When Life happens TO You

You know when life happens to you…. When you wake up one morning and you can’t believe you are in a certain situation…

How did this happen?… How is it that I am still stuck in this dead end job. Or what happen to my dream of roughing it abroad…

Life happens when you let go of the wheel …. When you stop being intentional and just go with the flow..

Going with the flow can be fine if that’s truly who you are . but if you wake up one day and you don’t know how you got to that point, then it means you flowed to much off track…

I keep hearing this term thrown around and with out any follow up research I can say I’m probably very type A.*

Yet sometimes even I (type A person) still have moments when I ask myself… What am I doing with this one life.

Its a big deal to me because I don’t believe in an after life… This is it! There is no gold pot at the end of the rainbow.

Not a dress rehearsal as they say.

So I and maybe you need to ask ourselves. What do we want out of life? In the core of our being what do we value? Are we living that life?

What can we do to get there? I’m nearing my 30s and I don’t want to wake up 10 yrs from now wondering how I got to that point.

Be intentional. . that doesn’t mean just making decisions. You can make decisions based on laziness or routine. Make decisions that are pulled back to your core values. Then you’ll be steering in the direction you want to go.

A midlife crisis I now understand can happen at any moment. That moment, is when you realize somehow you let go of the wheel.

We all probably try to exert some control over our lives and  the problem could be we are focusing on inconsequential things like matching shoes and shirts for an outfit. These small things make us feel like we are in control but then we let the important stuff just pass us by.

Those small little instances of control hide the fact that we aren’t taking control of the big picture. This is a constant struggle for me.

That is why I make life plans, even though they change as time goes on I want to keep it in my mind that this is something important. That I need to take time and think about it.

Exercise

So take some time today and visualize the future. Imagine yourself 10 years older. What do you want to have accomplished. Where do you want to be standing. Are those congruent with your inner most values? Then take it a step further into the future maybe on your deathbed. What would you want your life to have been?

Maybe even do this exercise.

Think deeply with no distractions and write your top 5 values.

Think deeply again. what preoccupies your time, thoughts and actions most of the days? Write the top 5.

Then compare both lists. Are the thing you think about, and act on tied to what you value?

Here’s one of mine. I value building stronger relationships with my family. Yet most of my thoughts and days revolve around work products.  If you aren’t specific enough you might say family and then say work. Yes, work helps me support my family so it makes sense. Yes, work does help me support my family, but in the vein of building stronger relationships with them, work actually conflicts with what I value most. Its takes time away from them.

So you have to be careful and you have to be specific. Or you might convince yourself that something makes sense, when in actuality it is contradicting your values not supporting them.

– The Roamer 

Do you ever feel like you are really adamant about making small decisions but feel overwhelmed when faced with a life changing one? Did you do the exercise. Did your lists match or where there conflicts?

* ok I had to do some research before posting. Type A. High stress, push themselves with deadlines. take on too much. Sound to me like people who like to be in control.

5S : Continuously Improving your living space

Maybe you’re new here. Maybe I just haven’t talked much about work. ( why would I? after all I am here to try and escape it) yet with my avid distaste for corporate schedules and time restrictions even I have to admit I’ve learned quite a bit. Welcome to Lean.

My trade for most of my working career was in Lean Manufacturing, also known as Industrial Engineering, or Continuous Improvement. Maybe you’ve heard of it, maybe you haven’t. In a nutshell my job was to analyze processes and remove waste. Removing waste is very important in a business. Its what keeps you profitable. Yet what really amazed me as I learned more was how these philosophies and their application were so widely applicable. Even at home.

I’ve read finance blogs and I’ve heard that J.D. Roth said you should run your finances like a business. And I completely agree. But you can apply so much more then just how businesses balance their books. Lean is one of those things. When I learned different tools in lean I couldn’t stop them from permeating into my home life.

If I sound a little starstruck its because I am. The ideals and job title had so much potential. It was the lack of commitment from the company to the tools that was dragging me down. But I digress.

5S A foundational tool in lean

So today I want to introduce you to 5S one of lean’s foundational tools.

The purpose of 5S is multiple fold.  Strip away waste, asses the area. Improve. Implement controls, and plan for sustainability.

How will this help you at home? Well minimalism is picking up steam and this is a great technique to use. But even if you have no desire to be a minimalist lots of us still suffer from random stuff accumulation.

There is a whole thriving industry dedicated to our feeling of being overwhelmed with stuff. But instead of removing it from our lives we just remove it from our homes. Keeping everything and paying a premium for the privilege. Ahh how the mighty have fallen and how the storage unit reigns supreme.

Now in a community of financially minded people most of us would rather drown in our stuff then pay someone else to keep it. We know we have too much, we know its clutter. We know its a nuisance. But going through it is extremely overwhelming. So we pick stuff out here and there and really don’t feel like we are making much progress. Sporadic, unorganized, unplanned events though great in an adventure situation rarely yield amazing results in the home improvement front.

So here they are the 5S’s

  • Sort
  • Straighten
  • Shine
  • Standardize
  • Sustain

There you see 5S.

Now let’s dig in a little deeper

Sort

Sort is the first step and here you are taking inventory of everything in the area. If you pick your closet like I just did, then what you want to do is pull everything out. I mean everything.

Its too confusing to try and organize stuff around other stuff. Unless your putting go, no go sticker on everything you touch there is high chance that you are going to miss something. Only when your closet is bare-boned will you know that you are addressing every item that is going back in.

Here you identify if something is needed and kept, or not needed and thrown out (donated?). Well that’s easier said then done right?

You’re right, deciding on stuff can be very difficult when we don’t know what we are measuring for. Here ( and in most things actually) we are measuring usage. So ask yourself these questions.

  • Why am I keeping this here?
  • When was the last time I used it?
  • How often do I use it?
  • Is it working? Functional right now?

Lots of times we have things were they don’t belong. Then we have things we never use. Then we have things mixed between stuff we use everyday and stuff we use once a year. Finally we keep things that are broken, or just not functional in some other way. Like a deck of cards with just one card missing… Wanna play solitaire… Good luck with that deck.

Now you’ll have stuff in piles. To make sure you don’t get side tracked make sure you have an empty box handy to place all the items that don’t belong. Don’t take walks to return stuff to their proper place as you find them. Just place them in the box, and return after you finish the sort phase.

Straighten

A place for everything and everything in its place. The focus here is the actual organization process. This is when you decide where you are going to keep what you decided is needed.

You really want to address the frequency question up above as it will guide you in your straightening effort. You see you want to organize by usage. With the most used items easiest to access and your least use items organized a little further away. In other words the prime real estate in any area is for the highest used items. For example in our kitchen the easiest cabinets to access should contain our dishes. We use those everyday. But our cake pan is stored somewhere more out of reach because we use it less frequently. Doesn’t it make you smile to realize you do practice 5S already :)… The thing is we don’t practice that in all parts of our home. So that is what we are going to do.  Apply it everywhere we can.

At this point I’d like to point out that these are not just 5 steps. They are 5 consecutive steps. Where you must do the previous one to really benefit and move on tho the next.

This is where most of us go wrong. We feel our home is a mess. So what do we do. We fix it. Pick up, fold, rearrange. And if we are tight on space we buy organizational kits. Bins, shelving, and cute little boxes.

In 5S you never, and I mean NEVER organize ( straighten) before you sort. Never….

Can any of you tell me why?

Shine

Shine this is where we make everything look and work as good as new.

You see we naturally respond to our surroundings. It causes us to behave differently. Have you ever gone into a bathroom that is a disaster.  You shoot your paper towel to the trash can and miss. What do you do if there is a pile of paper towels on the floor already. Sometimes you might go pick it up but your also likely to just walk away, and sometimes I do too. But if I’m at the Hilton with cloth towels and I happen to miss the basket well… that towel is screaming in my face. Its clearly out of place and has broken the harmony of the space, the wrongness prompts me into action.

That is exactly what you want to create. We become desensitized to things we see everyday. If there is always one article on clothing on the floor all day everyday you are less likely to notice when there are 2 or 3. It won’t be until its ground zero of some laundry explosion that you act. If we really do get accustomed to our surroundings get accustomed to pristine. Then you’ll be catapulted into action when something breaks the harmony of the space.

In shine you want to deep clean the area, get it to the ideal state.

Standardize

Here you need to be honest with yourself. Why? because its on the 4th and 5th S where you make it or break it. Doing these next steps correctly will help you maintain your improvement or see it slip back into the chasm of chaos.  I’ve seen it all too often at work. Its not pretty, and its frustrating as hell.

Round 2 , this checklist keeps me accountable and gives me hard data for how to improve
Round 2 , this checklist keeps me accountable and gives me hard data for how to improve

In standardize you are trying to create a system to control the area. We are trying to cut out perceptions and deal with facts. For example I just finished round 2 on the minimalist games.  I like checklists they help me know what is going on.  If I was a naturally optimistic person and had no checklist I would have assumed I got rid of close to 800 items.  If I was a pessimist I would think I only got rid of 100… Maybe. We see things as we are, not as they are. So standardize is here to help you know what is going on, so you can control the outcome better.

The reason we make change is because we want something that is different then what normally happens. But we have to acknowledge that just because we clean off the counter doesn’t mean that we now have the habit to maintain it that way.

Standardize is to help you build the habit, checklists are usually a great way to do so.

Make a check sheet that has you audit the area every day. You need to do it frequently at first. Then as you start to get use to the new norm you can do it less often until it becomes a habit. The honesty part I was talking about was admitting that our improvements wont last unless we are proactive about maintaining them.

Sustain

Sustain is at the end but really its something you should be considering through out.

When I think about sustain I am thinking. “How can I make doing it the right way easier then doing it the wrong way.”

We all suffer from laziness when we are talking about something our world doesn’t revolve around. Unless you are a clean freak you aren’t thinking about the state of your home 24/7. Unless you are in love with saving you aren’t always thinking about ways to save. The creation of automatic withdrawals is a practice in sustainability. It might be a pain to set it up but then it just happens and you have to put more effort to stop the savings then to just let them happen.

That is a perfect example of making the right thing easier then the wrong thing.

I’ll be honest I can’t prescribe anything specific but what you are trying to do is give yourself a chance for it to become natural, habitual. We are trying to remove barriers to maintain improvement.

So let’s say you have a junk drawer. But all you want to do is keep the scissors in that drawer, that’s it. Well to make it easy to sustain you could put in a space filler block. Something that will block all the excess space. Now the drawer wont be able to get full with junk.

Get started on a 5S event

Now before you jump in, there is a little pre-work that needs to be done. Like a project at work you need to set parameters. What area are you going to focus on? Pick one area and make it manageable. Pick how much time you’ll dedicate. You need to decide what your goal is. Your broad goal is to keep only what is needed in that specific area. 

Time

Let’s talk more about that. In lean there is a general understanding that if something is important you need to make it a priority. Which means you need to set aside the time to make it successful. 15 min here 15 min there just isn’t going to cut it. You’ll lose steam because you’ll be going too slow to see results. And  the lack of results will shake your already weak commitment ( 15 min is a weak commitment). At work we schedule 3-5 days, attempt to pull everyone off their day job ( this is were I got frustrated at my companies lack of commitment)  and focus solely on the task at hand.

3 to 5 days might be a bit much depending on the space but remember you need to go through all the 5S steps. So the bigger the space the more time you’ll need. You should be planning in hours or days not minutes.

I love lean, I really do. I love it so much I think it should be taught to high schoolers right along side of personal finance.

Don’t forget. Tell me why you never straighten before you sort?

 

2nd Go at the mins game

At the beginning of May Mr. Roamer and I decided to give the #minsgame another try.  I am more and more drawn to minimalism and the idea of simplified living.

Round 2 of the Minsgame
Round 2 of the Minsgame

We didn’t make it to the end like last time. Actually comparatively  we did a lot worse (as you can see in the picture). However, I am still happy with the results as the changes still yield compound benefits. In the sense of now I have less to clean up and I’m never going to have to organize that item(s) ever again.

When I’m purging sometimes its very difficult. I can easily convince myself to keep stuff. I think someday I’ll use it. But I have a secret weapon….

When I get mad

On the good times when I get really upset I get cleaning whether its dishes or finally scrubbing the toilet when I see something and I’m really mad this pretty much runs through my head ” what the hell, why is this still, ruined, messy, dirty,( insert blank), FINE! I’LL JUST DO IT MYSELF!  ROAR!!”

This happened twice this month and the result was a big purge!

You see in the dinning area we have a desk that houses crayons, markers, pens, pencils as well as recycled paper the kids can use for doodling. But it has no drawers so all these items sit in stacks on top of the desk more or less as organized as possible.

But we had so many crayons!

So many pens! pencils and dried out markets! I knew there was more then one still there.

Container emptied out. On the right the crayons we kept.
Container emptied out. On the right the crayons we kept. Retrospectively I should have kept double of what fit in that little crayon holder.

As you can see in the picture that clear  bin was full of crayons. not just one compartment. ALL of them. Easily more then 100 crayons.

oh and did I tell you my kids like to accidentally as well as  purposefully break the crayons and peel their skin off. Which pretty much means the crayon quantity just keeps multiplying. :). ( well at least the count was)

This might still seem messy to some but its much better then before
This might still seem messy to some but its much better then before

Anyways one angry day I said I’ve had it and I started recycling papers, testing pens and markers and separating crayons. Trimming stuff down. Seriously they never used all the colors anyways.

In all honesty I probably got rid of enough crayons to satisfy the quantity for the whole challenge but we just counted it for a few days around when the mad purge happened.

Mad #2

In this instance I attacked the clothes in my closet. And the anger fueled me to say stuff like”why are you keeping this? you never wear it. Or when was the last time you wore this. Or sure this is your high school band sweater but you never wear it!!!!” or “this is such a cute blouse I wish it fit me better… but it doesn’t! so why am I keeping it” The underling message I was giving myself was wake up! stop lying to yourself! are these items really worth the extra work if you aren’t going to use them?

The answer was of course ….no.

My closet purge.
My closet purge.

There were really some things that I separated that were nice or new and I really liked them aesthetically. but they just didn’t fall on me right. Now I’m not scare of a bit of sewing but I was lying to myself saying that I was going to go and fix all these items. I wish, but it just didn’t make sense to make that a priority with all my other goals.

Clothes

Now I’m not telling you to go on a mad purge or anything but hey its got to be better then yelling at your spouse and loosing your temper at the children and going around breaking stuff instead ( I know people who have done the latter).

Everything else that got cut.

Mr. Roamer doesn’t take pictures but here are some pictures of the other items I purged through this month’s journey.

Stuff included

  • receipts
  • event stubs
  • knickknacks
  • my 2013 pay stubs
  • Clothes
  • Baby stuff
  • Papers ( lots and lots of papers)
Mostly baby stuff
Mostly baby stuff

The Math

Doing the math 31 days on track equal 496 items purged and with 2 people that is 992 items. Seriously almost 1 thousand items.  An amazing feat when you can reach it.

With all the days we missed we got rid of 402 items. Sure crayons are small but I’m still counting. After all its all the little stuff that goes unnoticed and start to accumulate filling empty spaces in drawers and getting in between couch cushions.

We still have some items hanging around because I think they are in nice enough shape that I’d like to sell them on craigslist. How long do you hold on to items in the sell pile? Let me know in the comments.

Confession

Now we were clued into this 2nd hand store that gives you store credit when you make a donation. So we dropped stuff off and planned to get Jr. Roamer a sweater. We had a list of other items we thought we might need, but were thinking of postponing. However, we ended up going on a day with a 50% sale so we picked up everything else.

Items for the kids. 5 for Jr. Roamer and 3 for Minnie Roamer.
Items for the kids. 5 for Jr. Roamer and 3 for Minnie Roamer.

We are not cheap, we are just frugal so making sure the kids have what they need even if we end up bringing more stuff into the house is ok with us.

So I am super motivated to continue stripping out the excess. I have some clothes bins I am going to clean out and I am just going to work in the practice more routinely instead of just the intense bursts for a month.

Have you played the minsgame? Have you regretted getting rid of anything?

Quarter 1 review of goals

Actually I guess its not a quarterly review as much as a trimester review. Jan- April.

So part of making goals public is that they help you with accountability right? Well things have not been going well on all fronts.

I am just going to hit these all fast and hard… Is what I was going to say, but who am I kidding :)

Starting from the top and working my way down.

Picture of the goals I carry around in my planner. The one in my planner is actually all marked up.

Spiritual Awareness

Let see what we have on here?..

  • Attend 4 churches in a year( attend 4 times a month ) 1  2  3   4
  • Write in  Journal, reflect 15 min what I am thankful for 1/wk (Total of 52)

I’m going to come right out ans say it. This is so not a priority right now. Which is kind of funny and sad as I am always aiming to improve as a person and mother and I’m sure the reflection would help me realign my values with my actions. I’ve been extremely short tempered since switching to night shift. Though finally I am getting use to the schedule and at least that is improving.

As for the finding some sort of spiritual house or following…. I am going to go ahead and just strike that off the list. Technically I could cram it all into the last 4 months of the year. But… I am just going to be honest that for the next 5 months I don’t see myself searching for different religious houses of worship and then forcing my family to attend in an attempt to broaden mine and their horizons.  I’ll only review this again if I decide I have time to put it back on the table

Spirituality final tally: 0%… Or F if you prefer a letter grade. Either way I’m off track.

Health

Warrior Dash in march. Tonya and I getting ready to get muddy...(that is not my real hair :)   )
Warrior Dash in march. Tonya and I getting ready to get muddy…(and yes, I did give myself crazy hair and a smile to try and conceal my identity).  :)
  • Run two 5ks, 1 Jan-June and then 1 July-Dec.

I actually completed this so Yay! Yet I’ve only done 1 organized run a year for past 2 years so I don’t know why I keep putting 2…. Is it to push myself? Must be. I am not a 100% fan of the sticker price of fun runs but I am working on a post where I rationalize the shizz out of it.

Run: 50% complete, on track

  • Dance 1/ month @ home

I’m doing pretty good on that. Though it looks like I missed February. Which means I can’t get 100%. :(

Dancing: 25% complete, on track

  • Take 1 class (yoga, dance ???) With Mr. Roamer.

Haven’t touched this one yet, but there is still time. So no grading still on track to be able to complete it. Haha thank goodness for a goal of one with still over 150 day left in the year.

Languages

  • Read 1 book in Spanish.

Sadly I’m not including children’s books….. Or am I? 😉 I’m going with not done yet. I still have time so I am going to say no grade necessary yet, I’m still on track. But I am getting my reading muscle working and added

  • Read 4 books this year.

Really sad compared to how much I use to read but I’m sure 400% better then last year. Already working on I Will Teach You To Be Rich (pg 109 of 260) and 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (pg.144 of 340).

Reading: 20%, slightly behind

2014 characters learned
2014 characters learned
  • Chinese 2 characters/month

I have not really touched this one yet. By this point I should already know how to pen 10 new characters above and beyond last years learning. I think I have done 1.

Chinese: 4% when I should be at 40% , Behind

 

Relationships 

 Date
Leftovers from our fancy January date
  • 1 date a month w/ Mr Roamer.

We have done really well so far and not spent a bunch of money. We’ve gone to the movies, a fancy dinner and picnic date. I forgot to write some of it down but we have spent very marginal amounts of money as well.

Dating husband: 41% complete, on track

  • Write in kids memory books.

So far my planner says I am on track but missed January, and might still need to do May. I think this is a great ways to capture important moments and doing it once a month at the minimum isn’t too difficult.

Memory book: 25% , missed a month so can’t get 100% , On track 

  • 1 date a month with each child.

I haven’t been doing so well here I have missed whole months. With my new schedule I now get to spend a lot of one on one time with Minnie Roamer , but see Jr.Roamer a lot less. I haven’t been setting time aside for just him and so I need to pick up the slack. Moving forward Minnie Roamer will automatically be on track, what I need to focus on is Jr. Roamer.

Jr. Roamer time: 8% should be 41%, off track

Minnie Roamer time: 25%, off track

  • Sister & mother 1 date/ 6 months

I have one month left to schedule this and be on track.

Sis, Ma time: 0% , on track

Financial

  • Earn side hustle  $500

So far I’ve earned $30. If I divide $500/12 I should be shooting for about $42 a month so I am behind. I need to pick up the slack. So far I am not a craigslist whiz.

Hustle: 6%, Behind,  need to up the hustle.

  • Max out 401k ,18k/ person

We are aggressively front loading our 401k and in June we will drop it significantly to have enough to continue to get employer match until year end . This is also one of the main reasons I didn’t want to quit when our family situation suddenly changed.

401K: 70% complete, on track

  • Save 30k for house($2500/month)

I really shouldn’t have added the per month part as I knew we would be front loading 401ks. So we have not been hitting the monthly goal but after June and the 401k adjustments we will be saving over the monthly goal and should end up with both goals met by year end.

House fund: 19% complete, Behind , but not worried

Blog

  • Write 2 posts a week.

Yup. Nope! What was I thinking not even on my good month was I able to keep that up. Its a good goal and it reinforces the need for consistent content to A. Practice writing and B. Keep people interested but I was being too aggressive. With my new work schedule time to write seems more sporadic and hard to come by then before. My realistic goal moving forward is 1 post per week . which is vastly better then the 1 post per month I have suddenly found myself doing.

Posts: 13%, Behind, goal adjusted, 25% with new goal

  • Add AdSense when hit 35 posts. Have blog pay for itself.

It’s been added. So far not good. I am cutting this goal from my view for the next trimester as I strictly focus on creating consistent content.

Adsense: 0%, dropped off the queue

  • Attend Fincon

I purchased the early bird ticket and now Mr. And I need to have a discussion and figure everything else out. I am looking for roommate!!!! To save on cost and I might even venture into credit card churning to lower cost. But I need to figure this all out asap. EEK!

FinCon: Can I even score this???

Work

  • Reevaluate job in July..

Well I am working a new position and though its still not something that makes my heart sing it is keeping my brain working harder then it was before the switch. As of right now goal is to stay until end of year. But I will ask myself again in July.

  • Hunt for new job / interview 3 times.

As I am now working a strange corporate shift 3:30- 12:30 am . I keep telling myself I won’t find the same deal anywhere else. Technically I should have interviewed once already but I think this might just get cut out.

  • Get pay increase of 5% .

Well I haven’t seen it in my paycheck yet but I am supposedly getting a 10%  increase. Still not happy but that’s a story for a different post.

Pay increase: 100% complete? and then some….(update when check rolls in)

Now you might be thinking. What in the world was that. After all this is all you see for my goals here on the blog….

Goals as they appear on the blog
Goals as they appear on the blog

Well I wanted to really check in with all of them so that is why I referred back to the goals I presented to you in the new year. Now another reason I brought up the blog vs. my other goals is that here I include my travel goal.

Travel

Denver... in the Spring?
Denver… in the Spring?
  • 1 family trip 5+ days

We made it to Colorado and back. We spent time together and with the rest of our family. So all done in this department according to goals. Still we are planning a second trip for the winter. This keeps getting dropped from yearly goals because really its almost habitual. 1 yearly visit to extended family is part of our life, so really no goal is necessary.

Travel: 100% complete

So why am I sharing with you? Well like I said you all help to keep me accountable. Also writing up this post really did help me review stuff and see where I need to focus my attention. My strengths are clearly saving, now I just need to manage my time better. It was also helpful to recheck goals to see where they stack up and realign objectives. Which included striking some from the list.

Any pointers? How do you manage multiple goals at once? Let me know down below.

 

Family Travel: Colorado 2015

The months are flying by and I am keenly aware of the fact that summer will be upon us. Summer is usually filled with lots of travel and high sticker prices to match. We enjoy travel ourselves but this year our trips were schedule outside the summer window. We took a trip to Colorado and we plan to take a trip to Michigan in winter this year as well.

Traveling efficiently is something I am becoming more keen on. It wasn’t something I use to worry much about. I could sleep in the car, travel in a bus or drive all night when I was younger but as I am now in the trenches of parenthood and marriage my trips require I take other certain things into consideration. Still I maintain not needing to stay at the poshest suites or eat at the hottest restaurants.

After the trips I enjoy calculating how much we spent. Usually because I don’t really budget for a trip, frugal muscles are developing and questioning purchases at the source have made me not worry too much about the end result. But it still seems foolish to not check at all, so I gather my data and get to it.

We enjoy seeing this view at least a few times a year.
We enjoy seeing this view at least a few times a year.

Now let me clear something up. When I say we don’t budget for a trip I mean that I don’t say we have $200 for entertainment,$500 for food and the such. I do budget early on in the planning stages, specially when it comes to buying the plane tickets.

In the Roamer household I “budget” $150 a month for travel, which amounts to $1800 a year which normally is about right. Last year we spent almost $4000, but we had some out of state weddings we attended which we didn’t optimize so they ballooned our normal travel expenses.  Anyway like I was saying the budgeting I do for the trip is usually insuring we pay the lowest amount we can for airfare. Which in turn has a drastic impact on our final numbers.

The Costs of Roamer clan’s Colorado trip

This year we took an 8 days/7 nights trip during our son’s spring break to visit family. Even though we traveled during this high travel time frame we were  able to snag some good airfare. The table breaks out the rest of our costs.

This breaks down all the major categories into a more detailed view.
This breaks down all the major categories into a more detailed view.

So what did we do on our trip?

The Flight

We were able to score some great prices on airfare. How can you? Well I would recommend following these tip or tricks.

  • Buy your tickets on the weekdays. Maybe its an urban legend but Tuesday prices seem to consistently be much better when I check flights, then when I check flight on Saturday or Sunday.
  • Plan ahead. I like to buy tickets at least 3 months in advance and again I usually see much better prices.
  • Fly on the weekdays. Tuesday – Thursday are the most affordable times to fly in and out of your destination. If you can be somewhat flexible then you can get a better rate on most flights.

So we did just that, we flew in to Colorado on a Wednesday and out on a Wednesday. The strangest/ newest thing about this trip is that we did day flights. I strongly stand by red eyes or evening flight when flying with kids. But we survived and only had a bout of about 30 mins of crying on our flight back.

The Accommodations

We were able to save on accommodations by qualifying for a family employee discount. Before the trip we booked multiple hotels during the time we wanted to stay and continued looking and booking as we saw better deals. Then a few days before the trip we looked at all our choices and decided on the best deal given our personal preferences. In this instance we traded distance for more amenities. We could have stayed right in downtown which would have put us a walk away from family, but the hotel was very fancy, (read it expected you to go out for every single meal and had no microwave or even small fridge in the unit). On the other hand the other location was an extended stay type of hotel with a kitchen and it included breakfast everyday and dinner 3 nights.  Oh and it was cheaper too. So we stayed on the outskirts.

The Activities

snow fun roamers
Enjoying the free entertainment and the novelty of snow.

We enjoyed low cost and high cost activities. From the low cost spectrum like playing in the hotel parking lot and basketball court, to parks, hikes and swimming. To the high end stuff like a Zoo visit, and fancy restaurant meals.

On our first day stay we were greeted by a light snow cover. YES! free entertainment. We went out multiple times that day to play in the snow.  The hotel also featured a basketball court and swimming pool. So we also did that while we hung out at the hotel between our more expensive excursions.

For the not free activities we went to the Denver Zoo. But we were actually able to save from the standard cost. This is how that played out. Son got in for free because it was his birthday the next day ( what nice and friendly employees and what confident proactive grandmother who made the ask), also brother in law used their free guest passes to get me in . Minnie Roamer was under 2 so free, so we paid for only 1 adult entrance. That’s some good activities hacking and it wasn’t even pre-planned. Then Mr. Roamer and I enjoyed a grown up night out to the movies with my brother in law and his significant other. This on the other hand was very poorly thought out. We knew we had some movie credits but we didn’t plan ahead with regard to snacks and we went to watch something that just released so it did end up costing us more then we had expected. 

The Food

The most delicious thing I ate on this trip. Not a fan of Hollaindaise sauce so this version of eggs Benedict was exquisite!

On our trip we had a mix of home cooked, restaurant, and comped meals. As we already discussed the hotel already included breakfast every morning and dinner 3 nights during our stay. We took full advantage of the buffet breakfast and ate to our hearts content. We did need to purchase some food for Minnie Roamer as I am more particular about what she puts in her mouth and we also had to encourage Jr. Roamer to have some of the healthy options, yogurt, oatmeal, along with his syrup covered morning waffle. But we all let loose, and as to be expected there is a cost for such a diet and after a few days I was breaking out thanks to all the morning breakfast sausage. C’est la vie.

We also visited the grocery store and bought and prepared our own meals a few times. The biggest thing was buying fruits and vegetables, as those were what was hard to come by during all the other meals. If you are traveling I would highly recommend you buy at least all your snack foods at the grocery store instead of on location at excursions. You can save by packing your own fruits, carrots, nuts and even your own junk food; chips and soda.

On this trip we did indulge in some fancy higher end meals, we ate at 2 very nice restaurants. This is where we planned to spend a nice chunk of change and we came prepared. But if you look closely they are followed by zeros on the table. All I can say is we have some nice family. My favorite dish was trying the eggs Benedict, Tomayo  style.(pictured). I am happy we got to have these nice experiences.

Total

The only other major thing we spent money on was gas, and we also had some random expenses( all shown in the table above). Total our 8 day/ 7 night trip cost the Roamer clan, a family of 4, $1072.40. not to bad a compared to the national average.

Head to Head 2014 Vs. 2015

Finally I wanted to compare it to last years Denver trip. Did we spend more? Did we spend less?

So I set it all up in a table

Roamer vacation

Comparing the numbers straight its clear we spent less. $1072.40 compared to last years $1915.37. But then I thought wait a minute this trip was 2 days shorter. So did we spend less or is it only because we were out less time. So I calculate the per diem spent.

9 day trip was $1915.37/ 9 = $ 212.81

7 day trip was $1072.40/7 = $153.20

WOO HOO!

Truthfully though this all seemed rather funny to me since I felt we were much looser with our money in this trip.

Why were we in a much more spendy mindset? Because we came armed with several $100 gift card that needed spending. (The initial idea was to use these card to buy our monthly groceries but I disliked how they complicated the bookkeeping so we decided to set them aside as funds for the vacation.)

Looking Forward

As we prepare for our future travel there are a few things that are or have changed which will cause our costs to potentially increase.

  • Minnie roamer is turning 2 which means no more free flying. If you are a parent of young children. Use their age to your advantage and travel while they are free.
  • We now have a desire to visit family in Colorado and Michigan. Before we planned for only 1 trip a year, we might need to account for 2.

Of course with any travel the best part is being able to take time off work and spend more time together. Since we have family spread out across the U.S. it is a goal to visit them regularly. So with each trip we also get to check off some yearly travel goals.

Are you planning summer travel? how do yo keep your costs under control? Is travel a part of your family’s yearly goals? Let me know on the comments below.

Blog Birthday

Can you believe its been a whole year since The Roamer emerged on the blogger scene and started talking about  the journey through parenthood, early retirement and travel here at travelingwallet?

No!?

Neither can I.

But it has indeed been a year. I know because I got the renewal charge on my credit card. Realizing its been a whole year calls for some introspection which I want to share with you. I want to talk about a few things.

  • My favorite posts
  • What I learned
  • My birthday wish request
  • Blogs I’m hooked on
  • What is coming up this year
  • My advice to new bloggers

Its a nice round set of topics from a year in this new world. The personal finance world. So let’s get started.

My Favorite Posts

I am not a writer by trade, so sometimes I have a hard time stringing together my thoughts in the way I want. Sometimes I wonder if I’m getting my point across? Or if there are bound to only be misunderstandings. Though I’m sure you can find some issue with the following post they are by far my favorites. Why? The topics covered and the feeling that the post did indeed reflect my opinion, or were in someway informative.

The first: I talk about the hot topic of student Debt forgiveness and why I’m not in the camp that is fighting for it. Read why I’m not for student debt forgivenessStudent loan forgiveness

In general I was a big fan of my weekend wandering were I talked about broader topics, sometimes not related to finance. But this one was my favorite and I think completely relevant to the FI aficionados. In a nutshell these people don’t wait until FI to live their ideal life, they live it right away. It is inspiring, envy inducing, and motivational all in one.   Go on and read about the EASY Life.

Then there is talking about one of the most spendy experiences in most young adults lives. Marriage, its such a personal topic right!… Wrong! … Hahaha well at least our general focus on priorities is. Let’s start by questioning that ever pervasive engagement ring. 

Wedding or Marriage

There you have it. My favorite posts. Let me know what you think right on the comments of that post or let me know in the comments below.

What I learned this year blogging

  • Statistics are addicting. Seriously its very easy as a beginner to get lost in the numbers. But checking them constantly even if it is only on Mondays( but who am I kidding you know its not just Mondays)doesn’t help you increase them. Nope your just wasting time you could be..
  • Creating consistent content.  It is important. The good thing about stats is that you can recognize patterns. Nothing compares to creating consistent content my stats showed me so. But besides that I know that I am very attached to the blogs I read because they create consistent content. When they don’t I get annoyed. So why would I want to annoy my readers? Answer I don’t.
  • List are marginally helpful. During this year I have made it a point to join my fellow PF on some lists. Though they are helpful with traffic generation it is very minimal and again you circle around to what you really need is consistent content.
  • Connections can be real. You can make friends online and meet cool like minded people. This has been one of the most amazing things of this year so far. I really have been super glad to be able to get to talk in person with the bloggers I enjoy reading.
warrior dash roamer
Tonya and I getting ready to get Muddy

Blogging is a skill and  I am still learning, I see how much runway I still have to cover by seeing my peers take off on that runway. Yet part of this learning is learning about you! my readers. Which places me nicely on the next topic.

My birthday wish

As I was saying my learning also come from listening and talking to you. My awesome readers. But I want to give you more and for that I need to understand more. So my birthday wish is for you to poke around and leave me a comment.

It doesn’t matter if its your first time here. Actually you can provide me such valuable feedback by letting me know about your first impression. But whether new or regular I want to hear more from you.

To make it easy I created my…

all post/archive list.

Head on over, check it out.  Click on anything that catches your eye?  Leave a comment or leave me a private note. I read them all.

You can answer the questions at the end of the post or just give me general feedback.

Maybe you’ve never commented before. I’d be honored to be your first.

I really want to hear from you!

Blogs that inspire me

This year has been crazy for our financial lives, if you haven’t yet check out the following blogs. These 3 are the ones that really caused me to reassess my finances and have yielded great information and even greater results. Just look at these changes.

Net Worth
And it has just gotten better since then.

While MMM was the one who started me on the FI journey, the Mad Fientist helped me find the money by optimizing my tax situation and  Jim Collins showed me where to put it to make it grow.

Then there are these which just keep making me come back. Fun, random, honest and everything in between.

Also I want to take this moment to give a big HUGE thank you to my biggest fan!

Tonya! Over at Budgets and the Beach.

Thanks I really appreciate all your support. Tonya is a skilled video editor/producer and you can check out all her work, just click the image.

_20150504_220321

In reality I’ve found so many blog that are interesting but you know what they say, so many blogs, so little time.

Coming up this year

My posting has slowed but I am not ready to bow out yet like some other blogs that fell off the wayside ( still wondering what happened to them). So I am planning to continue posting and I working to get back in the groove of publishing at the very least one post a week. 

Other then that like I mentioned above I really enjoy meeting like minded people face to face. As such the following is in my schedule.

FinCon: I bought my tickets at the early bird discount :) now I just need to figure out all the other details. I am really excited to meet more financially savvy people. I am looking to share a room and still need to buy plane tickets. But the goal is to attend. 

Do any of you FinCon alumni have any tips for me on how to keep the costs low?

As I write I know I am getting more acquainted with myself and my writing style so I am going to keep writing stuff up. In the next year I hope to find my voice and stride.

Even though I don’t publish very often I do have a good amount of post ideas in queue.

Just a few in my wordpress queue
Just a few in my wordpress queue

Did you see anything really interesting or that you’d like to read about. Let me know and I’ll work on those next. I also need to work on not getting lost in starting too many but not finishing any. Some post ideas I have found are very time limited and when the moment has passed well… it doesn’t really make sense to publish anymore.

New Blogger? My advice.

Lots of advice  out there. So I’m going to keep it simple. The biggest thing is to create 4-8 complete posts before you put your name out there. Then you’ll stay ahead and meet that consistent posting expectation.( remember how I talked about that earlier)

I really appreciate all the readers and all the commenters

Even though I write my own story your feedback is vital as I work to write things that are useful and informative.

So leave a comment even if you’ve never commented before I want to hear from you.

If you like what you read follow me on Twitter were I post and share more frequently. Majority of tweets are sharing great parenting,  travel , finance articles I come across as well as you’ll know quickly when I post.

So there you have it my firsts year at Traveling Wallet has come and gone and I’m still roaming around trying to make sense of Parenthood and plan for Early Retirement and Travel.

Biking with Kids: Our 1st Trip to School

We are on our way to Badassity. Monday we move on to a new challenge. Biking long distances with kids on a time constraint schedule with only one parent! The time part  and the 1 parent here is the new piece.

We spent time preparing for this trip by talking about it for a few weeks before hand and getting some of the logistical information. Like is there even a bike rack at the school?Answer. YES.

Minnie Roamer letting me know she is ready to ride her own bike.
Minnie Roamer letting me know she is ready to ride her own bike.

So we woke up early got ready and set out. We rode the route we usually drive since it has a bike lane in some areas. The only adjustment we made was taking some different streets so we wouldn’t have to take on the lows and the highs of an underpass.

Trip Stats

:) :) :) all smiles
:) :) :) all smiles
  • 4 mile bike ride to school each way.
  • Ride took about 50 min one way.
  • School starts at 7:30 am
  • Left home at 6:50 am
  • Arrived at about 7:37
  • No stopping( except for lights) but did slow down pace
  • Mixed riding:  street and sidewalk

Ride back

As I rode back lots of thoughts ran through my head. I was happy we made it. I was bummed we were late. I was trying to think of ways to facilitate future trips. Which led to a train of thoughts.

  • I should check out other routes.
  • I can try again to see if I can transfer him to the other closer elementary school which also offers the DLI program.
  • We can move closer to the school and shorten the route
  • We really should just be moving closer to work ( over 10 miles away)
  • Ugh if I didn’t care about the DLI program we could move closer to work and enroll him into the closest school too.

All these thoughts cause me to not peek back at the trailer as often as normal. When I finally did look back at Minnie Roamer I nearly had

A small heart attack

Minnie Roamer had Houdini escaped her straps. She was sitting in the foot nook in the trailer looking out the cover. The top cover is held in place by Velcro so pretty much she was not safe. Hence small heart attack. I was shocked and scared by the sight. I stopped and took her out. Looked at the straps and was confused to find them still buckled.

Minnie Roamer now Minnie Houdini
Minnie Roamer now Minnie Houdini

I understand Minnie Roamer’s motivation, I mean she had been stuck in there for over an hour. Still I don’t understand how she got out. Specially with her helmet on. So now a shorter trip is important for multiple reasons and I also need to worry about Minnie’s safety during these adventures.

After some free movements on the sidewalk I strapped her in, gave her a talking too and proceeded with the trip. She endured the rest of her captivity much better, but still managed to wriggle her arms free. This could pose a problem.

Goals

Monday will be our biking day. This allows me to get to sleep early to be able to handle waking up early. As we get better I might test out doing it an additional day. I’m probably going to be the one holding us back on that since all other weekdays I am pretty exhausted from getting to bed around 1 am.

As of today my son has said biking to school is his favorite thing and that “its so fun”.

Guess what?

Writing this post actually prompted me to do some research. What I found out was that because I wanted to use the bike lane I knew existed I was adding over half a mile to my route. Now I will reassess our route so that we can arrive to school earlier. Next Monday we will try the suggested route and see if it makes sense for the bike trailer.

You might not believe this but there is some poor planning where sidewalks are reduce to a persons shoulder length. Much too small for a bike trailer.

I try to ride on the street and I am trying to get my son comfortable with the idea but it’s not always feasible. So like I said earlier we do mixed riding. Street and sidewalk for us.Roamer boy bike

Well this was fun, and doing it, even though we did get to school late, just reinforces how we don’t really need to drive there. It was a new challenge and we took the first step and got it done. Now we just need to tweak it and optimize.

It’s a win win win. We save up on money and wear and tear on the cars, we get to exercise, we all have fun.( well maybe except for Minnie Roamer)

Now its your turn

Do you ride with your kids long distances? What is the best placing with only one parent and a trailer in tow? Behind you? In front? next to you? Seriously tell me everything! I want to hear from you.

One More Year Syndrome

I have given up writing beautiful prose.(don’t laugh)

Instead of just not ever publishing because of limited time I think I’m just going to start publishing my thoughts as they come. Some I think would be useful to my readers and other well they might just be good practice for me. (Besides it’s not like I can’t go back and delete the really bad ones)

So here goes you have all been warned. Actually what I should have is a weekly wrap up like so many other bloggers have. But again then I wait because it’s unfinished and never end up publishing because the moment has passed.

So let’s get started.

I’m suffering from the one more year syndrome.

But first let’s take a step back.

Life changes so fast. Sometimes it’s an accident at a river, sometimes it’s because you can’t watch your mouth and don’t know how good you have it. Either way life changes in the blink of an eye sometimes.

It’s official

I mean really official

I’m suffering from the one more year syndrome.*

At the beginning of this month I had the perfect excuse to quit. I have been wanting to quit for … forever. And at the beginning of this month, I had the perfect excuse. But what did I do instead?

I extracted my claws, dug deep and clung tight. Too scared to let go. Too scared to take action.

Too scared to QUIT!

Instead of using this sudden excuse to take the year off. (My year off, that I planned almost 7 yrs ago.)

I panicked!

The timing was off. It wasn’t even June. That is when I had planned to reevaluate the job. To decided. I mean I wanted to max out my 401k before I left. Plus I just started this new position in December.

Excuses or reasons to not leave I had.

So instead of making a decision to leave I made the decision to try and stay.

So what happened?

Well, our 5 person household is down to 4. Oh and also we have no childcare.

Let me tell you, living in a multi generational house hold is hard. I’ll tell you about it some other time.

The imminent problem that needed to be addressed was who is going to take care of the kids?

Who indeed?

Due to our previous fortune we had no non family people in our resources. So we hodge podged  a week of care.  Discussed possibilities and finally decided that……

I could work nights.

Do you see it now? Is it clear? me clinging to work when I have the perfect excuse to quit.

Oh life.

Well things got shifted around and now I am working night shift. But I know I really do want to leave, because I was actually surprised when my boss said OK. You see I had tried to get the exact same arrangement right after my daughter was born and they had said most certainly “No”. So I thought I would walk in there propose the idea.  And leave thinking I had done everything to keep the job. But, oh well they had said no and its out of my hands now.

I mean talk about not wanting to be the one to make the decision.

So here I am working nights. Hanging on tight to my one more year.

I say it’s because I want to max out my 401k. Which is actually completely true. But I also think I just didn’t like the idea of altering my plan. June and December were the milestones for quitting. For multiple reasons too.  The 401k and another which was  the fact I was also intrigued by Financial Samurai’s book How to Engineer your layoff and wanted to give that a try.

But at root of it I guess I’m just scared of losing what I already have. A steady paycheck! More ammunition for our f-you money pot.

As of now I’ve survived the month and now have 8k of this years 401k safely sitting in my account. Yet I have to admit this is not where I want to be. How do I know? It would suck to pass on now. I see this is not ideal for the family and that the arrangement should only be temporary. That as it is I’m not entirely sure I am making the right decision.

On the positive side. I was also afraid of being at home all day with the kids. Let’s be realistic the change would take some getting use to . Now however I’m doing it and on very little sleep. So when I finally take time off it should be a piece of cake. :)

* one more year syndrome is a commonly used phrase by FI people to describe some one who is Financially Independent but keeps pushing off taking the plunge and leaving the 9-5.  Worried and thinking that one more year will provide them more safety.

I am not FI but my family is in a position to be able to not just survive but continue to thrive on one income for a year. That is why I am diagnosing myself with the one more year syndrome

We all say we won’t be scared to take the plunge but its quite a different experience when the decision is staring you in the face.

Do you suffer from the 1 more year syndrome? Is something stopping you from making changes or finally crossing something off your goal list? Leave a comment and Tell me below.