6

Why "Vacation"

My family took yearly vacations when I was growing up. Usually they would be week-long trips to see family somewhere exciting, like in Los Angeles or Las Vegas. Occasionally we did a non-family-visit vacation like a week in the Bahamas or Disney World (we don’t have relatives in Florida.)

When I went to college away from home, and then moved further away from my family home after graduating, most every “vacation” I’ve taken has been a stress-filled trip back east to visit my parents and relatives. These trips are totally worth it, but I don’t consider them “vacations.”

Since I’ve graduated college in 2005, I’ve taken a few actual vacations. All on the cheap. I did a “free” trip to Israel through Birthright Israel and spent an extra week traveling around staying with distant relatives who often fed me. Last summer I went to Disneyland with my friend for her birthday… we went for one weekend. I did another weekend trip to LA to see a few people. My boyfriend and I have taken the occasional mini road trip halfway down the California coast for… a weekend. We’ve done two trips to Tahoe… though we haven’t skied or done anything vacation-y. His dad lives there so mostly we visited his dad and wandered. I haven’t taken any “vacation,” vacations, with the exception of the Israel trip. And that was one big timeshare sales pitch for moving to Israel anyway.

A few months ago, a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to go with her on a bootcamp fitness cruise for a week. It sounds awesome… relaxing AND healthy. But I couldn’t imagine ever spending THAT MUCH on vacation. It doesn’t help matters that now, as a contractor, I don’t get paid time off. Right now I’m new at my job so I wouldn’t consider taking a vacation any time soon. But even when the time came about when someone with my income should take a week to go somewhere, I can’t fathom going.

My coworker loves to travel around the world. I think he does it pretty cheaply, but he’s always traveling. He just goes on his own… I’m not independent enough to do that. I’d want my boyfriend to come with me… but given his income, either I’d have to pay for both of us to go on the vacation, or we’d be sticking to our mini weekend trips.

Camping is always an option, and one my boyfriend enjoys, though hasn’t done in a while. I like camping, but I don’t really see myself enjoying a week doing it. He wants to go to Yosemite for a week. I’d rather lounge by the beach if I had to do a week in nature… and have a shower nearby.

In any case, I wonder if I’ll ever vacation again. I just don’t really see myself enjoying vacation the way I used to… knowing how much it would cost. Maybe one day when I have kids I could justify the expense, but for me, I don’t know how I could reasonably take a week off and go to some exotic resort for a week of pampering and relaxation. How can anyone relax with the price tag?

But then I wonder, do I really ever need to vacation? Sure, I have this deep-seeded longing for luxury. I dream of a day when I’m “rich” and can spend as I please without worrying. But… unless I win the lottery, that day will never come. So I guess I’ll be sticking to my mini vacations, and try to enjoy my trips home… because that’s all the vacation I’m going to get.

Do you go on vacations? Who do you go on vacation with?

1

Exchange Rate, and How Traveling Years Ago Would Have Saved Me Dough

One of my readers left a comment asking about traveling with the current exchange rate in Israel.

The exchange rate in Israel is about 3.2 shekels per dollar. It is always hard to figure out what the exact exchange is in terms of what commodities you get per your penny since the cost of living is often higher outside of the US. I found a small Iced Tea which would run $1.25 or so in the US would be sold for $2.50 to $3 in Israel. Certain products like suntan lotion were extremely expensive, about $25 per bottle that would cost $10-$12 in the states.

I had some cash on me at the beginning of the trip, but I charged most of my purchases. The credit card exchange rate was about 2.9 shekels per the dollar. I probably should have spent some time before the trip figuring out the conversion rates and costs, but I really wanted to just let the trip happen without much planning. In the long run, I may be a few hundred dollars short because of my desire to avoid planning.

Traveling is tough right now with the dollar being so weak. One of the reasons I didn’t end up traveling outside of Israel after my organized trip was because of the dollar suckage. I wanted to take a ferry to Greece, spend a few days there, then maybe go on to Italy – but it would have been impossible without putting myself into bankruptcy.

In any case, I’m hopeful that by next time I can make a trip out of the states, the dollar will have recovered. Looking at the gas prices around here — at $4.67 and up, I’m not sure that will ever happen.

6

Back from Israel, How’d the Bank Account Fare?

In short, I spent too much money in Israel, but I might be able to balance the books due to a variety of upcoming life changes that will involve spending less money and taking in, hopefully, the same amount of income (as long as my company still wants me to work there!)

As I wrote previously, the trip to Israel was, in itself, free. The flight was free and for the first two weeks, the housing and most of the food was free. So spending on other things seemed to make more sense… I mean, when is the next time I’ll be back in Israel?

My big purchase – my Canon DSLR Xsi – was the best purchase I’ve made in my life. I took over 4000 pictures and they’re my favorite souvenirs from the trip. Meanwhile, on the trip I bought extra food, some clothes, jewelery, gifts, etc. It all added up. To quite a bit of money.

But… even in the last week of the trip, I barely spent any money on room and board. I stayed with family most of the time and while I didn’t expect them to feed me, they did… they fed me a lot. And I got them gifts for their kindness, but having to pay for my own food and housing would have cost a lot more. I stayed in hostels for only two nights of the trip, and i didn’t have to, but I wanted to have that freedom. So each night in the hostel cost me about $20-$30. Otherwise, I had all free housing. It was a good deal. And my family was awesome and so nice to me. Even family I never knew I had. All second cousins and such, but they took me in like I was their own daughter. It was awesome.

I know, at the moment, my spending far surpasses my normal budget. And I only worked one week out of this past month, so I haven’t been taking in any money either. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that in a week I move into my friend’s house for, probably, a month, while trying to find a new place to live. I’ll offer to pay her something for my time there, but it will not be anywhere near the price of my current rent (of $1050 a month). And I’ll be starting back to work again on Monday, so I’ll be taking in money and spending very little for housing. When I do find a new place to live, I’m trying to find something that’s even less than what I’m paying now. It might not be an ideal living situation, but it’s not like my current place is perfect. The studio thing was awesome – I love, love, love living alone… but other than that, it was just a waste of money. Utilities were included, which was good, but I still had to pay my internet and cable bill all on my own. Living with even one other person and splitting that bill will lower my costs a lot.

So I’m pretty much looking for a shared living situation, at $600-$1000 a month. My rational side keeps telling me to get a tiny cheapo room with or without access to cooking and to just save my money. I’ve been thinking how much I want to get my teeth fixed, and how if I live super cheaply for a year and save I can afford to fix my teeth in about a year. That alone makes living in a tiny room worth it. Besides, even though I work from home a lot now, there’s no reason I can’t make a habit of going into the office more often. I want to do that anyway, and if they keep liking me, eventually take on a full time position with my current company (fingers crossed.)

It was kind of weird being away for a month and not focusing on money as much as I normally do. I haven’t been obsessively tracking my stocks, or checking to see if anyone of my borrowers defaulted on their Prosper loans. It’s been kind of nice. As soon as I get all the bills paid off and my old paychecks cashed, I’m going to tally up just how much I spent in Israel and how much I have to make back. I’m a little scared, but not too scared, as I know I can make it back within a few months if I’m smart about it.

Just remind me to be smart about it. :)

6

Living Under My Parents Roof

I’m now on the East Coast, in my parent’s house, where I’m quickly reminded of what life would be like had I decided to move back home three years ago after graduating college. I’m pulling my hair out in reaction to my mother’s screeching voice and father’s bad temper, even though it is nice to stay in a large air-conditioned house and spend some time in my old bedroom.

The big benefit of staying here is the free food. Of course, if I lived here for real, the food would not be free as I’d have to contribute. Or at least I’d feel guilty if I wasn’t contributing and I had a job. I went out to a big dinner with the family last night in NYC and I ordered a nice fish dinner and wine. It was nice to not think about the bill.

But sans the financial benefits, I could not deal with living here. Within the 24+ hours of being in this house, my parents have already had about three fights. The more time I spend away from my mother, the more I realize that she really is crazy and annoying instead of just being a typical “mother annoying.” She’s nuts. She is obsessed with controlling everyone else’s life, down to what people are going to talk about. She even sometimes has a conversation FOR two other people. Meanwhile, my dad has absolutely no patience for her, and his hot temper is the first thing that comes out the second she says something stupid. Which is often. It’s not even what she says so much as how she says it. She doesn’t get that she constantly talks down to people because she just assumes everyone is thinking what she’s thinking and if they’re not then they’re being dumb. Crazy, real crazy. My poor dad, who isn’t innocent in the least, has worked his whole life to make money for her (and us, the kids) to spend and he’s, well, he’s been miserable for a long time. Sure, he has the house, a nice house at that. And two kids… we’re ok, I guess. But what else? Her?

Maybe someone could appreciate her. She’d do well with a boyfriend who wants to be controlled. There are guys out there who like that. Not my dad. He just snaps.

4

Travel Light, or Pay the Price

Airlines are in pretty big trouble these days, financially speaking, and that means customers are getting hit with high fees all around. Besides the rising cost of ticket prices, airlines are finding other ways to make a quick buck from their passengers. I can’t believe the latest one that I just read!

Checking two bags, under 50lbs each, used to be “free” with the price of a ticket. That seemed rather reasonable and fair, given that some folks traveling on flights are moving or traveling for longer than a short stay.

That free luxury is no more – at least once May 5 rolls around.

Want to check more than one bag? You’ll have to pay $25 to check that second bag. Yes, even if it’s under 50lbs. If it’s more than 50lbs, then you’re stuck with ANOTHER $100 in fees.

MSNBC breaks it down as follows:

“These fees are in addition to those for excess, oversized and overweight bags, so a passenger traveling on United, for example, with three checked bags weighing 50 pounds or less will be charged $25 for the second but $100 for the third.

But if any of the three bags tips the scale at 51 pounds or more, overweight charges of an additional $100 per bag, each way, kick in. So unless otherwise exempt, a passenger flying round-trip on United with three bags weighing just a pound over the 50-pound limit would be charged $200 for the first ($100 overweight fee each way), $250 for the second (second bag fee of $25 times two plus overweight fee of $100 times two), and $400 for the third (a $100 third bag fee times two plus a $100 overweight fee times two), for a total — fasten your seat belts — of $850.”