Spontaneous International Trip

I did something way out of the ordinary for myself. I spontaneously booked an 8-day vacation for me and my daughter to Barcelona.

I’m definitely a planner. Sometimes an over-planner. So buying plane tickets for a vacation outside of the country within a week is kinda crazy for me.

But how it happened… I had been working alot and hadn’t been able to take my daughter on a summer trip like we usually do. Last weekend, she reminded me that summer break is almost over (her school starts the first full week of August!) and we were running out of time. I thought we would do something simple. Maybe visit another state for a long weekend or something like that. I asked her where she wanted to go, and she thought about it for a minute and said Spain. Oh gosh!

I didn’t believe that Spain was realistic so I went along with it for the sake of playing it out. I asked what she wanted to do there, and she said the beach and shopping. So… looking on the map, Barcelona would work in that case since it was on the water and not land-locked like Madrid.

I told her that I probably couldn’t afford a vacation to Spain right now without having saved-up for it. I took a quick look at roundtrip airline tickets and yep – most of them were starting at $2,400+ EACH. So I figured I was off the hook. But I did tell her, IF I found roundtrip airline tickets that were $1,400 or less, then I would buy them since my current savings could handle that. I had other conditions too – no more than 1 connection (my origin airport is lame and always has a connection so nonstop would be impossible) AND no ridiculous layover AND I wanted the oversea flight to be on an Airbus.

Last weekend I did the online searching for flights. I didn’t think I would be successful, but since I didn’t have hard dates to meet – except to beat the start of school – I did play around with the dates and noticed that it changed the pricing significantly. I kept playing with the dates, and bam! Found roundtrip flights that met all my conditions and budget. And I booked it.

We have to leave on Sun July 7, and we don’t come back until Tues July 16. So not alot of time to physically or mentally prepare.

I spent most of this week, preparing my workplace for my absence. Getting work done ahead of time and passing-off work to delegates. I also have a ton of other travel to-dos besides packing, that I’m starting to get incredibly anxious about.

Here’s my to-do list. I’m getting very worried that I’ll forget to do something crucial. Can you think of anything that I might have missed?

  1. Passports
  2. Book hotels (I used my hotel points for this, so didn’t cost me $$$)
  3. Book tickets for popular tourist attractions
  4. Activate credit card and debit card for international use
  5. Activate cell phone with international service
  6. Child Travel Consent Form (my husband has to sign this with a notary public since he’s not travelling with us, to basically say that I’m not fleeing the country and kidnapping my child)
  7. European adapter plugs
  8. Medications
  9. Physical map of Barcelona (I’m paranoid about my cell service not working, so I do believe in carrying a physical map around with me)
  10. Download Google Translate since I don’t speak any Spanish

Hm…. and I’m trying to think what else I need to do? Do you think I’m forgetting anything? I only have 2.5 days left before leaving. Lol, this has escalated quickly.

I Wish I Did These 5 Things Sooner to Save/Make Money

I do enjoy saving and making money. Especially if it’s low/no effort on my part. Below is a list of 5 things I recently did to help myself either save or make money that felt so extremely easy that I regret not doing them years earlier! Let me know your thoughts and if you have any other ideas that belong on this list!

  1. Move to a high-interest rate Savings/Checking account.
    • I feel really stupid for not taking action here many years ago. I was minding my own business and depositing my money into checking/savings accounts with 0.1% interest. I had been doing this my entire adult life and I never bothered to double-check this. I did notice getting around $1-2 every month in interest, and thought I was doing pretty good. I was blissfully unaware.
    • Then earlier this year I took a look at what other accounts were available at my bank and I found that they had checking/savings accounts at 4.1% interest instead. With no fees associated. So I moved everything over into one of those higher-interest accounts. And immediately I started getting around $20-30 every month in interest. I know it doesn’t seem like alot of money each month, but over the course of a year, it can be an extra few hundred dollars that I didn’t have before.
    • Changing accounts has made me approximately $200-300 a year.
  2. Unsubscribe and Cancel
    • I also took a look at my subscriptions. I didn’t have alot to begin with so this review didn’t take very long. One subscription was an annual yoga subscription and that one was easy to cancel because I knew I wasn’t going to use it. The other subscription I ended was Amazon Prime. I realized that I wasn’t watching their streaming service, and I also realized that I really didn’t need super-speedy delivery all the time. I could wait 3-4 days for an online order.
    • One thing I learned after I cancelled my Prime subscription was that they offer free trials. Since I cancelled, there has been a couple of rare occasions where I did want that next-day delivery after all, and I was able to activate the free trial to do that. You just have to remember to cancel that free trial or they will automatically charge you for it on it’s end-date. I’ve been very pleased not having this Prime subscription anymore.
    • Cancelling my subscriptions have saved me approximately $200 a year.
  3. Sign-up for a Credit Card with Cash Rewards and No Fees
    • You only get ahead with this option if you plan to pay-off this credit card every month and not let any interest get charged. Because once you start getting charged interest, you will probably pay more in interest than you will gain with the cash rewards. So be aware that this option will not benefit everyone.
    • I did some research and I found a Wells Fargo credit card with no annual fee or transaction fee and no minimum spends (this is important!) that also gives 2% cash-back on purchases. You can get the cash-back via account transfer, ATM, or gift cards, so very flexible. Just be sure that you read all the terms and conditions to ensure that you don’t get surprised with any gotchas. Some accounts will charge you extra for each transaction or for not spending enough each month, so definitely read the fine print before doing this option.
    • I knew that my daughter was going to need braces so I saved enough money to pay for the braces, but I charged the cost of the braces to this credit card, and then I paid-off this credit card immediately with the money I had already saved for it. And now…. I have $140 sitting in this account as cash-back that I can spend somewhere else. This is now my plan for any big purchases I make in the future such as travel or concert tickets.
  4. Sign-up for Affiliate Marketing
    • I’ve just started to dabble my toes in this option where you provide a link on your website, and whenever someone makes a purchase using that link, then you receive a commission of some sort. Now admittedly, I’m not very good at this (not yet), but I’m intrigued enough to keep learning more.
    • I was fortunate enough to be able to sign-up and get accepted as an Amazon Affiliate. The two most difficult parts about this acceptance was that your website needed to be self-hosted, AND, you needed 3 unique sales within a 3 month period, and it couldn’t be a friend/family because Amazon is able to tell somehow and they won’t count it towards your acceptance goal.
    • I’m not making alot of money (yet) doing this. It’s maybe $1-2 dollars a month at this point. And that’s not a typo – it’s literally only $1 or $2 a month. Some months are $0. I’m thinking that I’m not utilizing it to potential, or I’m not reaching the scale needed where this would be worth it. But I’m still exploring and seeing what other capabilities or best-practices I can employ here. And there may be other Affiliate programs I can join where I can be more successful.
    • See the next option (#5) for a good example of how the Amazon Affiliate program would look on a website.
  5. Decrease Services by Reviewing Bills Carefully
    • I did this with my cellular service provider where I carefully reviewed my bill and found that I was paying $20 per month for cellular service on an iPad. I determined that I did not need cellular service on this iPad (wi-fi is perfectly fine) and I reduced that service and my monthly bill decreased by $20 per month. So easy!
    • I also did this with my cable/internet service. My provider offers both cable and internet and I reviewed my bill carefully and found that I was paying a ridiculous amount of money every month for cable TV. The combined cable/internet package was costing me $350 per month. Most of that cost was due to having to pay PER device and we have an obnoxious number of televisions in our home. So I cancelled the cable portion of the service and now I have a $62 per month internet bill. I felt that price was fair for internet at home.
    • I subscribed to Hulu’s Live TV package and now I pay $85 per month including taxes. I’m only missing 1 channel that I had previously watched frequently, and I do miss it occasionally, but that one channel isn’t worth the ridiculously high monthly bill. There are other streaming services out there, but Hulu is the one I went with.
    • Cancelling my cable TV service and adding the Streaming TV service is still saving me approximately $200 per year.
    • Not all of my televisions at home are Smart TVs that automatically connect to the internet for streaming services however. So I did have to make a few one-time purchases of a streaming remote control such as the Amazon Fire Stick or Roku to enable them. The good news is that they do not require subscriptions, and you only pay once. They do require an account – but my free Amazon account (I do not have the Prime membership anymore, if you recall) works perfectly with the Fire Stick. These remotes are very affordable too, you can check them out using the links below. My first new bill had enough savings to cover the costs of all the remotes I needed.

[Disclosure: the following links are affiliate links where I may earn a commission on any resulting purchase, at no additional cost to you.]

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The Opposite of FOMO is…

JOMO Joy of Missing Out

Whenever I hear someone reply “FOMO” in response to participating in something going on… I usually have quite the opposite reaction!

Just in case you’ve escaped the term so far in your life, FOMO stands for Fear Of Missing Out and it’s usually referring to the desire to participate in [insert anything here] because it is considered worse to miss out on it.

But I feel differently. Of course there are certain events and things that I would make a priority to participate in and enjoy it very much! But usually, when there is something going on, I do not worry or fear about missing it. I would actually enjoy missing it.

For example, there is going to be a Memorial Day party at a neighbors’ house on Monday. We were all invited, and this would be something I would honestly prefer to just skip so I can chill out and relax on my own – which I don’t get to do very often.

So I started wondering if the opposite of FOMO was a real thing, so I googled it, and found that it is! It is called JOMO for Joy of Missing Out, and I feel like this could be my mantra.

Am I a weirdo for relating to JOMO more? I had never heard about it before, so perhaps it is very rare and I’m the odd one out. How about you all? Is JOMO relatable to you at all?

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Positive Affirmations

Do you receive enough positive affirmations in your life?

It really does make a difference in attitude. I will go several weeks at a time without anyone telling me anything positive about myself, and I do notice my mood sinking and my thoughts start turning dark. And when I suddenly receive a compliment or a positive comment, then it turns around so fast!

I wish my attitude wasn’t so dependent on other people. But to me, a positive compliment from another person = 20+ positive comments from myself. It just doesn’t pack the same punch when I’m trying to boost my own confidence.

So I’m trying to figure out how to surround myself with more positive people. That’s why blogging has been important to me, because of all the positivity and social support here. I’d like a similar circle of positivity in my real life, but why is it so difficult?

I think in real life, people are bogged-down with responsibilities and chores and to-do lists and everyday stresses, that to take 20 seconds to build up someone else is easily overlooked.

But when people make the time to go online (via blog or social media, etc), then some of those stresses and responsibilities can be set aside for awhile, allowing more positivity to come out.

I don’t know, what do you all think?

I just wish with all my heart, that someone I respected in my real life would tell me:

“All your hard work does not go unnoticed.”

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What to do with Popular Blog Posts

Hi everyone!

So, I’ve noticed that I have 1 blog post (just one, don’t get too excited) that performs exceptionally well ever since I first posted it several years ago. And even without any purposeful effort on my part, it does appear at the tippy top of Google search results. I’ve applied this sort of effort on some of my other posts, but haven’t been able to repeat that success anywhere else.

In case you’re curious, the post is a travel post about a huge personal pool that can be rented for parties: Thornton’s Pool.

But my big question here is: what do I do with this popular post? I feel like I should be leveraging it somehow. I’ve added affiliate links there, and also links to other travel posts on my blogs. I’ve also added a form to subscribe to my email list.

However, all those links get 0 activity. None.

So I’m curious, what should I be doing on that post? Does anyone have any suggestions on what to try, or examples of what you’ve done in similar situations? Any ideas would be incredibly helpful as I am stumped!

I hope you all are having a great day!

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Improve my Attitude About Work

I am committed to improve my attitude about work.

I’m not there yet – it’ll be an evolution for sure. And it’s difficult when every workday is a nonstop frustration.

You see, everyday I’m getting double-booked and triple-booked for meetings. I have to choose to attend the most important one, and while I’m trying to pay attention, I’m getting IM’d (receiving instant messages) regarding the meetings I’m missing. This happens all day long.

And let me tell you, this IM feature at work has been the worst invention of all time. You end-up having to write back immediately because you know the person at the other end is wanting that information on the spot. Otherwise, they would’ve sent an email. And I do have difficulty responding to all my emails everyday because they pile-up so quickly, and I’m usually also juggling meetings and IMs so the emails become lower-priority on my daily to-do list.

Also, the meeting situation is out of control. I already mentioned the double-bookings and the triple-bookings… but also, every meeting ends-up running late, which makes me late to my next meeting, and I do hate being late.

And since I’m in back-to-back meetings all day, I do end-up having to multi-task and squeeze-in some actual work on top of 1) participating in non-stop meetings; and 2) replying back to all the IMs.

But I do intend to change my attitude about this. Not sure how yet, but this will probably be my life for the next 20+ years and I don’t want to miserable for all those years.

I’ll probably try to post more about how I’m evolving regarding this attitude-change. Or post more about how to survive this type of work lifestyle. I’m not sure, but I think sharing what I’ve learned will be a huge part of my catharsis. Hope it doesn’t bore you all too much!

Declutter Update

Declutter Challenge

Hello all!

Do you remember that infamous broken treadmill that I’ve been complaining about on my blog since 2022? To be fair, I’ve been upset about it probably since 2018, but I didn’t introduce it to you all on my blog until 2 years ago. If you’d like to remind yourselves, the previous posts about it are here: Declutter Challenge 2022 and Declutter Challenge 2023.

I was upset that it was broken and nobody was going to fix it and it was taking-up a ridiculous amount of space in my house. We were basically using it to stockpile other junk on top of. It made that room completely unusable. Here are a couple of photos to refresh your memory:

Declutter Challenge
Declutter Challenge
Declutter Challenge
Declutter Challenge

And do you remember when the treadmill had a new friend join it? Yes, a broken exercise bike was added to the family too. We didn’t have enough room for it so just left it in a doorway. Fun times! Pic below for a reminder:

Declutter Challenge
Declutter Challenge

Well… after 6 years of asking my husband to get rid of the treadmill… it finally happened! I still can’t really believe it! But perhaps 6 years is the magic number. Maybe I should simply stop stressing-out about my unheeded requests and just relax and wait 6 years. Sounds totally reasonable.

The good news is that both the treadmill and the exercise bike are successfully out of the house and I can start cleaning/organizing/decorating those rooms to my satisfaction. I’m really excited about this. Woot!

The bad news is that both the treadmill and the exercise bike are now waiting in my husband’s garage for me to call someone to come pick them up. We have a person in town that picks up broken equipment and either fixes them up himself or uses them for parts. We prefer this so we feel like we’re not being wasteful by throwing these things away, since someone has a good purpose for them.

But I think I’ll wait awhile to make that phone call. Perhaps 6 years…