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Archive for October, 2012

Visitors stress me out

October 26th, 2012 at 01:07 pm

We don't have many overnight visitors, but sometimes when we do it really stresses me out!

My family recently visited us. The thing about my family is that when they come they don't just like to hang out. They always have to be doing multiple touristy things each day. And we don't live in a real touristy city (like Orlando or New York) so it's really hard to please them.

When they are here we end up spending SO much money!

I think the issue is that this year we have been in our own little bubble--our budget bubble. We go out to eat about once a month, we mostly do free activities with the kids (with the exception of some major splurges like our vacation)...our home life is very simple and frugal. But then when we have visitors come and we are forced to conform to their way of living, even for just a few days, it totally throws us off.

We asked my family in advance what they were planning on doing and they told us 2 activities. We looked up the prices and the cost for my family was about $130. Not a big deal, we could plan for that by cutting back earlier in the month.

But the bigger thing is that they always want to go out to eat. Like they insist on it. So we went out to eat for most meals while they were here and spent around $150-$200. I made one meal at home for everyone and would have done more but they don't like hanging out at home.

When we go to these touristy places, their kids raid the gift shops and their parents buy them at least one thing from every gift shop we encounter. And then my kids are like hey, we want something too (when we are by ourselves they don't expect something from every place we go).

I have a friend from college coming to visit me in a few weeks. She is single, no kids, and leads a totally different lifestyle. She travels all the time, is very social, and is just the total opposite of our frugal family lifestyle. She is already making suggestions on stuff we can do while she is here and I'm hoping to reach a compromise. Like instead of all 5 of us going places with her, maybe just I can go. She will be here on a Sunday and Monday (and I already warned her about weekdays not being a good time for me, with 3 kids and school and their activities). So I guess the whole upcoming visit is stressing me out.

I realize as I write this that I probably sound like an old fuddy-duddy set in my ways. I am thankful that we have people that want to visit us, I really am. I just get stressed out about the money part and feeling like I have to keep people entertained.

Anybody else go through the same things with visitors?

Bonus and Borrowing

October 14th, 2012 at 02:22 am

Ok, it's been almost 2 weeks since I've blogged and it's time to catch up.

The biggest news is...we found out we are getting a bonus (unexpected) in December and it will be about $7500 after taxes. Woohoo!

We've been trying to decide where to put our small windfall and after having changed our minds a bunch of times, I think we've reached a conclusion.

First, we are going to take $5000 and put it into savings as a "slush fund". Our emergency fund balance is where we want it to be for 6 months of living expenses, but on top of that we want a cushion to pay for things like car repairs, car registration, unexpected vet bills or medical bills, etc. So, boring as that sounds, that's where it's going.

Now the next part is a little more exciting...we are taking $1900 and going on a Disney Cruise in February! Can't remember if I mentioned this or not, but last summer we went on our first Disney Cruise. It was probably our favorite vacation, ever. The kids had a blast and DH and I got some alone time. It was hugely expensive, though, and we had to save up a long time for that. We had planned on going on another cruise in 2014.

Well, that was until Disney decided to offer some big discounts on their cruises that sail out of Galveston (about 6 hours from where we live). I saw those sale prices online from our travel agent, and I called DH out of the blue and said, "Hey, don't think I'm crazy....but there are some really good prices on Disney Cruises coming up in early 2013!" I thought he would say I'm crazy, but he was more for the idea than I was! So we booked a cruise. We will have to pull our oldest son out of school for 4 days, but I believe that as long as he's doing well in school and he's young enough, it's no big deal (we did it last year too).

So now, we are no longer going to San Antonio in the Spring, we will do the cruise instead. So my mturk earnings will go towards spending money on the cruise. My goal is to earn $200 before February.

We also got $200 in onboard credit from our travel agent and from using our Disney Visa, so almost all of our tips are paid for. And we're using DH's hotel points to stay closer to Galveston the night before.

We haven't told the kids yet--I think we will surprise them at Christmas. I still can't believe that we are going on another Disney cruise so soon after our last one--but the price is less than half of our cruise last summer!

We will take the rest of the bonus and divvy it up to some charitable causes.

Which sort of leads me to talk about another "charitable" cause we are dealing with...friends who keep asking to borrow money. They are actually the reason I started this anonymous blog, because blogging about us trying to save up for an emergency fund made me uncomfortable with them asking us for money.

These friends are going through a hard time--they've asked us twice to borrow money and they asked us for a 3rd time today. We gave them $100 the first time--I guess it was more like a gift than a loan. I'm sure we will never get it back.

The second time, we said no, but we bought them some things to help out their household. Another $100+ of stuff.

And now they've asked us again for this latest emergency--one of their cars was towed away for nonpayment and they have to pay to get it out of impound plus the amount they are overdue on.

My mother-in-law told us that once you give someone money, they will keep coming back to you and asking you again and again. She was right.

The thing is, this couple has made some horrible financial decisions. They are both college educated and had good jobs (one was laid off). I'm trying to stay out of the situation completely. But part of me would like to tell them some practical things they could do instead of asking everyone around them for money--like sell their iPads and Kindles. Get rid of their smart phones. Do some work on mturk or anywhere to get some extra money. Have a garage sale. But I think suggesting any of those things would just piss them off.

So we've decided we just can't give them any more money. Because there will always be the next "emergency" and although I feel bad for their kids, they have got to learn how to get themselves together.

Anyone have friends like this? Do they ask you to borrow money? How do you respond?

My new mturk.com earnings goal

October 3rd, 2012 at 01:40 am

So over the past 2 months I've earned approximately $150 from doing survey work on mturk.com. I've used that money to buy birthday gifts for 2 of my kids at Amazon.com.

In order for me to stay motivated to do survey work a few hours a week, I need to set another earnings goal and a target of what I want to spend it on. Since our Christmas fund is doing well, I decided I'd like to earn $300 on mturk.com for tickets to Sea World/Aquatica in San Antonio.

We live about 6 hours away from San Antonio (driving distance) and DH and I have been a few times as a couple before having kids. It's a great city with lots of fun stuff to do. We went to Sea World there (I've also been to the Sea Worlds in Florida and California) and we love it. We've never taken our kids to San Antonio, though. Not on purpose, we've just been to other destinations with them and figured we could do San Antonio/Sea World "any time" since it's such a close destination.

DH has enough Marriott points (earned through work travel) for us to stay in one of the hotels nearby for 3 nights (for free!) So I'd like to earn approximately $300 to buy tickets for us for 2 days at Sea World and the new Aquatica water park. If I can earn money for those tickets through my survey work, and our hotel is free, we pretty much just need to pay for gas and food for the weekend.

I've got approximately 6 months to earn this money. The kids have a 3-day weekend off school in April. I think it will be a good time to go. My youngest will be 2 1/2 years old and there is a new Sesame Street Bay of Play area at Sea World.

Today I earned $6 doing surveys for an hour while my daughter was napping. This will be a slow process. Wish me luck!

Big Christmas Purchases

October 2nd, 2012 at 04:00 pm

One of the things I love about having a separate Christmas fund is that when I see a good price on something on our kid's list, I can just snatch it up with our Christmas cash!

Yesterday I did just that. We live near a Lego store. It's a wonderful thing if you have kids that love Legos. I've done a lot of price comparisons on Legos, and have found that Legos are usually the cheapest at the Lego store. Toys R Us has Legos on sale all the time, but they start out at a higher price so getting them on sale is usually just like getting them at regular price at Target or the Lego Store.

Anyway, my oldest son really wants this Lego Ninjago dragon set. It's $119. Yes, expensive! But this is his #1 wish and it will be his main present. During the month of October, the Lego store is offering double VIP points. So instead of getting $5 off for every $100 spent, it's now $10 off. I already had some points in our account, and I bought my other kids a small set each, then got $5 off plus I earned another $10 off through buying the big dragon set. So essentially $15 off. Woohoo!

I love Christmas shopping!