Thursday, September 26, 2013

Month 11: Debt Repayment Update and New Wheels

One month away from the one year mark in our debt repayment journey. This month I had set a goal to pay off $1000 and came in short but over the $470 we paid last month. This month we're down $707 which leaves:


This month we got rid of our old 2004 Montana that DH was using to commute just over 100km/day. It finally kicked the can so we are now a 2 car family. We picked up a nice used 2010 Kia sedan, 4cyl, 2.0L, manual transmission, with all of the bells and whistles and under 50,000km. With the amount DH drives, this should easily last him a few years and it is reliable. The biggest bonus is that the savings in gas offsets the higher payments on the car and slightly higher insurance premium which means, our budget will remain unchanged in the vehicle department but DH gets way nicer and more reliable wheels. 

A lot of discussions were had in our household about what vehicle should replace the van. We were under the mindset that we needed one larger vehicle as a family with 2 growing boys. You know, for all those times where we had to haul renovation materials, canoes, and kid gear and of course we needed a vehicle with towing capacity for the boat that we MIGHT want to get in the future. DH really wanted a truck. No matter which way we crunched the numbers we couldn't get a truck (even an old truck or the most basic model) to fit into our budget with the amount of driving DH does both because of the higher price point of trucks and because of the fuel economy. Though I only commute 25km/day, I didn't want to drive a large gas guzzler. I really like my Prius and the other fear was that DH would run the Prius into the ground with the amount of driving he does before we had paid it off. 

After looking at the costs, we found that DH could get a much nicer, newer, 4 cyl. sedan - with added luxuries like heated seats - within our budget than any SUV or truck we looked at. The reality is also that with DH being in construction, very seldom do we use his vehicle for anything other than his commute to work since he brings home a lot of dust and dirt on his clothes (and a couple other sweaty men). 

We also laughed about the time we brought a dishwasher home tied in (mostly out) of the trunk of his old Neon and that time we secured a bunch of sheets of drywall to the roof. For the once every couple of years trip to Home Depot to get larger materials/items, we'll borrow a truck or van from family/friends or just pay the $30 rental fee for a truck or van for an hour to get the materials home. If we feel we need more space for a long drive or trip, we'll rent a larger vehicle for the trip though this summer we did the 6 hour drive to DH's family cottage and didn't feel cramped at all in the Prius. If space becomes an issue, we'll also investigate roof racks. Even after the cost of a few rentals, we're still saving substantially by not owning a larger vehicle. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

The planning has begun - Christmas Family Vacation 2013!

My library card has been getting a workout

To early for a Christmas post? I'm just bursting with excitement to share that this Christmas, we're going to Disney World! Backing up just a bit... remember when I said (twice) that it didn't look like the week-long family vacation was going to happen for us this year? Well a few things happened since then:

- Our neighbours returned from their second (yes second!) trip to Disney this year with their almost 5 year old son. In chatting with our neighbour about how overpriced we heard Disney was, he said it actually wasn't too bad (aside from the flights) and talked it up big time. They are already planning their next trip!

- DH and I were chatting about doing a low-key Florida beach vacation over Christmas holiday but when we looked into condo rentals and compared to Disney - Disney actually came out to around the same price as a condo rental at the beach due to premium Christmas time prices, not to mention extremely limited availability.

- I got a raise at work with my most recent new contract (woohoo!)

Our vacation budget: $3000

Details: 5 nights at Disney, 3 days of Theme Park Passes (including Park Hopper Option), and a whole lot of driving (about 21 hours each way)

How we're making this happen:

- We are driving. Flights alone would cost about as much as the actual Disney Vacation Package whereas gas in the Prius is cheap and a decent motel can be had for $50/night. We are planning on doing the drive in 2 days each way - 12 hours the first day and 8-9 the second with plenty of rest stops. Sarah is my inspiration.

-  We made reservations at a "value resort" after reading many many reviews, we came to the conclusion that this would be perfect for our family right down to the "tacky" character themes. The boys will just love it and for us, we're fine with paying half as much as the the fancier resorts.

- N is still FREE until his 3rd birthday which saves us a whackload on the Theme Park tickets. We also saved by doing 3 days at the Parks instead of 4. I know our guys will need a bit of a break and with so much to do at the resort and in Downtown Disney, we won't be bored.

- We opted out of the Disney Dining Plan after reading several reviews. We are confident we can cover our food for less than $800.  We plan on doing some breakfasts/lunches in our room (which comes with a mini-fridge) since we'll be coming back in the afternoons for naps anyway and taking care of our own breakfast will allow us to get to the parks first thing. We have also budgeted for 1-2 meals out/day. I've been scouring the internet for restaurant reviews etc. Two of my go to sites have been this one and this one.

- We're scaling WAY back on Christmas this year. Rather than our usual $1200, we have budgeted $400. Also, if family and friends ask for gift ideas, we'll suggest trip-related stuff like Disney Gift Cards or fun toys/activities for the boys for the car ride.

- Timing. Yes, Christmas is a very expensive time to travel but it is the only time where DH and I both have "forced" holidays and where I can take vacation without using vacation pay (Stat Holidays and lieu time) to cover my time off which frees it up for spending on the actual vacation.

- Payment plan. Since we decided on the fly, we hadn't set aside any money for the trip. Lucky for us, if you book through Disney, they offer a no-interest payment plan option with a booking deposit of $200 and the balance being due 45 days before your arrival. We've just broken it down into smaller payments that we'll pay from each of our paycheques between now and then. What I really like about this is that it seems really affordable for families who plan, say 18 months, in advance - and who can take advantage of cheaper season rates. If we do plan on going back again we might just go this route.

Most importantly, we have not stopped paying down debt, just took another look at our budget and squeezed some more fun money in which will serve as a great incentive not to waste money. That is one more goal we'll be able to check off for this year!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Hello September

We were planning on heading up north for the weekend but I have been feeling under the weather so we opted for staying home instead.

September always feels like a fresh start - I guess because I am so used to being in school. The other day I headed to Staples and bought myself a new planner for the occasion - my first September in a long while where I am not going back to school.

Here are my September plans:

+ Finally get around to giving B's bedroom a facelift before school starts

+ Rent carpet cleaner and clean the carpets in the house

+ Give the house a deep clean (we've been away most weekends all summer so the cleaning hasn't been thorough.

+ Prep for academic conference I will be attending and presenting at later this month!

+ Book that eye appointment I've been putting off.

+ Get more sleep, exercise, and eat well.

+ Pay off $1000 on our debt.

Ready and go!