April 20, 2012

Messing with Texas

Hey Friends!
With most things on hold around our Calgary life (house is still on the market!), it's been quiet on the 'let's leave our homes and live on a boat!' front. We're still planning our mini-road-trip, but now something else popped up!

Next week - I'm going to Houston for work!

On it's own, that's not very exciting. But, in stealing a page from John@TravelRinseRepeat I'm going to try to make a boring work thing into a travel opportunity! Why?

I'm in Houston, and I'm a tourist here, Works is paying for me to stay in a swanky hotel, I have a rental car to get around... Although...This being a work trip, I have to work most of the time. So - I need your help! If you had several evenings and a weekend in Houston, what would you do?? NASA? Eat steak? Let me know!

April 11, 2012

Robots Pay My Bills

It's been awhile since we had any Money Posts up here - and that's really because not too much is happening. Without a house sale, our finances remain stable {mostly}. To help prep us for some long term travel, and get us in the green for some savings... we're working on a couple of things financially:

1. Saving Money! 
You're shocked, I know. People who want to travel are saving money? Yep.
We started putting all of our extra cash into a {previously empty} savings account. All the money we got from Kijiji + Amazon + Extra stuff is in there. Our tax return $$ will go in there too. We've sold around $3000 of stuff {includes some things from the business that we owned} and will get almost $5000 in a tax refund. That puts us at almost $8000 saved - and we're still paying our mortgage! We're already 53% of the way to our 'Have this or don't get on a Plane' amount.

2. Automated Finance
Here's where the robots come in. After reading lots of money blogs/advice {Like This or This or This} I'm trying to shift my finances to be fully automated. Here's why:
- I'm lazy/disorganized and I don't want to forget bills or pay them late
- I know I'm going to pay all my bills, so why not have the robots do it for me?
- Bills still get paid if you're not around the internet
- It keeps my budgeting organized and on track - bazinga!

I've already gone into my love for Mint {budgeting software} and it's awesome auto-categorizing, so this is just taking it one step further:

For my home:
- I called VISA to have the minimum payments for both of our credit cards come out of our account on the 15th. I can still make additonal payments on my own towards the principle {which we are still paying down}, but we'll never forget to pay.
-  My cell phone bill & utilities bills do the same, except the full payment for these come out every month
- A small RRSP savings transfer is made at the end of the month
- Property taxes & condo fees are paid automatically on a monthly basis

I still do all of our savings transfers & principle payments on credit cards manually. Mint categorizes all of my spending, so I can then review all of the payments that have been made and calculate my excess income for savings/debt repayment.

For our rental property:
- Post-dated cheques from my renters were given to the bank to be deposited on the 1st of the month
- Mortgage, utilities, condo fees, property taxes all come out automatically
This system is completely automated and I do nothing to it but monitor it monthly.

This has been a great way for us to ensure that all of our bills were being prioritized and paid immediately, as well as itemized and monitored on Mint. It leaves us with a clear number at the end of every month that we can use towards our goals. Currently, we're using this excess money to pay down debt through a snowball approach {Try this Snowball Calculator!}, and using a snowflake approach to our savings - it will adjust alongside our situation.

**Final Note** Budgeting as a couple can be a nightmare sometimes. Everyone has different views and hangups about money, and secrecy is the kryptonite of a good budget. COMMUNICATION is KEY! We need to have 'budget meetings' monthly to review the status of our accounts, our goals and spending ;) **

How do you budget your money? If you are living internationally - how do you manage your money abroad? Money and budgets are a huge portion of travel prep, so we're glad to be taking some steps to move forward... now we just have to get rid of this house and mortgage!!

April 9, 2012

Who Travels with you??

There’s so many ways and combination of groups that people travel in – how do you travel??

Where we went: Work travel only! I’ve never extended a work trip, or really tried to enjoy the city I’m working in. Work travel is rare for both of us{yearly?}I'm not the expert, but I'd like to explore my independent solo-traveling side a bit more!

Just the two of us! This is my favorite way to travel! Juliano is a great travel partner, he never gets lost and picks great places to eat. I find the best stuff to do, and am way better at bartering.
Where we went: Cuba, Rio de Janeiro, Los Angeles, Seattle, Montreal, lots more!
Pros: Sharing a bed saves money, less compromise on what to do, being together
Cons: Not meeting many new people, being with your spouse 24hrs a day can make you crazy, hard to get pictures together.

 Couples travel! This is really fun if you go with a couple who has similar interests as you and you get along. Bonus points for being able to split up into guys/gals… hello shopping and spas!
Where we went: Las Vegas, Baby!
Pros: Sharing bottles of wine means you get to taste more, shopping and spas (as above), great ideas/suggestions from another perspective
Cons: What if the other couple is horrible?? Or wants to eat MacDonald’s EVERY day? Are they swingers? You should know this.

Ahh… the most ‘local’ way to travel – and you get to visit your family! Staying with family is (a) almost free and (b) fun in the short term. Depending on your family – this arrangement has a serious expiry date, stay within it and all is fresh… even a day over and you’ve got sour milk.
Where we went: Ottawa, Brazil
Pros: Free food, free lodging, free showers, free local guide, free car to use, seeing your family!, living like a ‘local’
Cons: Do NOT overstay your welcome, family can be crazy, sometime you never get to leave the house because it’s like herding cats {I mean that in a very loving way}

This differs for Family Travel, because everyone is traveling! This was our first year traveling with family – and we went the ‘holiday’ route.  Highly recommended. Most families have a variety of people that like different things…. And that shouldn’t stop you from doing what you want most days. Picking dinner plans should not be a HUGE fiasco.
Where we went: Cozumel, Mexico
Pros: family bonding time, vacation, mom probably pays for stuff
Cons: these photos will be on your mom’s wall forever – don’t get a bad haircut, family can be crazy

Pretty much vacation + friends + wedding = super-fun-drunky times. You get to meet people on the fringes of your social circle, and go on a holiday with a bunch of other people that you like! And a wedding – it’s a party within a party!
Where we went:  Puerta Vallarta, Mexico, Seattle/Oak Harbor, WA
Pros: lots of drinking buddies, vacation, wedding events, usually nice locations
Cons: no choice of time/location for your holiday, maybe you have a black heart and don’t like weddings, family will be there – family can be crazy {other people's families included}

Pretty much destination wedding times a zillion, minus the tuxedos and grandparents. This is the spring-break style travel with lots of pictures and slightly less memories. It’s all about group dynamics… so good luck with that. I recommend lots of extra food, extra booze, easy bathroom access and no couples with drama.
Where we went: Houseboating on the Shushwap Lakes, BC
Pros: so much party, lots of fun people to meet/hang out with, probably very little responsibility
Cons: holy crap – can all these people co-exist? Who had to organize this??

Soo..That's how we've traveled in the past! Our future travel includes road trip travel, staying with strangers, living on a boat... and who knows what! How about work-stay or study travel?  Let me know what your favorite travel group/style is!

April 6, 2012

Roadtrip! Pacific Northwest

Happy Holidays Friends! I hope the bunny sends you some tasty candy eggs :)

Anyways - after our oh-so enlightening 'live on your own terms' revelation this week, we decided we STILL want to travel, and if we can't do it BIG... we'll do it small{ish}.

 So, we're going on a Road Trip!! Juliano has been pestering me to do a road trip forever. He thinks they're awesome... I'm skeptical to say the least. Being stuck in a car for hours and hours just doesn't sound like fun. But, in the spirit of:
- trying new things
- traveling on the cheap
- visiting friends all over
- flexible schedules...

I've given in. We're doing the PACIFIC NORTHWEST LOOP {It's not a real thing, I just named it that} and it looks like this:

Calgary - Home

Kelowna - Friends Just had a baby {hi Felix!}

Vancouver - Juliano's never been!! He's been to the Maritimes and back, but never West.

Oak Harbor - More visiting Friends {aka. free place to sleep, what up Burkeys!}

Seattle - LOVE LOVE LOVE this city. Pike Place, coffee everywhere, gelato, chocolate, etc. Anything here that you think we just CAN'T MISS?

Portland! - I'm so excited! This is our first time visiting Portland and I've heard so many great things. We've got a couple of brewery tours on our 'to-do' list, voodoo donut eating, but we need more! Also, we'll be spending our 4th Anniversary here so one swanky dinner is on the list. Help us ~ any suggestions??

Vancouver-Kelowna/Kamploops-Home - We'll see how long we stay in Portland vs. our drive home {2 days or 3??}. I'll need to get some books on tape or something...

We'll keep you posted of all of our springtime {aka rainy} adventures on the road - probably going to be going the second week of May. Also, in the spirit of adjusting ourselves to a more 'communal' living situation {good thing about our suburbs life.. SO. MUCH. Privacy.} we'll be staying with friends, or AirBNB homes.

What would you do on a Pacific NW road trip for a week??

April 4, 2012

Living on Our Own Terms

 Whats Up Bloggy Friends,

Sorry I disappeared on such a cranky-old-lady note!  I put on a grump face and couldn't shake it off... It got us to thinking and talking, and we've been guilty of one thing that we think has been sabotaging our success...

we keep living for tomorrow

How many cliche 'live in the moment' posters/quotes/inspirational cards have you seen?? A million?? MORE? Because we're so excited, and so motivated to 'move forward' with our plan, and to sell sell sell, move move move, we have been compromising our own decision-making skills for the benefit of getting to tomorrow faster.

How?? We accepted a conditional offer on the house that was lower than our financial base. Not by much, but it was more compromise than we were willing to make. We put a deposit down on a storage locker that we don't need yet. We keep hurtling ourselves forward without a thought or a care to the consequences, as long as it feels like we're moving forward.

We had to step back and realize that we are not leaving the life we have as refugees, but rather as emigrants looking for a new life. 

We still have our jobs, and we can afford to keep the house for as long as it takes to sell - on our terms. This entire BIG IDEA has been built around living our lives on OUR TERMS and not following the path laid out for us... and we have to start applying that decision making philosophy to our everyday, and our choices.

Here's to living live on our own terms 
~ big and small ~

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