Friday, September 24, 2010

Weekend Road Trip

Don and I have a great three day weekend ahead of us. We're headed down to Portland today for a brief family reunion. Reunion is a bit formal of a term for the gathering. Basically we have extended relatives visiting from Sweden and anyone who can make it is meeting in Portland for lunch today so that Oregon and Washington family members can both make it. I'm actually not even sure how I'm related to the Swedish relatives but I'm looking forward to finding out. When I was a kid I used to pen-pall with some of our distant cousins. Sure will be neat if they are there and I get to meet them for the first time in person.

The timing couldn't have been better for a trip to Portland as it serendipitously happened to coincide with the arrival of Jeremy and Katy, our good friends from L.A. who we miss terribly. They have hopes on moving to Portland over the next year and are coming to check it out first hand. So we've booked rooms in the same hotel and will be hanging with them tonight and tomorrow morning, doing a few get to know Portland type things. We can't wait to catch up. We're being adventurous and staying in a 2 star hotel to save money. You certainly can't call us snobs!

Tomorrow night then it's out to Fort Worden in Port Townsend for a great annual event, Ben Dobyn's Murder Mystery Party. It's become a legendary annual event, for which this will be the first time Don and I have gotten to participate now that we are back in the northwest. We've seen the fantastic photos in the past, and we can't wait to finally experience it first hand. We are playing a wealthy Egyptian art collecting married couple. I get to wear a head covering which in this case is a pretty green scarf borrowed from Jessica. Thanks Jess!

The dogs are going on their own adventure this weekend too. We're driving them down to Portland and then handing them off to my sister who lives in Seattle but is headed to Eugene after the reunion. So they get to spend the weekend in Eugene with the whole family and then she'll bring them back up where we can pick them up on Sunday in Seattle and head back up to Bellingham. They're asleep in the back of the car right now as we are heading south on the I5 corridor. They don't know what's about to hit them. Kristy said she would watch them as long as Seumas doesn't cry the whole way. I sure hope he holds up his end of the bargain!

Lots 'n lots o' fun ahead! It's shaping up to be quite the exciting weekend.

Monday, September 20, 2010

40 Day Financial Challenge

Don and I had one of those talks about finances tonight. He had been to a great presentation today on life insurance and was concerned that our coverage was insufficient. When you work in the industry and talk to people on a daily basis who have had to collect on a death benefit, the ability to compartmentalize and think 'it will never happen to me,' goes right out the window. We got some quick figures together and then pulled out our budget to see where we could fit it in.

We knew that we had not been sticking much to our budget lately so we actually went through the exercise of pulling up Quicken and looking not just at our projected "goal" budget but what we were actually spending on an average basis. Boy were we shocked! We were way farther out than we possibly could have imagined. There was no room in our budget for additional expenses! We knew we had set an aggressive and unattainable budget to begin with that had required us to have exceptional discipline and did not account for unexpected expenses. And at the end of the day we were mostly being frugal with just a few occasional impulse buys so the idea of what to cut and where was a bit overwhelming.

We wallowed in the stress for a bit. Then we tried a few brainstorming exercises about what it is we want out of life and how finances will help us get there. A few things that came to mind were more traveling, less job stress, the ability to go out and experience life, and of course a nicer wardrobe. But we just couldn't latch on to a singular driving motivation that would keep us focused and disciplined. So you'll never guess what we decided to do. We decided to give more money away. It sounds a bit antithetical to what we were trying to achieve. But it's the only way we could think of to stop obsessing about the limited means we do or don't have and how we are going to make the most out of it. I couldn't think of a better way to reconnect with the value of our hard earned dollars then to increase our tithing. (Mind you this is not bragging as we are still way far off from where we should be but it is a step in the right direction nonetheless.) When faced with the option of eating out at an expensive restaurant, or feeding 10 people who otherwise might not have a meal tonight, well, suddenly those dollars have value in a whole new way. And there is the motivation we needed to inspire us to do better with our budget.

So the sacrifice we are taking on is a rather exciting challenge. We've decided that for 40 days we are absolutely committed to not eating out for breakfast or lunch (we may allow for one or two dinners especially since we have some really good coupons). It will be difficult with Don's work schedule and traveling and will require quite a bit of planning ahead and working together. But with the right motivation, which I think we have found, I think this will be a great exercise in financial growth for the two of us. I am hoping there might be others who want to take the challenge and share in a similar journey. We'd love to all celebrate together when it's over with a potluck or something else low cost of course!