging and reducing my items was habitual practice. Everything would not fit in my car. Everything would not fit in 2 suitcases. It was a necessity.

But like it tends to happen once you grow up or stop living the college life, things tend to change. Your routines change, your spending changes, lots of things change.

So the items grew and the removal had slowed to a crawl.  And when there is so much to tackle it really can be overwhelming. It’s difficult to know where to even begin.

That was the great thing about the Minimalist games it forced fast action. I also finally had a name and a resource for information and support.

Counting how many things I had gotten rid of through out my adulthood would be impossible. But working on this post I really got curious. How many items had we removed thus far since taking the first 31 day minimalist challenge last January?

 A before and after picture after the first challenge. More room to walk in the closet.
A before and after picture after the first challenge. More room to walk in the closet.

When I first took the 31 day challenge I was super excited, and we had great results. Mr. Roamer’s and my competitive spirit resulted in high motivation. From what I can remember we both completed the challenge continually reminding each other and pushing each other. Resulting in 992 items removed.  Our 2nd time around we didn’t do as well, but still got rid of lots more items (402 to be exact).

All my previous attempts made moving easier. There were less thing to go through.  But we still knew that giving it another go during packing would be a good idea.

So I tried as best I could to keep a running tally of all the things we were getting out of the house before the move.

The stroller we sold for $50
The stroller we sold for $50
The list

Here is the running tally of all the items we got rid of during the month leading up to our move. We did this while packing.

10 plates/ containers
4 pants, 1 short
1 stack of papers (40+ shts)
16 books
1 baseball cap, 1 headphones
1 box full of VHS tapes ( 24+)
1 stroller sold , 1 stroller trashed
1 Foreman style grill with accessories
30+ bathroom items expired medicines….
7 bubble container from wedding
Box of baby stuff ( 25+ clothes,toys bottles)
1 stroller, 1 car seat (given away)
4 bags of holiday decorations( over 100 paper & plastic items)
35  Toys and other items. To Savers.
13, 1 yr old girls clothes
1 box toys from childhood(  barbie, 7 dolls, 2O+ barbie clothes 20+ kitchen toys)( That’s right toys from my childhood)
20+ random items, + 1 pair of boots
Radio, VCR, clothes
5 Books
Recycled a bunch of papers 2 grocery bags worth (100+ sheets).

From what I count (using the most detailed numbers 20+ barbie clothes as appose to 1 box of toys) On the move purge we eliminated more then 488 items.

Since the move, I’ve kept it up and gotten rid of a lot more papers (another 100 at least) and I have gotten rid of some items through my Capsule wardrobe process as well (24).

Which leads me back to the question. About how many items have I gotten rid of?

The total count.  992+402+488+24+100=2,006.

2,006 items no longer in our home. I like the sound of that.

According to this group of stats the average household owns 300,000 items. I’m not exactly sure how they got the number but papers must be a big part of it.  Even though I don’t think we own what the average family does, as we don’t have the same spending habits. It’s crazy to think that removing 2,006 items from your home is only .006% of the average 300,000.

Still I think we are on the right path to simplifying our lives.

I’ve noticed a lot of people who are interested in Financial Freedom and savvy spending also try to simplify their possessions. Is that you? Have you tried the minimalist challenge?

Need help or want to get started?

I really do highly recommend giving a 30 day challenge a try. It gives you a great jump start especially when you have some people to take it with you. But if not just visit the hashtag for inspiration and motivation. #theminsgame.

You could also read my post on 5S which is all about removing waste (unneeded items) in an area and was featured on Rockstar Finance. 5S: Continuously Improving your living Space.

Also try to find a motto that helps push you forward. During my first challenge I came to this simple realization that holds true no matter what you apply it to.

Let go now, or let go later, at some point you have to let everything go. (really its just a matter of time)

Test it out. Think of anything: a favorite toy, a favorite shirt, a friendship. Things change, things get worn out, and eventually you let them go. This realization came to me while I was shuffling through some items I had consolidated years ago. Like I said, purging was a part of life once I turned 18. I had trimmed and saved things, but as I went through them again I couldn’t understand why I had chosen to keep some items.

Other items I still felt attached to, but it clicked. Next time I choose to go through these I might not want them anymore. If I choose to keep it now it just means somewhere down the road I am going to toss them. It’s inevitable as they say.

“Let go now, or let go later, at some point you have to let everything go. Really its just a matter of time.”- The Roamer

I’ve found that moving really does force you to take inventory of what you have. The frustration you experience while packing also prompts you to ask why. Why do I still have this? Coupled together these 2 things can make for a successful downsizing of items. But if you don’t have a move on the horizon I still invite you to take a look around. See if you have any excess lying around causing you a headache.

Then ask yourself why do you still have this?

Is minimalism in your future? How about some good old simplification?

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day

“Ireland, it’s the one place on earth
That heaven has kissed
With melody, mirth,
And meadow and mist.”*

Is St. Patrick’s Day another hallmark holiday?

Nope, not really. It’s a holiday that was a catholic religious one, it honored the work of a man. A man who was ordained a saint thanks to all his work in spreading Catholicism throughout Ireland. But I say “was“, because well now, it’s more of a secular holiday that we use to celebrate the Irish, think about leprechauns and apparently get drunk.

This post is part of my 30 day writing challenge. Each week I will be focusing on one topic. This week I have chosen to focus on Parenthood. If talking about parenting is your thing, don’t forget to come back everyday until Monday when I choose my new topic for the week.

While I am Latina, my kids are even more of a mix then I am. Not only do they have Latin blood in them, both of them can trace some ancestry to Irish roots.

So why not celebrate this holiday steeped in Irish tradition?

The trick, is figuring out how to do it without moving away from our recognition of minimalism and frugality. How does the Traveling wallet celebrate?

Personally as I continue to purge, I am also trying to avoid bringing in more items into the home. Which means stopping by Target and picking up themed items to pimp out my home in St. Paddy day decor is definitely out.

Fighting the Urge to Pinterest things

Mini Rant: Pinterest was an amazing thing, when I didn’t have to create an account to view all the pictures for inspiration. ( I’m seriously getting tired of having to keep making up user names and passwords, specially for things that don’t need it, Cough Pinterest Cough)

Now, I’m kind of happy to be kept out because then I don’t get the feeling that I have to make everything over the top. Pinterest has some great visual inspirations. Still, the high expectations can get overwhelming quickly as you start to feel bad about the lack of grandeur in your celebration.  Just click here to see all you “should” be doing to properly celebrate the Holiday. Or else you know your child might be deprived of well… their childhood.

Just a few of the items are: a green smoothie, with rainbow pancakes, skittles or some other rainbow motifs. Like making sure your salad bowl fruits are set out in rainbow order. Novelty right ?

Also you can’t forget all the craft items. The stickers, ribbons, Little leprechauns, et all. I like how they look of course. It all looks nice and staged. But do kids really need all that to celebrate? And does it even communicate anything about the meaning of the holiday? I think that’s a no on both accounts.

Don’t buy all the decorations at the store.

What is on the shopping list

Growing up in my family, my mom was very much into crafting. But we didn’t plan a marathon session of crafts. We normally already had things like paper and scissors on hand and we’d cut out 4 leafed clovers.

As the mom now, we keep thing small and just purchase a few items to highlight the holiday.

Though I normally try to stay away from candy cereals (sometimes without success) For St. Patrick’s day we will purposefully buy the cereal with the little green leprechaun. Lucky Charms is on the list and is a special treat as we try to only buy it during this time of the year.

Mr. Roamer really enjoys cooking and so the ingredients for corned beef and cabbage was on the list, and potatoes too of course, lots of potatoes. He makes it for dinner and it’s delicious.

Yum!
Yum!

That’s it. That’s all we bought to celebrate the day.  To the blasphemy of every one else in the world, no beer, neither cheap nor Guinness. Or big bags of candy.

No purchase necessary

Other ways we celebrated was to wear our current green items. ( no new clothes.) We picked clovers and placed them in Minnie’s hair. We clicked over to YouTube and watched the Riverdance final act and my son enjoyed it so much he clapped and ask if we could find a tutorial. Which we did, we all had fun trying to nail down a basic step.

Finally I also googled some Irish quotes to share with you.

” May you live as long as you want, and never want as long as you live”*

Which seemed very appropriate for our family, and all  the readers currently reading plenty about not wanting much but living fully through their practices in minimalism, personal finance and intentional living.

And even though I am not religious you can’t escape religion when it comes to a holiday about a patron saint in Catholicism. So here is a saying to send you off for the rest of your day.

May there always be work for your hands to do,
May your purse always hold a coin or two.
May the sun always shine warm on your windowpane,
May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain.
May the hand of a friend always be near you,
And may God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.*

Tell me below what do you do to celebrate these types of Holidays?

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*Irish quotes came from here.

No employer match, Who cares?

I was just working on our Net Worth post and I was looking at this graph.

Asset Chart 010316 TW
Traveling Wallet’s asset allocation

and it just made me feel like man what a mistake!

Your assets graph made you feel like what a mistake? Really?!?!?

Yeah it did, and it’s that little orange section right there.

This post is part of my 30 day writing challenge. Each week I will be focusing on one topic. This week I have chosen to focus on Money. If talking about Money is your thing, don’t forget to come back everyday until Monday when I choose my new topic for the week.

5 years ago

5 years ago I didn’t know anything about retirement or a 401K, but I did know one thing about investing (thanks bro) and that was

That if Joe started investing at 25 and Mark started investing at 35, Joe would have more money then Mark even if Mark invested  for longer time. This article start investing today explains it in more detail. (Article assumes they both try to retire at the same age of 60).

So the one thing I did know was the sooner you start the better it is. Simple as that.

But what I’ve learned since then, and was really driven home this year during tax time, was that…

You can get an immediate win.

Sure all the money you put into a 401K or IRA when your 20 feels like its gone, gone forever. A plush retirement is a pay out very far in the future for a 20 year old. But you can get an immediate win. A win only as far out as the next tax season.

That win is dropping your earned income and therefore being able to keep more money for yourself.

If you have and employer and they offer a 401K and a match and you’re not contributing at all. Well that’s a shoot yourself in the foot moment. It’s a huge, huge mistake. You are giving away money. And no matter what you earn and what your life is like I think you can set aside 1 %. When you realize that you can live with out those $$ then you can up it and up it until you get your entire employer match.

401k match
Just a little rough example in case you don’t believe me. $11.60. Can you not spend just $11.60 for the entire month. With an employer match you automatically double your money.

No employer Match

Where things get a little gray is when there is no employer match. And that is what Mr. Roamers situation was way back when. In 2012 he was a contract worker. But he still had a 401K available to use. Just no match.

Back then we didn’t know better and all we thought was, well, with no match why am I going to lock my money away.

Why indeed?

The problem was there was no incentive to do it. Even though Mr. Roamer was stock piling money naturally, just because he didn’t spend as much as he earned. He still didn’t seem to want to part with it.

Hindsight is 20/20 and looking back it seems like it was a mistake.

We just didn’t know what we were missing. Not only would Mr. Roamer’s account be much bigger now. He would have also saved himself some money that could have been his instead of Uncle SAM’s. All because regardless if you have an employer match or not, YOU ARE dropping your taxable income by the amount you contribute. What I think was a mistake was forgoing a retirement savings plan just because there was no match and not understanding the tax benefits of contributing.

No 401K plan at all

Okay so I shouldn’t rule out my 401K even if it doesn’t offer a match, but my sister’s company doesn’t even offer her a 401K. What then?

Fine so your employer doesn’t offer you a 401K. Well, there are IRA’s and if you qualify and use the traditional IRA you get the deduction. Which means you get the tax advantage and lower your tax bill.

IRA deduction
See, no retirement plan at work = full deduction. Straight from the IRS site

This year, contributing to these accounts (our 401K and IRAs) was really driven home during our tax time. As we worked on our taxes, things started looking ugly. As in, it said we would owe. Finally! I located where to input our contributions to our IRAs and

BAMB! no bill!

We even lowered it enough to qualify for a refund.

Immediate win!

It’s money you get to pocket that you would have otherwise paid out.

Asset Chart 010316 TW

So why is looking at this graph make me think what a mistake?

It’s hard to play the “what if?” game. Nobody really knows what would have happened if they had done things differently in the past. But it seems like a mistake that the orange isn’t much bigger. That is why I wanted to tell you about it. Because if you aren’t saving into your 401K, then you should really reconsider, given all the information.

I know for us, it turned out alright either way. The extra money was being saved, not spent. So we were able to drop big wads of cash into our student loans once we realized the money would do more good there then sitting in our bank accounts.

If you are really a low…and I mean low earner this year there was even a tax credit for saving for your future.

But if you make good money and can drop yourself to a different tax bracket or lower your tax bill by maxing out your 401K and IRA then DO IT!  You should see some money back in your pocket after tax time.

IRA deduction 2
Just in case you want to know if you can deduct those IRA contributions with an employer retirement account. Straight from IRS site

So to reiterate

  • Save to get the employer match (this is a no brainier start with just 1% if you have to)
  • then save as much as you can until you max out your 401k
  • No 401K , Save in a Traditional IRA instead
  • Max out your IRA
  • All this means you are lowering your tax bill which means WIN!!

This really is a WIN WIN, your future self wins by having money be set aside for retirement. You WIN now by lowering your tax bill and keeping more of that money in your pocket.

Need to find out more about keeping more of your money by lowering your taxes. I highly recommend you check out the Mad FIentist tax avoidance section. Here’s a good post to start with.

What do you think? Should you save as much as you can into these 2 accounts to lower your taxes?

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401k Rollover, The Fear

I stared at the stack of 18 papers in front of me.

What am I going to do?

Maybe 18 pages doesn’t sound that scary, but think about it this way. If you had to read and 18 page medical journal and then present on it to prove that you understood it, well I’m sure your probably feeling overwhelmed right now too.

That’s what it is after all to most people. Ask them to read a 401K rollover document from their 401K provider and you might as well tell them to go rent a physics book from the library. Not only do they have no interest in reading on the topic. It’s also seen as so high level that you’re intimidated before you even start.

It’s a recipe for ….well for getting nowhere.

This post is part of my 30 day writing challenge. Each week I will be focusing on one topic. This week I have chosen to focus on Money. If talking about Money is your thing don’t forget to come back everyday until next Monday when I choose my new topic for the week.

The Silver lining that turned into a dark cloud

After feeling apathetic toward my job for a while I started thinking about a way to get out of there.  Mr. Roamer and I discussed plans for taking a year off. Working together to figure out the most ideal time to take the leap. I even read Sam Dogen’s book How to Engineer your Layoff  to see if I could leave with some extra cash in my pocket.  All the while telling myself how when I leave I’ll finally be able to rollover my 401K into my Vanguard account and nix those big expense ratios.

Then the unexpected happened.

Last November I was laid off, and while it was a shocker and not at all fitting with our plan. I was happy to leave and the silver lining to the dark cloud of bad news was….

I could finally rollover my 401K.

However, that silver lining quickly turned into a dark cloud of it’s own as I realized that days kept passing and the rollover was nowhere in sight.

Nothing was happening.

The Fear

Looking back on the whole process I can now openly admit I was afraid. But had you asked me earlier that wouldn’t have been my initial response. I was busy. Sure I just got laid of and thus had an extra 40 hrs a week to figure it out. But we were going on vacation and I have 2 kids that keep me busy. Time… I just didn’t have it.

And isn’t that what we always tell ourselves. 401K rollover paperwork, Ain’t nobody got time for that.

You know there is a saying that says

if it’s important you’ll find a way. if it’s not you’ll find an excuse.

But truth be told the excuses were just the surface. I had heard the horror stories about fees and taxes when you do it wrong. I was so worried about doing something wrong that I just kept pushing it out. I was worrying about what I didn’t know, I was worrying about messing up. With 58K in my account a mistake could cost me a lot of money. It would mean paying taxes and getting hit with the 10% penalty.

To scared to make a mistake, So we do nothing.

It’s strange because that was one of the thing I thought would be a plus after leaving my employer. I would finally be able to move it from the bad offering to my Vanguard account. I thought I would jump on that right away.

It’s that thought that finally push me into action.That and the fact that I had lost 6 k. Now I know the market was going down during that time but I still felt like it was more of the idea that I was being penalized that got me moving.  I’d heard that once you leave an employer you could be subject to extra costs. It’s that thought that finally push me into action.

How the process looked like for me

  • Got laid off Nov 2nd
  • Talked to Transamerica let them know I want to rollover
  • Received paper docs in email 12/8/15( feel overwhelmed)
  • Poked around vanguard, Felt unsure didn’t finish
  • Sent email to fellow blogger to get advice (1/20/16)
  • Called Vanguard asked about rollover process
  • Sent Mr. email to print rollover paperwork (2/3/16)
  • Send email to fellow blogger to get advice (2/17/16)
  • Open Rollover IRA account with Vanguard
  • Get papers printed
  • Called Transamerica , Someone finally walks me through paperwork, I get it 100% filled out.
  • Submit paperwork through fax, get email about distribution (2/23/16)
  • See money in my Vanguard account (3/2/16)

It’s now sitting happily in my Vanguard account. But look at that. It took me 4…4 months to get it done. Yet if I were to add up the actual time it took me to do all that.  It was maybe 8 hours worth of work. As a lean person, I’m ashamed I wasted so much time. The whole process should have taken me max a week spreading out over a few days.

Maybe you are about to go through this process or you know someone who is and you are still deciding what’s best for you. I knew I wanted to do a rollover but just in case you need to weight your options here is an info graphic by Stefanie from Empowered Dollar.

 

If you click over and read Stefanie’s post there is one thing I would like to add. She doesn’t really mention the drawbacks about getting a check sent to you. Which was one of the mistakes I was really trying to avoid. This is because when you get a check most institutions will withhold the taxes you owe. But if you are trying to roll it over to an IRA you need to deposit the whole amount which means you need to come up with the difference.

So if you had $10,000 your check would only be $8,000 if you’re in the 20% tax bracket. Then you need to deposit the $8,000 check along with an extra $2,000 from your pocket to get it back to the original $10,000.  For me that would look like 58,000 x 20% = 11,600. If a check was issued to me I would need to come up with almost 12K. Then my understanding is that I would get what was withheld by the institution back during tax time. So now you know why I was so worried about making a mistake. 12K is  a lot of money.

So if you do have to do a rollover don’t forget to get on the phone with both your old provider and the new one to have them walk you through the forms. It could save you from making a costly mistake.

Have you done a 401K rollover? What was your biggest fear?

If you found this post helpful and know someone who is going through the process send it over to them to help them out. 🙂

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Vacations, Where to stay?

We like to go on vacation. In that sense we are just like the average american. But googling “average american vacation budget” tells me that the average american spends way more then we do on vacation. What’s up with that?

This post is part of my 30 day writing challenge. Each week I will be focusing on one topic. This week I have chosen to focus on travel. If travel is your thing don’t forget to come back everyday until Monday when I choose my new topic for the week.

There are lots of costs associated with travel the plane tickets,  food, knickknacks, activities. Oh yeah and accommodations.

Accommodations the big surprise

I like to travel but I was miss informed in the whole process of travel. I went from being a kid and never worrying about any of the cost. To being a college student who’s travel consisted of a lot of new places but little associated expenses. Being part of clubs and having lots of new friends afforded me the chance to travel but never have to worry about where I would stay.

Life was good.

My wake up call happened after my niece was born and we had a trip to go to Denver for the first time. As I estimated cost of the trip I couldn’t believe how much we would be spending. Did we get a really bad deal on the flights? Was I accounting for too many activities?

Wait a minute whats this? a cost for accommodations…. and it was how much?!

I couldn’t believe it would cost us as much as the flights themselves.

What’s a money savvy person to do?

Well, find workarounds of course.

The thing was we didn’t need to find a work around we already had one. We just had never realized or appreciated what a difference it made.

What’s the secret to lowering vacation costs?

I know you probably guessed it by now, but I’ll go ahead and say it anyways.

STAY WITH SOMEONE YOU KNOW

Maybe the idea of being stuck in someone else’s house for your vacation makes you feel, Yuck. Not that you’d ever admit it!

But you have some valid concerns so why not address them.

First off, yes, this is different kind of travel.

I remember the first trip, it was 3 weeks long and we stayed with family. I got cabin fever. Mr. Roamer was happy because he had use of the cars and could come and go as he pleased. I didn’t feel like I had the same right so I felt stuck, and 3 weeks is a long time when you feel stuck. It led to complaining on my part and finally a bit of an argument with Mr. Roamer.

I survived, but when you think of taking a vacation you don’t want to survive you want to enjoy it. So what can you do to make sure you don’t have a Roamer experience. This is what I learned.

Set the right expectations and Communicate them.

Traveling serves many purposes: to see new places, meet new people, to unwind and just relax, to run around from one place to another like a chicken with it’s head cut off, or see familiar places and people.

I’ve found that staying with others pairs best with a vacation focused on family and relaxation. Where spending time with whomever is hosting you is one of the main reasons of the trip. For example catching up with family or friends you haven’t seen in a while.

Part of the process like I said is communication. Talking with your hosts to realize what they had in mind. Are there group plans to participate in? or is it just somewhere to sleep( more like a home base for your trip). Again get expectations clear. Its good to discuss it before arrival, but we also always ask the question again on day one to see if anything has changed.

Guests that don’t Stink

There is a saying that goes “Guest like fish both start to stink after 3 days ” by Benjamin Franklin.

None of us want to become smelly guests. Or suffer from cabin fever but 3 days is just not enough time for me for a trip. Make sure after your trip your hosts are open to having you over again in the future, not counting the minutes until they can pop the champagne and celebrate your departure.

We makes sure our hosts stay happy by putting the kids to work shoveling their drive way. :) j/k The kids were having a blast
We makes sure our hosts stay happy by putting the kids to work shoveling their drive way. 🙂 j/k The kids were having a blast
  1. Pick up after yourself
  2. Do the dishes once in a while
  3. Try to keep your belonging in your room
  4. Offer to cook them dinner
  5. Leave the gas tank full if you borrow a car
  6. Buy groceries

Sure that sounds like a little bit of work but everything is a trade off. This is how our family of 4 gets to travel and take vacations for many more days then average but for much less.

It’s not just us either.

We know people who have traveled internationally and while they did spend big $$ on the plane tickets thanks to it being spontaneous, they spent maybe $100 on top of that. No cost in accommodations, or food, or excursions.  Accommodations were not an issue since they just stayed with family. Talk about a great deal!

So why aren’t you visiting family for your vacations?

Save by visiting family and return the favor.

Its a 2 way street

We also participate on the other side of the equation. We don’t live in a big house or luxurious apartment packed with 5 rooms and 10 swimming pools. hahah ah exaggerations.

Nope we currently live in 1050 sq ft , 2 bedroom apt. But that hasn’t stopped us from offering up our space to fellow travelers. Those travelers being predominantly family, but there was a time when I was single and childless and it included a good deal of friends as well.

Even with our small abode we have had people take us up on our offer.

Now I would still advise you to come ready to cover all the rest of the costs but at least having somewhere to stay is taken care of. And that can be a huge chuck of travel expenses saved.

How do you travel? Have you been able to enjoy a free stay somewhere thanks to family or friends?

The Roamer traveling wallet

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My single biggest tip for traveling with small kids

Becoming a new parent is filled with changes in how you live your life. There are things that will become more challenging, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do them anymore.

Traveling is one of those things. You’ll hear or see a lot of advice that  recommends you get your traveling desires out before having kids. After you have kids you can kiss it all good bye. It will be just too inconvenient.

Some of us didn’t get the memo early enough to do that. While others of us actually want our kids to experience travel.

Either way the truth is that traveling with kids does indeed add a different dynamic to the whole process. If someone tells you different nod politely, but be ready. Challenges do exist and the best thing you can do is be prepared.

We’ve had lots of trips with kids driving and flying. But the single biggest tip is this.

Their sleep schedule is your travel schedule.

That’s right.

Nap time. Or bed time.

Now of course there are a lot of little details to take into account when applying this advice. For example how long is the flight?

This advice we have found is best used for trips 2 hours or longer. That is because no matter how tired the kids are there is usually an adjustment period. I’ve noticed this can take about 30 mins.

Our flights usually range from 4-5 hrs. So a pretty long flight.

For us this works best because we aren’t big on screens. Do the kids watch movies? yes of course but if we can avoid having them watch movies non stop for 4-5 hrs then we will. If we can avoid having to worry about keeping them entertained for 4-5 hours, then we will. Most kids don’t want to have to sit down for 4-5 hrs. Even school aged kids get breaks through out their long days.

So when do we all stay put? When we’re sleeping. So we use the bodies natural rhythms to our advantage.

This means we fly red eyes( overnight flights) or late night flights. This also works best if you can get uninterrupted sleep for the entire flight. Which means we are also big fans of direct flights.

This way kids can sleep, you can sleep, and flight will seem shorter if you sleep.

We know people have had good experiences breaking up the flight with connections. For us the connections aren’t anywhere convenient. Which means we go from 4 hrs on a plane to 6 hours ( sometimes as bad as 7). Sure it’s 3 hrs at a time now but that just doesn’t make sense for us. Not only that these flight are usually during the day!( Yes do try and say that last line with terror in your voice)

If you stop you add time to the whole experience. Its not just the extended flight time, you’re also doubling the length of time spent taxing to and from the gate. We like to stick to the direct overnight flights.

Vacation in Denver. Currently we take about 2 trips a year.
Vacation in Denver. Currently we take about 2 trips a year.

That’s how we roll.

But I should warn you.

It’s not going to work 100% of the time.

That’s right everything isn’t always going to work out. Our last trip back to Michigan is a great example.

Our red eye flight got seriously, and I do mean seriously delayed. A 10:30 flight for our kids is pushing their bed time. But usually like I said they take 30 min to get comfy on the plane and wind down. Then they sleep for the rest of the flight.

This time the delay was atrocious. We were up until 1 am when we finally boarded our plane. Jr Roamer had given in and fallen asleep in the chairs around midnight. But Minnie couldn’t seem to relax and rest with all the bright lights and people who insisted on interacting with her. She was really wound up and we were exhausted and worried about the flight.

How did it go?

Well it wasn’t pleasant at the start.  Jr Roamer was use to the drill so he got in his seat and almost fell asleep before taking off. Minnie was another story. She was very unhappy. Exhausted and uncomfortable there was plenty of crying right at the start. While this was a nuisance for my fellow travelers I knew that if I let her let it out she would let it go. So I comforted her but didn’t try and shush her. A bit longer then 30 mins of unpleasantness this time and she finally fell asleep.

So no, most things aren’t 100% awesome but we have had many more good experiences and so we will continue to book red eye direct flights.

We must not be the only ones who think so either as we always see more then 1 other family on the flights too.

How do you travel with kids? Whats your #1 tip?

The Roamer traveling wallet

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Why a 30 day challenge?

Hello! Happy March.

Today marks the beginning of the month but most importantly the beginning of a new 30 day challenge.

30 day challenges are a big thing here in the blogosphere. They are easy content fodder. Throw down a challenge invite the readers and let the competition begin.

I’ve seen some really good ones and some that don’t quite make sense. Of course the best ones for me are the ones that rile me up enough to join the group. It doesn’t really matter whether it’s home, food or personal almost anything seems to be able to be boiled down to a good ol’ 30 day challenge.

But why is it that so many of us are migrating to this method?

Benefits of 30 day challenges

I think there are a few reasons. At least its why I do it.

  • Its not overwhelming. First it’s a great way to push outside of our comfort zone but the fact that its a limited amount of time makes it seem more doable. I’ve read multiple people say anybody can do anything for just 30 days.  The finite amount of time seems to sit well with us. Plus most of us suffer from being really really busy. Or maybe we are afraid of commitment? either way we can manage finding time for JUST 30 days.
  • Its Urgent. The limited amount of time helps to not make it overwhelming. But it also leads to a sense of Urgency! You don’t have forever to do it, so you’ve got to get it done. Purging things is something I’ve done for a long time. Its a way of life when you move cross country every 6 months. But the clutter that built up after not moving for 2 years was giving me anxiety. Still the process was moving rather slowly. Then I stumble across the Minimalists and their #minsgame. It made a big difference. Going through the game provided that sense of urgency that I seemed to be lacking. The results were so good, I took the challenge several times last year. The 30 day minimalist game made things move along much more quickly. And that seem to be true no matter the challenge.
  • Its easy habit change. Okay maybe easy isn’t the right word but the reasons above give you a good footing to stick out an improvement. In turn sticking it out for 30 days makes it more likely to stick indefinitely. That usually the goal. Whether we care to admit it or not usually we are searching for more then a 30 day improvement. But we aren’t above tricking ourselves.

That’s what it was about for me when I ran across a blog post challenging me to earn more. That was the first challenge I did after joining this community. Find ways to earn extra money ( side hustling ).  The results weren’t great but the new experience was.

The experience and hope for long lasting change is also what prompted me to do the capsule wardrobe. Do some thing that will last much longer then just 30 days. Make a new habit. A challenge stretched out to 3 months with the goal to transform.  I am in my 3rd capsule now.

So here I am again. Getting ready to start another challenge. Use all those benefits to grow in a new area.

Finite timeline, built in sense of urgency and the hope to build a better habit.

My challenge this time around is writing. Consistent writing.

The new challenge

For the next 30( 31?) days I am commanding, committing myself to write 700 word a day. Everyday. But not just that. I need to publish.

So the writing has to be the best I can muster everyday.

Why 700 words?  Well that’s just an arbitrary number I thought would be easy to reach in an hr.

The publishing is important because its really the only way to stay accountable. Nobody would know if I missed a day if all I had to do was write and save it. Sure I would know but this way I can put it out into the world and get feed back. You all will be my critics. So don’t be shy.

Of course I want to keep stuff relevant. This isn’t a blog about writing after all.

So to make it easier I am going to partition  out the month.

  • 1 week I’ll be writing parenting
  • another travel
  • another money
  • ?????
  • ??? (what there are 5 weeks this month?)

And that leaves one week  2 weeks up in the air. But that will cover the main topics I had planned to cover on this blog anyway.

Will I be able to do it? Will I be able to muster 7 posts on parenting? I better.

Join me and leave me comments and maybe an idea or 2 about something I could cover. I’ll need to have at least 30.

Are you taking on any 30 day challenges today? Let me know in the comments below. Well keep each other accountable.  Don’t forget to follow the blog to see how well I keep it up.

The Roamer traveling wallet

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Yearly Spend Revealed

Money comes in , Money goes out

Every year at Traveling Wallet we spend, spend, spend, Spend!

But its not all bad. If you try, every year can be better. For us last year was an interesting year and the first full year we had in which we didn’t need to spend a single dime on loan or debt repayment.

Not one dime.

Still…

We did spend a lot of money and this post is all about analyzing where it all went.

The things you can discover when you look

I though I was all done having surprises about my money but it turns out there is always another stone left unturned that you can explore. You see, I track our net worth and even share it occasionally, but writing this post prompted me to look for the first time at our yearly spending through time.  Of course I had some idea of what we spent. I mean you have to, to figure out your retirement dollar number and date, but it was still an eye opening experience.

After ironing out our totals for last year I got curious about what the numbers were for the years before. So I started to do some math and realized I hadn’t really added up my totals for my previous years. Let alone placed all the numbers side by side.

So I set out to do a 5 year snap shot. But then, I got stuck.

Why 3 and not 5

My graph and table only go back 3 years because that is what made sense for my family.  To be honest I wanted to do a 5 year track back because,……. I don’t know, 5 sounds better. But 2013 is actually the best year to start looking at my families spending because 2012 was when I married. Before that, we split costs and kept our own individual accounts so comparing that information into all this wouldn’t make sense.  After joining in matrimony and joining our family spending account, 2013 was the first year we funded everything together. So its the best place for my family to start.

But before we get into the numbers how about some context for anyone who is new here.

We are a family of 4 living in beautiful sunny California. We don’t live in one of those rural California towns, nope,  we live in the well known Orange County. ( You all saw that show right?) We have the palm trees, the ocean, and the high cost of living to go along with all the splendor. In fact we lived a stone’s throw away from Disneyland for a bit. So of course you know these numbers are going to be pretty bad.

California Cost of Living

So here it is, the table below shows what the Roamer clan spent last year and the years before.
Yearly Spending, California

What do you think?

Was it as bad as you were expecting?

If I had to answer I would say NO!, Last year our family of 4 spent $46,830.67

That is less then the median household income.

Which means that the average american could survive on our spending.

That’s pretty amazing.

From the table above the line that most surprised me was the last labeled Total w/o debt repayment.  Our cost of living without the burden of debt was actually very consistent and that is news to me. It ranged from approximately 41K- 48K.

But I want to paint a few more pictures.

The Power of a Chart

Now that table was pretty neat. You get to see each line item and even get some more details. But, the cool thing about graphs is that depending on which type you use it highlights different things.

So I have gone ahead and used the above data to create 3 charts.

The Pie Chart

Pie chart are cool because they give you a chance to see percentages very easily , the only problem is they don’t clearly illustrate totals so looking at them side by side can be confusing.

3 year spending
These pie charts are only showing spend which means things can get a little confusing. While our rent did increase 2015 its not as bad as it looks.

For example our rent pie piece really draws attention to itself. It looks really bad. It might make you ask, How did your let your rent increase from 18% – 38%? The truth is we didn’t, its like this, if you read the Frugalwoods you’ve noticed how high their housing costs are. Their housing literally takes up about 66% of their spending on most months.  But that 66% is because their overall spending is so low. That is what happened for us last year. 2013-2014 we were spending so much with our debt repayment that our rent was only a small portion of what we spent. As our spending dropped the dollars we spent on rent became a bigger piece of the pie.

In 2013 and 2014 our debt took up over a third of our spending. But in 2015 our expenses didn’t inflate to fill the void. Nope the pie shrunk and the extra money went to savings.

So pie charts are a great way to asses items in relationship to other items in the pie. But since it doesn’t take into consideration overall totals its not the best tool for comparing costs from one year to the next.

Which is why I also explored

The Bar Chart

Analyzing data through different lenses share different views. The chart below really helps illustrate separate categorical changes through time.

3 year bar chart
Wow our debt bars are sure higher then all our others

For me the bar charts help me understand the dollar  cost. But what I really like is being able to look at any category and know. Hey our housing cost have increased from previous years but look our gas costs and food costs have dropped.

But to make any chart and any analysis you need data. Budgets are great but what you really need to know is what were your numbers at the end of the month.

Actuals not hypotheticals.

So, do you track your spending?

The Stack Chart

Lastly the best big picture chart I found is below.

3 year spending
So easy to see changes happening

This one just seems to give you the main points of the story.

For example the above graph really highlights to me how much our debt repayment was increasing our yearly spending.  (Do I sound like a broken record mentioning the burden of debt on our finances? Well look at it!!! It just can’t be glossed over)

Now what you do have to realize though is, that wasn’t how much our required debt repayment was costing us. No. If we chose to pay the minimum amount the line would be more consistent like our cost of living (blue) and a lot less then $30,000 dollars a year.

So much money spent on debt!

But you can see the improvement. You can see the costs dropping. You can almost feel the extra dollars falling from the sky.

I’m smiling. It’s a wonderful thing.

Its a graph I would encourage people to try specially if you are more of a visual communicator. If you have debt, use the graph to make some projections. If you want to know how much you would spend yearly with no debt. All you have to do is put zeros next you your account. You’ll see your overall yearly spending plummet. It’s a tangible goal to reach for.

So if your feeling inspired to compile your own set of visually appealing spending charts remember one thing.

You need Data!

Happy chart making.

How much money did your family spend in 2015? Do you even know? If not why haven’t you found out?

 

The Roamer traveling wallet

 

Trust the system

Systems

What does that mean anyway?

It means a set path. Following steps. That if you do A it will lead to B and then C.

But I am having trouble with this one.

See I’m taking an online course. Or should I say retaking it because last time I got stuck… Lost momentum and then stopped.

Trust the system I said to myself after watching the video. What the heck does that mean anyways?

But as I thought about the challenges that lay ahead I also thought about the past. I realized wait a minute I have done this before. I have used systems to reach goals.

The most notable to me was how I managed to pay off my 46k student debt in just a little over 3 years.

I had a system.

A system built and tweaked by all the hurdles I had to jump. It had quite the feedback loop.

Through my dealing with student loan administrators I figured out exactly what I needed to do to reach my goal in the most efficient way. Which meant in the shortest amount of time and with the least amount of money leaving my pocket.

The system wasn’t fun but it was consistent.

You see debt repayment is extra challenging for those who choose to slay their debt aggressively. Creditor systems are not built in the best interest of the payee.

This means extra funds funneled into a debt might not be  will not be applied in your best interest. I learned quickly that if I did not contact my debt holders my extra money would not bring in my repayment date. No, instead it would be frivolously used on future interest.

So my debt repayment system looked like this.
  1. Make a plan for repaying debt in 5 years
  2. Run simulations to figure out how much income would need to be set aside for debt
  3. Add in bonus payments from tax refunds into scenario.
  4. Set up automatic withdrawals for lenders required payment.
  5. Go to work, earn money.
  6. Get paycheck have required payment withdrawn
  7. Log in to sites check balances
  8. Pay extra money to meet my personal required payment
  9. Wait a few days log in again
  10. Check balance. Realize money was distributed incorrectly
  11. Call lender talk to rep. Get money sent to the right place.
  12. Wait few days. Check balance again.
  13. Verify that extra payments are affecting totals correctly.
  14. Run simulation with more aggressive payments
  15. Pull in dates for 5 year plan and repeat monthly from #2

It was tedious work, I was micromanaging the heck out of it for 3 years. The first few months # 7-11  caused me a lot of irritation and frustration.

Can’t these people get it right?!

But once I realized it just had to be done. I did it. I didn’t wait hoping the money would find its way to the right place. No . I waited a day then I called to make sure it all got credited to the right place.

Did I have to do that?

Well no, not if I just wanted to follow their standard repayment option. But 10 years and 18k extra in interest was not my goal.

I needed my money to get to the right place everytime.

So I learned the limitations of the creditors payment system and set up a system to address them.

You know what happened?

Not only did I trust the system to meet my goal I trusted it to push me to beat it.

And I did.

So trust the system.

Calling up to 3 different lenders wasn’t fun. But I knew it would get me result. The results I desperately wanted.

Now my goal is different. I can’t run simulations to see the finish line. It’s a new skill. My teacher is telling me to trust the system.

Step D won’t appear until I’m on step C so I have to keep moving forward.

But since I still feel unsure I decided to write this down. So that when I get stuck I can come back and remind myself that I’ve done this before. I’ve used systems to push through difficulty.

That discomfort and challenge means growth and that my goal is waiting for me on the other side.

Trust the system.

Okay, I will

The Roamer traveling wallet