Why I’m Researching a Vacation We Can’t Afford

Our view from inside Neusweinstein in Germany. Worth every penny.

Our view from inside the Neusweinstein castle in Germany. Worth every penny.

I would rather take one amazing, life changing trip every 10 years then smaller, cheaper vacations for the nine previous years. Some people have the itch to get away all the time but I don’t. I’m a homebody and have no problem exploring our own little corner of the world. I enjoy simple things in life such as camping and mini road trips.

That doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy vacations though. When we get away, like really away, we want to go all-out. For our honeymoon we went to Germany and France for almost two weeks and it was amazing. Needless to say, we’re in no position to do anything like that now. I’m talking taking ten days to three weeks off work, kind of vacation. One we talk about for years and years to come.

Our current position in life, not just financial, doesn’t allow us to drop everything for a long duration of time and get away. For example we want to take our next big trip with our daughter but want her to be old enough to really understand what we’re doing and have more independence. I’m not interested in spending money for a four year old to follow her parents around for a few weeks, I want her to be able to appreciate and explore as well.

Realistically, given everything, especially finances, we’re five to six years away from taking our next big family trip but that doesn’t mean we’re not actively making plans. We haven’t decided indefinitely where or when we’ll go but we’re not letting the fact that we still have debt stop us from dreaming of where we will be in five years.

Planning a trip we really want, but can’t yet afford, gives us drive.

Obviously we want to get out of debt. While we’re not seeking early retirement or to be millionaires in our forties, we want to experience life beyond debt and we need to establish a plan for what kind of life we want to have, for us this includes travel. Though I’ve sort of given up on creating defined goals, our overall goal of debt freedom hasn’t gone away and the reasons why we want to get out of debt have never changed.

For us, we may not have many exact plans beyond whats on meal plan for tomorrow or how much money we’ll have to put towards debt on payday, but one thing is for sure, our debt isn’t going to deter our dreams of travel, if anything they will enforce our desire to travel and push up to reach other goals faster.

What motivates you to reach your goals?

10 Statistics You Probably Didn’t Know about RRSPs

picRegistered Retirement Savings Plans, or RRSPs, can be a great way for Canadians to save for retirement, and the tax benefits convince many to invest in one.  With RRSP season coming to a close after the February 29th contribution deadline, let us examine some information about RRSPs from studies conducted by BMO Financial Group.

RRSP Contribution Levels for the 2015 Tax Year

  • Since 2014, there has been a 12% decrease in the number of Canadians contributing to their RRSP.
  • However, Canadians contributed an average of $4,117 this year, which has increased from $3,737 in 2015 and $3,518 in 2014.
  • Almost half (42%) said market volatility played no role in their decision to contribute while 37% said that it did. 19% said they contributed more because of it and18% contributed less due to those same fluctuations in the market.
  • For those not contributing to RRSPs, the top reasons include: not having enough money (37%, compared with 38% last year), other expenses took precedence (29%, up from 25% last year), other types of investments were used, i.e. a TFSA (16%, down from 21% last year).
  • Those expecting to receive a tax refund from the Canada Revenue Agency after making an RRSP contribution will do so in four ways: Save or invest the money (33%, down from 34% in 2015); Pay down a mortgage (16%, compared to 15% last year); Complete home renovations (14%, compared to 13% last year); Or use it toward travel or leisure items (13%, up slightly from 11% last year).

To help Canadians save for retirement and build their wealth, BMO Investments Inc. offers BMO SelectTrust™ Portfolios and BMO ETF Portfolios. The Portfolios are professionally managed and designed to fit different investment styles and risk levels, which allows clients to choose a portfolio that is best suited to their individual investment goals.

RRSP Withdrawals Before Retirement

  • Approximately one third of Canadians have prematurely withdrawn funds from their RRSPs.
  • The average amount withdrawn from RRSPs before retirement is just under $16,000.00.
  • Some of the main reasons for a withdrawal of funds from RRSPs include purchasing a home, paying off debt, paying living expenses, and covering unexpected emergencies.
  • Although about one third of those who withdraw funds prematurely have paid it back, one fourth do not believe they will be able to do so.
  • Most of those who have withdrawn funds early (84%) did so only as a last resort.

So what are the alternatives?

Consider starting a savings account or emergency fund to avoid withdrawing funds from your RRSP. Look into the possibility of borrowing from your RRSP and paying it back, but consider carefully the penalties you could incur before you do. Lastly, only withdraw funds from RRSPs if you have no other options.

Do you contribute to an RRSP? Would you ever withdraw funds early? What alternatives to RRSPs do you use to save money?

Financial Complacency Can Be Dangerous

20140804_194327When I started this blog a few years ago I had a fire in me. It was the feeling of reaching what I consider my financial rock bottom and wanting to get far, far away from my financial nightmares. I was on maternity leave, we now had this tiny human to care for, and suddenly realized it doesn’t always ‘’just work out’’ as people were telling us as we approached my maternity leave. Floating along as we had done the previous few years wasn’t going to work anymore and we needed to get our asses in gear.

Thankfully we did. We did what we could at the time. I was home for the year with our newborn and we survived because my husband demanded was given a well-deserved raise which allowed us to breath. We weren’t making major progress until I went back to work but we survived because of that raise. It also gave me time, almost a year to be exact, to figure out a game plan for when I had my full income again. When I went back to work we were beyond ready to start making serious progress.

We got ourselves a proper emergency fund (sizeable to our current situation), then started paying off debt. It felt good. We were so excited to see the debt go down every month. We reached a personal (and financial) milestone at the end of last year, paying off another loan which felt so good but after this we decided to change focus.

Our life was changing and though we had been crazy gung-ho about paying down debt (with an initial goal of paying off 70k in 36 months) we could no longer ignore other aspects of our life that needed financial attention. We’ve moved from a situation of financial excitement to a situation of financial complacency and I can see it being a dangerous thing.

We’re not currently making those thrilling $2,000+ debt payments. Instead, we’re doing boring gown up stuff like saving for a car and eventually figuring how we can move ASAP (more on this later). I feel like though I know it’s all necessary stuff, it bores me and I feel like I’m dragging my feet in the sand. I’m also finding myself to be somewhat complacent with how things are. I feel that fire going out a bit.

Because my current finances don’t ignite the same passion that paying down debt does (though I know taking care of these things will allow us to move forward with debt repayment), I have this sort of ‘’meh’’ feeling lately. I can’t quite place my finger on it but I’ve noticed a change in how I have been thinking about our money, and reaching our short-term goal(s) I just don’t care that much.

Because of this attitude, my finances are somewhat complacent. I set things up and just sort of monitor. What’s different than before is that I’m not logging in everyday to see what I can recalculate or change to reach our goals faster. When we were working on that last loan, I was doing everything in my power to have it gone by my goal date (my birthday, first week of November). According to my first ‘’budget’’ we weren’t going to reach it until early 2016 but I did what I could to make it happen sooner and it worked. I won’t lie, none of this activity is currently going on.

I thought this temporary shift in our goals would feel kind of good, like a break, but it doesn’t. When I’m not going after what I really want (murderdeathkill debt), I find it hard to be motivated and lack of financial motivation is not a great thing.

Don’t worry, we’re not at any risk of giving up on our goals because quite frankly I have a head on my shoulders and recognize the importance to us, our daughter and most importantly our future, but I still feel like something needs to change. I tried changing up how we work our finances, and that didn’t work. I’m hoping with a potential change in my husband’s income I will be re-invigorated with our goals, both short and long-term.

Though in most aspects of my life, I’m a creature of habit and enjoy structure and routine, I’ve discovered that financial complacency leaves me lacking drive and I know that if I want the most out of our lives we need to strive for more, always, not just for a single goal.

Have you ever been in a position of feeling complacent with your finances? How did you get out of the rut?

Any Budget Should Be About The Larger Goals

I mentioned last week that a few weeks in 2016 and the new budgeting system I established at the end of 2015, was not working for us. I read a lot of personal finance. Books, sites, blogs, you name it and I divulge in it. Everyone seemed to be doing a better job at tracking their money, making it work and overall just have their shit together a whole lot more than us.

Don’t get me wrong, I know the fact that I even know what a budget it puts me over and above a large portion of the population, but those within this niche just seemed to find a way to make their money a little more manageable. And so, by end of 2015 I set out to be one of those people. The ones who can download near any basic budgeting template and make it work for us. I wanted to report that we were spending X dollars and X cents every month to X object. Little did I know, I was actually setting myself up for financial insanity and failure.

I’ve already outlined individual reasons why a basic one-size-fits-all budget doesn’t work for us in this post, but I didn’t take time to look at the overall bigger picture. Before you can have any ”budget” work for you, you need to understand how your money works. For us, we’ve accepted that there are too many monthly inconsistencies which lead to frustrations in trying to establish ridged budget goals. No we won’t go blow a few hundred on frivolous stuff, we’re still looking after our family needs but how much we have everything month changes.

For us, rather than having the same individual targeted amounts for each general budget category (such as groceries, entertainment etc), every month, we focus on our bigger financial goal(s) and make those categories work around it.

Our income varies every month, within a few hundred dollars but it is variable. Regardless of the income for the month, we set to make a minimum ”goal*” payment of at least $1,000 over and above minimum payments (for us, minimum non-mortgage payments are currently $975). This is non-negotiable for us.

Most budgets I see floating around encourage you to set everything else up (groceries, pets, haircuts etc) then ”whatever is leftover” is what you have for whatever goal you have (debt repayment in our case). The biggest reason this doesn’t work for me is the mental state. By making our goals a non-negotiable just like a mortgage payment (the bank doesn’t care you don’t eat for a month, it wants your payment) we make it work come hell or high water. Sure it would be easy to say ”this month I have $1800 to take care of my family’s needs and leaves me with $600 for our goal”  but I would rather say ”We have a $1000 goal payment and now have $1400 to live on for the month”.

For those wondering, yes we’ve had months where meeting that $1000 goal left us with almost nothing to live on. I remember one month very early on where we had $200 for gas, groceries, diapers…everything. It is in those months we hustle the hardest to make our priorities a reality. Sure we could have skipped the extra payments and given ourselves some breathing room but that’s not how goals are met. Since we started this debt repayment journey we have had one month that I can think of where it didn’t happen. We still managed an extra $500 though.

One-size-fits-all and finances don’t go together. Ever.

There are people reading personal finance blogs/books/websites just like I do, trying to make attempts at managing their money but can’t make it work for them and I’m here to tell you it’s ok. There are other ways to mange your money. How you manage your money is personal. While having a budget is important, understanding how your money works is more important make sure you establish your priorities before deciding if a budget will work for you!

*I label it as ”goal money” rather than debt repayment because right now we’re saving for a car, not additional debt payments, this will change though since our main goal is debt payoff.

What Our Toddler Did When Given Her Own Money

Source: Flikr

Source: Flikr

This past weekend my daughter came downstairs and announced she had some ”monies” and would like her piggy bank to put it in. Since we were the only ones home, and we didn’t give it to her, we had to ask where the coin came from. ”Mommy’s wallet”. We explained that we don’t go into people’s wallets, ever, and that if she needed or wanted something to ask for it.

She explained that she wanted some money to go to the store with me. I had already prepped her to get ready to go to the dollar store so I could buy some hair elastics for her (one of her Barbies acquired about 150 tiny elastics in her hair which, for the sake of my sanity, I couldn’t be bothered to remove). Once we made sure she understood to not take money from anyone, ever again (even if it was only $2.00) my husband then gave her $2.00 to do what she wanted with.

Later that day, after carrying the coin around all morning, mulling over what to do with it, her grandparents came over. She was excited to be able to show her coin off. Discussing what she should do with it, Nanny added to the pot giving her another dollar. Now she had $3.00 and felt filthy rich, I’m sure. She couldn’t wait to get to the dollar store now.

We picked up the hair elastics then she immediately wanted to go look at toys. No surprise. We walked up and down the small, but crowded, aisle at least six times contemplating everything. She explained she wouldn’t buy a new sparkly tiara because she already had one, she didn’t need stickers because she had a lot left in her art box, every toy she picked up, she almost immediately put back down when looking at the two coins in her hand. Normally, had I given her free rein in the store, I’m sure she would have attempted to ask me to buy almost all of them but suddenly, knowing she could probably only buy 1-2 things with her $3.00, she really had to think.

She eventually settled on a book. A book about princesses for $1.00. She also asked permission to buy a small chocolate egg for $0.50. She started with $3.00 and spent a total of $1.72. When we got home she asked her piggy bank. She deposited her change and asked when we were going to the bank (I attempted to explain the process to taking her money to the bank so she could deposit it when her piggy bank got full, a mission she’s well over half way to completing).

It was an interesting experience for me. I really didn’t know if she would ”get it”, the concept of money, but she seemed to understand it, and more importantly, the value of it, a lot more than I ever would have expected, at not even four years of age. One of the things she asked about was a $3.00 item. I told her she didn’t quite have enough money (when accounting for taxes) and instead of asking me for the $0.45 she put it down and began asking about other things she could afford. When I though she wasn’t going to settle on anything I suggested she could save it all and she seemed fine with that, until she spotted a pink princess book (which we read about 10 times yesterday alone) and chocolates by the cash.

Teaching our daughter about good financial habits is one of my main parenting goals. I really believe it is a massive life skill that can literally be life changing.

How do you teach your kids about money?

Why I’ve Decided to Invest a Few Thousand Dollars on ME.

…I’m already hearing the haters in the comment section for this post…

I have a hard time spending money on myself. Debt or not I just have a hard time spending money I earn, on myself. I rarely buy myself clothes outside of required work stuff. I buy most of my makeup at a drugstores and usually ask for very practical gifts (I’ve been known to ask for a mop as a gift). Needless to say my personal expenses are very low. Though it’s not something I monitor as close as some PF bloggers, if I had to guess I would say I might have spent a total of $200 on myself in all of 2015.

Things are changing though. Come March I will be spending more, a lot more. I’ve started with an orthodontist and will begin Invisalign orthodontic treatment in the coming weeks. I’ve already been scanned and now await the aligners to come in. Invisalign isn’t cheap. No orthodontic treatment is, especially with no insurance. There’s good reason why I’ve decided to start now and not when all our debt is paid off as I originally planned though.

Ortho treatment is something I’ve always wanted but not something my mom could afford when I was a child. I knew if I wanted it I would have to wait until I was working full-time and pay my own way. I do work now and also happens to be in the dental industry, another huge reason why I want it. I’m a teeth person and while straight teeth does not necessarily mean healthier teeth, it is something I want even more given I work in an industry of near perfect-teeth individuals. Truthfully this is something I would really want regardless of where I work but trust me there is some unsaid scrutiny felt in my line of employment.

So why now? I met with a local orthodontist who we send a lot of referrals to. In a city with a lot of competition we send almost all of our cases to his office. He’s a good, genuine, guy who our regular patients praise, so I met with him. Long story short, given that we do so much business with his office, and if I’m being honest, given that I’m a walking advertisement for his professional work, he’s giving me a discount. A very steep discount. A discount I will never get again, especially with Invisalign.

I’m in Canada, my scans are done here and the retainers are made in a lab in California. The current exchange rate is not helping things for Invisalign patients so not only is he giving me a discount, he’s discounting the fee before current exchange rate. I can’t risk him taking early(ish) retirement and me missing out on this opportunity because it won’t happen again.

He’s allowing me to make monthly payments at 0% interest for two years (if I need that long). The payment is totally manageable and won’t affect our current goals which is important to me, because even with it being an amazing deal, if we couldn’t make it work while working on our bigger, more important goals, I wouldn’t be doing it.

31 Days In and I Hate My New Budget

calculator-385506_1280We’re officially into February which means we made it through a full month of our new budget. I spent hours over Christmas break finalizing our seemingly fail-proof system but after a month we’re throwing in the towel.

The thing with budgets (or any money monitoring system) is that they change. As life changes, so does your budget. We had been living with our old system for so long it was time (or so I thought) to fix things up. There were too many unaccounted for things within our lives and I was never totally satisfied with how our old system worked for us. I made it work but always felt like it could be better.

So, hours over my Christmas break was spent creating a new system. Everything was itemized. It was a true budget (vs what I like to call, a money monitoring system), and we were ready to rock it. We tried and for awhile and  it seemed like it might work (awhile being the first 10 days of the month…). Then I was reminded of why a cash budget doesn’t work for us.

Though we weren’t a full cash budget, all of our non-family expenses were done so with cash and for us it only works so well. I think cash budgets are great if you need help controlling your spending or have one person doing almost all of the spending. Neither of these are us.

Keeping spending under control has never been an issue for us. We didn’t get into debt from any vast overspending and still today we value our money and spending money on ”stuff” isn’t an issue. We very rarely spend money on many wants and tend to save that sort of stuff for occasions like birthdays and anniversaries. Non issue for us.

The other thing that was magnified for us in my new system, is that we really can only monitor our money and make adjustments as we go. Ridged budgets do not work for us for a few different reasons. I set up a certain amount for prescriptions for example, but when I got to the pharmacy to pick everything up (including some new ones) it was almost $80 more than I was expecting. These are necessary things obviously and had no issue paying for them but it immediately busted my budget. Another example is that with Mike’s job he is literally all over the friggin’ map some days. We’ll pack a nice lunch, he’ll go to the office for what he thinks is all day, get called to a job site for what he thinks will be like an hour, which turns into all day, which means lunch out between sites. Again, we have no issue with this, it’s our life. While we can predict some days but sometimes life throws a curveball and finding out you only have $5 cash in your wallet to buy lunch isn’t exactly feasible for most places.

I know I’m not the only one with a crazy busy life, but in 31 days I’ve discovered I’d rather log into my online banking every day to see what’s going on and tweak changes on a bi-weekly basis then have a budget I can set and forget, essentially living on cash.

And so from now on we’ll have our discretionary spending all from one account again, some weeks we’ll go over and others we’ll be fine. Our life is all over the map and I need to monitor our money as changes come.

Improving Your Credit Score Quickly

If your credit scored has suffered due to high debts, missed payments or bankruptcy, there are several ways you can improve your credit score. As your credit score consistently improves, you will be able to obtain financing and receive other new credit offers that can be used responsibly. Here are a few of the best ways to raise you credit score quickly.

Stop Using Credit Cards

Continuing to use your credit cards to make purchases will only increase your debt and lower your credit score even further. It is best to pay with cash or debit cards to avoid acquiring any more debt. One of the most effective ways to avoid the temptation to use credit cards is to take them out of your wallet and leave them in a secure drawer at home.

Increase Payment Amounts

If you still have a balance on a credit card, you can pay it off faster and raise your credit score by paying more than the minimum payment amounts each month. Doing this can also save you from having to pay as much interest and can actually prove to be the most cost-effective solution in the end.

Pay Off Small Purchases Quickly

Even though this may seem like a contradiction to the aforementioned advice, you can actually improve your credit score by using a card with a low balance to make small purchases. You can then turn around and pay off your entire balance quickly. This is often one of the easiest ways to raise your credit score, but you should make sure that you are always spending responsibly and able to pay off the balance without any delays.

Set Payment Reminders

Forgetting to make a payment on time can make it especially difficult for you to build your credit score. You can set reminders if you have a difficult time remembering when each payment is due. There are many apps you can use to set reminders, or you can simply write memos on a calendar that you look at regularly. You may even be able to request certain creditors to send you reminders by email each month before your payment due dates pass.

Request Your Credit Report

There are many reputable companies you can find online that will give you a free credit report. You should check to make sure all your personal information, inquiry history and creditor information is all correct. With this report, you will be able to see whether there were any instances of someone fraudulently using any of your lines of credit, which can have devastating effects on your credit score. If you notice any fraudulent activates, you should immediately notify the proper authorities to avoid further impact on your credit. There may also be certain errors on your report that can lower your credit score.

Keep Accounts Open

It will look more impressive on your credit report if you show that you have long-term credit. Even accounts that have no balances should be kept open. If you never plan to use a certain account again, keeping it open anyway can help you raise your credit score.

Examine Your Debt Ratio

Even though it may seem like you have a low balance on a particular credit card, this can still lower your credit score if the amount you owe is almost up to the amount of the spending limit. You should prioritize paying off these cards first if you want to see your credit score jump up quickly. If you cannot completely pay off these credit cards promptly, you should at least keep your balances at 50 percent lower than the spending limits.

Consider Refinancing

Applying for refinancing on a home or auto loan can actually improve your credit score. This option might help you avoid having to apply for multiple loans, which can negatively impact your credit score when potential creditors run inquiries on your credit report. Refinancing often comes with a lower interest rate and can make it even easier to pay off your debt and raise your credit score faster.

See a Credit Counselor

If you are having trouble making all your payments to your debtors, a credit counselor can help you work out a deal that may keep your credit score from dipping further. Your credit counselor may advise you to consolidate your payments, which will make it possible to pay several of your debtors with just a single monthly payment. Plus, you can feel even more motivated to raise your credit score if you work closely with an advocate who will hold you directly accountable for your actions.

Raising your credit score is one of the best ways to gain a greater sense of financial stability in your life. Taking the necessary steps and following through on your commitments can make your credit score jump up even quicker than you may think is possible.

We Blew All Our Travel Rewards and It Wasn’t on Travel

When we bought our house we went through a mortgage broker. Long story short, the broker came back to us offering a deal with a local bank, and surprising enough, the best mortgage at the time was one that had an affiliation with a national rewards system. Basically you pay your mortgage every month and watch the points build. Worked for us.

This particular reward system (Aeroplan if you are curious) was not something I collected actively outside of my mortgage. I happened to have an account when we signed our mortgage and my balance at the time was 7 points for a previous a gas purchase I think. Like I said, I never used it. However, during our initial five year term with our mortgage we managed to build on our initial 7 points to almost 10,000 times that.

We’ve been sitting on almost 70,000 points for a few years now waiting to use them. Given how bloody expensive it is to fly within our own country (I can fly to Germany cheaper than I can fly to the other side of my own country) we thought we’d eventually use the points to fly west and pay our families a visit (at least one of us would be ”free”). We also considered using them for our upcoming trip or maybe just a weekend away somewhere closer (Ottawa perhaps). So for the last few months we’ve been playing around with scenarios and guess what? NONE OF THEM WORKED.

They have so many black-out dates, don’t allow you to use your points to pay for taxes and fees, advertise one points guide but it suddenly changes when you go to book your date (to fly to the west coast should have been 25k points per person but when looking at all my dates it was closer to 50k per person), and are honestly a pain in the butt to deal with. We were done. For the amount we’d end up paying in taxes and fees alone, for any flight, it just didn’t make sense to us to use our points on travel (we could pay cash for less than the equal points were valued at) so we cashed them out.

After Christmas I received an email that some of the gift cards you could purchase with the rewards points were being offered at a discount price so we looked into it. In the end we ended up cashing out almost all of our points for $600 worth of gift certificates instead of using in flight and it’s worked out well for us. Our $600 is broken down into:

$300 for Costco (only spent an equivalent of $250 in points): Haven’t decided how we’ll use this, will either use towards a larger family purchase or just use towards normal family spending.

$100 Old Navy/Gap: Already used for our family and got 2 pairs of jeans (him and her), 1 pair of dress khakis (him), leggings(her), tshirt (her) and 2 pants for kiddo all at an average of 50% off! Spent $100 for almost $200 worth of stuff, ordered online and it all fit!

$100 Restaurant: Will use for hubby’s 30th birthday celebrations this week!

$100 for movie theaters: Because we never get out and have many movies we’d like to see (why must movies be so expensive!?)

We’re happy with our decision. When the time does come for us to go on another vacation we’d be waiting for good seat sales anyway. Combine that with the fact that we’ll hopefully start looking into different (better) rewards card to use in the future for travel.

Do you save your rewards for travel or spending?

We’re Going on a Real Vacation and I Can’t Wait!

In two months, we’re headed off on our first real vacation in almost six years. We’ve been away a little bit, mostly family stuff for long weekends, maybe two weeks total, in the last five years. When a patient asked if I was taking time off this year, my boss actually joked that I’m a work-a-holic and never take time off. Thankfully I have a career I really enjoy or else I probably would have snapped a long time ago!

I have friends and family who work high stress jobs and need the time off or will mentally and physically burn out, I’m fortunate (or strategic in career choice?) that my weekends and odd day off are usually enough for me to re-coop from work. I don’t really need time away from my job, what I do need though, is time away to spend with my husband and family. Especially now that we have a kid.

For a long time, I couldn’t imagine spending our money on anything other than our debt. It just didn’t feel right. I was so guilt-ridden about the amount of post-secondary debt I brought into the marriage I knew we couldn’t ”afford” to take time off from our goals. So we didn’t and have grown to hate ourselves a bit for it.

Thankfully, we’re both homebodies and genuinely enjoy spending time home with our friends and family. We enjoy vacations but certainly don’t feel the desire to pick up a few times a year and jet off somewhere, but, like anyone, we need time away sometimes. Our time has come.

Our big goal, to be 100% non-mortgage debt free, is pretty grand and I’m proud of the efforts we’ve made so far, but being focused on one, singular thing, for so long, blurs the rest of your life. Suddenly you don’t totally remember why it’s so important. While throwing up a magazine cut-out focus board works wonders for some, we need to get away for a bit- take a break from our goal- to sit back and realize how far we’ve come and regroup once back at home.

So, we’re taking off. At the end of March we’re going away on an adults-only trip with four of our best friends to Nashville and I’m so excited. When the NHL schedule was released this past summer, we decided for hubby’s birthday we’d go away for a long weekend to catch a game with our favorite team, and visiting Nashville won our vote. I’ve been once and remember loving it as a kid so think it will be even more fun as an adult.

The fact that we’re going with four other people will help keep some costs down too which is always nice. We opted to rent a house through AirBnB which was huge cost savings. We’re also going during off-season which is also a bit cheaper and we watched flights like a hawk paying about $200 less per person than they’re currently advertising. Though the Canadian dollar conversion sucksssssss I don’t think we’ll make out that bad. I find food to be significantly cheaper in the US, both eating out and to buy, and portion sizes are much larger which means more sharing. Our two most expensive items (airfare and accommodations) were booked in CAN so the conversion didn’t affect us.

I’m not suggesting we’re going to blow through thousands of dollars (my fugal bone comes with me where ever we go thankfully) but we’re going to enjoy ourselves while there.  While some people enjoy shopping while on vacation, we enjoy eating, so dining out will be a big part of our vacation budget. I get excited to try new foods and restaurants, another big treat for us since our self-imposed family dine-out budget of $50 doesn’t go that far here 🙂

Especially in the last 24 months we’ve been grinding hard on this debt. And it’s paid off (pun intended). Last year we managed to knock off almost $30,000 alone, but all this grinding is leaving us kind of bitter. While some of you are likely of the mindset that ”you’re in debt, you’re only goal in life should be to pay it off”, and I don’t totally disagree with you, I also argue that a break may be exactly what we need. I think that we can’t afford not to take time off from our goals or we may never reach them.

Have you been to Nashville? Start the recommendations below!