Hope for your financial life and beyond

Why My Kids Love That We Are Not Buying Christmas Presents This Year

I love Christmas! Giving and receiving gifts is one of the highlights of our family’s year. In my mind nothing beats it for family togetherness and sharing expressions of love.

no Christmas presents As a parent though, I’m often hit with a January hangover. My headache comes from watching the majority of the presents I bought for my children lie dormant in a corner of their room. I would say that over 80% of the toys my wife and I purchase the kids each Christmas are played with a couple of times and then left to collect dust. That’s frustrating considering the money we shell out for them.

So last year we asked them to make a list of the items they wanted. They did. We bought them. Same issue occurred.

I’m not mad at the kids. I guess we just have trouble hitting their toy sweet spot.

So just the other week my wife and I decided to do something different this year. We aren’t buying any Christmas presents. To our surprise, when we told the kids what we were doing, they were 100% enthusiastically behind it.

Our Alternative to Christmas Presents

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How Being Flexible Saved Our Vacation

being flexible

Cincinnati Reds third baseman Todd Frazier

Two Saturdays ago, I’m standing along the first base wall at Great American Ballpark watching my daughter get an autograph from Cincinnati Reds third baseman Todd Frazier. It’s the first day of our family’s 8-day vacation that will take us to Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, OH, on to Niagara Falls, NY and back through the Smokey Mountains as we return home.

The weather is warm and sunny and the look of excitement on my daughter’s face as she gets the autograph makes me realize why I love vacations. What a memory she will have of that moment. I can’t think of a better way to get our vacation started.

I strike up a conversation with a couple standing next to us who were visiting from Columbus, OH. I’m interested in asking them how long the drive is from Cincinnati to Columbus because we intended to drive there after the game and spend the night on our way to Cedar Point. What they said next shattered my “this-vacation-is-starting-out-so-well” feeling.

According to a news report, Cedar Point had a major water main break. The park was closed Saturday and would be Sunday and possibly Monday. “Nooooooo!” I screamed on the inside. “Those are the exact days we plan to be there!”

The kids were going to have so much fun and now would be incredibly disappointed. Perhaps the couple misheard the report and it’s not as bad as they let on. I tried to console myself with this notion.

During the 6th inning my wife received an email from Cedar Point stating that it was indeed as bad as we had heard. Our reservations to stay at the park had been cancelled. Our plans foiled.

What would we do now?

Well, we learned the importance of being flexible.

Being Flexible Can Make or Break A Vacation

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How We Are Paying For Summer Vacations With Cash

summer vacations

Niagara Falls

Our school is out for the year, so for me that means summer has arrived. I know the official start date of summer here in North America isn’t until June 21st. The astronomers and weathermen can push that date all they want. Once the kids start sleeping until 9 am or later, I know something has changed.

Summer brings with it summer vacations, which our family thoroughly enjoys. We usually take one big trip (a week+) and one short trip (3-4 days) each summer. This year will be no different as we will be embarking on a week long trek from Atlanta to Niagara Falls and back, followed later in the summer by a weekend cruise to the Bahamas.

Neither of those trips will be cheap, although we did get an incredible deal on the cruise (more on that in a moment). Nevertheless, we won’t be going into debt for either of them. All our vacation expenditures will be paid for in cash (through using our debit card).

How are we doing that?

Two words: “planning” and “saving.”

Summer Vacations With Cash

Here’s how we pay for all our summer vacations with cash:

Early Planning Leads to Deals

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Spring Break: Glorious Rite of Passage or Undisciplined Waste of Money?

spring break

Having a blast on spring break?

This week and next, thousands of high school and college students will embark on the annual ritual known as spring break. They will fill hotels, crowd beaches and party in clubs long into the night. With the sheer number of young people present in these locations – the majority of which will be slightly to heavily inebriated – anything can happen.

That anticipation of the unpredictable defines the allure of spring break. And the alcohol…and the chance to “hook up.”

I’ve participated in three spring break trips in my life. The first was my senior trip in high school to a resort in the Bahamas. The next two were in college. One was with a group of guys (and my dad) to go caving in central Kentucky. On the other trip, I went with a co-ed group of friends and the future Mrs. Luke1428 to visit her father in south Florida.

None of those trips were to what I would call party central locations.

Each trip cost me hard earned money that could have been used for other purposes. I considered them worth it though for the memories they created. After all, isn’t the creation of memories a fundamental aspect of taking a vacation?

I can remember my spring break trips with perfect clarity…a hilarious photo of my high school friend sunbathing next to a gorgeous woman in the Bahamas…the onset of panic when one of my stout college buddies became stuck in a tight crawl of a cave…Kim and I enduring the ear shattering buzz of an air boat ride as we dodged alligators in the Everglades.

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Post Beach Vacation Blues

With the kids on a sandbar at low tide

50 yards from shore on a sandbar at low tide

Our family was blessed last week to enjoy a beautiful vacation on the shores of North Carolina. We spent the week in a gorgeous beach house with some members of our extended family. Just a stone’s throw away.

Each morning I would get up early, go for a run, then sit on the second floor balcony of our beach house.  There is nothing like a change of venue to get the old writing juices flowing. In fact, last Friday’s post “Infamous Days Are Not Showstoppers” was penned as I watched the waves break onto the shore line and felt the gently ocean breezes against my face. Ahhh…vacation.

Now I’m back writing in my usual spot…the basement. No beach scenes here. Just spiders.

Once vacation is over I’m ready to be home. But I dread the week following vacation. The week is always out of whack. First, I’m always a little tired and rundown from all the vacation activities and travel. Then there is a whole day to do laundry.  Wife back to work. Kids bored to tears because the things to do around the house don’t hold a candle to chasing crabs after dark on the beach. A huge trip to the grocery store to restock the cupboards. (The checkout clerk actually made a joke about how full my cart was. Ha…Ha…”Yes, ma’am…I shop for six. Just bag the groceries please.”) Are your post-vacation weeks like this?

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