Budgeting, Cruising

How much does a Caribbean Cruise really cost?

Over the past two and a half years, my husband and I have taken six cruises.  Yep, you might say we had caught the cruising ‘bug’ and went a bit crazy.  Our first cruise was in November, 2016 to the Western Caribbean and our most recent cruise was this past November to the Southern Caribbean.  We’ve cruised the Eastern Caribbean twice, and took a cruise from NYC to Canada. (It’s amazing how much money gets freed up when you are done paying for college! 🙂 )IMG_2627

My husband and I had a blast on these trips.  They were amazing.  But they weren’t cheap.

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We’ve discovered that there are many ‘hidden’ costs to cruising — everything from insurance, gratuities, and drinks to hotel stays, excursions and airline tickets.   In fact, my mind was blown when I realized I could have hired a cleaning lady every week for a year for the price we paid for one week in the Caribbean on a cruise.  Ouch. 

Below is a typical budget for an 8 day, 7 night Caribbean cruise on a mid priced cruise line for a balcony cabin for two.  I’ve included air fare and a one night hotel stay, because it’s always recommended to go a day early just in case something happens with your flight.  (The ship won’t wait for you.)  If you can drive to the port, lucky you! 🙂

 

A Sample Caribbean Cruise Budget

8 days, 7 nights – Balcony Cabin MidShip on Royal Caribbean’s  Harmony of the Seas in April.

  • Cruise for two/taxes:  $2,800.00
  • Gratuities ($14.50x2x7): $203.00
  • Insurance for two: $400.00
  • Roundtrip airfare for two (Coach): $1,100.00 (from DCA-MIA)
  • Hotel in Fl.: $150 – 250 (mid range)
  • Uber/Taxi/Tips: $50.00
  • Meals in Fl.: $50 – $100
  • Specialty Restaurants: $100 (You will want to try one of them, trust me)
  • Excursions: $100-$300 (This is on the low side if there are more than 2 ports)
  • Drinks on ship: $200 (This is what we’ve spent for sodas, water, mixed drinks)
  • Misc. tips: $50-$100
  • Spending money: $250-$500 (depending on how much you like to shop and/or gamble 😉 ).

                           TOTAL:  $6,103.00

(I haven’t included all the clothes, accessories, luggage, etc. you purchase before you go on the cruise, so figure another $250).

Are you shocked?  We were.  We usually pay for everything separately which gave us the illusion that the trip cost less than it actually did.

Of course you can cruise less expensively.  You can choose to cruise off-season.  You can cruise with another less expensive cruise line (i.e. Carnival).  You can drive to the port, get an inside cabin, never take an excursion, never eat in a specialty dining room or never purchase a souvenir. You can skip the insurance and stiff the help by not tipping.  Or something in between.  Your trip will still most likely cost $2,000.00 – $4,000.00.

So, is it worth the price? Only you can decide.

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For us, it was.  The time spent together and the memories that we made will be cherished forever.

The only difference is that now (since we know the true cost of cruising) we are being much more selective with our future cruising plans.

If you have cruised, please share! Did any expenses or the final cost surprise you?

 

Goal Setting, Living for TODAY, Retirement

Making TODAY count.

See the source image
QuotesIdeas.com

This quote actually caught me off guard when I finished up my last post.  I’ve been concentrating on my dreams for my life seven years from now, when I should be concentrating on today.

Every now and again I have to remind myself to find the joy in what’s happening in the present.  I tend to find myself looking to the future and not enjoying what is today. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, so making each day count is imperative to living a full and happy life.

This doesn’t, of course, mean to forget about the the future.  Planning is important.  But planning and living a beautiful life today is too.

The weather has changed.  It’s cold and wet and dark out. I won’t be surfing the net to find a new property in Florida (to enjoy seven years from now).  Today I will enjoy a hot cup of coffee, walk my sweet dog, tidy up the house, prepare a warm meal for my family and enjoy a good book.  Perhaps I will bake a sweet treat.  I will definitely take a hot bath and listen to soft jazz. And be grateful.  Grateful for the days I’ve already been given, and for today.  24 hours, 1,440 minutes to enjoy and make count.

How are you making today count?

 

 

Florida, Retirement

Mother Nature’s Apology and a Retirement Epiphany.

person spreading hands against sun
Pexels.com

After the polar vortex last week, this week has been a dream.  (Mother Nature – you are forgiven).  We’ve experienced sunshine and temps all the way up to 72 degrees.  Yesterday I started some 5K training on my 3 miler route and I felt amazing.

And then it happened.  My epiphany.  I NEED sunshine and warmth to feel good. Of course I’ve always known this, which is why I sit under a light therapy lamp every morning in the winter.  But this time the answer to my retirement housing conundrum came to me as clear as day.

I’ve been struggling with where I’m going to live in retirement.  My health and well being seem to improve with the sunshine.  Yesterday’s run (jog) solidified the answer.  I need to spend winters some place warm.  My pick? The gulf coast of Florida.  A single family home large enough to house family and friends.  There are two cities I already am familiar with and LOVE.   Of course I will need to research everything from taxes to healthcare before I dive into such a large investment.  My daughter lived in that area for over 3 years, so I will start with her insights.

I still want a place here in Virginia to be close to my family the other half of the year, and it has now become clear as to what kind of housing that will be.  Of course, in order for it to work, both homes will be have to be paid off before my husband retires.  I guess we shall see.

I’m happy to have a vision and a direction in which to move forward. It may not work out, but at least I have a clearer picture of how I want retirement to look.

Time to do some research.

If you live in Florida, please share your thoughts!

 

 

Budgeting, No Spend Year

No Spend Year: January’s Purchases.

money pink coins pig
Photo by Skitterphoto

The title of this post seems like an oxymoron, but my No Spend Year is more about intention than perfection.  These posts are a means for me to stay accountable, even if I spent money on items I’ve hoped I wouldn’t.  Also, this month’s purchases do not include food, eating out or regular bills.

This month’s purchases:

(The red highlighted purchases are ones that I wish I didn’t make.  I hope to have fewer red purchases next month.)

Household:

  • Vacuum bags ($24.90)
  • Batteries ($12.99)
  • Power Strip ($9.99)
  • Scale ($18.10) {Replacement}

Total:  $65.98

Personal Spending:

  • Budget stickers.  ($75.00) This one hurts a little.  What was I thinking?????? Of course, when you buy on Etsy, it’s $5 here, $10 there.  It really adds up.  All I can say is that they better bring me joy each time I use them. 🙂
  • Northern Exposure Season 1 DVD ($11.68)  I thought this series was on Netflix.  Bummer it wasn’t, but I really wanted to watch it, so I purchased it with some gifted money from my parents.
  • Excel Templates.  ($10.00) (Worth every penny.)
  • Spending Journal ($6.49) (bought on Amazon, but honestly didn’t need it. 😦  Already wrote in it so couldn’t return)

Total:  $103.17

Personal Care:

  • Hair Color ($13.62) Took advantage of coupon sales and purchased 3 months worth.
  • Sensodyne toothpaste ($10.00) (2 tubes) Having sensitivity issues with my teeth.  This was the suggested toothpaste from dentist, but didn’t have coupons. 😦
  • In Shower Lotion: ($7.00)  {Replacement}
  • Make-up (Ulta): $6.38 {Replacement}
  • Diet Bet ($20.00) I had high hopes of not only winning my own personal bet, but adding a bit more to it.  However, as the bet went, I needed to lose 7 lbs in 4 weeks.  I should have known better. 😦

Total:  $57.00

Clothes:

  • Gloves ($19.99) I needed a warm pair of gloves.  Unfortunately, these failed miserably, but I couldn’t return them as I had already worn them.
  • Tank Top ($2.98) Super deal at Target.  Couldn’t resist — but I didn’t need it. 😦
  • PJs ($11.98) {Replacement}

Total:  $34.95

Total Amount of Purchases I made for January:  $261.10  Total Amount of Purchases I wish I didn’t make: $136.14  Goal for February:  Lower the number in red.

Final Thoughts on January’s spending.

  1.  Research items before purchasing (i.e. gloves that keep your hands warm.)
  2. Take off all payment methods online.  I really should have waited on several items I purchased.  Had I waited at least 72 hours, I wouldn’t have purchased them. (i.e. budgeting stickers, DVD, spending journal). Taking off the credit card from Amazon and PayPal should slow down my trigger finger a bit.
  3. Even though I give myself $100 for personal spending, I should be more mindful of how I really want to spend it.  Seeing everything in black and white is very eye opening.
  4. All in all, $261 is not bad in spending.  Half of the stuff was replacement or consumable products that we purchase on an ongoing basis.  As long as I am  mindful and intentional with my future purchases, I should be well on my way to controlling my spending.

Your turn.  Did you buy anything in January that you regret?

 

Budgeting, saving money

Budgeting: How I keep track of all those numbers.

I talk a lot about budgets on this blog, so I thought it only fitting to show you how I actually budget and the tools I use to stay on track.  Hopefully they will be helpful for you too.

I utilize three ways to budget:  A Budgeting App, Excel Spreadsheets and, my personal favorite, paper & pen (and a few markers).

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Photo by Pixabay

MY FAVORITE BUDGETING APP: YNAB

Yep, I’m a YNABer.  It stands for You Need A Budget, and it’s the best tracking budget software I’ve ever used.  Its basic concept, budgeting just the money you have right now and getting one month ahead is game changing.  I’ve been able to save so much money just by using this program.

If you want to see YNAB in action,  Connie Porter, a YouTuber and friend, has great videos on how she tracks her own budget using this software. Free video training can be found here as well.

If you want to see if it can work for your budget, you can try it out for 34 days free here.

{Full disclosure:  if you click on the links here, and sign up, I will earn a free month.}

SPREADSHEET/ZERO BASED BUDGETING

Yearly planning has become very important to me as well.  I absolutely love having my year all mapped out and focusing on my yearly goals.  It’s very motivating to see how much I can save, but also eye opening seeing the absorbent amount I spend on my mortgage. 😦  Planning out a whole year can be a daunting task, but Kelly from Freedom in a Budget, has taken most of the work out of it and created a yearly budget template  It is $5 (less than a Starbucks coffee) and it has saved me hours of figuring out formulas and set up.

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If you are a spreadsheet nerd, you might also like her monthly zero based budget.  You can download her monthly budget template ($5) as well.  This is a great way to track your income/spending for the month.  And, once you download her templates, you can copy it over and over, year after year.

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{Full Disclosure: non sponsored or affiliated.  Just a cool product to share…}

Paper & Pen (and markers and planners, oh my!)

Yep, I’m a planner girl, and I also have a specific planner for my budget.  I love taking time to plan out a month of expenses and tracking my individual spending with colorful stickers and markers.  What can I say?  I’ve made budgeting a creative outlet for me. 🙂

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Erin Condren Monthly Planner
I find my inspiration here.  I like tracking my spending and certain categories each month that I tend to overspend in (i.e. personal spending, groceries, misc. spending).  This is just a creative way for me to track and make it fun, if budgets can be fun. 🙂

So there you have it.  My three ways of tracking my numbers and budget.  If you don’t have a budget, what are you waiting for?  If you do, please share how you track your numbers! 🙂

 

Winter, Activities to do in Winter

How to survive winter.

close up photo of starbucks beverage
Photo by Matthias Cooper on Pexels.com

How to survive winter:  Rent a condo on the beach in Florida for three months.

Just kidding.  Sort of.

It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of winter.  However, constantly focusing on being somewhere else, especially when I can’t be, is not a good way to live.  So I devised a new list of things I can actually do to enjoy the long winter months and hopefully some will resonate with you too.

  • Go for a walk.  (Note to self: I need a warm pair of gloves).  Yes, even though there is snow and it’s cold, most likely I can still walk outside.  I can enjoy the surroundings of the snow on the branches.  I can breathe in crisp fresh air.
  • Train for a Spring 5K.  I have a treadmill.  ‘nuf said.
  • Sign up and take ballroom dance classes with my husband. I want to learn how to “partner” dance with my husband.  Winter is a perfect time, since we will be indoors.
  • Declutter. Getting rid of stuff is ongoing.
  • Binge watch a series.  Parks and Recreation, Northern Exposure, Everybody Loves Raymond.
  • Cozy up in a warm sweater. LOVE wearing sweaters.  Now’s the time. 🙂
  • Play board games.  Scrabble, Sorry and Backgammon are a few of my faves. My husband and I are both competitive, so this should be interesting. 🙂
  • Make slow cooker meals. So many to choose from here.
  • Do Yoga. Stretching and keeping my muscles limber is essential to good health.  There are so many free yoga classes online.  Here’s one I would like to try: Yoga with Adriene
  • Have a Spa Day. If the bank account allows, go to a spa for a day.  Have a massage, get nails done.  If the bank account does not allow, do nails at home, soak in a hot bubble bath.
  • Journal. Yes. Get my creative juices working, working through problems or just letting off steam.
  • Write a book. I’ve always wanted to.  I spend a lot of time indoors in the winter which makes it a great time to write.
  • Re-read Simple Abundance, by Sarah Ban Breathnach.  By the fireplace, with a hot drink.
  • Browse a book store.  Barnes and Noble is still open, thankfully.  Bookstores are so therapeutic for me.  The smell of coffee, new books, new adventures to read.
  • Plan a summer vacation. Now is the time to plan a vacation for the summer.  Rentals go quickly, cruise cabins are on sale.  Now all I need is everyone’s schedule.
  • Go to a museum. Oh my gosh, I need to do this.  In the DC area, most museums are FREE.  I can ride in with my husband when he goes to work and just explore (when govt shutdown is over, of course.)
  • Bring a little Spring into the house. Buy some new green plants, and have live flowers on my kitchen table.
  • Go to a winery.  We have a ton of wineries in the area.  One in particular has a huge fireplace inside.  Trying out some new wines by the fire sounds divine.
  • Feed the birds. Learn the different species that come to my bird feeder.  Watching birds is very relaxing.  Knowing what kind they are is just plain cool.
  • Remember to be grateful.  For a warm home, a warm bed and hot food.
  • Sleep.  Rejuvenate with extra sleep. It does a body good.  

See the source image

Learn to enjoy every minute of your life. Be happy now. Don’t wait for something outside of yourself to make you happy in the future. Think how really precious is the time you have to spend, whether it’s at work or with your family. Every minute should be enjoyed and savored. – Earl Nightingale

 

Goal Setting, Retirement, saving money

2019 Goal: Living on our future retirement income – with real numbers.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

One of my 2019 goals is to live off an amount we will need in retirement…an amount we believe we need to live a life we want to live in retirement.  For us, that includes travel and spending three months every winter in a warm climate (destination undetermined).  (I write the last part with conviction, as the temps are cold and there is 10 inches of snow on the ground.)

So what is our magic number?

After numerous calculations and a bit of guess work (who knows what healthcare will be when we retire), we figured we will need between $7,000 – $8,000 a month.  For 2019, I will be taking the lower number of $7,000 (which includes our $2,400 mortgage).  We hope to have our mortgage paid off by the time my husband retires at 62, however we kept the $2,400 in the budget as it most likely will be replaced by purchasing health insurance until the age of 65.

How will we come up with $7,000 in retirement?  We will have three sources to pull from:

  1. Personal Savings;
  2. Social Security (yes, we will be taking it at 62); and
  3. Retirement accounts

Social Security will provide $3,000 of the $7,000 (at least as of this writing), and we can use personal savings/retirement accounts for the rest.

By withdrawing $7,000 a month from our retirement accounts, our savings will still last more than 30 years based on very conservative calculations.  So, between social security and our retirement accounts, we can go as high as $10,000 a month (to help with inflation) if we need to.

MONTHLY RETIREMENT BUDGET

Here is our monthly retirement budget *in real numbers*  (and what we will be living on for 2019 and beyond).

*Please note we do not have any debt.  Being debt free is very important when entering retirement, including your mortgage.

  • *Utilities/Water/HOA $500
  • Food/Eating Out $600
  • Household $125
  • Subscriptions (i.e. Netflix, Amazon Prime) $50
  • Gasoline/Car $200
  • HealthCare  $2400 (Our mortgage for now)
  • HSA – Medical Expenses $500
  • Vacation/Travel $500
  • Misc. (clothes, personal care, etc.) $400
  • Cell/Cable/Internet $300
  • *Insurance/Taxes  $1,000
  • Gifts/Christmas $200
  • Home/Car Maintenance  $225

*These are figures based on where we live now (a high cost of living area).  It is probable that we will be moving out of our large home into one that is smaller and fits our future lifestyle.  We are hopeful that insurance/taxes/utilities will all be lower when we do so.

This is our plan, but of course everyone’s retirement plan will be different. Some will need more, some less.  My parents, who live in upstate NY, live comfortably on $2,500 a month.  My MIL, who lives in PA, unfortunately, attempts to live on a social security check of only $1,500 and it’s rough.  So, don’t plan on living on Social Security alone, you won’t make it.

We have seven years before we actually take the plunge into our third phase of life called retirement.   A lot can happen between now and then, but I’m hopeful our health stays good and the retirement accounts continue to grow.

If you are in retirement now, or are gearing up for retirement, how does your budget look?