Vacation Pre-trip Steps

Traveling has made my bank account poor but my life so very rich.
– Unknown

There’s a good reason why I think a lot of people don’t travel more; it’s not the money, but the work it takes to plan out travel. With our departure date to Denmark “just” three months away, I finally starting to refocus on a wrapping up my year-long pre-trip list:
  • Dream Big!
  • Save every extra dollar
  • Set a realistic travel budget
  • Purchase airplanes – found a great deal through Icelandair
  • Research car rental prices – just purchased over two weeks for $909, plus gas (more than our initial budget, but that’s just what it costs)
  • Get passports – more on this topic when we get them all back…
  • Finalize itinerary, set any reservations and update budget accordingly
  • Purchase gifts for host families/friends…that’ll be fun!
  • Pack smart…strategy is key
  • Plan for family fun and adventure…

On top of having successfully saved for our trip (sometimes I still can’t believe it!), we are very lucky to have lots of family and friends to stay with on our trip. One of my host sisters has offered her apartment to us in Copenhagen, just a short walk to the Little Mermaid waterfront statue. Another host family has offered their beach house, and we’re only planning a night or two in a hotel for our anniversary during the entire 3 week trip…talk about travel savings. 

If you don’t have personal connections in your dream destination place, there are ways of making it happen. I haven’t tried it myself, but I’m very intrigued by the concept of “couchsurfing” internationally.

Here’s fun Adaptu article on  Money Saving Tips for your Next Family Vacation

I also found a quick video,  “Adaptu pulse! Vacations!”,  that includes some great quotes on why experience matters:

“It’s a matter of being frugal, if you don’t live an excessive lifestyle, you can afford it.”

“In terms of choosing between a vacation or a new couch, I’ve always gone for the vacation.” 

I could agree more!  🙂

What dream vacation are you saving for?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Doggy Decisions

My mind has been consumed this week with facing decisions about our family dog, Kiki. When Girly and I took him on a walk Saturday morning, he started limping after the second throw of the fetch-it. While he didn’t yelp, it sure seemed serious and I knew we’d have to take him to the vet (especially when his appetite was nill…which I’ve never seen).

We got an early Monday appointment, and my BigGuy accompanied us. After an initial exam, Dr. Rachel (from Irvington Vet Clinic) suspected that his knee was torn, as she could feel looseness. I left him for full x-rays, and started to prepare myself for the prospect of shelling out a LOT of money for a knee repair surgery, roughly $4-5k. I know after two years of dog ownership that pets cost, but that’s a big chunk of cash.

When we got the results back I started to have second thoughts about surgery. It turns out that he actually has looseness in both knees, plus arthritis in both knees and hips. Add on the fact that he is a HUGE purebred Labrador weighing in at 107 pounds (he is literally the biggest lab I have ever seen, and people tell us the same all the time). Then there’s the factor that he’s turning 8 this fall and the average life expectancy for his breed is 10-12 years.

Sadly, when we adopted him 2 summers ago the original owner had actually given him up because she was obese and her vet told her that if she didn’t get him regular exercise that he wouldn’t life a full healthy life. We had hoped to give him the active lifestyle he deserves.

I worry that if we sucked it and did the surgery that he would continue to compensate through his opposite knee or hips. And wouldn’t have a full recovery due to the arthritis.

It’s a damned if you do, damned it you don’t prospect.

Yet the prospect of just letting him atrophy and live in pain kills me too. I would at least treat him with medications and acupuncture, but it would bring him back to his previous bounding self. In the end, it would likely shorten his life. 

It’s also a slightly more personal dilemma, but I’ve had one arthroscopic and 2 full ACL surgeries on my knee. I couldn’t imagine not being given the chance at recovery. Yet, I also know the warning from my orthopedic surgeon…”you’ve got max of one knee replacement, so I don’t want to see you for a very long time…” Sadly, I’ve been likening Kiki’s predicament with whether I would want a grandparent to operate or not, and how much of a quality of life it would actually give him.

No doubt, it’s a tough choice. I’m not entirely set, but I am obviously leaning, and I need some perspective on this tough decision…

What would do for your pet? 
Is surgery the best choice?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

It’s Only Stuff

In what I think will be my last specific post related to my father’s passing, I feel the need to share my reflection on dealing with all his worldly stuff.

On top of the intense state of grief that comes with the passing of a close loved one, you have to deal with all their stuff…which really doesn’t help matters. I feel kind of lucky that my Twin Sis and I each grieved for a few days before we got to his house to start the task of sorting through everything.

While on the surface my father wasn’t a pack rat, he still had more possessions than I realized…probably average for any American living in one house for 25 years. His stuff did reflect what he loved, mostly lots of books, music, guitars, and outdoor sports gear. Plus, in the last year of his life he had started to collect furniture, lots of nice secondhand pieces. When we first took a look around to evaluate the task ahead of us, we were understandably overwhelmed. It looked like it could have easily taken a month or a year to go through it all…and we had a week max.

We were honestly very systematic and somewhat detached about it all, simply because we had to be to get the job done.  We only stopped to get sentimental over a box of old slides taken when we were 3 years playing in a front yard of fallen leaves (see photo: yes the fro is real!).  But after the first night of sorting and packing past midnight, we looked at each other instinctively with the same thought “It’s only stuff!” 

Amazingly we plowed through it all (with the help of close friends and family), and in two days time we had everything from the upstairs emptied and ready to sort through to give away to his closest friends. We donated all his clothes to Sponsors and the last of the furniture to St. Vincent De Paul. In less than six days, his place was entirely empty.  

This was a big life lesson in many ways, and here are a few tips to consider in your relation to stuff and the hear-after:

  • Be generous now – share what you have with those close to you before you go…it will make it easier for everyone and you may even enjoy it 😉
  • Let It Go – I hear it all the time from my favorite minimalist blogs, but if something isn’t beautiful or useful to you right now, let it go. I know it’s easier said than done, but simplifying your life, especially in retirement, will bring you a great sense of ease and will truly help your loved ones deal with your passing better.  
  • Give directions – If you have valuable items you want to hold on to, do your best to be explicit about what you would like to go to whom (in that will you’re finishing up!). Thankfully, we didn’t squabble over anything, but my sister’s in-laws have had some bad blood for years based on feeling slighted after the passing of an Aunt who wasn’t clear about who she wanted her belongings. I don’t think anyone wants feuding, but it happens. 

In our case, the task of going through everything was part of the healing process and it was weirdly a bonding experience for those closest to our father. But I feel lucky that we managed to accomplish it all so swiftly, with generosity, and with love. Everyone close to him got something, and many felt like righteous gifts that would continue as subtle reminders in daily life of his presence.

In total, we each gathered approximately one box worth of stuff, a combination of sentimental and practical items (my steamer basket had been busted for months!). I got some items for the kids, a Lincoln Log set, wooden baseball bat, and Wally’s most well-played guitar. A jar of marbles we played with as kids and a vintage bottle fish now sits in our entry way window, as it did his. Wally had also recently bought me an antique roll-top desk and a tandem bicycle, and I will inherit his 19-foot wooden Lightning sail boat…which I will need to lovingly restore! It’s not that I’m ungrateful for these new-found possessions, but I have an even deeper appreciation for them…knowing it’s just stuff in the end.

What stuff really matters to you?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Account Info List

After a bit of a hiatus, I feel like I’m getting back to finance basics. I hadn’t checked any accounts or paid any bills in nearly three weeks. Thankfully, since we’ve worked to streamline our finances and set up as much as possible on autopay, I wasn’t actually delinquent on anything. It’s kind of a relief to have been MIA and not feel any dread now that I’m ready to refocus on our finances.

It’s also a reminder of how essential my Google Docs folder with all our account info has become for managing finances with simplicity. I have no doubt that without this handy crutch I would have been needing new passwords left and right to log in…passwords are the first thing to vanish from my brain! I’ll give a gentle nudge to say that when you set up your estate documents, it’s important to share this info (or at least have it all compiled) for your executor. Most of us get multiple bills via email, and how else can anyone deal with them without a clear account info list? 

It also makes me realize that we have several gaps in our record keeping, and I would hate to send anyone through our files to find the wheat from the chaff. In fact, based on my response to a questionnaire we filled out when we got our personal finance planning report from Jonathan Pond, he advised that updating our will and doing a better job filing be some of our top priorities…the filing still needs to be sorted/simplified.

I found a detailed list of info you should have handy for your executor. While some items (like appliance guarantees) seem a bit overkill, I certainly agree that we should have all the essential documents in order. I also found a simple template from O magazine. Now that the gardening weather is so nice I don’t expect to tackle this soon, but it does give a good project for next autumn.

Do you have a master account list?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Will & Testament: Make it your family priority

At the new year I talked about how updating our wills and creating new “last wishes” documents were a family goal , and about a month ago I wrote about questions for estate planning . I may be stating the obvious, but given the recent death of my father, I realize how essential documenting your last wishes really is for your family. I encourage you to make setting up your estate affairs a top priority for your entire family.

Ironically, Hubby and I signed our wills, advanced directives, and power of attorney when my father had already passed away and we just didn’t know yet. I was planning to have the tough talk with my father the next time we met, and I was already discussing the need for estate planning with my mother. My Twin Sis had tried to broach the subject of writing a will the last time they saw each other in January, but he kind of scoffed at her asking “Why would I need a will?!” She pressed further and told him that writing a will is the responsible thing to do, especially for someone 65 with a heart fibrillation. She insisted that it wasn’t about inheriting money, but it was more about his last wishes. Where did he want his ashes scattered? Did he have any causes he wanted to donate to? What about giving money to his “best-ex” who who was partners with for 14 years and still best friends with? How would we know anything about handling his finances? We knew that we didn’t want to be kept on life support, but that doesn’t matter without an advanced directive…

As in turns out, these questions were forced upon us much early than we anticipated. Please, I urge you to get your estate affairs in order, I promise you’ll breath a sigh of relief when they are done and your family will thank you when you are gone.

Not to keep this post entirely depressing, I want to share Brett Dennen’s new song Dancing At a Funeral from his new Loverboy album.

Do you have a will and testament? 
Does your spouse?  Do your parents?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.