Sunday, February 12, 2017

Dollars and Cents Update & Travel Planning

Flowering Aloe Vera Plant - Spain 2016

I have no new photos - the snow is now melting but the skies are still grey so I am sharing a few pictures from our trip to Spain last Spring.  The temperature has risen above freezing and the slow melt has begun, not fast enough for those who still can't move their vehicles due to large blocks of snow preventing from leaving their driveways.  We shoveled each day so are not facing that and now the roads are slushy but safe to drive on.  I am hoping the last snowfall is behind us as my back still hurts from all the shoveling.

Waterwheel - Cordoba, Spain, 2016

I managed to piece most of our tax information together to realize that this year I could no longer use the free version of Turbotax, and will have to pay to use the $70 version but that is still way cheaper than having someone else do our taxes.  I am just waiting on our final investment slips to file.  Today I am going to tackle our Corporate year end as need to take over the office and Sunday is just about the only day hubby is not in there.  I do the day to day book keeping and compile the paperwork and then we take it to the accountant as we are a Canadian Corporation and the paperwork is overly complicated so we pay them to deal with it.

Madrid, Spain, 2016

Our grocery budget in 2017 is $525 a month, $25 lower than last year.  I am not entirely sure I can make it but we will try as I have gotten a bit lazy with my grocery shopping ways so lowered it for that reason.  The $300 a year can easily be spent somewhere else in the budget (travel!). Or on the electricity bill - just received for two months at $508, which is our biggest bill in this house yet.  I had hoped to lower our electricity bills but due to our roof leak and drying the kitchen/garage out with heat and fans and having to heat the garage in that time frame it was about $60 higher than normal. Our thermostat is set a full 2 degrees lower than 2 winters ago so hopefully I will be able to decrease it by year end.  Our natural gas bill is about $60 per month which includes hot water tank, BBQ and fireplace.  Our winter temperatures this year are much colder than the last several which has also made a difference in usage.

Back to the results of the January grocery budget:  $530.72, and only one coupon used for .50. Only $5.72 over and that comes off February  - but it is looking bleak at the moment as I only have $98 in the budget and two and a half weeks to go.  I did buy groceries yesterday though and the fridge and freezer are full to bursting.  I spent $75 on nonfood items alone yesterday which included vitamins and over the counter meds.  Such is life as we have medical conditions/diseases which will not kill us and that need to be dealt with on a daily basis.  These are conditions that do not require prescribed medications (although some do go on them).  We prefer to self-monitor versus paying through the nose for medications that just cause other medical issues on top of the ones we already have.

Royal Palace, Madrid, Spain, 2016

In other financial news the Christmas 2017 fund has a good start:

Cash  - Goal is $1000 by November 1 - saved $150

Freebies towards Christmas Gifts & Groceries:
PC Points $20
Amazon Gift Cards from Swagbucks $3

In other frugal news I managed to snag a brand new in package ironing board cover for $5 on our Facebook bidding site from my next door neighbor.  I have been looking for one but due to our lack of retail there were no options other than ordering one online for $15 plus shipping or buying an entire new board with cover.  Our ironing board is 15 years old and gets a good workout with hubby's dress shirts as I launder them and hubby irons them.  Ironing is one of my most hated jobs and something I refuse to do but hubby is very good at it and doesn't mind.  We have reduced our drycleaning bills to hubby's suits only and those a couple times a year depending on how often he travels on business trips.

I have also been finalizing/researching details for our May/June trip to Greece.  As I have said before, I like staying in small hotels that are more like Inns or B&Bs.  Our trip will be:  1 night London Heathrow stopover (paid for with air miles), 3 nights Santorini, 3 nights Naxos and 3 nights Athens.  This is a shot of our tiny hotel on the Island of Naxos which is a short ferry ride away from Santorini.
Ippokampos Studios Naxos Greece

Although our trip to Greece is not a beach holiday we decided that it would be nice to be right on the beach in Naxos and are paying a little more to do that.  At this point in our lives we save on some things and splurge on others.  The hotel is better known for it's beachside restaurant where our breakfast is included.  

On a side note - Greece will be our most expensive holiday yet.  It doesn't have to be that way but we are staying in Santorini which is the most expensive place in Greece to go (totally worth it) for hubby's 55th birthday.  I was only there for a few hours on a Greek island cruise 20 years ago and decided I would come back with my future husband and stay a few days.  You either get a view hotel or one without.  We are paying for the most reasonable family owned view hotel with good reviews and excellent breakfasts, Smaro Studios.

Also - travel around Greece is not cheap.  Rates on thing like ferries are cheaper on the slow ferries and more expensive on the faster ones.  It costs 50 euro each to travel on the ferry from Naxos back to Athens on the high speed ferry.  We would pay 22 Euro each on the one that takes six hours but due to our short holiday of 10 days we are paying for the faster one.  If we flew to one spot and sat for 10 days our costs would be much lower but we want to see more of the country and as a result are paying to do that.  If we had easy access to Greece from Canada and we knew we would be coming back I would be okay with sitting in one spot for a week.  I get notifications on air prices to Greece and the price we paid on our air tickets back in August is still cheaper than any of the prices since.  I booked all of the hotels by November (able to cancel with full refund up to 30 days out) and now the prices on all of them have risen.  The hotel I booked in Athens is not cheap but located in an excellent location(safe and central to walk everywhere).  I might still cancel it and rebook something else but the nightly rate has increased by 50 Euro per night since I booked it.  Yes, it pays to book early.  We will be taking carry on luggage only which works well since it will be 3 different airlines to get to Santorini from here and the chances of losing luggage increase with each change of plane.  Aegean airlines from Athens to Santorini only allows for a purse/small bag for carry on so when we get to Athens we will check our luggage.

Our next trip after Greece will be to Italy in 2018, likely late May/early June.  We prefer not to travel at peak season but we also like it to be a little bit warmer and not have to carry around warm clothing and freeze while touring.  We have enough for 1 air ticket to Europe on points and are working on our second one.  Hubby has RBC Avion for both personal use and a separate card for business.  We rack up a lot of points on business as our clients pay for air, hotel and expenses when we do training on site.  We will be taking at least 1 adult kid on that trip, my 22 year old stepson (2nd eldest) is going for sure as he is the most stable in terms of career right now.  It is possible one of the other boys will be coming as well but that is dependent on their jobs/schooling/careers at that point.  Each kid will be invited on one of these trips fully paid by us except spending money.  My step daughter will not be going for a couple of years as she needs to be at least 21 before we take her (our choice based on maturity level).  We have thought about this for a few years and decided that it is important to us that they get to see the world a little bit and we can make it happen for them.  This takes tons of planning and coordination.  We choose the destination (because we are paying) and then invite the kids.  If they can't come this trip they will be invited on the next one - one trip per kid.  On the upside it is much easier now to find apartments to rent for more than two people than it used to be and you don't only need to rely on Air BNB - Trip advisor is also renting out holiday rental homes now as well. 

That's what is shaking in my world.  What's shaking in yours?


  1. I'm bound and determined to never travel with full size luggage again. If we didn't have to take hubs suit and dress shoes on the cruise ship, I think we could have got down to a carry on each, so need to think through how in the future, we can bring more formal clothes, and still be condensed. I agree some things are once in a lifetime so spending a bit extra for say the beach hotel, and reduce monthly groceries by $25 seems a reasonable trade off.

    1. On our trip to Spain I took carryon size luggage and hubby had a bigger suitcase which we didn't really need and was a hassle to drag around. He doesn't think we can do it but I know we can :)

  2. Annie and I do the same on our trips - stay at a cheapie place in one town then splurge on another. Last year I kept a list of what I took and then checked off what I didn't use. I'm definitely going to use a smaller suitcase this year. I'd like to get to Greece some day, as well as Italy.

    1. Traveling husband and wife it still shocks me when we get somewhere with 2 toothpastes...really? We can't share toothpaste? When we went to Spain we even managed to wash some clothes and as long as you have 2 days left to dry them in the same spot it is completely workable. Warmer destinations shorts will rule so less clothes! I always pack a corkscrew though :)

  3. I would love to do some traveling now. I do work hard at taking as little as possible.

  4. Trip advisor do rental homes? Nice to know. Your idea of inviting one kid for one trip is great. I love the pictures you post. Hope, you will post more pictures after your next trip.

    1. I always try and take a lot, don't always post them though (took over 1000 on the last trip)

  5. i loved your blog name and also loved your wonderful approach to life!!!
    wishing you safe happy travelling friend!

  6. We managed with two carry on bags for our last U.K. trip which turned out to be a very good thing as we ended up having less than five minutes to change trains which required running up a steep set of stairs, over a bridge and down again-in the rain I might add.

    1. That is exactly the reason I want to travel lighter. Hubby is still on the fence but after seeing a horror story on the news last night about checked luggage I believe he is on board.