When overseas travel is a necessity

Posted On August 31, 2014| 1 Reply
©iStockphoto.com/dorian2013

©iStockphoto.com/dorian2013

Travel is on most people’s bucket list. At some stage in our lives we want to venture beyond the safety and security of our own backyard and discover distant places. This year, over 9 million overseas trips were made by Australians.

When we think of travel we think holidays, exploring new cities, tasting new flavours, discovering hidden treasures, meeting new faces and much more. This type of travel isn’t a need, it’s a want. Often it’s an expensive want.

But what about when you have family living on the opposite side of the globe, on a different continent, with a different lifestyle to your own? Is travel to visit them or they to visit you a necessity or a want?

It’s a bit of both.

J’s entire family lives in Eastern Europe, most of mine do too except for my parents and my brother who live here in Australia. Overseas travel on a regular basis is a necessity as well as a want. We could just limit our contact to Skype calls but it’s just not the same as sitting together at the table opening a bottle of vodka and munching on fresh ham, lard, pickles and bread that we just can’t get in Australia…it just doesn’t taste the same here.

Such visits can get expensive and they require their own room in the monthly budget.

This year with baby J being born, his baptism and our decision to marry, we invited our family to come visit us. My parents paid for my grandparents tickets and J and I paid for J’s mum’s ticket. We offered to pay for his cousin but fortunately she could afford her own. Each ticket set us back around $1700 which means this year J and I along with baby J will not be traveling to Europe. We did go last year and the year before. We could dip into our savings and go again but that would be a mistake as we have bigger plans for the cash we currently have saved and invested.

A trip to visit family is not just purchasing a ticket, getting on a plane and paying them all a visit. There are other costs involved including hiring a car, insurance, spending money and miscellaneous gifts. Now that baby J is with us it means hiring a car seat, organising a stroller, more insurance, and an extra ticket which will only be 10% of the fare until he turns 2, and then 75% until he’s 12.

Fortunately, accommodation costs are not required because we stay with family. Most of the food is there and we simply contribute to the grocery bill. But the travel also involves taking at least 4 weeks off work because it’s not worth travelling there for any less time than that. Sometimes that’s paid leave and sometimes it’s unpaid leave.

The costs easily add up.

Our next Europe trip will be in 2016 and hopefully for at least 5 weeks. The entire trip is going to set us back around $10,000. Baby J will be 2 by then and his ticket will cost 75% of the adult price. Plus I want my mum to go with us so I have a trusted babysitter on hand when necessary so it’s more like $1700 x 4, which is $6400 for the tickets alone, another $1000 for car hire, and $2500 spending money for the entire trip which may or may not be enough. Travelling with a toddler, I’m going to want to have more just in case. It’s better to have it and not need it, then need it and not have it.

I refuse to put that trip on credit so I’ve started saving for it now. So far I’ve got 10% put away and another 12-18 months to save the rest. We’ll be purchasing the plane tickets towards the end of 2015. I need to put away around $100 per week for this trip to ensure we have enough. It sounds like a lot but it’s doable especially when I return to work after my maternity leave.

It’s fair to say that J and I will need $10,000 for every trip we take to Europe and we’d like to go at least once every eighteen months. If that doesn’t work then we can always invite his mum to visit on alternate years and we’ll visit every other year. It’s a cost but it’s a necessary cost as we want baby J to get to know his family in Europe, work on developing his second language, and show him the world.

To us, travel is a must not a maybe. It’s a choice but it’s a necessary one given how close we are to our family and the distance between us.

Is travel a need or a want for you? How important is travel in your life? How much on travel do you spend each year?

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Can we all be frugal?

Posted On August 30, 2014| Leave a reply
©iStockphoto.com/iqoncept

©iStockphoto.com/iqoncept

Frugality is a lifestyle choice of cutting back on spending to save more and live on less but frugality isn’t for everyone. In a world obsessed with consumerism, and yes, we are obsessed, just check out the multiple shopping channels hawking everything from blenders to vacuum cleaners, gym equipment and much more. There’s a fast food chain on almost every corner of every suburb and advertisements showing us how easy it is to get a loan just by picking up the phone.

Being frugal means saying ‘no’ to the above and saying it proudly. It means not being persuaded or swayed towards opening up your wallet for non-essential purchases. And let’s face it, much of what people buy these days is non-essential. Do you really need a fourth pair of jeans when the other three pairs sitting in your wardrobe are perfectly fine? What about the ten pairs of heels that are crowding your entryway? Could you have made a cup of coffee at home instead of going to the drive thru for a double shot caramel soy latte?

Living frugally is being economical with your money, your food, and whatever else you might buy. It means finishing everything in the fridge and pantry before heading out to the grocery store. It might mean starting your own vegetable and herb garden. Or it might be cycling to work instead of driving. Frugality can effect one lifestyle variable or it can effect multiple variables. The choice is yours.

It definitely has its benefits but also its drawbacks. It’s easy to see the reasoning behind making frugal choices every day – making money last beyond your next pay packet, increasing the savings account and not being wasteful. Because let’s face it, the developed world is extremely wasteful.

What are the pros and cons of frugality?

Saving money is one of the biggest perks of being frugal. You spend less you save more. Your bank balance grows and you become financially free or independent or wealthy sooner rather than later, or at least you hope you would.

Frugality can also make you healthier. Since going out to dinner at a restaurant or stopping for fast food on your way home from the office is not an option it’s likely that you are cooking more nutritious meals at home and it’s so easy to make nutritious meals that don’t cost an arm and a leg.

Another benefit is the reduction of waste. Less plastic bags, less paper towels, more composting and recycling. We are a wasteful society and frugality often results in lowering our personal wastage. Can you relate to the cutting up the toothpaste tube to scrape out the last bits of toothpaste on the packaging for a few days?

But just like everything else, frugality does come with some disadvantages too.

Consumerism makes the economy go down. As soon as people stop spending the economy seems to dwindle and the media goes into a frenzy panicking about a recession and hinting of another great depression. Let’s face it, if we want to keep the economy turning and ensure unemployment levels stay manageable we need to spend.

Frugality can also have a negative impact on our level of happiness. Sure you’re saving on your grocery bill, your using solar to heat your house, you’ve started a vegetable patch and you’ve sold off your car. Your bank balance is growing but your life revolves around going to work, coming home, pottering around, ensuring you haven’t exceeded your daily quota of oats or water, going to bed, and then repeating the cycle. You’re saving and that’s great, but is it at the expense of living?

Can you be a personal finance blogger and not be frugal?

A while ago I wrote a list of things to do that are mostly free. They bring me great pleasure and satisfaction and don’t involve breaking the bank or even opening up my wallet. That doesn’t mean I’m frugal. I’m not, far from it. Just put me in a shopping centre and I’ll always find something I need and I will buy it. Going out for a coffee with friends or my other half a few times a week is a must, especially now that I’m on maternity leave and spend 100% of my time with an infant who is not yet the greatest of conversationalists, plus I need a reason to get out of my comfy pyjamas in the morning.

I’m a personal finance blogger, I’m a consumer, I love spending as much as I love saving, and I’m happy to say, I’m far from frugal.

I do however make choices and sometimes these choices result in me saving money. I love shopping when the sales are on. I prefer to go out for breakfast than dinner. I love to experiment in the kitchen. I like the idea of growing my own herbs. I don’t need an expensive gym to stay fit. I love seeing my bank balance grow each fortnight. I really like it when we keep our grocery bill under $150 per week but I won’t sacrifice a delicious salmon fillet for it.

The truth is that there are many successful personal finance bloggers out there who aren’t necessarily frugal. They know where to cut spending without sacrificing on life satisfaction. They focus on making more rather than just spending less. Here’s just a few that don’t focus on being frugal but more on lifestyle design:

IWTYTBR – Cut out coffee to save $3 per day. Ramit will laugh at you. That’s why I like him. It’s all about making more and living more.

MSOC – I love Michelle’s post on her income goals and successes. Raking in 5 figures each month in freelancing income in her twenties is fantastic effort and it means having more choices when it comes to spending and saving.

Afford Anything – I started reading this one not too long ago and I love the idea of creating a passive income through real estate investing, spending more time travelling and being location independent.

You can be smart with money without resulting in self deprivation. Ok, so a little self deprivation or as I like to think of it as delayed gratification at the start of your journey can be beneficial but remember you don’t want to be the richest dude or dudette in the cemetery now, do you?

Frugality is beneficial when you’re working on eliminating personal debt or saving for a house deposit or a six month overseas adventure or whatever your goal may be. By cutting down on your every day spending you can reach those goals much faster but in the long term frugality is overrated nor does it make you a martyr of finance world either.

It’s foolish to think that we all can or even should live frugally. Spending keeps the economy turning. When too many people stop spending businesses lose money which leads to job losses and an increase in unemployment. An increase in unemployment can increase the crime rate and drive the economy into a recession. Neither of which scenarios are good.

That doesn’t mean we should spend everything we earn either. Personal finance is personal and needs to be adapted to individual needs. There are thousands if not hundred of thousands of personal finance bloggers around the world sharing their thoughts, knowledge, world views, opinions and experiences. Not all might agree on everything or they may just agree to disagree on certain theories. In the end whatever you read you need to adapt to your own circumstance and personality to reap the most benefits.

Sometimes frugality isn’t a choice, it’s a necessity whether it’s by the poor choices you’ve made in the past, the loans you’ve taken to maintain your level of lifestyle, the life hurdles you’ve had to face, or something else.  So in the end or at the beginning, you have to figure out what works best for you. Spend less than you earn, aim to earn more, enjoy the simple pleasures but don’t bereave yourself of all indulgences. Find a balance between hedonism and self denial that makes you happy and enjoy the journey, wherever it may take you.

How important is being frugal to you? Do you think being frugal is necessary to become financially free? 

 

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Can you afford your bucket list?

Posted On August 16, 2014| Leave a reply
©iStockphoto.com/allanswart

©iStockphoto.com/allanswart

I was reading an article with the same title on a news website the other day and was surprised to read that around a third of Australians are unlikely to afford their bucket lists, here’s the link if you’re interested. It got me thinking about my own bucket list. Can I afford it? Will I ever be able to get through the list? Have I been realistic when creating it? Will it continue to grow and expand? What will it cost me over my lifetime? What can I do today to start crossing off more things off my bucket list?

Taking a closer look I was pleasantly surprised.

Out of the 100+ items on my list, a quarter of them won’t cost a thing, a quarter will be costly and will require planning and time on my part, and the rest fall somewhere in between. Am I likely to achieve them all? Probably not, but that’s ok. They’re just a guideline of some of the things I would like to do, experience, try and achieve. If I only manage half it’ll be awesome.

Several experiences will take years to achieve, like training for an Ironman and completing one in a certain amount of time. It’s unlikely that I’ll achieve the goal straight away. Reading the top 100 novels on Amazon won’t happen overnight, it’ll probably take several years given my current pace. Another is writing a novel. While I have written several, they’ve mostly ended up in the bin without anyone besides me having read it. So the novel writing goal is not just writing a novel but also edit it, give it to someone to read and publish it. This will take time, effort, dedication and down the track cash to invest in a good editor and also to market the book.

Some I’ve already managed to complete like starting a family, finishing a 70.3 Ironman, starting a share portfolio, flying in a helicopter, riding a camel in Egypt and seeing the pyramids, as well as visiting Dubai, going on a cruise to the Pacific Islands, and teaching English in a European country which I did for two and a half years.

Take a look at your own bucket list. What type of things do you have on it? Can you afford any of them today? Are any free? Will some take months or years to complete? Are any of them, or all of them, really important to you?

Bucket lists are great but unfortunately not always realistic and rarely do they come with an action plan. Most of the time they are just a list of dreams that get written down and shoved into the bottom drawer or lost amongst the myriad of word files on your computer. But there’s a way to start making things happen and living out those things you’ve been itching to get done. Here are a few steps I’m using to work through my bucket list.

8 Steps to Bucket List Success

1 – Firstly make a bucket list. Write down everything that comes to mind that you would like to do, experience, learn, see, taste, etc. Don’t limit yourself. For example, you might say: I want to run a marathon or I want to volunteer at an animal shelter or I want to swim with sharks in the Great Barrier Reef.

2 – Categorise the list into three: Things that don’t cost a thing, things that are super expensive, things that fall somewhere in the middle.

3 – Categorise the list into things that will take time to complete, for example, running a marathon will require at least four months of training or longer if you haven’t run before, it will require you to choose a race and sign up for it, and then to finally run it, and recover from it.

4 – Put a star next to all the things that you can get started on right now. So if you want to get published in a magazine, why not pick the magazine and start brainstorming story ideas or write a letter to the editor. Just get started.

5 – What can you realistically achieve this year? Focus on two or three things each year. Pick one that is easily achieved to stay motivated (read War & Peace or volunteer at a hospital), one that is a little bit harder (sign up for a French cooking class or spend two weeks visiting your family on the other side of the country) and one that will pose a challenge (enter a sprint triathlon or purchase an investment property). If it’s too easy you might not appreciate the experience as much.

6 – Create an action plan for the three you have picked to make them more achievable.

7 – Read your bucket list regularly and work towards the things you want to achieve every day or at least every week. You might be surprised at how much you can and have achieved.

8 – The best things in life are free and you might find that many of the things on your bucket list will cost under $100 whether they are reading certain books (I’d love to get through Warsaw Uprising and Sienkiecz’s Trilogy in Polish), hosting a three course themed dinner party for eight (Japanese, French, Spanish or Mexican), or exploring the hidden treasures in your home town by being a tourist for a weekend.

Personally, I don’t want to leave the bucket list for when I’m 65. It just seems like a waste of 34 years. Besides it’s likely that my bucket list will evolve over time, as will yours. Your financial circumstances are likely to change too, so while today some of those experiences you’d love to have might cost an arm and a leg, others might just require a little bit of planning and can be acted on right away.

Don’t let money get in the way of enjoying life and following your dreams.

What’s on your bucket list? What can you get started on today? How do you plan on living out your bucket list?

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We’re getting married!

Posted On August 3, 2014| 2 Replies
©iStockphoto.com/arnoaltix

©iStockphoto.com/arnoaltix

Marriage: a costly union between two people who’ve decided to spend their lives together; a piece of paper to tie the knot; whatever you want it to mean.

J and I have been together for 7 years. We were meant to marry back in 2010 but due to a few unforeseen circumstances we decided not to go ahead, J’s dad passed away, the wedding date was of a family members death anniversary, and well, no one was in the mood to throw a big party that year.

It was a smart decision. We avoided spending tens of thousands of dollars on a party for over 150 people.

Fast forward to 2014 and much has changed. We decided we wanted to start a family at the end of 2012, little J came along in April 2014. And since little J’s other grandma and his great-grandparents are coming over from Europe for his Baptism in September we thought why not surprise them and get married as well. On the same day too, giving us 8 weeks to plan the big day.

According to Money Smart, the average Australian wedding costs around $36,200. That’s insane! That’s a deposit on an investment property. Honestly, I can’t justify spending that much money on one big party.

Our budget: AU$6000. That’s ⅙ of the average.

How can the budget be so small?

  • We’re limiting the guests to 40-50 people who are actively involved in our lives.
  • One of my best friend’s is doing my hair and make up.
  • My friend’s mum is making the wedding cake as a gift and her auntie is an expert on flowers.
  • J and I are driving ourselves to the ceremony. With baby J in a car seat I don’t trust anyone else to drive with him so this will be much easier.
  • The wedding dress will be purchased online. I can’t fathom spending $$$$ on a dress I’ll wear once and only for a few hours.
  • We found a venue that doesn’t charge for room hire.
  • Dinner will be a simple sit down three course meal after canapés and champagne on arrival.
  • We’re using our own music. I’ll compile about two hundred songs on my iPhone, chuck into the iPod dock and off we go.
  • We’re postponing the honeymoon until our planned 2016 Europe trip.
  • We’re going home instead of a hotel after the wedding.
  • Our biggest expense is the photographer. We were going to use a family friend who’s a professional photographer but unfortunately he’s out of the country that month. My brother wants to cover the cost of the photographer as a gift to us which is extremely thoughtful of him.
  • I’d rather spend more money on a house, increase my investment portfolio or go on a long family holiday.

We were going to have the wedding reception at home but when my mum started talking about hiring marquees in case of bad weather, creating a five course menu and much more, well, I figured it was time to look for a suitable venue. We were lucky to find one by chance, and one that is very flexible with our needs and wants. The wedding is going to be just the way we want it without breaking the budget.

As we come from a European family, my parents insist on paying for the full amount. Umm, I don’t think so, after all I’m 31 years old. If I was ten years younger well then sure, why not? So, we’re still in negotiations as to who’s paying for what but I think we might be close to settling on my parents paying for food and drinks and J and I covering the rest which works out to be 50/50.

Below is what our wedding budget looks like. So far, the rings and dress have come under budget which means should we need to overspend in other areas we definitely have room to move.

                     Wedding Budget
Celebrant

$450.00

Rings

$500.00

Photography

$500.00

Food

$2000.00

Bar tab

$750.00

My Dress

$400.00

J’s Outfit

$300.00

Baby J outfit

$150.00

Decorations

$150.00

Arbour & chair hire

$450.00

Misc

$350.00

TOTAL

$6000.00

What is the average cost of a wedding where you live? How much did you spend on your wedding? Do think people spend too much/too little on their weddings? Would you borrow money for a big wedding?

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