Wednesday, January 23, 2013

{European Travel} On a Budget

In case anyone forgot, we are going to Europe! A 17 day adventure of a lifetime, in 99 days no less! (If you've been around me at all in the past month there is no way you have forgotten, as I have talked about it on an annoyingly consistent basis. I'm not sorry.)
One of the first questions I am always asked is, "How did you get off work for so long?!" And it's mainly because my boss became uncomfortable with my begging and tears.

But the second question I get is, "How much is that going to cost?!" (Obviously, I have really forward friends)

Surprisingly, traveling to Europe can be accomplished on a tight budget. More specifically on a one-income**, paying-for-school budget. The trick is being smart with your money.

The most important factor is how you view money. What is your philosophy? The Clark's belief is that you don't spend what you don't have. I've talked about this before, but we have a monthly budget that we (*cough cough* I) are fairly strict with. Utilities, groceries, entertainment, giving, school, health care- all things we keep track of each month. We know where each dollar goes- simple as that. And each month we are consistently spending less than we make, thus saving money. This reason alone has made this trip possible.
If you currently do not have a budget, I strongly urge you to make one. Look at your spending for one month and see where your money goes. My guess is that you will be surprised. "I paid how much for take-out this month?" After that initial month, you can make a plan that works specifically for you and save money in the process. Who knows, maybe in a year's time you'll be planning your Europe trip too!
But let's be honest. No matter how much you save, Europe can still be ridiculously expensive: plane tickets, travel between countries, hotels, eating out every day, sight seeing. It all adds up quickly. But the price tag really depends on how you want to travel. Do you want to be in the fancy hotels and touristy places - the outside looking in; or do you want to stay in small local rooms, visiting the corner cafe for breakfast- in the middle of it all.

Josh and I agree that we want to be in the middle of it all. We're not fancy people and don't typically enjoy doing 'touristy' things (i.e.. tours, group activities, etc). And lucky for us, that is the cheaper option.
Now don't get me wrong, going with groups or on tours can be wonderful. Guides are often very knowledgeable and you can get a lot done in a short amount of time. But that scene just isn't for us. We want to spend a day visiting the local market shopping for lunch, relaxing with a picnic while mesmerized by the Eiffel Tower, then catch a night ferry along the Seine River to see the City of Lights at its best.

The best resource I have found is Rick Steve's Europe: Through the Back Door.
Not only is it a general guide through some of the best places in Europe, but it has practical and tangible ways to save money. (I also have Rick's guide books for London, Paris, and Florence- I'm a little obsessed).

Good 'ole Rick believes that the budget savvy traveler can experience true Europe with $150 a day- that is $300 a day, per couple. I hope to do it for a little less. (That does not include getting there- which is another post for another day). That means planning ahead and spending time doing research, which is something that any of us can do.

I hope this has led you to realize that if the Clark's can pay for a 2+week Europe trip, then you can too. It just takes self-control, lots of excitement, and a Type-A spouse who loves to plan! (Sorry Josh, you knew I was like this when you married me.) And a European trip may not be your goal; maybe you want to pay off all those school loans, buy a new car, or travel around the US. Whatever your dream is, a budget can get you there!

Happy saving!

**My husband would like to add that he is working part-time at Best Buy. His money obviously goes toward our trip, and his unhealthy obsession with entertainment/technology.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Ringing in 2013

Happy 2013!

How did you ring in the new year? Did you attend a fantastic party with your friends? Or did you stay snuggled up with your honey? Either way, I hope it was wonderful and safe.

Josh and I had to work on New Year's Day, so we stayed home for a quiet night of bean chili and a marathon of Homeland. I tried to stay up until midnight, but a mere 30 minutes short, I threw in the towel at 11:30. I think I remember Josh waking me up at midnight to give me a New Year's kiss; what a prince.

If you know me, you know I absolutely love lists. And is there a better list than one of your new year's resolutions?! I think not. Now, if you look at my 2012 resolutions, you'd see that I'd get a big fat F for fail. Apparently, my 2012 self was a little over zealous at predicting my accomplishments. I skipped out on the marathon, definitely did not hold a 5 minute plank, didn't race in 4 new states, and definitely didn't resist the sweets.

Who cares?! I sure didn't lose sleep over the 'failed' resolutions.

But it is now 2013 and time to set new hopes and goals for the next 12 months. I have a feeling 2013 is going to be a big year!

1. Run a marathon.
Dandgumit, I'm actually gonna do this one. I have a race lined up, and a friend to train with. I just pray for my body to stay healthy and to not go crazy during long runs.
2. Go to Europe and stay on budget.
Traveling overseas can get pricey and out of hand quickly. I hope I can plan well and keep Josh focused enough to stay within our determined budget. Goal = not to be broke upon return.
3. Finish Rosetta Stone-Italian.
Ideally, I would be able to do this before we go to Europe.
4. Read at least 1 book a month.
This may seem like a small amount, but this is a totally manageable goal for me. Though I love to read, I never make time for it.
5. Save 20% of our income.
With our European travels, this may be more difficult than anticipated. But I love a good saving challenge.

Eek! It makes me excited just thinking about all the possibilities that lay (or lie? I can never remember) ahead.

May your 2013 be filled with excitement, love, and lots of good food!

Happy goal-setting!