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How to Find a Great Wedding Photographer On Craigslist

Almost 2 years after our wedding, and one year after I asked you all what I should do with the pictures, I’m finally putting together an album. This endeavor gave me an excuse to go through my wedding photos again and reflect on that really lovely day. Almost everyone who has seen my pictures have commented on how beautiful they are – could be that I have extremely kind friends, but I do think my pictures turned out well. Almost equally as great is the fact that I only paid $900 for 4 hours of coverage and all user’s rights on CD, during a June wedding in an expensive part of Southern California. I was able to get this deal because I found my then-up-and-coming photographer through Craigslist.

wedding photographer craigslist How to Find a Great Wedding Photographer On Craigslist

Although this is a tip I almost never see on mainstream wedding websites, getting a wedding photographer on Craigslist can work out beautifully. I didn’t spend much at all on photography, especially by mainstream wedding standards, but I really love my photos. And that’s all thanks to finding a great wedding photographer on Craigslist. Let me share my tips on how we did it:

1. Post an ad on Craigslist Gigs with clear, concise description of who you are, where you are getting married, how much you can pay, and what style you are looking for. 

Our ad went something like this: “Wedding Photography Wanted for [Seaside Southern California City]. Hi. We are a 20-something couple getting married on [date] at [location]. We are looking for a photographer for 4 hours of wedding coverage and all digital user rights on a CD. We can pay up to $1,000 total, including tax. We really like journalistic style and candid photos, but would like a few more formal shots with family. Please email us if you are interested and send us a link to your portfolio.”

2. Once you get responses – you may want to set up a separate email for all the emails you will get – start grouping them into Yes’s, No’s, and Maybe’s.  

We got 60+ emails within 24 hours of the listing going up, so it took a week or so to sort through everything. Then I emailed all the Yes’s and asked them to send me a link with one complete wedding that they have shot before. This step is really important because a photographer’s portfolio is filled with the best shots from all of the wedding’s they have shot before (as it should be), but you need to see one complete wedding so you can get an idea of the best job they can do with a single wedding.

3. Set up a Skype call or an in-person meeting.

It’s important to jive with your photographer, so at the very least, get a Skype call. If you can afford it and you want to get more comfortable with your photographer before the wedding day, get an engagement shoot.

4. Don’t ask them to work for free.

Although I have seen ads that for free wedding coverage in exchange for “portfolio-building”, I would not ask photographers to work for free. For one, the most talented folks, even those new to wedding photography, will probably avoid shoot-for-free weddings. Secondly, I find that having remuneration and contract helps everyone stay on the same page regarding expectations. And thirdly, because there are so many “looking for free photographer” ads on Craigslist, just by willing to pay a reasonable amount will get your more responses.

5. Have a contract!

You need to have a contract. The most important things are: you get the digital user rights, there’s an alternate plan in place if the photographer gets sick, and the photographer has insurance.

6. Be reasonable and have reasonable expectations.

With any luck, you will get a great photographer who can provide you with some lovely images of the big day. We did, and I’m really happy with our photos and our photographer. But part of being reasonable is also understanding that you won’t get the most experienced photographer with the most Style Me Pretty or Wedding Wire accolades, and you won’t get 12-hour photography coverage with 2 or 3 assistant shooters. My photographer has shot about 20 weddings before she shot mine, but at the time that I booked her, I think she only had less than 8 weddings under her belt, although she has done plenty of other event photography. So yes, you are taking a chance because most of the photographers who will respond to Craigslist ads are up-and-coming or are transitioning into weddings, but the rewards can be pretty awesome.

  • marie - How far in advance did you book your photographer? ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I'm not sure… probably almost a year ahead. If you get married during high season I'd suggest that. If you are getting married in the winter (non-holiday), it might be OK to wait until 6 months out if you feel like it. ReplyCancel

  • Raquel@PracticalCents - This is a creative way to find a photographer. Looks like you picked a great one. ReplyCancel

Planning a Big European Adventure

whirlwind europe on a budget Planning a Big European Adventure

Come July, CB and I will embark on a 3-week, 6-country, multi-city whirlwind tour of Europe (also, what in the world made me think I could resist the allure of international travel?). Our full itinerary winds through England, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, and Poland. I love it when my goals align with what I really love to do!icon wink Planning a Big European AdventureOur budget is $7,000 for the whole trip, or $175/person/day. From my research, it seems that $175/person/day is a quite a budget-conscious number, given the high number of places we are hitting on this trip. That’s why I christened this tour “Whirlwind Europe, on a budget.”

Whirlwind Europe Itinerary

This will be no slow-and-smell-the-roses travel. Instead, we are going to try to experience as much as we can, without blowing our budget and killing ourselves in the process. I know we can save money with “slow travel” – staying put in once place for longer time and cutting destinations from our list. I’m just not willing to do that right now. I see this trip as a sort of an introduction, and I fully expect to return to these cities/countries. At a $7,000 budget, this trip will cost as much as our wedding. Thus it only makes sense that I am as detailed and organized about this as I was about the wedding budget process. Hence, pie chart!

europe budget pie chart Planning a Big European Adventure


As you can see, flights make up a large percentage of our budget at almost $2,500 – that’s the cheapest flight I could find within our date range, and even that is a price we will have EARNED with multiple layovers. We had enough miles to get free flights, but just could not get any award seats during the European high season of July/August. It’s a bummer, but we can now save our miles to go on a winter trip, perhaps for the Christmas Markets in Germany and Austria.


We are doing a mix of AirBnB and hotel stays paid for with credit card points. Our accommodations spending is around $75/night, which I consider a great deal. In London, I looked at a few hostels, but like NZMuse found, the private rooms in hostels are just about as expensive as budget hotels. In the end we booked an AirBnB room in centrally-located flat for $116/night. We also did AirBnB for Amsterdam and Paris. We got free hotel stays at the Park Hyatt Hamburg and the Westin Warsaw, and used Hilton Points & Money to get rooms in Hilton Berlin for just $94/night. The most expensive place we are staying in is a bed & breakfast in Bruges, Belgium for $122/night.


We are budgeted to spend $40/person/day for food. This may be blasphemy, but my first stay in London, during which I ate nothing but scones, pre-made sandwiches, and cereal (had one proper sit-down dinner in 6 days of travel), taught me that food on a trip is less important than I thought it would be. I only spent an average of $28-$30 a day during my London trip, so I’m sure with some ingenuity we can keep our spending below $40/person for this European jaunt. I do want good food, but if I can get by with cheap, good, and filling, I’m really happy to save the money for something else… such as the next destination!

In London, I expect we will survive on sandwiches from Pret a Manger and scones and tea from museum shops, plus one dinner from my favorite Pakistani restaurant. In Europe, especially when we are staying in hotels, I envision lots of snacking along the day, buying fruit and yogurt to keep in our hotel rooms, and generally more walking, less eating. I expect to stuff myself with crepes in Paris, Belgian waffles in Bruges, and I’m eager to try fare at the milk bars in Warsaw - I have my eye on Bar Bambino.

Tours & attractions:

Our budget allows us to pay for 1-2 tours/attractions in every city. London is awesome because so many museums and attractions are free. We may splurge on the Kew Gardens and Hampton Court Palace, or Tower of London. We only have 2 days in Paris, so I’m going to focus on all the free things this city has to offer, being outdoors, and people-watching. Museums can wait til next time! In Bruges, I want to take a bike tour of the Flemish countryside.

Train & local transportation:

I’ve priced out some tickets with the help of seat61.com, and I think $1,000 all in is a reasonable figure for both of us. I hope we can come under this… less riding the Tube, more walking?

Why are we going to Europe?

Because we can. Because we have the time to this now. Because money is only money. We should use the $7,000 for CB’s tuition / save for retirement… but I’m trying not to think about that too much. This will be CB’s first trip to Europe, and my first time to France, Belgium, Netherlands, and Poland. We won’t get to hit Italy or Spain as I had hoped to in my 5-Year Travel Plan post, but I’m excited about the places on our itinerary. I’m really excited to do what I love (travel) with the person I love (my husband). And of course, it’s high time for our passports to get some stamps added!

  • save.spend.splurge. - 3 weeks!! So short.. but so worth it :)

    We did something similar for a number of years with short trips here and there, and a whole yearlong trip as well.

    We spend about $1500/week for 2 people overseas which is about $214/day going the "slow travel", so your $175/day is more than enough for the trip, I think!!! ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - Unfortunately, it's not "more than enough", it's enough – I budgeted the trip down to the last detail and now the only things we can cut even further is food and admission fees. We can't even cut out trains (nor do we want to) because we have already booked all our hotels/stays. ReplyCancel

      • save.spend.splurge. - OH RIGHT! I forgot about the transportation since you're switching from one city to another all the time.Still.. you should have a contingency budget of at least 10%. :| Sometimes they say one thing and you realize afterwards they tack on some processing fee or whatever… ReplyCancel

  • SavvyFinancialLatina - Hey, you changed your blog's look! Nice! We want to go to Peru and are budgeting $3,000. Although I really hope we can do everything for under $2,500 for both of us. ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - Thanks! It looks more streamlined now, and it works on mobile/tablets! I'm still trying to play with the blog template, there are a few things I want to fix.

      Since you are flying out of Dallas Latin America should be affordable/easy to get to. Peru would be incredible. ReplyCancel

  • Caitlyn - Have you thought about using EuroRail instead of flights? I spent a summer with a backpack working my way around Europe and a pass for a month of Rail travel was around $550! IT was a great way to see the country and meet other travelers!

    Also, just stumbled upon your blog and love it! ReplyCancel

  • makingsenseofcents - Sounds like a really fun trip. We had a 2 month trip planned for 2014, but it had to be put on hold. So, I will have to live through your trip! :) ReplyCancel

  • eemusings - If you need any advice on navigating the transport let me know! Paris and London tubes are fantastic. Amsterdam's transport isn't bad but everywhere is very walkable (we stayed on the outskirts and still walked everywhere) and Berlin's transport of course is also good.

    Haha, I'm trying to get my head about your food budget. Most of your cities aren't such big food destinations but you are gonna want to eat ALL the bakery goodness in Paris. The flan! The croissants!

    Have a fantastic time with CB, ReplyCancel

  • Ginna - I'm so excited for your trip! My husband and I are planning a trip for next year, and looks pretty similar to your itinerary. Have you thought about using credit card points to pay for the airfare? We signed up for the Chase Sapphire card, and you get 50,000 miles just by spending $3,000 in the first 3 months using it. Once we are done with those three months, my husband plans to apply so we'll have most of our airfare paid for via points. Something to consider as you plan your trip! ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I love the Chase Sapphire card! We used our Chase Sapphire points on an upcoming trip to Japan. We probably had enough miles to fly to Europe, but couldn't find any availability. If you are counting on using miles to fly to Europe, I'd make sure you get the flights as soon as possible and/or avoid the summer high season. I looked at United in January for travel in July, and there's no award availability (United is usually pretty good with award seats). On the other hand, I flew to London last fall on miles, and I was able to get flights a month out because October isn't high season. ReplyCancel

  • Jan - Consider taking food with you – when I went to England, I took granola bars and packets of instant oatmeal, along with Ziploc bags of laundry detergent. The food and such is small enough that it won't take up that much space in your luggage and the granola bars turned out to be a real life-saver in a couple of instances! ReplyCancel

  • @brokeandbeau - This sounds incredible. There's a possibility that I'll be going to Hamburg and Amsterdam this year, I'd love to hear how your trip pans out there. ReplyCancel

  • Emily - Your trip sounds lovely! I've never been to Warsaw or Hamburg, but I love Berlin, Bruges and Paris. There is a great walking tour offered in Berlin (possibly some of the other cities too) that is free (though donations are welcomed); I'll send along the name when I find/remember it. ReplyCancel

  • @nickelbynickel - Why Haarlem? Everyone always wants to go to Amsterdam but I never hear of people going to Haarlem! Btw delft is gorgeous, try to be there in the evening. I had bitterballen and food and beers at stadscafe de waag (http://www.de-waag.nl/) back in November. I know it's awful because I am Dutch…. but I had never actually been to Delft before… I thought it was really lovely! Climbing the churches in Delft is really cheap btw ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I've heard wonderful things about Haarlem – some people even say it's better than Amsterdam. Thanks for the Delft in the evening tip. Vermeer is my favorite Dutch painter and his hometown is Delft. :-) ReplyCancel

  • SP - HAVE FUN!!!

    I want to plan a 3 week trip JUST to France. :) I kind of am in love with it right now. In reality, my next big trip is probably Argentina – hiking/trekking in patagonia specifically, the we'll see what else I can fit in from there. It isn't until January – we're skipping the "big" vacations this year! ReplyCancel

  • Katie - That sounds awesome! Can't wait to hear all about it! ReplyCancel

  • Our Fine Adventure - That looks like an amazing trip! It sounds so great… I can't wait to do more travel to Europe (when I was younger I went to France/Italy for 2 weeks total), it is so neat. Look forward to hearing more about your trip and your planning for it! ReplyCancel

  • Newlyweds ona Budget - this sounds ABSOLUTELY fabulous! one of the main reasons I am holding out on children is so that we can squeeze one more BIG trip. I'd love to go to Thailand, and I still want to go back to Europe, but man oh man, I can't get it all done! ReplyCancel

  • Angie - I’m doing a similar trip this June, for our honeymoon! Switzerland, Paris, Ghent (with a side trip to Bruges), and last stop Brussels.

    The only lodging we’re missing is Paris. I’m so lost! Any tips? We’re trying to be as budget-friendly as possible as well. Already have an AirBNB set up in Ghent, which looks great.


    • Angie - One more question – what are you doing for travel in between cities? Trains? Are you buying passes ahead of time? So many questions.. ;) ReplyCancel

  • Travel Plans for 2014 | Urban Departures - […] the last few weeks with the travel plans of various PF bloggers. Well Heeled Blog will be doing a whirlwind tour around Europe; Jordann at My Alternate Life is visiting England; Krystal of Give Me Back My Five Bucks is going […]ReplyCancel


    We should talk, because we did Paris, Bruges and Berlin on our honeymoon, and I have good friends near Amsterdam :) ReplyCancel

Getting fired… as a bridesmaid

Yuuuuups, that just happened to me.

you are fired Getting fired... as a bridesmaid

My friend sent me a very nice email saying that because I’ve been so busy and am far away, she’d rather I have a great time at the wedding as a guest and not have to worry about bridesmaid obligations.

I’m not angry or upset, but I do worry that I didn’t offer my friend enough time and support during this process. I went with her to one wedding dress appointment, had dinner with her when I went back home, and I try to stay engaged over text. But I’m on the other side of the country from her and my schedule will not allow me to participate in many bridal party activities. So I understand, but that doesn’t mean I feel amazing about it.

Being a bridesmaid can get fairly expensive, so financially, getting fired from bridesmaid duty is great. My friend’s bridesmaids have budgeted $1,000-$1,200 for the bachelorette party in Las Vegas, flights, and bridesmaid dress. That’s money that I technically have, but spending that much would really put a damper on my budget before I have started working.

On the other hand, even the personal finance blogger in me can’t rejoice too much over this firing, as life is more about money. Then this morning, I saw on Facebook her beautiful pictures of the cute little notecards and desserts she made to “officially” ask her remaining bridesmaids to be bridesmaids. And I felt a little worse. Sometimes, Facebook really stink.

I just hope that my friend didn’t feel that I let her down.

  • Jenna - I am of the opinion that in our scattered world, standing next to your best friends when they marry is the only requirement of being a bridesmaid. Everything else is wonderful, but optional.

    This is awkward and unpleasant. Does it change how you feel about her? :( ReplyCancel

    • Emily @ evolvingPF - I agree. IMO the bridesmaid designation is in honor of the role you've played in the bride's life up to that point and shouldn't come with required attendance to anything other than the wedding or any additional work. And come to think of it, one of our groomsmen was not even present at our wedding and he was still regarded as a groomsman.

      But people obviously have different ideas about how their wedding attendants should behave. WH, if you were feeling any guilt or pressure, I hope that has been relieved and you will just enjoy the wedding! ReplyCancel

    • kimskitchensink - I'm with Jenna on this one. Some brides feel very strongly about the WIC's projection that bridesmaids are supposed to be your everything, and if they can't commit to All Of The Things they shouldn't be bridesmaids. I think your bridesmaids should be the people closest to you (emotionally)…but that's just my opinion. If it's important to your friend to have her bridesmaids be her in-person support system throughout, then hey, it is the way it is. ReplyCancel

  • Anne - Unique Gifter - Awe, that sucks! You will get to relax and hang out with your friends as a result though… silver linings! ReplyCancel

  • Jenny - Very sorry that you're feeling down about this (and, yes, FB is of no help in these circumstances). I have to admit that I take the view that bridesmaid duties have come to the point of being entirely overblown and unrelated to what's really important about the wedding. So much so that I am currently actively campaigning to get myself fired as a bridesmaid. Grinch though I may be, your feelings are completely understandable. ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I read your post on the bride in your life… sounds like a terrible situation. You are handling it with way more patience and class than I would have. ReplyCancel

  • Jen @ Jen Spends - I was fired as a bridesmaid and the bride (my cousin) never even bothered to tell me! Instead, she arranged to go dress shopping with the others and didn't invite me. I found out when I stopped in to visit my mom, and she was out with all of them. They ordered all the dresses that day. Needless to say, I was pretty hurt. I think it's a crappy thing to rescind on the offer once it's made. ReplyCancel

    • hereverycentcounts - Wow that sucks. I can't believe that people rescind on their offers like that. They should ask first if it's going to be an issue. ReplyCancel

  • eemusings - Aw I'm sorry. I can't remember if I blogged about it, but I also fired my one bridesmaid a couple weeks before the wedding. I tried to let her down gently. I felt I hadn't asked much of her – literally I told her I don't need a party, you can wear whatever you want, just let me know what you decide so my flower girls can figure out a colour. We can dress shop together or you can wear something you already have, I don't care. She just sort of stopped replying to me.

    Anyway I sent her an email telling her she didn't need to worry anymore and I would relieve her of her duties (I was feeling really bad about it, but come on!) She emailed me back if I remember rightly being really apologetic and explaining how stressed she was with work and her own wedding (she got engaged maybe a month or something before my wedding. And then there was a teary phone call and we both sort of broke down and bawled to each other. She insisted she still wanted to plan me a hen's night/bachelorette party anyway. Anyway, long story short they did, she wound up being my one bridesmaid and I asked my two best friends to join the party and be bridesmen and we figured out dresses for the flowergirls.

    I felt so terrible for putting her in that position but I think it was kind of necesary. Your situation sounds a bit different. I think you did as much as you realistically could, and your friend recognises that. I wouldn't have been easy for her and I am sure she wants the best for you as you know! No doubt it'll be hard to not be part of that inside ring, but it'll be less stress and as you say, cheaper. (hugs) ReplyCancel

  • hereverycentcounts - Aw, that's really sad. When I get married, co I know it will be expensive for my bridesmaids because they will be all over the country. I'll try to be reasonable with my requests on them and will ask them up front if they will have trouble paying for anything. Ideally I will be able to help them out if needed, because it's important to me to have my close friends and family as part of my wedding!

    I was recently asked by a friend of mine to be her bridesmaid and admittedly I was surprised! We are friends but don't see each other often and while I really like her I never thought of her as a close friend. We went to high school together and started to spend time together about once every time I visited my hometown. So I was shocked when she asked me to be in her wedding this year. She says she knows I live far away and doesn't have high expectations of me to help out — I'll be skyping in for their bridesmaid dress hunting adventure in a few weeks and I'll fly out for the bachelorette party whenever that is. So I guess it will cost a bit of money but as you said what's the point of life without spending your money? ReplyCancel

  • Fehm-Loans&Lifestyle - Sometimes in life, we want the best of everything, but that’s just not possible. It’s great that you’re staying positive and reminding yourself you’ve saved money, but at the same time, you do wish you could be there for her as a good friend. Sadly, life is full of compromising choices – perhaps you’ll get a different opportunity to be there for her after she is married. ReplyCancel

  • Mo' Money Mo' Houses - I sort of fired a bridesmaid before. Well, it was more I gave her an out. She's moved to a different country and I knew she didn't want to break her promise to me but she also wasn't helping and probably wasn't going to make it, so I basically said she didn't have to be one anymore and it all worked out in the end (no bridges burned!). ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I think this is the only area where I was a little miffed. This friend was a part of my bridal party, and my expectations for my bridal party were literally “show up in a pinkish dress, stand with me on my wedding day, and be happy for me.” Like many of the previous comments, my views on bridesmaids are that you are my bridesmaid because you are an important part of my life, not because you can help me do XYZ / spend this much money.

      I do understand that people have different expectations for their bridal parties. ReplyCancel

  • Favorite Posts, Mentions, and Top Comments Weeks of 16 and 23 February 2014 - Evolving Personal Finance | Evolving Personal Finance - […] Well Heeled Blog is relieved that she was recently fired from being a bridesmaid in her friend’s wedding. […]ReplyCancel

  • Blog Love - Hashtags & Warrior Poses - MoMoneyMoHouses : MoMoneyMoHouses - […] Getting Fired…as a Bridesmaid by Well Heeled Blog […]ReplyCancel

Have a great Valentine’s Day celebration – don’t have it on Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

valentines calendar Have a great Valentines Day celebration   dont have it on Valentines Day!

My secret to a stress-free Valentine’s Day celebration? It’s simple. Don’t celebrate it on the day of. And if you have procrastinated til today, forget about cobbling up something last minute. Restaurants will laugh at you when you call. Instead, use my simple 3-step process to save your sanity and your money (or at least, defer spending it). But seriously, don’t go on a rant to your significant other about how this holiday is all manufactured and useless. If both of you feel that way, great, there’s no need to beat a dead horse. And if your significant other doesn’t feel that way, all the “but this is a Hallmark holiday!” won’t save you.

Step 1:

Buy a card (or just take a plain white paper) and write a thoughtful message. FitnPoor has a great post on how to craft heartfelt love letters.

Step 2:

Talk about something romantic and meaningful that you will do: a weekend get-away at a bed & breakfast, a romantic dinner at the neighborhood bistro where you both met, or a kayaking date at the local lagoon. Highlight this. Or you can be super crafty and make a coupon out of it.

Step 3:

Do the above, 1-2 weekends AFTER Valentine’s Day / Valentine’s weekend. (And the best part is, even if you are a procrastinator, you will have a chance to book these events as you won’t be doing them til later).

I have come to realize that I hate hate hate going out on Valentine’s Day or the weekend immediately preceding/following Valentine’s Day. Not because I don’t value the holiday itself, but because going out on Valentine’s Day = mediocre service + expensive prices + crowds. It’s not very romantic at all.

Honestly, unless your significant other is dead-set on celebrating Valentine’s Day ON Valentine’s Day, deferring the celebration just a week later can save your wallet AND your sanity.

Double win.

  • eemusings - We didn't celebrate yesterday either. Probably going to go out early next week on one of the days T has off work, and I'll leave the office early :) It's CNY and the lantern festival is on all weekend here and there was a neat screening on Friday, so me and my best friend went along to that. T hung out with some of his friends. V-Day isn't a biggie for us :) ReplyCancel

  • Romantic Hotels UK - I think making a card or something like you suggested is definitely the best, this way you can get across your feelings but still not have to buy into the hallmark scam.

    It is nice to know as well that an arts and crafts shop that is probably struggling gets to make a few pounds from the holiday instead of just people selling cards and flowers.

    This year I made an exploding box and popped a charm into it (the charm was selling out a little) but the present showed thought and that is what the holiday is really about.

    Exploding boxes are relatively easy to make and are a bit of fun. http://www.thedatingdivas.com/you-me/show-him-theReplyCancel

To Kid or Not to Kid – How did you figure it out?

And by kid, I don’t mean joke.

adding baby To Kid or Not to Kid   How did you figure it out?

It’s a question that I am examining more closely now that I am one year shy of 30. That age is not an arbitrary marker, and I haven’t been hit by any case of “baby fever”, but my rational mind is piping up. If I know I want to have biological children, then I would want to to start trying for kids by the time I am 33, to hopefully have my first and likely only by 35.  That gives me 4 years to ponder this question of “to kid or not to kid.” That’s not so far in the future. Back when I was 26, I was very comfortable with “oh baby, maybe, eventually,” but now I feel more of a need to make a carefully-thought-out decision.

Hence the questions that I ask myself almost everything I think about this question whether or not I see children in my future… “do I want to have kids?” Here are the thoughts, almost verbatim, that run through my head.

If yes…

How many? Why do I want to have kids? How will we be able to afford kids? When should we start trying? Will we regret our decision later? What if we end up with kids that get up seriously hurt or die, or equally worse, what if we end up with kids that seriously harm other people? Can I handle the stress of having kids? Can I handle the stress of having high-maintenance or special needs kids? What if my kid turns out to be a sociopath? Do I want to be so responsible for one person’s life, and do I want to make such an irreversible decision? How will this affect my marriage? How will it affect my career? Will we fall into more traditional gender roles after marriage, as research suggest? What if I hate being pregnant? What if I hate being a parent? What if I spend all this time and energy and money raising a kid, and that kid, for whatever reason, ends up hating me? Do I want to live a life of all joy, no fun? I think we can be pretty happy not having kids, does this mean that we shouldn’t?

If no…

How should we spend the pile of cold hard cash that not-having-kids will save us? Should we jet to Paris or London or Thailand for the weekend? I like London, let’s do that! More seriously,what will we be missing out on? Will we regret our decision later? Can we handle aging without children? Will we feel that our life is incomplete because we do not have children? Will we then have to try expensive infertility treatment and/or deal with the roller coaster of emotions on whether or not to adopt? Who will visit me in the nursing home when I’m old? Who will tell the doctors to pull the plug? Who will be our power of medical attorney and make sure CB/I’m getting good care when we can no longer advocate for ourselves? I think CB and I are pretty cool people and we can make a little cool person, no kids means we’ll never meet him/her. Also, can’t I go to London even with a kid!? Wouldn’t that be a great developmental / family-bonding opportunity? When no kids = never having a kid, that never seems pretty permanent.

No maternal instinct… but plenty of ambivalence

Whenever friends ask me if I am planning on babies (not in a mean way, but most of my friends are around my age and this is obviously something that many people in the late 20s/early 30s are thinking about), I reply, “yes, it is statistically likely I will have one kid.” Mostly tongue-in-cheek.

The truth is, I am ambivalent at this stage, although less ambivalent than I was 2 or 3 years ago. CB is also quite ambivalent. Sometimes I think I really do truly want to have a child, but I am afraid to admit it because I know it will change my life. Sometimes I think I really do not want to have a child, or that the only reason I want to have a child is so I have a friend when I am old (if I happen to outlive my spouse and all my friends – and in any case they will have their families to hang out with).

I know that having kids – especially well-adjusted kids who like you and whom you like -distinction from love- and who grow up to be friends with their parents – add immense richness to their parents’ lives. Not to toot my own horn, but I believe that I enrich my mother’s life, in every way BUT financial. On the other hand, my mother sacrificed a lot for me – and continues to worry over me day and night. And this is given the fact that I was basically a “good” or “manageable” child – no serious illnesses, not too much trouble in school, essentially a productive member of society. I also know that not having kids can leave space in my life to nurture other interests or relationships that can also add tremendous meaning and richness. I know many women who seemed really happy (or at least no less happy than folks with kids) and can devote all the time and energy that would have been spent on child-rearing to other things. So children are far from the only path – or even a path – towards a meaningful/purpose-filled life.

Decision criteria unhelpful in making decision

Like any good MBA, I attempted to first figure out what is my decision criteria for making this decision. By most measurable criteria (finances, sleep quality, marital satisfaction, career progression, self-care time, stress, mental health), having children seems to be a neutral or negative. On the other hand, there’s the “love and joy from having a child” that really can’t be measured – though scientists have tried. I do think it’d be cool to help a child grow up, to see how CB would be as a dad, and to do fun things with him/her and eventually be good friends with my adult child. But who knows – there are plenty of dysfunctional parent-child relationships out there. I could very well have one of those with my kid.

The other problem is that while I can do a lot of research into the consequences and impacts of having an “average child,” there is no such thing as an average child. Basically, I will never know what it is like to have a child until I have one, and I have my child (who will be an individual with his/her own personality, quirks, strengths, and weaknesses), and once that happens, well, the die is cast. You can’t very well return a baby, nor do I hope I would want to. On the other hand, if we never start trying, eventually the decision will be made for us… so I/we should make an active decision instead of a passive decision.

So here’s my question – for ladies (and gents) who are in my situation, how are you thinking through the kid/no kid decision? And if you are a parent, have you regretted the decision to have kids? Stay anonymous if it helps you be more honest.

  • Kasey - I struggle with the same decision except I'm not quite married yet so I don't have to make a decision until that day. :) I am over 30 now so my thought is that once I'm married I'm going to try and have a baby. If I don't get pregnant then its not in the cards for me but at least I tried. I think I would live in regret if I never at least tried to have a child. My boyfriend would be happy either way (kid or no kid) so it looks like it my decision! ReplyCancel

  • Dyan - This is a hard and terrible thing to contemplate… for me, the answer was always easy: I felt like SOMEONE was missing from my life. After I met my husband and married him, that feeling didn't go away. I felt like a duck who had come up short with her headcount. When his daughter started spending her days with us instead of her other household, the feeling didn't go away. Someone was missing.

    Fast forward three years… my baby boy was born in August, and although he lessened the feeling significantly, there's still someone missing. I turned 30 in November and although I don't feel like my biological clock is ticking, the hubs and I want an early retirement and an easy later life, so I know logically that it's better to have another sooner rather than later. We are both firm believers that children only cost you as much as you let them cost you — make sure you have good insurance and buy used EVERYTHING.

    Honestly, I don't think there's a concrete method to know unless you are very staunchly for or against kids. The middle ground is very, very grey. You have to ask yourself a few questions:

    1. Is my marriage strong enough to last through kids?
    2. Does my husband want children? (He may be as grey as you!)
    3. Is there someone missing from my life?
    4. In 20 years, if I choose not to have kids now, will I regret not having them when I could? What's my backup plan? (Fostering's usually a good one!)

    In any case, good luck with the decision :) I'm pretty sure I only have one more missing member, so after baby #2, we're done! Have a LONG discussion with your partner and make sure you two are in the same place. Also, remember that if you wait for the opportune time, it will never come. ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - Great questions for me to think through… 1. I think so, 2. ambivalent, 3. nope, 4. likely yes. I think #4 is driving any desire to investigate the kid option for now.

      Congratulations on your ducky #1, and best wishes for the arrival of ducky #2. :) ReplyCancel

  • Jenny - Without assigning any weight to this factor, is your post-MBA job compatible with raising a child in the way that you would want to raise it? I would love to have a child (even on my own), but my current job is not compatible with that path and I have a hard time envisioning a lawyer job that does. This makes it a big decision even more intimidating (to me). ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I think my post-MBA job is really great in some ways (good compensation, excellent health insurance, firm/industry who see the value of retaining women through the ranks), but it's also a job with long hours and lots of travel. I think it's feasible contingent upon 2 things: 1. CB's job does not require frequent travel, at least until the kid is older, 2. we live very close to my parents, as in, next door or within a 5 minute drive/walk so that they can be our backup nanny care.

      I think you read LagLiv and MagicCookie? They both have government legal jobs that seem really fulfilling and have a set schedule. Would you consider that in the future? ReplyCancel

      • Jenny - I do read their blogs and am so happy that they've found workplaces that are more family friendly. Unfortunately, my practice area doesn't lead to gov't legal jobs. Switching practice areas isn't impossible, but it would take a lot of hard work to find an opportunity and it would mean starting over. ReplyCancel

        • Karin - Jenny if you are corporate maybe try for an in-house counsel job? My hours are 9-6 and I do some work after my son goes to sleep. Weekends are mostly free and I spend lots of quality time with him then. ReplyCancel

          • Jenny - Thanks Karin! I am in M&A. At the firm we've been doing things like staying until 2am regularly… sometimes staying in the office 48 hours straight. It's a bit much. Your arrangement sounds great! I plan to start looking at in-house jobs when I get back to the US. (I currently work in Tokyo.)

          • Karin - Honestly Asia is also another animal entirely. I worked in Singapore for four months and was completely exhausted by the end of it. I remember working seven days a week and being afraid to go to sleep if I was magically home at 11pm. The M&A lifestyle is also worse than other corporate I think — deal's gotta get done as soon as possible! ;) M&A is great for going in-house though. Maybe try to do some company-side stuff while you're there if possible and that might position you well for something in-house at a company? Good luck!

  • Kendal - I am struggling with the same decision. I have a solid marriage and an awesome husband who is equally as indecisive as me about the kid thing. It's eery how closely my thought process parallels yours — what if I don't like being a parent? What if my child dies prematurely — will I survive that? Is it possible to enjoy life when you're constantly worried about someone else's? If I'm truly honest with myself, I've never been excited about having kids. At this point, I'm letting that help me in this decision. Until it's something I get excited about, it's not something I want. Perhaps that's too simplistic for such a big decision, but shouldn't it be something I really want, above all other options? ReplyCancel

  • Erin - Ah yes. Pushing thirty.'Tis the season. :)

    Like you, I was incredibly ambivalent about the possibility of having children for the duration of my 20s and into my early 30s. I felt no maternal urge to have children, and often felt dread when I thought about all of the things you discussed: Pregnancy, labor and delivery, sleep deprivation, loss of freedom and ease of mobility, the impact on my career, the impact on my marriage, the impact on my friendships, the possibility that I'd be shit at parenting, the possibility that my child would be a shithead…etc, etc, etc…all of it.

    When asked if my husband and I were going to have children, I always said 'we're not planning to,' because we weren't. At times, I felt somewhat confident that we wouldn't, but could never bring myself to take the option off the table. At some point just before my 33rd birthday, we reached a 60/40 split: I was 60/40 in favor of maybe giving it a go, and my husband was 60/40 in favor of NOT giving it a go, and we both knew we'd never make a decision one way or the other and we'd certainly never be the kind of people who "tried" to have a baby.

    So like so many other decisions he and I have made in our lives – separately and together – we decided to stop trying to make a decision that we knew would never come. We stopped trying NOT to have a baby, essentially leaving it all up to fate.

    I was pregnant within a month.

    And I was happier than I EVER could have predicted about it. So was he. Terrified, of course, but terrifically happy.

    At 11 weeks, during my first ultrasound, we learned that I was no longer pregnant. A missed miscarriage. Then we learned it wasn't any ole' pregnancy and miscarriage – it was a partial molar pregnancy. Long story short, this is a type of pregnancy that never results in live birth and carries with it the risk of leading to cancer. It's what Jen Arnold of 'The Little Couple' has been dealing with. After months of follow-up bloodwork monitoring my risk for developing cancer, I was cleared and given the green light to try to conceive again.

    That experience – the ambivalence, the 'come what may' approach, the resulting pregnancy, the pregnancy loss and subsequent health scare gave me an entirely different perspective on ALL of it. The woman who previously knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she and her husband would never DECIDE to have children and TRY to make it happen was suddenly doing everything in her power to make it happen. Taking my temperature every morning, peeing on sticks, predicting ovulation, timing sex, counting down the days between ovulation and my period, taking pregnancy tests 4, 5, 6 days before it was scheduled to come.

    8 months later, I was 34 and growing increasingly certain that something was wrong. How could I get pregnant so quickly and easily the first time with no effort at all, but NOT get pregnant for six months in a row with loads of effort? My OB ran tests that produced some troubling results related to the quantity and quality of my eggs. A second opinion from a reproductive endocrinologist corroborated these results and I was advised to use advanced reproductive technology and "finish my family quickly," in the RE's words.


  • Erin - Continued:

    2 months later, exactly 1 year after I learned that my first pregnancy was no more, I went to the bathroom before bed and mid-pee, I had the overwhelming urge to take a pregnancy test. I had no good reason to take a pregnancy test as I was still 4 days from getting my period and had no reason to believe I might be pregnant, given we'd only had sex once and it wasn't even in the so-called window of opportunity, though it was the first time we'd had GOOD sex in months.

    So I stopped mid-stream and pee'd on a stick, full of skepticism. And what the fuck do you know? I was pregnant, a fact that was confirmed with four subsequent tests.

    Long story short, I went on to have a perfectly normal, healthy pregnancy that I genuinely enjoyed, and last May, I gave birth to my sweet, beautiful son Sam.

    So….that's my story. Who knows what your story will be, but because you're starting where I did three years ago, there's something I want you to know, and it's something that I think and hope will be very important to your decision making process. It's something I WISH someone had told me on the front end of all of this, to counter all of the chatter about how children change your life and how you'll never be the same and blah blah blah, because at it's core, my ambivalence was about my fear of losing myself to parenthood.


    I'M STILL ME. I am the same person I was before my first pregnancy, my miscarriage, my efforts to conceive, my second pregnancy and my entrance into parenthood. What was important to me then is still important to me now. I laugh at the same things, I enjoy the same things. I still love trashy reality television, I still spend too much time on the internet, I still swear like a sailor, I still love to travel, to read, to cook, to sleep in. I still enjoy my career and want to continue to grow it, I still take pride and pleasure in having strong, female friendships, I still love my husband and make sure he knows it. I even still enjoy doing laundry, because hey…it's my thing.

    I'm more and better and happier and tireder and so many other things too, but I'M STILL ME. I just have a mini-me who is along for the ride now. :)

    Good luck to you!

  • SavvyFinancialLatina - It's definitely a hard decision for some like me. I'm still 100% on the no kid. We're still young and it may change, but I've never wanted kids. The thought of them sounds cool, but the execution doesn't. My husband on the other hand is leaning towards maybe wanting a kid when we're in our 30s. We'll see what happens in a decade. ReplyCancel

  • Jen @ Jen Spends - Speaking as a mom of two, I think if there is any part of you that wants to a parent, you should give yourself the chance. We all know women who rave about how much they love babies, how they always knew they wanted to be a mom, etc. I'm not that kind of woman, never was, never will be. If I had waited until I felt ready, or excited to be a mom, I'm sure I'd still be waiting. I don't "love kids", but I adore my own kids.

    Being a parent really is one of those things that you can't truly understand until you've done it yourself. Yes, there are definitely days when I feel like "what in the hell was I thinking?" Today, battling a cold while my 8-month-old battled naptime, was one of those days. But I have never regretted becoming a parent. Once you've met your child, it's impossible to imagine life without him or her, no matter how difficult things get. I've found that the first year in particular is really tough to get through, but once you reach a point where your child can start to talk and be a little independent, it's so much fun! The love and effort you put in, you'll get back tenfold.

    I was rather ambivalent about having one, then I was very ambivalent about having a second. Sometimes I do miss my old life, very much. But I wouldn't trade my boys for anything. I look at them and realize that they could very well be the most important thing I contribute to the world. ReplyCancel

    • Tarynkay - That is interesting, because it would have said the opposite- if you are feeling uncertain about wanting kids, don't have them. I always wanted kids, we always planned to have lots, couldn't, and then we ultimately adopted our one amazing little boy. Parenthood is really wonderful, and I have honestly loved every second of it (maybe because it was so hard-won?) Anyhow, I wouldn't want anyone to have kids on the strength of the possibility that they might end up really loving parenthood. It is wonderful when it works out that way, and I am so glad that it did for you!

      But I guess I know too many people who did just that (including my own mother) and then did not love parenthood, not at all, and ended up being pretty miserable, but trying to make the best of it. It's really hard for parents to admit when they do not feel super fulfilled and overjoyed with their children, so I don't think that we tend to hear from those folks so much. But I know some people who really do regret having kids- and most of them do their very best and end up being pretty great parents anyhow. Anyhow, I would just want anyone deciding whether or not to have kids to really really want them.

  • Ms. Mintly - This may not be the best reason for other people, but I felt like parenthood was one of those experiences I didn't want to miss out on in this life. One of the other things was getting a Master's degree and going to Europe. There are others I haven't achieved yet. I just would hate to get to the end of my life and think, "What if?" It turned out to be a good decision for our family (but we're definitely "one and done"!), but who knows if parenthood is one of those things that you might consider as an addition (a plus) to your life… or not? Good luck as you explore this! ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - Would love to hear a little more on your "one and done" decision. I'm a singleton so I think one is the likeliest number for us. Do you feel that your life is more manageable from having one kid vs. multiple? Have you gotten push back on your decision from others? ReplyCancel

      • Ms. Mintly - Thanks for responding to my comment! Okay, this response might be long….

        For a while, my husband (then boyfriend) and I had felt that we weren't going to be parents. We were not too fond of other people's kids, and we were worried about the change in our lifestyles. (TBH, our lifestyle would have had to change at some point, as we were living beyond our means. That lifestyle was unsustainable.) Then, when he proposed, we sat down and talked seriously about what our married life would look like. I told him that while I wasn't sure if I wanted kids, I wanted the CHOICE to have one. My husband agreed that he'd be open to having one child after we got married, as long as we didn't rush into it. That wasn't my intention, of course, anyway. So, when we finally decided we were ready (about three years after getting married), we had a baby (I was 29 years old).

        I'm an only child and was never lonely (that I remember). My husband has two older brothers who are older by a significant number of years, so he has said he felt like an only child. As an only child yourself, I wonder what your thoughts on it are? Due to not having any siblings, I've never felt like we need to "give our child a brother or sister," which I hear from my friends who have one child and are considering another.

        I'd like to point out that some of these friends had very difficult times with their first children. Despite that, they still want to have another child so their kid has a sibling. I don't have that background, so I don't worry myself about that at all. One is good for me, and she goes to daycare and gets a lot of interaction from other kids. We also work hard to keep her from feeling that she is the center of our lives (because she is not, though we love her more than anything).

        I should also say that I would not want to relive the infant stage of parenthood again. Some people love babies. Some people don't love babies but still find out that they love that infant stage. Maybe if I'd been 21 and had my first kid, I'd have had a lot more energy. But…. uh…. no. Ha! So, not much sleep, going back to work (because I was always going to be a working mom) = tough time for me. I didn't have post-partum or anything… I don't not like babies, I'm just not a baby person. I prefer them when they can talk!

        My friends (mentioned above) either had post-partum depression that went untreated (which is just an awful situation) or had a partner who just wasn't an equal player in the parenting stuff…. or they didn't treat parenting like you'd treat getting an advanced degree.

        (Here's my soapbox, this is me getting on to it.)

        We decided to plan for our kid the way we'd research a master's degree project. I mean, we're smart people, and there's info out there – we just have to research and determine what we think might work best for us. We knew things would not always work out or maybe the plan would even be a total bust, but we just felt more comfortable going into parenthood with a plan of any kind (I really mean just knowing how we were going to try to get our baby to sleep and eat – we weren't planning ahead to kindergarten or anything!). It astounded me how people just jumped into it, without making financial plans or even thinking about how having a baby would affect their lives.

        (Off my soapbox now) (see part 2) :) ReplyCancel

      • Ms. Mintly - (part 2)

        So to get back to your original question, there are many positives to having only one! Now that she's 4, I find I love each month and day better than before. She says hilarious things. She knows how to play games, she talks, she tells stories. I have energy enough to go to work and then spend time with her when I get home. I don't agonize over sending more than one child to college, or even having two kids in daycare. ($700+ a month for infant daycare! $660 now that she's 4….) Once I get her in bed at night, we can relax, not worry about getting another child soothed and ready to sleep. I know that those who have multiple children could give you lots of reasons to have more than one, but one is definitely the best decision for our family. I'm sure I could go on about why it's best in our opinion, but then you'd be here all day.

        One thing that really helps is that anyone who knows me, knows I'm an only child. That kind of stops people in their tracks before they say something like, "C'mon, you don't want her to be spoiled, right?" GRRRRRR

        It does help a LOT that my parents have always supported our decision to go with only one (since they only had one themselves), and my husband's parents were fine with us having only one, because they already had 5 grandchildren before our daughter was born. Everyone else pretty much keeps their opinions to themselves if they disagree with our choice.

        I think of it as the best of both worlds – one child is not the most financially savvy choice ever, but it's good for the heart and it's not as draining on the pocketbook as 2. (Not saying that 2x the children is 2x the cost, but it's obviously going to cost more than 1.)

        Okay, I think I've posted a long enough response. I guess I just should have said that it sounds like you and I have some things in common – a desire to retain a sense of self, keep doing some of the things that you enjoy, but not miss out on something. I don't think people ever would say they regret having children, but some people have told me that two was too many (with the caveat that they love both of their kids, of course). I won't lie – the first year was really hard, but now it's more like a distant memory and we love our little – and very manageable – family. I hope this helps, and if you made it to the end…. thanks. ;) ReplyCancel

        • Well Heeled Blog - Absolutely helped. Thank you so much. And you put it perfectly: "a desire to retain a sense of self, keep doing some of the things that you enjoy, but not miss out on something." Yes, yes, yes. ReplyCancel

          • Ms. Mintly - Awesome. Thanks for reading all of that. :)

  • anon - My husband and I have been together for over 8 years now, and we always knew we didn't want to have kids. We're now both over 30, and we still don't want kids. We have, however, discussed the possibility of fostering in the future and looked into a couple programs for more info. Right now, we both feel young and that we're at the beginning of our lives…and that we have other things we'd rather focus on. But I can imagine a time in the future, maybe a decade or more from now, where we'll be settled into relatively predictable paths and regular routines, at which point I could see adding another person to our family. A big part of this is that I absolutely have no maternal instinct whatsoever (for babies, at least). Also, both my husband and I have zero preference for a "biologically ours" baby, so fostering/adoption is a better option for us in all ways.

    If you and your husband are ambivalent and would rather birth your own baby than adopt, I'd say go for it, and soon. I have a shocking number of 30+ year old friends who are dealing with infertility issues now and it's unbelievably painful and sad for them.

    The bottom line is that I don't think you'd ever regret having kids (you and your husband have purposely crafted your paths so far and seem to be on a good track), but it's very possible to regret not having them. ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I thought about adoption before… I am not against adoption for philosophical reasons, but after researching process of adoption (and learning that it can be longer, more tedious, more uncertain, and more expensive than having a bio child), I realized that it might not be for us. Because I don't prefer adoption over bio child, I figured at this point I want to make the kid/no kid decision on the assumption that we will have bio children. ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer - From a logistical standpoint, I'm someone who values their career a lot, and i was really worried about what would happen when i had children. i knew i'd never be a stay at home, and i knew that my husband wasn't going to step off his career path either. So, now I'm a working mom with a big job that involves travel (but not a lot), a lot of mentoring and management, and crazy work hours. I had been with my firm for five years before getting pregnant, and that went a long way. I'm still working as hard as i was, but with different hours, and I work from home at least twice a week. Does that make my job harder? Sometimes, yeah. But i'm a better worker now that I know how to compartmentalize my life and work. Additionally, once I knew i was having a daughter, I became even more passionate about having my career and parenthood, b/c i don't know how you raise a daughter to believe she is the equal of every man in the world if she doesn't see that equality at home. Now from an emotional standpoint, (and i am the anti emotional woman) could i have lived a happy fulfilled life without kids? i'm sure i could have. But having a child without a doubt gave my life a sense of purpose that i never, ever expected. not to say that you have to have kids, but rather i would say that if you do – you will never regret it. They are a joy. Just absolute, mind-blowing joy. even when they're awful, and costing you a lot and making you question your sanity. So that's my advice when it comes to this question. If you think you may ever have regret for NOT having kids, then have them. b/c you will love it. you won't ever regret them once they're here. and while i think its foolish to say that women can "have it all" you can certainly have a little of everything if you let yourself be okay with maybe not doing everything perfectly (but we should all be striving for that anyway). ReplyCancel

  • Pretired Nick - The trick is that you can't logically decide a question like this. It's all feeling and instinct. Or at least, if you think about it, there is NO rational reason to have a kid. It's part of what you'll feel pulled to do because you're a biological creature programmed to reproduce yourself.
    We just left it up to destiny — we'll try for six months and if no kid arrives, we'll say that was the universe telling us no and we'll make the decision permanent. One week later she was pregnant. (: ReplyCancel

  • moneyaftergrad - haha I have an interesting post about a related topic going up tomorrow — might sway you to the kid side ;) ReplyCancel

  • eemusings - Something I'm thinking about too, as are my high school GFs who badly want kids and want to figure out how to fit them in. One is super paranoid that for some reason she might not be able to have any (no reason, just paranoia) and hence she should start trying now.

    I feel like I may have said this in a previous comment here, but while I think I would like kids, I also don't have kid fever and if it turned out we couldn't have them I think I'd be A-OK with that.

    I suppose I'm lucky I'm in a field that could accommodate a kid but by the same stroke, I don't earn a ton, so I really am not sure how we would afford a kid, especially since I want a house. We do get 14 weeks paid leave, but it's a very minimal amount, and of course most people take off more time, like 6-12 months (at least in NZ) and I have no clue how they afford that. ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - For a moment I thought your 14 weeks is what you get every year for paid vacation. I was just about to keel over with envy. Hahah. At my next job we get 12 weeks fully paid maternity leave, then I think it’s unpaid leave. I know people have taken anywhere from 2-6 months. ReplyCancel

  • Margo - Like you – I am ambivalent about having kids. That said, I am preparing my career to allow flexibility to handle kids and starting now.

    Here are two VERY big things that can help you prepare if you decide to say yes to kids:

    1. Architect your career in such a way that you position yourself for flexibility when you need it.

    a. Actively mentor a junior person on your team, so that when you’re a manager they know how to handle things as capably as you can. Learn to delegate effectively. This will free up your bandwidth to tackle more important things at work and at home.

    b. Develop agility in your career and skill sets. Ask for and position yourself for stretch assignments sooner, to get exposure to things that can take your career in a new direction but also fill important gaps on the team for your boss. In the past 6 months, I was invited to attend the Consumer Electronics Show, cover my President’s industry association Board Meetings, and have sat in on hyper-confidential due diligence calls regarding strategic M&A targets.

    c. Build skills that enable you to work in different arrangements / that employers will agree to pay you for these: work-from-home, part-time, expert-on-call, self-employed, entrepreneur. Not all part-time roles pay well. Not all part-time roles let you come back to the workforce at anything resembling your former salary. What opportunities could give you professional flexibility without derailing your career?

    2. Focus on building a support network, no matter where you live or relocate to. Deeply value the people who follow through on their commitments. Return favors. Do favors proactively. The cost of favors given is usually much “cheaper” than the value of favors received. This is the fundamental basis of both economic exchange but also of relationship building. Favors do not have to be repaid in kind. Some examples:

    a. Who will let you crash on a sofa or offer up a spare room when you’re in town? Value: $150/night. Cost: a couple hours to clean your place and maybe $50 for extra food and utilities. Buy this person beer or a nice gift for the house as a thank-you.

    b. Who can mind your house, your pets, or your kids when you have to travel or see a doctor unexpectedly?

    c. Who can help you rewrite your resume to find a better job? Who has the network?

    d. Who will call you every week to keep you motivated if you’re laid off and looking? Who will you help in this way? ReplyCancel

  • Lisrelite - So, I'm 38. My husband didn't want kids at all and if we did have them he wanted two. Whereas, I never wanted more than one. However, I had always thought of myself as growing up to be a parent. When I was 35 we went into decision mode… we were at a point where the decision would definitely get made for us, else. We both have time consuming careers, and I at least would like to tilt more toward travel and similar. I do have the kind of high paying and flexible job that could facilitate having children, but I'm also familiar with the research about what children can do to (female) parent careers. And I like my career. At any rate, we decided to get pets as a trial run: a dog and a cat. (My husband is the dog person.) And man, I don't like the whole responsibility of walking and the element of unpredictability that it added to our lives. Add to that the fact that I feel like sometimes I can barely take care of myself…. Now, I am absolutely certain that I'd feel differently about a child than a dog or a cat. But, at the same time, when push came to shove my impetus to have a kid was not strong enough to override my husband's preference plus my own sense of what the responsibility to a child would be and what steps I'd need to take in my career, which were brought home to me with pets (although to a much lesser degree, of course).. And when I thought about reasons to have a child, they seemed to be about me rather than the child – growing as a person, enriching experience, built-in retirement plan, etc. These didn't seem like an appropriate foundation for that decision, somehow. Also, my husband has some crack-brained ideas about child raising (that all involve unrealistic expectations about our ability to dictate life to an individual and separate human being, who needs to be treated judiciously as such in order to, you know, develop as a functional human being) which is an additional inertial factor. He is in many respects an ideal partner, but he has some blank spots. Maybe you can sense the ambivalence and thought and angst I went through in the decision! At any rate, although it is early days yet and I guess it's not theoretically outside the realm of possibility for me to fall pregnant even at this late date, I haven't regretted it. I'd be lying if I said I didn't sometimes still wonder; but it certainly isn't enough for me to go off birth control. ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - Thank you. The ambivalence, in addition to the fear of the unknown… becoming a parent and growing old without children… makes this question so difficult. ReplyCancel

  • Declining Fertility and Contracting Populations: Money, Markets, and Myths - […] because kids are just so damn expensive! Well Heeled shared a great post on the topic yesterday: To Kid Or Not To Kid – How Did You Figure It Out? In a world that seems grossly over-populated, it’s hard to imagine declining birth rates and […]ReplyCancel

  • Sense - Until I long for a kid like I long for a puppy (!), I will not be having children. For me, it is that simple. Good luck with your big decision!! ReplyCancel

  • Sally - Thank you for this post!!! I always wonder how other people are handling the question. I am closer to 31 than 30, and I know we both want kids. I see my partner as such a good dad in the future. But whether we have our own, adopt or even foster, I'm really open to all. I've always kept adoption in mind- like eemusing's friend, I am sometimes worried about whether we will be able to have our own, I have no reason to think so, but I always do, have seen too many stories that are tragic and sad where a couple is destroyed by not being able to have a kid and I don't want that for us, ever. Financially, it also scares the crap out of me, but I know without a doubt I want a family to grow with, and how that will happen, I don't know yet, but it's something I'm looking forward to. We've traveled (and will continue to I hope!), we've partied, we had our crazy 20s, I'm excited/a little terrified for what's next. ReplyCancel

  • Katie - Hi, I’m a long time reader and first time commenter! I am also 29 (but single, sadly!) and had no real desire for kids when I was younger. I work in obstetrics ultrasound and deal a lot with early pregnancy and couples trying for babies. I used to think I’ll leave it until I’m 38 or something to have kids, but now I realise I can’t leave it too late, especially as I know the heartache and difficulty from my patients. I don’t know if it’s just my biological clock kicking in, but I feel there is more of a pressing urgency as we approach the big 30! As a Chinese only child, I think I would prefer to have more than one child as I always wished we had a bigger family and I think a sibling would have been better. ReplyCancel

  • anonymous - We are in the same discussions now. I am 32, married. I ALWAYS thought I wanted kids for sure, even as we were engaged (we've been married a year and a half). Now, all of a sudden, I have what I described to my husband yesterday as "a visceral negative reaction" to the idea. I definitely wasn't trying to deceive my husband, and I know we'll probably end up with kids eventually, but I'm really struggling with it now that we're closer to decision time. I think part of it is that I'm a physician in an inner-city office so I spend a lot of energy dealing with troubled kids during the day, and I also see firsthand the process (and complications) of pregnancy. I'd also have no problem just adopting older kids, but my husband is not into that idea at all.

    Good luck! ReplyCancel

  • Karin - Highly recommend reading Andrew Solomon’s “Far From the Tree,” which shows how most parents, even if they don’t have the “perfect” child they imagined love their children and are so happy to have them in their lives.

    We have one child. Right now he is all we plan on having and I think we can still have great careers, lots of travel and a decent amount of free time along with all the joys (and trials) of parenting. Good luck! ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - Thanks Karin, will request that book from the library now! ReplyCancel

      • Karin - Also check out "One and Only" by Lauren Sandler. I think you'll really enjoy it! ReplyCancel

  • afistfulodollars - My partner and I don't want kids. It never really hit me that it was an option to not have them until University, and when I told my partner at the time that I wasn't sure about getting married or having kids, he basically told me I was talking crazy talk and would change my mind. Needless to say he's not my current partner!

    My boyfriend now has never had the desire to be a parent. I'm an only child, and while I love both my parents (and worry about disappointing them by not making them grandparents, but that is not a good enough reason to bring a child into the world) I worry that if I did have a kid my relationship with it would not be as good as what my parents and I have. I also distinctly remember in biology class in grade 12, seeing a to scale representation of how big a baby actually gets in the womb and I felt sick to my stomach and couldn't ever picture myself pregnant. People tell me all the time that I'd make a great mom because of how organized and meticulous I am, but I'd rather apply those skills in my career than in parenthood. Not having a gap in my employment and also not having the expense of a child is also really appealing to me.

    I did wonder about the "who will take care of me when I'm old?" predicament, but I came to the realization that as not having kids gets more acceptable/common (especially amongst our generation, I'm 27), I think there will be tons of other childless people to hang out with in the retirement homes! And we plan on being a great aunt/uncle to our friends' children, while enjoying giving them back at the end of the day. I'm like Sense above, I long for a puppy like some women long for babies!

    I don't know if I can offer any advice but like many people have said, if you're on the fence you'll find a way to travel with your child and do all the things you love to do, just with a wee one in tow. ReplyCancel

  • Stories That Rocked My Week – #2 | Hassle-Free Savings - […] To Kid or Not to Kid by WellHeeledBlog – I was hooked on this post from the headline, and WHB’s thought process parallels my own so closely that it’s downright eerie. It’s a great read for anyone contemplating the big question (and read the comments if you have time — some great stuff there, too). […]ReplyCancel

  • Bill Nast - Two principles have stuck with me when thinking about this decision. I remember in college, our accounting professor telling us about the "least, latest" principle. Due to the time value of money, which can accrue interest over the years, it's best to postpone payments as late as possible. The second idea is that I've read multiple times is the idea that having lots of kids at a young age is one of the easiest way to ensure financial hardship throughout life.

    These ideas make me want to have 1 or 2 kids when I'm 40 or so. ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I think "having kids young" refer to having kids when you are really young, before your early 20s or so. So I don't think you have to wait until 40 unless that's something you really want. If I become a parent, I want my kids off to college by my early 50s, so that's my benchmark for when to have kids. ReplyCancel

  • plantingourpennies - I basically wrote the same post a year ago (http://www.plantingourpennies.com/storks-everywhere-ifwhen-to-have-kids/) and am not really anywhere closer to figuring it out except for knowing that we don't want any for the next several years. I'll be 35 at the earliest before we ever "try". Figuring that out felt like a win, even though on some level I think I just acted like Congress sidestepping a formal decision on the debt ceiling and passing the buck for a few years. ReplyCancel

  • Deia @ Nomad Wallet - This is something I'm struggling with as well and I have similar thoughts that you do. We're deferring the decision for now.

    Like you, I've never felt maternal. I don't know what to do with kids and I don't even think babies are that cute. I would freely and embarrassingly squeal when I see kittens and puppies, but put a baby in front of me and it would only make me nervous. What am I supposed to do with it? What if it starts crying? What if someone asks me to hold it and I drop it?

    We also don't have the stable environment that a child would need, seeing as we move around so much. Nor do we want to settle down in one location for now. At the same time, the "unschooling"/"homeschooling" thing that some traveling families do doesn't seem like something I could do either.

    The main thing, though, is that I feel like my life is complete and I'm happy. I love that I can decide to do almost anything on a whim. I love that we can take risks without having to worry about how that will impact other people. I also love my relationship with my husband, and knowing that a kid would inevitably change our relationship scares me.

    The only thing we know at this point is that we'll either have one or none. Having seen how our peers are coping with their children, we agree that we don't want the extra responsibilities that come with having multiple kids, but one seems manageable. ReplyCancel

  • erinmal17 - This is something I've been thinking a bit about lately. We want children (we think?), but not for a while. My biggest concerns are being financially prepared and the effect it will have on our marriage. I'm happy where we are, and statistically, a couple's happiness decreases after having children. Is it worth it? I just don't know…

    Thankfully, I'm only 24, and I'm not planning on having kids just yet. Maybe my early thirties? ReplyCancel

  • One Frugal Girl - I think you have to shut yourself into a dark room and listen to your heart. My friends who don't have children always knew they didn't want them. They never questioned that belief. You've written about this topic a number of times before which leads me to believe you are swayed more to have one than not to have one. Are you leaning more in one direction than the other? If so, follow that lead. ReplyCancel

  • Travel brainstorm - If you don't want a child more than anything else, you're not ready and you should wit. let's face it, it's a huge responsibility! To have children is one of the greatest blessings on earth along with marriage and I am blessed to be married with kids. Before kids I could have never imagined the love I would feel for my kids and now that I have three I could never imagine live without them. When you're ready you will know and if you're still analyzing the decision then you are probably not ready :-)


    • Well Heeled Blog - Thanks for dropping by! I've heard this before and I must respectfully disagree. I know many folks who had that "I want a child more than anything" feeling and I also know people who considered it carefully and decided they want to roll the dice on kids, and I don't believe one camp is uniformly happier than the other. ReplyCancel

  • Sara - It's refreshing to know that there are many who are making careful and thoughtful decisions before bringing children into the world. This article in Time Magazine shed some light on the "childfree life". http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9….

    We're very much in the same boat WH. I've been married for a little over a year and turning 30 in June. Another aspect of consideration to throw into the mix of questions is our own aging parents. While mine are already grandparents (thanks to my older sisters), they have yet to meet their grandchild from me. I would love for them to have a relationship with our child(ren) while they are in good health. This particularly applies to my mother-in-law who is slowly but surely losing her eyesight.

    Just thought I'd put that out there in case it applies. Best of luck to you and CB on your decision! ReplyCancel

  • SP - I waver on this a lot. Baby fever hits every now and then, but life is really really good as is, and I know I could have a happy and satisfied life… but I'm def. leaning towards kids. Soonish, even. (

    Do you see any examples of sr. people in your company that make kids work with the job? I don't see much, which makes me take pause.

    Did you read Bridget's post on a related topic? Food for thought! http://www.moneyaftergraduation.com/2014/02/13/deReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - There are some examples, but many of them have stay-at-home spouses. I do see two senior women with multiple kids and whose husbands are in equally busy jobs, so that gives me hope. ReplyCancel

  • CGR - A few thoughts (with a newborn at home my reading comes late these days)…

    - Agree with all others than in your heart of hearts you know whether or not you want children. Right now it seems like you are focusing on what it would look like to be 30, employed in an intense job, with a baby. But flash forward to age 50, as your career is or already has plateued, you look forward to retirement, and you are thinking back on your life. Will you have wanted a child? If so, don't wait.

    - Which leads me to my second point. I was lucky to conceive quickly but I have watched so many friends and family struggle with fertility. Scare tactics toward women on this are not helpful, and it is not true that your fertility suddenly cliffs at age 35, but there are many people who struggle to get pregnant even in their late 20s and early 30s. IF you do want a child, do not wait too long. It is one of life's greatest decisions, and I would not risk it by waiting.

    - And finally, although I am new to this working mom thing, I have found that having a baby just grounds me in a way that I would have liked to be grounded prior to having a baby. I love my job and work in a very intense environment and have a lot of responsibility, but you know what? At 30 and 3 years post-MBA, I'm already getting a little tired of 70-hour weeks, regardless of my baby. I find that having this responsibility at home gives me the courage to say "No" to the things I would have liked to say "No" to anyways. Is being a working mom easy? No way. But I actually think there are increasingly examples of people who do this well, and I actually like being a bit on the forefront of figuring out how this whole thing works.

    In short, even 5 months in, I cannot imagine not being a mom in this lifetime. I fell so incredibly lucky to have this gift. Am I going to travel less over the next ~20 years than I would otherwise? Yes (though we already have his first overseas trip planned and we are committing to one vacation without kids each year). Am I going to have less personal time for working out, catching up with friends, and watching bad TV? Yes (though I am still prioritizing the things that are most important to me). Are kids expensive? God yes, but there is nothing else I'd rather spend my money on. ReplyCancel

  • Clare - My fiancee and I don't want children but I thoroughly enjoyed this post, especially that you mention the danger of having a kid that harms other people. I love children and hope my brother has some that I can "rent." :) ReplyCancel

Flying… it costs big bucks to make a small world

Flying makes my world smaller, and for that, I’m grateful. For this “smaller world,” though, I am also paying big bucks. So far in 2014, I have purchased $3,731.50 worth of flights. This takes care of most of my flying from now until August. I envision another $500-$1,500 more in flying costs before 2014 is over, depending on whether CB and I go somewhere international for Christmas.

small world Flying... it costs big bucks to make a small world

To mitigate airfare costs, I save up my credit card points to convert to miles, I redeem frequent flier miles to get award flights, and I gamely sign up for 24 hour / multiple layover itineraries. Partly in support of future travel, I even got a job that will require frequent business trips (I kid… a little). But mostly, I’ve accepted the fact that I will probably spend a significant percentage of my income on flying. And if I make more money in the future, I will just spend more on flying. Fortunately, I have reined in my proclivity for buying everything in sight at airports.

In fact, I have been on a plane at least once every month, sometimes twice or three times a month. Some of it is to visit CB across the country – despite the hit to my pocket book, our marriage is so much better when we see each other at least once a month. A big chunk will be for our summer trips to Japan and Europe. Despite the angst I sometimes feel for not saving this money, I realize that those dollars – the dollars I spend going somewhere not “here” - really makes me happy.

Of course, there is a lot I don’t like about flying. I don’t like the cramped airplane seating of Economy, I don’t like the bland food (or lack of food that is now on all domestic flights), I don’t like the delays and I don’t like the TSA when they throw away my Greek yogurt because “it has a lotion-y consistency”. Sometimes I don’t like my fellow passengers.

But once I peel away all the complaints and emerge from the fog of rage that can descend when one’s 9:40am departure time gets pushed to 1pm because there is a broken light bulb that needs to be fixed on the plane (true story), I realize that flying is, for all its faults, still pretty damn incredible. It’s amazing to be in New York on Monday night and wake up in Iceland on Tuesday morning, and it’s amazing that I can fly across the country to spend a weekend, and it’s amazing to be able to go places, in a way that people in the fast have never been able to do.

I try to keep a little bit of that wonder and excitement with me, whenever I fly.

What is your favorite thing about flying? How much money do you spend on flights in a year?

  • SavvyFinancialLatina - Hey as long as you can get miles for all the business travel you're doing. It works! ReplyCancel

  • addvodka - I wouldn't say I like flying, but I don't like car or bus travel either. I like being at my destination. The cost of flying from Canada to US or other Canadian cities is insane. ReplyCancel

  • eemusings - I LOVE that initial flurry when the plane leaves the ground. I even kinda enjoy short domestic flights (even if they are expensive, to say NOTHING of what it costs to fly abroad from NZ). But there is nothing good at all about longhaul flights. Our RTW trip convinced me of that. ReplyCancel

  • Well Heeled Blog - Long-hauls are painful. My flight experience is 100% better when I'm in the aisle seat, though, I think I just hate the feeling of being trapped…. which is funny, as we are all trapped in this metal tube in the air! ReplyCancel

  • deardebt - I used to be in an LDR. I was in NYC and my partner in PDX. We saw each other every 2-3 mo, which was hard. We spent a lot more then. Now we are both in PDX and we want to travel more, but both have a lot of student loans. We spend $200-$1000 on flights depending on where we go. I love airports, flying and traveling. It's my biggest motivation to become debt free! ReplyCancel

  • Jenny - Pretty much every time I read one of your travel posts I think about how many miles (and the frequent flyer status that will give you access to regular upgrades) you are going to accumulate once you start your job. I look forward to the reading about the amazing weekend trips and vacations you will be planning then :) ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I hope so. I've given up on accumulating miles / status upgrades for business class – I think those award flights are slowly going the way of the dinosaur, but free flights, even in Economy, have that extra sparkle. :) ReplyCancel

  • Stefanie - There are times I have to fly all the time for work and then there are times when I don't fly for a long time. I'm always willing to spend money on flights to maintain my relationship. The boyfriend left for Europe at the start of 2014 and will be there till June, you better believe I'm saving up for a flight this spring :) ReplyCancel

  • Fehmeen - I don't enjoy flying at all, thanks to lots of delayed flights, uncomfortable food and terrible timings that I experienced in the past. But I do enjoy reaching the destination, seeing new places, trying new foods and so on. You can't have one without the other so one takes it all in stride. ReplyCancel

  • erinmal17 - I love flying, mostly because I hate driving! Cars are terrifying and planes are quicker and way safer!

    This year, I've spent about $1,200 on plane tickets (for myself only, my husband spent about $1,300). This included one trip to Ohio and one last minute plane ticket to Jordan, which really isn't terrible! ReplyCancel

Registered for my first 5K, sticker shock at race entry fees

One of my 2014 goals is to run a 5K race. Last night, I began my first step towards that goal: I ran for a mile without stopping, and then I registered for a local 5K race for $28.25.

My first thought when I saw the amount I’d have to pay? “Race fees are expensive!” Almost $30 seems to me a very high sum for what I imagine will be an hour around a course, but scrolling through different races it seem that number is the going rate. I googled “race fees” and found a blogger Shut Up and Run lamenting the high cost of entry fees – apparently, marathons and 1/2s can cost over $100 to enter! Krystal from Give Me Back My Five Bucks recently explained why running is not a frugal activity – well, now that I’ve had my first taste of a race fee, I can understand why. Talk about sticker shock.

CB and I have talked about running a 5K or maybe even a 10K down the road together. Pedro’s Beer Run in San Francisco looks pretty fun, but it’ll be at $40 for the both of us. Personally, I’m not sure I wouldn’t rather save that money for a tank of gas for a road trip.

Back to this 5K – I registered not so much because I wanted to race, but because I want to be able to run 3 miles on a consistent basis. And that begins with running one 3 mile race, and that begins with having a 5K race on the calendar so that I am motivated to start running. So I paid the fee. Check back with me on February 22 to see how I do.icon smile Registered for my first 5K, sticker shock at race entry fees

Do you run races? How much do you typically pay for a race?

  • Emily - I recently signed up for my first 5K too! It cost me a bloody $40 though. Oh, and that's in Canadian dollars (equating to approx $36 USD). I need to start running; I can NOT run for a mile without stopping.ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - Congrats! You can do it. Last night was the first time in YEARS (maybe even a decade) that I ran for a mile without stopping. But it's a start, right? We'll both get to the 5K. ReplyCancel

  • @Sustainlifeblog - Congrats on signing up WH – and get used to the race fees, they dont get much lower than what you've got right now. Early sign ups help, but they are still expensive. ReplyCancel

  • @lintacious - Avoid big races. There are 5K's for $10 that provide tracked results & water stations but no t-shirts. It's mainly the size of the race that matters (not distance). The NYC half-marathon is $117 and the full marathon is over $200. But this is because they have to shut down half the city, employ police officers, etc. I signed up for a trail marathon last year in Lehigh Valley Pennsylvania that was $45. It didn't require any of the infrastructure costs so it was considerably cheaper. It was also a smaller race as in number of runners and amount of support. It would be "quieter" than a race in nyc. If you want a big race atmosphere, you will have to pay for it.

    Once you start running 3+ miles regularly, it's very difficult to justify the money for a 5K even with friends. ReplyCancel

  • makingsenseofcents - Woohoo! So exciting. I have never ran a race (besides track and field in high school), but I hope to start doing them soon. ReplyCancel

  • newlywedsbudget - It IS expensive to race. When I registered for a half, it was about $80. But because I spent money on it, you bet your butt I didn't quit! You'll probably force yourself to stick with it because you spent money on it, so it's a good investment imho. ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - But once I paid the money, it's sunk cost, so I shouldn't let it affect my decision-making going forward. ;-) ReplyCancel

  • mytoughgirl - My friend and I were just talking about a 5k race. We're going to sign up soon for either March or April race. I did a half-ass one last year and it nearly killed me. So I'm going to actually start running before the race, so I won't almost die this time and make running a habit. ReplyCancel

  • eemusings - I don't really run races, and the cost is a big part of that. I'd back up the suggestions to look for smaller, local ones that are likely to be cheaper. ReplyCancel

  • David - Races are hard and require a lot of money and time. I don't have any of those things right now, but I hope that I will be able to in a few years for a good cause. ReplyCancel

  • @lclindeman - I always part of what I'm paying for is the shirt! I'm a sucker for a t-shirt. But also, I use signing up for races as my motivation, like you said. I am not a great runner, and I don't even particularly love it, but it's a good, efficient way to exercise, and knowing I'll be in a race makes me do it more. Plus I enjoy the camaraderie of races! My philosophy is to not sign up for any races that I can't walk to the starting line of from my apartment. ReplyCancel

  • Jackie K - You paid market rates for a 5K. It seems that in the past couple years, and especially with your post on eating out, you have come to value experiences rather than things. The experience of running amongst a large group on a shared course with a clock is something I enjoy immensely. I don't get to do it often, because fees do add up. However I always add 3-4 race fees per year into my budget. I don't subscribe to a gym and will use workout dvds in my living room if I want a change. If this entry fee becomes a motivator for you to continue running 3 miles consistently, then it was funds well spent!

    Race fees for longer races do vary wildly. I signed up for a road marathon for $60, and have paid over $100 for a half marathon. ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I know $25 is the market rate, hopefully once I finish this first one I can start running 3 miles on my own. Maybe I can grab a few friends who run at my pace and we can do our own "races". ReplyCancel

  • Anon - The race fee shocker is why I only run the occasional charity race – especially if it's not a competitive race. ReplyCancel

Would you invest in the MyRA?

For a personal finance perspective, the most interesting part of Obama’s State of the Union speech was his plan to create a new retirement account: the MyRA.

This account, designed for people who do not have employer-sponsored retirement accounts, can only be used to invest in government bonds. This means that you can’t lose your principal, but you would also miss out on the gains that a stock-based account would likely see.

According to CNN Money:

All workers may invest in the accounts, including those who would like to supplement an existing 401(k) plan, as long as their household income falls below $191,000 a year.

What do you think of the MyRA? I’m intrigued (as I always am by ways to save for retirement), but for now I am focusing on contributing as much as I can to Roth IRA and 401Ks. MyRA also needs some time to get the details fleshed out.

It’s really exciting, though, to have a vehicle that is targeted as people who have traditionally been neglected or left out of investing. Hopefully the MyRA will encourage all of us to pay a little more attention to retirement.

  • Emily @ evolvingPF - Why propose a new plan instead of raising the IRA contribution limits?? Why does it have to be only "workers" who can contribute and will this yet again exclude grad student stipends from fellowships?

    If this were available to me now I wouldn't contribute because we don't even max out our Roth IRAs. Later… maybe, if we've already maxed out IRAs and 401(k)s. But I'd rather just have the IRA contribution limits raises. ReplyCancel

    • Cindy - I agree with Emily. It also feels a little half-hearted; Okay, we'll let you save, but we're not gonna give you the benefit of real growth. If I understand bonds correctly, aren't you basically just keeping up with inflation then? ReplyCancel

  • SavvyFinancialLatina - No. The government is already taking social security from us. Which we will never see. Now, another fund that the government will control. Instead just raise the IRA limits. That makes much more sense!!!ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - Like you I\’d like to see the Roth IRA increase limits as well. One of the reason the MyRA is started is to help people get started with their investments in a risk-free manner – once the balance hits $15,000, it will get rolled over into an IRA. So I do understand why there may be different purposes for the two vehicles.

      Also, while I believe it\’s likely social security will have to be reformed / cut back / means-tested, I highly doubt that \”we will never see\” it again. I think that line of argument is often used to undermine social security, which is a crucial means of support for many elderly people and the disabled. ReplyCancel

      • StackingCash - Absolutely. I cannot stand it when people say that there will be no social security in the future and be defeated. We are all paying for it and better DEMAND it back when the time comes. Otherwise serious consequences will happen. Like a friggin revolution!

  • Finance Squiggle - I wouldn't invest in it. I want total control over what I am investing in. I am a big believer in investing heavily in stocks when you are young, since you want maximum returns and can stomach the risk. And then as time goes on, slowly reducing the risk profile of the portfolio.

    If you look at the G fund, it returned only 1.47% in 2012, losing to inflation. So in purchasing power terms, folks who invested it "lost" money. ReplyCancel

  • jkmaroni - I understand the purpose of having something to bridge the gap for those who don't have an employee sponsored plan, but I wouldn't invest in it. With better accounts like the Roth IRA out there I would pass. It seems that the entity who would most benefit from this is the government, because more people would be buying U.S. bonds. If my employer offered a plan that had a money match option MyRA then I would definitely invest in it. ReplyCancel

  • Survive The Valley - I haven't done much research on MyRA, but anything that helps creates awareness about the importance of retirement savings for the general public is a good initiative in my book. For the majority of the population out there, simple awareness is a huge win, and something that is "riskless" is a good way to start (there is the "risk" that you could be investing your money elsewhere and potentially earn a higher return). It's all about starting early and forming the habit of saving for your future.

    Personally I wouldn't use MyRA, but my sense is that MyRA is not targeted toward me. ReplyCancel

Not Eating Out

I didn’t eat out for the entire week, including the weekend. This may not seem like a big deal to some of you, but this milestone has taken a very concerted effort and a lot of reflection on my part to achieve.

I usually go out to dinners or brunches or coffees for one of 5 reasons:
(1) I want to hang out with my friends,
(2) I don’t want to cook,
(3) I want something specific at a particular restaurant,
(4) it’s a special occasion such as a friend’s birthday or a celebration, or
(5) I’m bored and can’t think of anything else to do.

brunch stuffed portobello mushroom Not Eating Out

Not eating out can be surprisingly delicious

Now I am making a concerted effort to suggest alternatives for (1), have some simple meals on hand for (2), think of other solutions for (5), and reserve my dining out for (3) and (4).

For example, I LOVE hanging out with friends over a meal. But even the cheapest meals start to add up, and eating out every night is far from a healthy habit. In addition, I’ve realized that many times the food really isn’t what I’m looking for when I go to a restaurant. In those cases, I suggest to my friends that we have a potluck or I’ll just host a simple gathering at home. I’ve had 3 potlucks this week, and they’ve been great. I get to cook 1 or 2 dishes, and try many, many different dishes. Here is a sampling of dishes I’ve had this week – all made by myself (or by one of my friends!): chilled carrot-ginger soup, samosas, cheese pastries, braised chicken, salmon, sausage, bacon, omelet, waffles with Nutella, and mimosas. I’ve eaten really well, and I haven’t spent much.

And now that I am cooking more, I am getting better at cooking, and I’m enjoying the process (and more importantly, the results) more than I did before. I’m no master chef, but I’ve realized that I can make many simple meals – especially breakfast/brunch dishes such as the stuffed portobello above- just as well as many of the restaurants with entrees in the $8-$12 range. And with a dishwasher, clean-up is actually fairly quick and painless.

I still love eating out, but I’m trying to reserve those occasions for times when I really want to eat OUT, and not as a default option. I can see that it’ll be more challenging to cook when I start working – as I hate cooking in large batches – but I am hopeful that I’ll figure out something that works for me. It’s fun being creative in the kitchen, and the money saved is big incentive to keep going.

Why do you dine out? Which of my five reasons listed above resonate the most with you?

  • Challenge Mantra - Reasons (1), (3), and (4) resonate the most with me. Nearly every time I've eaten out this week has been to celebrate something with a friend (birthdays, engagement) or to try a new place. I'd also add that I sometimes eat out because I didn't plan ahead well enough to have groceries on hand. ReplyCancel

  • Kara - I would say for me the biggest contributors to excessive eating out are lack of planning combined with laziness. If I get done with work and don't have something already planned to cook, I"m very likely to just say "oh screw it – let's go out". But I will say that eating in and cooking my own food is better for my health and my budget.ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I've tried planning meals and they never work out very well for me – I feel stifled and I hate shopping for a bunch of groceries at once. So instead I try to have some staples in the house – eggs, onions, polenta, maybe mushrooms, cereal. That way I can always whip up an omelet at the very least. ReplyCancel

  • Laura - It's definitely doable even if you work full-time! For one thing, the Crockpot is your friend. You can make a lot of really delicious, healthy meals in it. I spend 30 minutes or so every weekend making a menu plan for the week based on what I have on hand, and then craft a grocery list to fill in the holes. That way, I know exactly what's for dinner every night and know I'll have all the ingredients I need. I use Pinterest a LOT to find quick and easy recipes! Good luck!ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I will probably resort to eating Greek yogurt for 2 meals of the day.. which judging by all the stuff I COULD eat, is probably actually fairly healthy. ReplyCancel

  • Emily - All the above for me. I love eating out! It's a huge vice and budget buster for me. I'm okay with eating out- and even spending good money- for social events or to try a new restaurant, but I tend to do it out of convenience most frequently, which is a habit I am trying to change. It's all these crappy cheap eats that add up.

    Your meal looks fancy and delicious. It'll probably cost you $16 at restaurant. Tax and tip, not included.ReplyCancel

  • makingsenseofcents - I'm usually feeling too lazy to cook. This past week has been BAD when it comes to eating in. We plan on completely changing that this week. ReplyCancel

  • hereverycentcounts - That's awesome and it's great that you've found delicious food to make at home. My boyfriend and I recently discovered that we spend a ridiculous amount of money on eating out — this is mostly because he doesn't have a kitchen and I avoid mine because I don't like to spend time around my roommates (I also dislike having to spend time cleaning up every time I cook!) But when we move in together we're going to try really hard not to eat out. ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - The cleaning up can be a real pain. I've discovered that just having an empty dishwasher helps – I can load the dirty dishes & utensils in as I cook, and then run the dishwasher. It's a shorter process than waiting for the check. ;-) ReplyCancel

  • Adam Kamerer - 2 and 4 are the most common reasons my wife and I go out to eat. We don't mine #4 so much, so 2 is the only one I'm really trying to work against. I've been trying to do more prep work on days when I do feel like cooking, so I can just throw together something quick on the days I don't. Freezer crockpot meals are a nice step in that direction. ReplyCancel

  • Jenny - That stuffed mushroom looks delicious! ReplyCancel

  • mytoughgirl - I have gotten a lot better on not eating out, but before I got married, I used to eat out every single day lunch and dinner. Now I try to cook at least 5 times a week and try to pack lunch at least 3 times a week. No matter what I do, I usually don't cook on Saturday. I just can't get myself to do it unless we have company over. I'm getting better at cooking, but I still don't like to cook. I do it for financial and health reasons. ReplyCancel

  • The Asian Pear - That looks delicious.

    Like you, I find that 1, 4 and 5 are my usual culprits. Part of it is also because I don't have my own space to invite my friends over I think. ReplyCancel

  • addvodka - We dine out quite often, but I've made some huge dietary changes which limits the dining out we CAN do. It's a blessing in disguise. ReplyCancel

  • erinmal17 - I love dining out because I love good food, I don't particularly like cooking, and I don't know how to cook that many things. I spent most of January traveling, so I ate out frequently, so February is all about staying in and cooking. I'm not overly excited about it, but it's necessary! ReplyCancel

  • Friday Faves: Buying a house and bad haircuts | Blonde & Balanced - […] Well Heeled Blog – Not Eating Out […]ReplyCancel

  • Survive The Valley - For us it's really #1 and #3.

    We're pretty good about #2 by both agreeing beforehand that by default Sun.-Thurs. are days that we cook at home. Our weekend social gatherings with friends usually involve eating together at a restaurant, so we're ok with #1 as long as we're not going overboard (~1x/week). We may also go out to eat by ourselves once during the week as well, since for us eating new and interesting cuisines is one of our hobbies/entertainment (don't go out to bars anymore, don't shop for leisure).

    For us it's worked pretty well although ideally I'd still like to reign in the "restaurant" category within Mint! ReplyCancel

How to help a friend in an abusive situation

question mark How to help a friend in an abusive situationHello blog friends, I need some help. I have a friend who is in a relationship with a man who we all thought was nice and charming the first few months that we knew him. It turns out that he has anger issues and has abused my friend physically (she described one instance of pushing and grabbing, leaving bruises) and emotionally (calling her names, criticizing her clothing choices, destroying one of her belongings that he didn’t like).

The other issue is that she is thinking of moving to the country where he lives and thereby leaving all her friends, family, and support network. She will also be financially dependent on him in this new country, as it may take time for her to get a visa, finish school, find a job, etc. The thought of her being financially dependent on and physically isolated by an abusive guy makes my skin crawl.

My friend knows that what he did was wrong, but she says she loves him and does not want to leave. According to her, he is now in therapy to deal with his anger issues and is apologetic about what happened.

I told her she has to walk away from this relationship and cannot turn back.

She listens but does not seem receptive to this message.

What should I do? Are there good books I can send her? How do I get the message across? I am not afraid of being blunt, but I feel very powerless to help/stop her, and I am worried that he will seriously hurt her if she continues with this relationship.

Or am I wrong to say that he cannot change? Shouldn’t people be allowed to change? Will therapy really help him deal with this relationship and is my friend right in giving him (or at least wanting to give him) another chance?

  • Kara - I grew up in a home with an alcoholic abusive father, so that's where my perspective comes from, fwiw.

    The fact that he's going to counseling and is apologetic is meaningless. A lot of abusers go to counseling and know all the right words to say in public and then continue to abuse in private (my father did). He also knew the right counselors to choose to make sure that he came out on the "right" side of the therapy. They also know how to apologize and be contrite and penitent … until the next time.

    Unfortunately there's nothing much more you can do other than express what you've expressed and be there to help her when the pieces fall apart and she needs help. That might mean continuing to keep in contact with her even if she doesn't keep in contact with you (or even appears to try to be rejecting your contact). A lot of times by the time the victim realizes that she needs to get out, she feels that she cant' contact old friends because she "ditched" them years ago and they wont' want to hear from her.

    I'm so sorry than your friend (and you) are going through this. ReplyCancel

  • SavvyFinancialLatina - We should talk. I have similar friend in a situation. Not much you can do except keep repeating it's not right and offering your support. At the end of the day it is still her decision. ReplyCancel

  • @lintacious - Okay he's in therapy. Is she in therapy????? That's the important part. I pretty much think only therapy would give her the self-worth she needs to leave this relationship. ReplyCancel

  • GMC - This post hits home for me. I had a friend that was in a relationship with a guy and it became abusive. She was smart and got a restraining order against him. However, like most girls do, she let him back into her life "just to talk." The night before mother's day in 2006 she was killed brutally by this man in her apartment (she was 20). Now her mom is a huge advocate of preventing and supporting women in abusive relationships.

    Not to say that your friend is in a similar relationship at all, but she deserves better. Under no circumstances should a girl EVER be hit. Great that he is seeking help, but she shouldn't go back to him. Thankfully she doesn't live with him right now. Support her through this time, but let your thoughts be known.

    "Don't marry a man unless you would be proud to have a son exactly like him." ReplyCancel

  • fitnpoor - I was that girl. I was dating a guy who abused me, and no matter how much everyone yelled at me, I was blind to it.

    My advice is that you just need to be there for her. Never push her towards him, but never try to yank her away. I wish I had better advice. I really do. But she will have her wake up call.

    In the meantime, provide her with some alternatives. Invite her out. Suggest participating in new hobbies. Help her find a new job. Take her mind off him. ReplyCancel

  • eemusings - I have not had girlfriends in this position but weirdly know a few guys who have wound up living with physically abusive women. All had the sense to get out eventually except one, who married her because they had a kid together. And no, I doubt he's going to change.

    It seems there really isn't anything you can do except be there as a sounding board and offering your (respectful) opinion, difficult as that is. ReplyCancel

  • Amber - I think abusers can change but I don't think they do change in a relationship where they have already been abusive. On that happy note, I don't think there is anything you can do to change her mind. As a good friend, I think the best you can do is to not shut her out even though she is probably making a bad decision, and to be there for her if she comes around. ReplyCancel

  • Sister Souljah - I agree with #1 – he'll only learn the right things to say in Therapy. But her this book: http://www.amazon.com/But-Never-Hit-Devastating-N…. She should NOT wait until pushing and grabbing escalates to grabbing.

    Also, does she have parents / family? Can't they interfere and talk to her about not moving?? ReplyCancel

  • John O'Neill - It's great that he's in therapy, but I'd suggest she seek some therapy herself. If this is the kind of man she's attracted to (and willing to stay with, despite all she knows about the situation), I suspect she may have some underlying issues of her own that are worth dealing with. My wife's mother was abusive (physically when she was growing up and emotionally when she was an adult). My wife went into therapy 10 years ago to help process her feelings and it has made all the difference in the woman she is today (strong, independent, confident and questioning — she starts grad school this fall).

    Good luck to you and your friend. ReplyCancel

  • Shane - Your friend eventually depending on her partner financially will only make matters worse, I honestly think. It will create a need on her part — the need to stay with the guy even more — and an authority on the other party's side, like he'll feel he's free to do anything by that time since he's the one providing and all. I'd really suggest discouraging your friend on this option or at least, postpone it until she's sure the therapy has really worked. It may be hard leaving someone you've grown fond of, but definitely not comparable to how hard things may turn out due to a wrong decision. ReplyCancel

  • Deia @ Nomad Wallet - That's a tough position to be in. I've never had a friend who is trapped in an abusive relationship, but I have been concerned about friends' partners in the past. When someone's in a relationship, it can be tough for her to see that it's not good for her. I agree with the previous commenters, all you can do is to be a supportive friend who will be there to listen if and when she realizes she wants out. ReplyCancel

  • Pittles - As a psychologist, I’m a firm believer that people have the capacity to change. Whether they’re willing to or not- another story. I agree with what others have said- it would be helpful for her to also get her own individual therapy. That way, she can work through some of the issues that might be keeping her in this relationship and give her a safe space to figure out the next step. That said, the best thing you can do is to be supportive and not abandon her for reasons people have already stated, primarily for the fact that she may one day need someone to help her.ReplyCancel

  • Sally - Be there for her. If you show her you are there and care maybe it will help her make the right choice. Unfortunately this struck a chord because my good friend just covered the story of Sanaz Nezami, http://iranwire.com/en/projects/4290, it will break your heart. Let her be open and hopefully she will not feel like she has no choice. ReplyCancel

Iceland (fascinating, tourist-friendly, and expensive) by the króna

Iceland… what a fascinating place. I’m back from a whirlwind 4.5 day, 3 night trip, and I’m already dreaming of a second visit to Iceland (driving around Iceland on the Ring Road in the summer, maybe with my parents in tow. In fact, National Geographic named Iceland as the best place for a family road trip).

P1020853 1024x683 Iceland (fascinating, tourist friendly, and expensive) by the króna

View from top of Hallgrímskirkja church, the highest point in Reykjavik

Good to know about Iceland (from the perspective of a tourist):

  • It’s a very easy place to be a tourist. Everyone speaks English and 99.99% of things/services can be purchased with credit card. The city of Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital, also has free wifi in most public areas.
  • Iceland is extremely safe – well, from other people (violent crime is almost unheard of and regular police force doesn’t even carry guns), but respect the land and the quick-to-change weather, especially if you get off the main Ring Road around the island and go into the highlands in the interior of Iceland.
  • It’s expensive (but not quite as expensive as you might imagine, looking at Icelandic prices, especially if you are from the U.S.). Also, because of the Icelandic banking collapse of 2008, it’s much less expensive to travel to Iceland now than it would have been any time before 2008.
  • The landscape is incredible.
  • The fish is delicious.
  • You will try to pronounce words in Icelandic. You will fail. Good thing Icelanders speak English.
  • Icelandic horses are the most adorable horses in all of horsekind.
P1020977 1024x683 Iceland (fascinating, tourist friendly, and expensive) by the króna

Beautiful, friendly Icelandic horses

Back to the personal finance bit – most people have heard that Iceland is an expensive destination. Well, those rumors are true – Iceland IS expensive. For the whole trip, I spent a total of $1,418, including a tour package of flight from New York JFK to Iceland, 3 nights at a Centerhotel shared with a friend, and Blue Lagoon, 3 day tours, 1 boat tour, 2 sit-down dinners, 1 sit-down lunch, etc. The $1,418 averages out to $315 per day over 4.5 days, which is not a cheap trip for 1 person. By comparison, CB and I spent $315 per day for the both of us together during our trip to Mexico.

Iceland, however, is not quite as expensive as you might think looking at Icelandic prices because: 1. you don’t have to tip, and 2. all prices include tax. It’s not customary to tip in restaurants or on tours, and in fact the receipts I’ve gotten don’t even have a tip line. For example, I had a very nice lunch of arctic char at the Fish Company for 2590 kronur (plural of króna). At 115 kronur to 1 USD exchange rate, that works out to $22.50 total. It’s the equivalent of a $17.60 dish in the U.S., however, because in the U.S. I would have to pay an additional 28% for tax (~6%-10%) and tip (~18%-20%). So if you are coming from the U.S. and looking at Icelandic prices, keep the tax/tip issue in mind.

For those who are interested in Iceland by the króna, here are some prices as of January 2014 (at 115 kronur to 1 USD):

*I highly recommend all of these places/services – had great experiences with each! My halibut kabob at Sea Baron was my favorite meal in Iceland, and the hot dogs were REALLY good – they are made with lamb and real meat, unlike perhaps the dogs you get might in the States. The Blue Lagoon was much smaller than I had expected, but it was a very cool experience. The milky blue waters are unlike anything I’ve seen before, and the warmth is just perfect for a dip on a cold day.

P1030108 1024x683 Iceland (fascinating, tourist friendly, and expensive) by the króna

the beautiful Blue Lagoon

P1030002 1024x683 Iceland (fascinating, tourist friendly, and expensive) by the króna

Strokkur geyser, reliably giving us a show

P1020927 1024x683 Iceland (fascinating, tourist friendly, and expensive) by the króna

South Coast of Iceland

  • Alicia - Iceland is on my travel list – seeing as I am on the east coast of Canada it isn't too bad to get there. I love all the pictures! Maybe one day I will have my own pictures. ReplyCancel

  • makingsenseofcents - Sounds wonderful! I have been wanting to visit Iceland. Definitely adding this to our list of travels :) ReplyCancel

  • Budget & the Beach - Glad you had such a good time!!! I'm so excited for my own trip now. Any other last minute tips you'd recommend? I already have the shuttle from the airport to the hotel included. Did you see the northern lights? ReplyCancel

  • eemusings - Oh, GOOD, you got to Sea Baron! Meet the old guy by any chance? :) ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - Didn\’t meet him, but saw the creepily life-like statue of him in the corner and for a moment thought he was just sitting there looking at a group of Japanese tourists… haha. ReplyCancel

  • Emily @ evolvingPF - WHAT ABOUT THE NORTHERN LIGHTS?!?! I want to visit iceland someday to see them. :) Thanks for recounting your trip and I'm glad you had such a great time! ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - Unfortunately no Northern Lights (and not for lack of trying). It was just too cloudy the few days we were there. That just means I need to make a second trip back to the Nordic region in the winter – perhaps Akureyi (northern Iceland) or Finland or Norway? But they are even more expensive than Iceland. Oy! ReplyCancel

  • Deia @ Nomad Wallet - Nice photos! Seems like you had a great time. On another note, tipping is my kryptonite. I hate it. It can be really awkward trying to figure out how much is appropriate. I think it's time restaurants pay their servers a living wage and stop placing that responsibility on customers. ReplyCancel

  • John O'Neill - How was your experience with GeoIceLand Tours? My wife and I are going to Iceland in June and are considering their South Coast Tour. Would you recommend it? Great, timely blog.ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - It was a good tour. Especially enjoyed the black sand beaches. Have sent you an email with more details. ReplyCancel

  • Sense - ooh, that is my dream destination! Looks like you had a fantastic time, the pics are amazing! ReplyCancel

  • BrokeMillennial - Your trip sounded great, and reasonably priced for the experience. I absolutely loved Iceland. Easily one of my top three favorite places I've ever been. I asked for some of the Blue Lagoon face mask mud as a birthday present and I've been so diligent about rationing it I still have half a bottle three years later. ReplyCancel

  • hereverycentcounts - Love this post! I really want to go to Iceland one day, now I want to go even more. I just took a $3000 trip to Thailand last year (two weeks long) and it was definitely worth it. Sometimes you just have to splurge to live. Glad you did. :) ReplyCancel

  • Holly@ClubThrifty - It really does look beautiful! My cousin and her family lived there for a few years while they were in the military. They had nothing but wonderful things to say about the country and its beauty. ReplyCancel

  • Anne @ Unique Gifter - That looks like lots of fun! Iceland is on my wishlist, maybe one day I’ll make it there. Those prices aren’t as terrible as I expected, especially as you’re including flights in there. What was the time change for you? ReplyCancel

  • Little House - My parents are traveling to Iceland next weekend and they love fish so they'll be in heaven! ReplyCancel

  • Sunday Link Love (January 27, 2014) - Give Me Back My Five Bucks - […] Well-Heeled went to Iceland, and I got all nostalgic for my trip there in 2012. Makes me want to go back there again… hopefully in the summer. Actually, I might be headed to Europe twice this year, and it would be awesome to be able to tack on a (free) stopover to Iceland on my way back. […]ReplyCancel

  • Erin @ MAL - I just added Iceland to my "to travel" list :). It sounds absolutely amazing!

    Glad you had a great trip :) ReplyCancel

  • The Asian Pear - Wow. Wonderful pictures. I've been thinking of going to Iceland sometime. It's just gorgeous. ReplyCancel

  • deardebt - I went to Iceland last year and am trying really hard to go this year for my 30th birthday. I want to attend the Iceland Airwaves music festival which sounds incredible. ReplyCancel

Paying for a cheaper flight: with layovers, early departures, and general headache

Nothing in life is free. And if you don’t believe that, well, then just try booking a flight to Europe in July, in the height of the high season. What you gain in a reasonable price, you pay for it, with well, everything but money. 

flight Paying for a cheaper flight: with layovers, early departures, and general headache

via wikipedia

CB and I just purchased our round-trip tickets for our 3-week summer European adventure. Rest assured that there will be many budgeting / trip-planning posts to come, but what I want to talk about is saving money by giving up time, convenience, and comfort. And oh, are we doing so on our flights.

Getting from the west coast of USA to Europe is expensive in the summer, but it can be made less expensive if you are willing to compromise. After 3 days of playing around with different websites (Kayak, google.com/flights, ITA Matrix, etc.) and adjusting different dates and arrival/departure cities, I found a fare for $1,225 round-trip, per person, from Los Angeles to London, then from Warsaw back to Los Angeles. This, unfortunately, is just about the best fare I’ve found.

The trick is that our flight back has a 6am departure time and 2 long layovers: 5 hours in Frankfurt and 4 hours in Calgary. We would have spent 24 hours traveling (not including time to and from airports) by the time we finally get back home, and that’s if all flights run on time. By selecting this route over one that only has 1 layover, however, saved us $60/person.

(We did a similar thing on our trip back from Mexico: a 6:30am departure, a 2-hour layover in Houston, and a 7-hour layover in San Francisco that turned into an 8-hour layover when our flight was delayed. It was pretty bad, but we tried to convince ourselves that it wasn’t horrible because at least CB and I had each other to keep company / take turns watching our bags).

Here are a few things that helped me decide yes, we value the savings more than our time, our comfort, and possibly our sanity:

  1. The $120 total saved would pay for 1 night in London.
  2. With a Kindle loaded with several good (free!) books, I can wait A LOT.
  3. I’m not working immediately after the trip, and CB’s school doesn’t start for another month, so even if we somehow get pushed one or two days after we are supposed to return, we’ll be OK.
  4. I’m not working immediately after the trip, and so money is at a premium. In this case, I must sadly conclude that money > time.

Have you taken early flights or multiple layovers to get a cheaper plane ticket? What’s the worst/most inconvenient route you’ve taken and how much did you save?

  • @CSMillennial - We just booked our flights to Europe, too, and had this same debate – what's worth more, money or time? We tried to compromise and balance both. I ended up buying two separate sets of tickets, which saved us money (apparently, there is no cheap way to get directly to Ireland from Atlanta!). It's a long haul on the way out, but I tried making up for the time with a flight that was scheduled during our usual sleep cycle so we'll sleep on the plane.

    I'm okay with one layover, but any more than that and I won't do it. I think I'm probably spoiled living in Atlanta with Hartsfield. There's ALWAYS an option for a direct flight somewhere, and if that's too expensive, a one-stop layover is usually available and much cheaper. ReplyCancel

  • Sally - Wait is that a typo? You only saved $60 per person or $600? I think I would pay the 60 bucks when we're talking intercontinental flights!ReplyCancel

    • eemusings - Me too!

      Assuming that saves you 4 hours of layover, you're paying $15 to gain each hour … which to me at least is worth it when you're looking at 24 hours in flights. ReplyCancel

      • Well Heeled Blog - I wish it were $600! But doing this possibly sanity-crushing route will get us an additional night in London, and I suppose I figured I\’d rather stay in London an extra night than get home in 18 hours instead of 24.

        I wish I could say my time is worth more, but at this point… it really isn\’t. ReplyCancel

  • Emily @ evolvingPF - Early flights, yes, but those are no problem for us in comparison with red eyes. We used to take Sunday night red-eyes from CA to NC a few times a year, but as we became less and less functional at work on Monday, we decided to discontinue the practice before workdays. We also don't opt for more than 1 layover on a domestic flight. I think if we ever get in some international travel, though, we'll be pretty flexible with our time to get the lowest price. ReplyCancel

  • Alicia - I have flown fully across the continent many times, and I hate the layovers. If I can fly straight from TO (or Chicago, New York, etc) it makes for a much more enjoyable flight. I hate the bustle of airports, especially if I am travelling alone – which I usually am since it's work stuff. Personally, I don't think that $60 savings for another wait is worth it, especially on the way home when I'm just longing for my own home. I am a fan of red-eyes though – just a day earlier than I need to be functional. So if I need to get to work on Monday, then I take the Saturday red-eye and have Sunday to re-coup. ReplyCancel

  • makingsenseofcents - It really depends. I will pay less for an early flight, but I prefer non-stop flights over anything else. It all just depends on HOW much I am saving. If it's hundreds of dollars, then I am more willing to go out of my comfort zone. ReplyCancel

  • @lclindeman - I have to say I agree with the commenters who feel that $60 is not worth it for me personally, but I know value is all relative, and you thought this through to come to that decision. For me, $60/person would not convince me to take a flight that was that much less convenient. ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I didn\’t think $60 was worth it either, until I thought that with the $60 x 2 I could pay for an extra night in London (we were originally planning on staying for 3, now we\’ve stretched it to 4). I\’ll just have to have a FANTASTIC time in London to make up for the agony of our return flight. ;-) ReplyCancel

  • SarahN - I hate red eyes when you lose time (as in the time zones mean a 3 hour flight end up losing your whole night's sleep).

    I don't mind early starts from home (cause I know the transport options and how and when they run). When I'm travelling in other countries, I'm very mindful of departure and arrival times. I hate a 24 hour flight (Australia to Europe) with a whole day wait to check in and sleep. So I will pay a little more to have a later flight, or break the flight and have a night in a hotel lay over. Again, if I have time, as you do, then it's completely another story! If I don't have time (like exactly 3 weeks holiday and work the day I arrive home) then I do spend the money to make sure I get sleep to be functional! ReplyCancel

  • nsheils - We almost always choose the easier flight over the cheaper flight up to a couple of hundred dollars. The difference is that we live abroad in the Middle East, so it's the different between traveling for 12 hours with two toddlers and 22 hours with a layover when we go back home to visit. They are finally starting a direct flight to Philly, which means we get to be even closer to home when we arrive and no layover! It's going to cost us about $700 more total, but we're willing to make the sacrafice, especially if I'm flying with them by myself! ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - 2 toddlers! I definitely would've picked a direct flight by all means if I had to take care of 2 toddlers myself. ReplyCancel

  • One Frugal Girl - I wouldn't have paid $60. I don't like layovers or red eyes. I choose the comfort of nonstop every time I can and certainly limit stops when I have no choice in the matter. I would have been willing to cut somewhere else in my budget to find that 60 bucks. ReplyCancel

  • dojo - We try to get direct flights as much as possible, since layovers can sometimes turn nasty. 60 bucks/person wouldn't have made us choose this route. Sure, it's nice to save this money, but spending more hours in airports (having to feed ourselves – which is costly), the stress and problems are not worth the savings.

    We did have a 10 hour layover in Span (didn't get a direct flight from Malaga to my city, so we stayed for 10 hours in Barcelona). While it was cool to be able to visit the city a little (we clearly didn't plan on staying in the airport all this time), we did spend a lot of time and it was very tiresome. Same with a layover in Zurich to connect our NYC and Budapest flights. We had 4 hours there and did a little of sight-seeing, but again, it wasn't easy on us.

    We had to take these solutions since there were no direct flights. Otherwise, we'd always choose a direct flight, even if a bit more expensive. ReplyCancel

  • SP - I can do early flights for international trips, mostly because you get all screwed up on time zones anyway. I've had some long layovers (about 12 hrs in detroit on our way to europe) and I guess I've never really looked at what it has saved me. I've always pretty much just booked the cheapest flight. Sometimes I'll pay a little extra for a direct flight, but departure time and layover length (within reason) don't factor much into the decision. Like you, I'm fine with reading in the airport.

    We booked our most recent vacation on miles for my ticket, and ended up flying SFO -> Denver -> paris, when I'm sure there were direct flights available for some cost. (I also ended up flying back into san jose, which is really inconveinet for where I live! And T was scheduled to fly back into SFO from our connection in LA, but was able to change at the last minute so we could fly together from LA.)

    I guess I was between jobs, but I think I would have done it anyway. It was annoying to take caltrain & bart home, but the ability to go on nice vacations is in part because we spend only where it matters most to us. ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - Exactly. I figured if we can handle the inconvenience, why not save the money so we can stay for an extra day or put that money into the next vacation. How did you like Paris? Should we budget 2 days to Paris in our European trip? ReplyCancel

      • SP - I really LOVED paris. It is a very charming city, very walkable, an the food is amazing. I love the cafe culture, the wine, walking along the river, etc.

        We spent 4 days there (including 1/2 day at Versalles, which you can skip unless you love gardens or ornate palaces) and kept busy every single day. But I love museums, and we could have gone to fewer. (If you only go to one and you are a modern art / impressionist fan this is the best IMO http://www.musee-orangerie.fr)

        I think it has potential to be very crowded in the summer, but that is same as anywhere worth going I suppose. :) So yes, 2 days, or more, depending on your itinerary and what you are interested seeing. Also, you'll probably discover this as your research, but you can get advance tickets for almost everything (museums, eiffel tower, etc.) and you should do it to avoid waiting in line. We got lucky since it was off season. ReplyCancel

        • Well Heeled Blog - We haven\’t budgeted in a Paris visit on this trip, but you might have just convinced me. We can probably steal a day from Berlin and one from Belgium. ReplyCancel

  • SP - Actually, I should note that I pay a lot more attention to arrival time than departure time for international flights. If I can get an "extra day", I will pay more (even though that "extra day" is often spent jet lagged, it is better than on an airport!) ReplyCancel

  • Deia @ Nomad Wallet - That's a lot of layovers! I agree with the previous commenters, $60 seems like a small price to pay to avoid all that hassle, but then if the $120 gets you another night, I might do the same thing too. My husband was traveling from Asia to Montreal and he saved a couple hundred dollars by flying to NYC and taking the Greyhound to Montreal instead. This also allowed him to explore NYC for a few days. Have fun in Europe! ReplyCancel

  • mytoughgirl - If it's a relatively short flight with 1 layover, I'll do it like within US or within North and South America. But other than that, I'd rather pay more to get a direct flight. I hate flying and I hate the airports. It's so stuffy and I get nauseated and headache often in the airports. I need to be out of there as soon as possible. If you can handle it, good for you. But personally, my body can't handle it. ReplyCancel

  • Torsten - ZQV is a neat trick for NYC tickets – just learned that myself :) ReplyCancel

  • Flying… it costs big bucks to make a small world | Well Heeled Blog - […] my credit card points to convert to miles, I redeem frequent flier miles to get award flights, and I gamely sign up for 24 hour / multiple layover itineraries. Partly in support of future travel, I even got a job that will require frequent business trips (I […]ReplyCancel

  • MakintheBacon - My flight to Peru had multiple layovers. It was from Toronto to San Salvador to Lima and then finally Cusco. I spent a bit of time sleeping at the airport. I felt like I was in the amazing race. I don’t remember how much I saved though. All I remember was choosing that flight because it was the cheapest. Two words: never again.

    I will pay the extra money for the direct flight or least number of stops.ReplyCancel

Yucatan Mexico Vacation – by the pesos edition

We stayed in the Yucatan region of Mexico (basing ourselves out of Merida) for a whole week between Christmas and New Year. Our flights cost a shade under $1,100 for round-trip for two, and we spent ~$1,200 on everything in country. We went on a stick canoe tour through a mangrove forest, climbed Mayan pyramids in the middle of jungles, visited churches built from dissembled Mayan pyramids, and powered through 80 degree weather and 100% humidity. It was a great vacation, although a tad less relaxing than I had anticipated.

The Yucatan remains an extremely affordable destination, and represents great value for the dollar/euro/pound, even during the high season of Christmas time. Examples: taxi rides within the city cost less than $5, a great hotel can be had for $80 to $130 a night, and cocktails are less than $3 or $4. 

The dollar to peso exchange rate was close to 1 to 13 when we went. If you are planning a trip to the Yucatan, or are simply curious, here are a sampling of prices as of December 2013:

  • Hotel: We stayed at an adorable bed and breakfast in Merida for about 1,050 pesos/night or $80/night. I’d be happy to share the name of the B&B via email.
  • To/from airport
    • Taxi from Merida airport to Merida Centro: 220 pesos
    • Taxi from Merida Centro to airport: 120 pesos
  • Local transportation (buses, taxis, etc.)
    • 2nd class bus tickets (Oriente), one way:
      • 25 pesos/person from Merida to Izamal
      • 52 pesos/person from Merida to Celestun
    • 1st class bus tickets (ADO), one way:
      • 162 pesos/person from Merida to Valladolid
    • Taxis
      • Most destinations within Merida Centro: 50 pesos
      • Roundtrip taxi from Valladolid city center to Dzitnup Cenotes, with 2 hours wait at the cenotes: 170 pesos
      • Valladolid to Ek Balam, one way, per taxi: 170 pesos
  • Admission prices to Dzitnup Cenote (underwater sinkholes):
    • Cenote Samula: 56 pesos/person
    • Cenote X’keken: 56 pesos/person
    • Life jacket rental: 20 pesos/person (you have to rent separate life jackets at each of the cenotes)
  • Admission prices to ruins:
    • Uxmal: 182 pesos/person
    • Kabah: 42 pesos/person
    • Kinich Kakmo: free
    • Ek Balam: 98 pesos/person
  • Celestun Manglares de Dzinitun tour: 600 pesos for 2 (~2 hour tour), including 100 pesos tip <— I highly recommend this, especially if you speak at least a tiny bit of Spanish. When we went there were no English-speaking guides, but I’ve read previous reviews that indicate you can get an English-speaking guide if you really want to / get lucky.
  • Food
    • La Chaya Maya: 52 pesos for panuchos (appetizer / small main dish), 42 pesos for sopa de lima, 98 pesos for cochinita (main), 18 pesos for non-alcoholic drinks, 35 pesos for cocktails
    • La Palapa in Celestun: 150 pesos for a main dish
    • Rosas y Xocholate: 350-450 pesos for a main dish (we didn’t eat at this place, but did sneak a peek at their menu)
  • Emily - Your holiday vacation sounds wonderful. I still can't believe how affordable it is.

    How come it was less relaxing that you expected? Was it the choice of activities? How were the beaches?ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - It was SO HUMID there. We would use the towels once and they wouldn't dry again. We also were pretty much go go go, because there were a lot of things we wanted to see. I'd say it was 30% relaxation, 70% activity. ReplyCancel

  • makingsenseofcents - Wow definitely sounds like an affordable trip! Sounds like I need to look further into making a trip there. ReplyCancel

  • Challenge Mantra - My husband and I had a destination wedding in Quintana Roo last year, which is pretty close to the Yucatan state. SO gorgeous! We checked out the ruins and cenotes, too, but I would've like to have tried some of your other adventures! ReplyCancel

  • eemusings - Hotels seem surprisingly expensive compared to the prices for other goods!

    Humidity can be a real killer. We have such mild weather in Auckland that basically anywhere else in the world is a bit of a struggle for us to be honest, climatewise. Cambodia was probably the worst – bone dry and so, so dusty. ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - The hotel wasn't cheap by Merida standards, but for what you got it was still great value. We probably could've found places for $60, but they wouldn't be as nice. ReplyCancel

  • Deia @ Nomad Wallet - Whoa, those cocktails and taxi rides are cheap! Sounds like you managed to do a lot of things for a week-long trip. ReplyCancel

  • Corinne - This seems affordable, which is perfect. I should definitely give Yucatan, Mexico a visit. ReplyCancel

2014 goals: Stay the course on finances, race ahead in travel

It’s almost time to say “Happy 2014!” This upcoming year will be one of transition for CB and I – he will have started his full-time grad school, and I will be graduating from my program and starting my full-time job later in the year. I want to keep our 2014 goals simple, achievable, and balanced between what we need to do (save $$$) and what we want to do (go on adventures!), and the title of this post captures my sentiments: stay the course on finance, race ahead in travel. Both are important to me and CB, and in 2014 we’ve decided to tilt the balance ever so slightly towards travel, without jeopardizing our long-term financial security.

2014 goals

1. Finances – save $20,000 in retirement funds

  • $11,000 in Roth IRA for CB and myself (at least $5,500 by December 31, 2014, with the remaining balance by April 15, 2015)
  • $9,000 in 401K for me (assuming I start my full-time position by first of September)

2. Travel – plan and go on several trips this year:

3. Run a 5K race by May

  • and run it for at least 80% of the time, 20% I can walk.icon smile 2014 goals: Stay the course on finances, race ahead in travel
  • Common Sense Millennial - Good luck with your 2014 goals! For the race, try a couch-to-5k program – that will slowly build you up and have you running the whole distance :) ReplyCancel

  • Jeff - Enjoy Japan! My wife and I had a great time there last summer. The tokyo zoo was great, and so was the imperial garden! ReplyCancel

  • Sense - OOOH JAPAN! I loved it, want to go back very badly.

    I second the couch to 5K program, I've combined it with the Zombies Run app and I now really enjoy and look forward to running. Have a 10K coming up in March…

    Best of luck with your goals for 2014!! ReplyCancel

  • Emily @ evolvingPF - Awesome travel plans! Do you have the specifics of your international trips nailed down yet? ReplyCancel

  • makingsenseofcents - I definitely want to do a 5K (or more!) this year. I am guilty of walking a lot :) ReplyCancel

  • erinmal17 - Wow, that's an awesome saving goal! And the travel goals look fab. We are in the process of figuring out our frugal travel plans for 2014. Hopefully, we'll be able to make a lot of trips for just a little bit of money :)

    Happy new year! ReplyCancel

  • Alicia - Good Luck with the goals. I love how many people have goals regarding running in the PF community. I loved the Couch 2 5k. It made it so easy (relatively). ReplyCancel

  • studentdebtsurvivor - All that travel sounds great. I've been trying to make travel more of a priority while we're still young and child-free. I'm also going to focus a little bit more on my retirement savings this year. Last year I was saving about 8% of my salary, but I think I can and should bump that up a little bit. Happy New Year! ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - That\’s my thought as well. Although, when we were at the Mayan pyramids we saw folks in their 60s and 70s climbing the steps just as I was, and faster and more confidently too! Traveling doesn\’t have to stop when you are older. ReplyCancel

  • Deia @ Nomad Wallet - You're going to love Montreal! It's one of my favorite cities ever. :) All the best with your goals! ReplyCancel

  • save.spend.splurge. - MONTREAL?

    I may be in Montreal by the time you're there. If so, let's meet :D ReplyCancel

  • Running race fees are expensive | Well Heeled Blog - […] One of my 2014 goals is to run a 5K race. Last night, I began my first step towards that goal: I ran for a mile without stopping, and then I registered for a local 5K race for $28.25. […]ReplyCancel

How to holiday in Turkey for less

turkey1 How to holiday in Turkey for less

Positioned between Europe and Asia, Turkey is incredibly diverse, with some regions having a European flair, while others taking on more of a Middle Eastern influence. This dichotomy, along with a relatively cheap cost of living, has long made Turkey a haven for tourists.

While the cost to visit has begun to rise (Istanbul, for example) there are still plenty of destinations in Turkey that can be seen for very little. Here are a few ideas and tips on how to find the cheapest holidays to Turkey.

Where to Go

Turkey has a long list of things to see both free and with admission. For instance, a trip to Turkey would not be complete without visiting Izmir. The second largest port in Turkey, this city is a mixture of both old and new. With walking paths in and around the center of the city, getting around is both enjoyable and inexpensive.

A short bus ride away leads to Ephesus, one of the most accessible archaeology sites and the largest excavated site in the world. Here you’ll find the Temple of Hadrian, the Celsus Library, and most famously the Terrace houses on the hill, which hold beautiful mosaics and frescos, some dating back to the 1st century BC.

Antalya is another great Turkish destination, although a little more expensive than Izmir. The largest international sea resort in Turkey, this city houses Hadrian’s gate, with the backdrop of the stunning Mediterranean sea as the backdrop. That, along with its rich history and monuments, has made Antalya the third most visited city in the world.

turkey2 How to holiday in Turkey for less

Plan and Plan some more

It’s ironic in that it seems like the most expensive part of traveling is, well, traveling. The best way to save money is to plan in advance. Public transportation in general is quite cheap, however Turkey covers quite a bit of ground. If you know what cities that you want to see and how long you want to stay at them, you can save a lot of money by booking in advance.

For instance, a flight from Izmir to Antalya can be had during the low season (late spring, early fall) for less than $30. This is also the best time to travel to Turkey as well, as hotels are around 30% less expensive, there are fewer crowds, and the weather is still warm enough to enjoy.

If you prefer the scenic route of travelling and would like to see Turkey by train, planning ahead also saves you money. You can buy a 30 day rail pass in advance, for around $90. This allows you to travel anywhere in Turkey for 30 days. Traveling this way is a bit slower, but also more comfortable and scenic than a bus or plane.

Like many places on the other side of the Atlantic, Turkey can cost a bit to get to, but with such richness of culture, history and food, not to mention the welcoming locals, it’s completely worth it. And once there, you’ll find the country has inexpensive living costs and there are plenty more low-cost attractions to plan your trip around, from the spice markets of Istanbul to the beaches of Bodrum.

Images by Frank Kovalchek and Brian Selson, used under Creative Comms license

  • Jim - Turkey looks interesting, I heard one of the other must visit destinations there are the hot springs. Supposedly, Turkey has a geothermal environment which creates these natural hot springs where people go there soak in them. Never been personally, but from the looks of the photo, it looks quite inviting! Thanks for sharing. ReplyCancel

  • Happy Life And More - I enjoyed reading this post! Turkey is one of the countries next on my list, so it was good to hear about your experience. ReplyCancel

Sharing & renting – collaborative consumption in travel

In the past couple of years, sharing (or person-to-person renting) has become huge in the travel industry. Everything you need on a vacation – accommodations, tours and entertainment, food, and transportation – can be arranged on a sharing basis (or “collaborative consumption“). One plucky writer decides to assemble a vacation in San Francisco by renting from individuals (hat tip to NZMuse and Nomad Wallet), and lives to write about it.

IMG 4306 1024x768 Sharing & renting   collaborative consumption in travel

You can rent everything in this picture! (well, almost)

There are so many forms of sharing across the travel user experience:

  • Accommodations such as AirBnB, OneFineStay, VRBO, etc.
  • Dining options such as HomeDine and EatWith, where you can partake in home-cooked meals for a “suggested donation”
  • Transportation options such as Lyft, Sidecar, Ridejoy
  • Touring options such as likealocalguide, Vayable
  • And if you need someone to watch your four-legged companions while you are jetsetting, you can try out DogVacay (which says it has been described as “the AirBnB of petsitting”).

Out of all of those forms of sharing, I’ve only tried out the first – accommodations. I consider myself a comfortable user of AirBnB, having stayed at more than 8 AirBnB apartments or private rooms across the U.S. I wouldn’t be opposed to signing up for a home-cooked meal or trying out a tour with a local, but my courage (and risk tolerance) runs out at car-sharing. (I hate even borrowing and driving my friends’ cars for fear of getting in an accident).

My favorite part of the new sharing travel economy is the ability to easily rent a house (or an entire apartment) when I travel with my parents. We did this last May, when we went on a family trip to Seattle. I rented a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom bungalow about 4.5 miles north of Pike Place, and we had so much fun in that little house. One night CB and I got take out from the Thai restaurant down the street, and we could sit at home and eat and enjoy, instead of going out for the night.

My parents and I are planning an East Coast US/Canada trip next year, and I will for sure rent houses for us again. Sharing economy, for the win!

Have you tried out any of these collaborative consumption services when you travel?

  • impersonalfinanceroboto - My wife and I are still at the age where it's okay if we crash on someone's couch or blow up mattress for a night or two when visiting a town where we have friends. While I haven't tried any of the "professional" travel sharing services, they do seem to be everywhere these days. The HomeDine option really intrigues me, and I think we will definitely have to try that one out. Thanks for sharing, I had no idea it even existed!ReplyCancel

  • eemusings - I don't really drive so I wouldn't want to privately rent a car but T does all our driving so I'd be okay with that.

    I looked into many of those 'share a meal with locals' but to be honest they were all fairly gourmet with a price to match (to be fair they often include wine, but that's no good to me since I don't drink the stuff) so we didn't do that at all.ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - Agreed. I haven't done a "rent a meal" yet… would probably rather just do potluck with friends or splurge on a nice dinner out. ReplyCancel

  • Emily - I've rented accommodations via AirBnB and VRBO on multiple occasions in both Europe and North America. I've had wonderful experience with both, that it is now the first means of finding accommodations. When my husband and I travel, we tend to stay in once place for at least a week, and we like being able to do laundry (at no extra cost) and cook for. We've also met great AirBnb hosts who'e provided city guides/tips, shared their food, invited us over to their primary living accommodations etc. When we took our baby to France earlier this year, we had a play date with our host and their kids!

    Like you, I draw the line at using someone's vehicle. I am uncomfortable with lending my car to friends/family and even more so with using friends or family's car.ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I haven't tried VRBO yet, but we are planning a Europe trip next year and I might have to start! I love being able to cook breakfast and make a hot tea or chocolate in a rented apartment. ReplyCancel

  • Deia @ Nomad Wallet - Thanks for the mention! The Internet opens up so many new opportunities for people to share resources. I've tried AirBnB and — something the article didn't mention — housesitting. I'm loving these cheap/free options! Like you, I've never tried all the other things in that list, but I'm curious enough to try all of them, except for the meal-sharing thing. I don't know, it just seems weird to go to a stranger's house and eat their cooking and try to make conversation with them. Just seems like a lot of pressure for an introvert like me. :) ReplyCancel

Are you willing to pay a premium for living alone?

Many personal finance advice on saving money mentions the merits of living with a roommate. Sharing an apartment or a house can save big bucks, and may be a necessity in high cost of living areas such as San Francisco or New York City (until you make comfortably into the six-figures or luck into a rent-controlled situation).

The friend whom I stayed with in London lives in a beautiful, one bedroom apartment. She admits that living with a roommate – in a comparable home, similarly located - would save her ~$1,000 on rent a month. By living alone, she is paying a 30-35% premium. But she works long hours and wants to come home to a quiet place to relax and recharge, and is willing and able to pay the premium for living by herself.

That made me think about my living situation. I have always lived with roommates (or CB) except for one glorious year in which I inhabited a charm of a large studio, with gleaming dark wood floors and wall full of windows. At $950/month, that was also my most expensive rent yet. While at school, I pay under $600 for a house share in a gorgeous 3-bedroom townhouse, with my own bathroom and in-unit washer and dryer. I enjoy living with friends and I’m very happy that I get to save some money by having roommates.

After graduation, though, I don’t think I’ll up for sharing my space with a stranger anymore. I’m able to pay the premium for living alone, and fortunately the city I’m moving to doesn’t have an expensive rental market so I wouldn’t save that much money by living with someone else.

Are you (or would you) pay the premium for living alone? How much more money are you paying to live alone than you would with roommates / house-shares?

  • save.spend.splurge. - Yes. A thousand times yes.

    To live with someone.. particularly a stranger, I would need my own floor. Otherwise, I am willing to pay more to not have a stranger near me. Or live in a very tiny studio. ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I'd definitely rather live in a tiny studio than share a place. But in the really expensive COLAs, it's almost never cheaper to live in a studio than to live in a house-share – I guess most people prefer a smaller but more private space and the market prices accordingly. ReplyCancel

  • mytoughgirl - I never lived alone in my life. Before I got married, I couldn't afford it on my own in my area, but another big reason is that I'm too scared to live alone. I get super sensitive with any kind of noice when I'm by myself and I get paranoid thinking either a ghost or a murderer is in the house at night. I know it sounds insane, but I'm too much of a chicken to live by myself. ReplyCancel

  • Brad@RichmondSavers - I personally would not pay a premium for living alone, though I can understand the sentiment since I do enjoy peace and quiet!

    Housing makes up such a huge percentage of a person's budget and to be able to slash that expense in half just to live with someone seems like a good deal to me. For most people this can be their only real path to saving money…

    I was able to live at home for 2 years after graduating college and I seriously saved over $30,000; sure it wasn't glamorous to live with my family, but that money changed the entire course of my life. ReplyCancel

  • Anne - Unique Gifter - Spouse is adamant that we never live with anyone else again. While I like all of the space being my own, I like having lots of people around and the reduced cost is also pretty swell. ReplyCancel

  • EJ - Money Matters - I live in NYC and yes I definitely prefer to pay a premium to live alone. People have mentioned it would be "ideal" to move back home since I am still paying debt and the sort but I just can't. My sanity is more important to me…I will pay that premium any day! ReplyCancel

  • One Frugal Girl - I think living in group houses while in school and shortly after graduation is one of the best and easiest ways to save money. While some of my housemates were in their mid-thirties most of them were in the 20-25 age range. You need a certain mindset to deal with the clutter and mess of others. I'm very glad I lived with others to save money, but I hope I would never have to do it again :) ReplyCancel

  • Eva - Back home (I grew up in Estonia) I either lived on my own or with a boyfriend. People don't share houses or apartments there as they do in London, for example. Having moved to London, apart from the first year when I lived on my own, I have shared since. I don't want to be paying a 30-35% premium. I know that sharing a house/flat is not something I will be doing forever, so that kinda helps too. Also, I have never share with more than 1 or 2 people and I've always had an en suite room which comes with a separate shower/bathroom. So far so good, and I get to keep the money :P ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - An ensuite sounds like a good compromise between living alone and sharing everything. Glad it's working out for you! ReplyCancel

  • eemusings - I have always either lived with flatmates or with T (or both, in two cases!) Never lived alone as a single person – it's just unaffordable here. The rental market is tight here but we didn't want to live with others (not just being newlyweds but because we've done it for long enough before and never want to do it again), so again, paying a little more and getting less for our money, but having privacy. ReplyCancel

  • Anne - I'm also currently searching for a flat in London and it is hard to see how much we have to spent for just a little room. Hopefully this will change – but I have a lot of doubts. ReplyCancel

  • Rebecca - I lived with a roommate throughout college and then for 8 months after college. After I got a teaching job, I got my own place and loved it! I’ve been living on my own for over 1.5 years and wouldn’t change it. Granted I do pay more for rent, I’m someone who enjoys having the place to themselves. To me, the extra rent I pay for privacy is worth it.ReplyCancel

  • Leigh - I definitely pay a premium to live on my own! I really love my space and I can reasonably afford it. I even bought a two bedroom place and live by myself in it :) ReplyCancel

  • Alicia - I've lived alone in a small one bedroom, and I felt so independent and adult (granted I was 23). I loved having my solitary space. I paid $309 more per month for that place than my roommate situation before that. Worth it! ReplyCancel

  • Luke - There was a time I couldn't afford the premium to live alone. So I had roommates. These days, I'm happy to pay the premium because I can afford it… I like living alone, but at some point I expect to share my life with someone else.ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - Or you can pull a Tim Burton & Helena Bonham Carter and live in two separate houses, side-by-side next to each other. ;-) ReplyCancel

  • leeann - Living in the Bay area, rent is crazy high. I've had housemates for many years – I found it frustrating, as most of them were students, and it seemed like an endless parade of advertising and interviewing strangers to live with me. I eventually bought a house, and now I live alone, even though there would be plenty of room to have a tenant, and having a housemate would cut my housing costs nearly in half.
    I'm thoroughly enjoying living alone again though!ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - There\’s nothing like having your own space to retreat to and enjoy. Congrats on making it happen for yourself. ReplyCancel

  • Emily - Yes, but it would depend. I've never lived alone but I do need a lot of alone time. I would sacrifice space and some degree of comfort to live alone. That said, I guess it would depend on the housing market; if it wasn't affordable or even financially wise (as in, eating up too much of my budget), I would live with housemates? I would probably end up being that hermit housemate. ReplyCancel

  • impersonalfinanceroboto - Congrats on being awesome enough to be able to live alone! I definitely use to pay a premium for living alone. I got used to it freshman year of college when my dorm-mate dropped out and I had an entire apartment to myself. Then, I was an idiot and paid a HUGE premium back in Chicago. But now that I'm married, my wife is my roommate, I suppose, and I like her. We definitely wouldn't have a third roommate now that we are married, like I see some couple doing, but we are also smart with how much we can afford now. ReplyCancel

  • Jack @ Enwealthen - I always had housemates in college, although I experimented with living alone after graduation when I got my first real job. It was nice to be able to have your own space, but eventually the cost difference was too much.

    Moreover, once you own your own place, your much more interested in renting out part of it to help pay your mortgage. After years and years of renting and helping my landlord pay for the house, it's a great feeling to have graduated to the other side of that equation. This is something every renter should strive for. ReplyCancel

  • Eric - I once took a 50% rent increase to live alone (given my rent in the first place was insanely low). I absolutely loved the year and a half I lived alone and encourage everyone to try it for at least a year.

    After that place, I said the next roommate I have is someone I intend to marry. It didn't work exactly that way. I bought a 2 bedroom condo and had a roommate for about 18 months there. Then the next roommate I had became my fiance. I won't live alone again, but couldn't imagine a better roommate situation either. ReplyCancel

  • talkcarinsurance - This really depends on two things. First of all where you live and secondly who you live with. If you are living in a low rent area, you can afford to have your own place. This probably make you feel grown up as well. But places like London is very expensive to rent. Even you want to, you may not be able to afford the rents. Even if you do, not much would be left with a fairly good salary. By the way, there are many well earning stock brokers in London who can even rent penthouses alone. If you have good friends, living with roommates can be bonus especially if you cook and together as well. I have had great time sharing a house with my friends at the Uni and recommend to experience it when you are young. ReplyCancel

  • Joe - My next door neighboor has an home office where he goes in the morning and hardly comes out until late at night. He has a large house and could have used any of the rooms as office. Reading some comments, I now understand why he prefers a small room on his own. ReplyCancel

Happier Saving or Spending?

When it comes to saving vs. spending, which activity makes you happier? Ally Bank has published a study that shows folks that saved more tended to say they are happier than folks who didn’t save.

According to Ally’s survey of 1,000+ Americans,

…among those with a savings account, 38 percent report feeling extremely, or very happy, versus 29 percent of those without a savings account.

ALLY Infobyte1 Final Happier Saving or Spending?

Ignoring the fact that Ally’s self interest is in encouraging folks to save more, this finding makes sense to me. Having money saved helps people feel secure or successful, and those tend to create feelings of satisfaction. What I like most about saving money is precisely this feeling of adding to my financial security. I do get a lot of enjoyment out of spending money, though, especially on specific things – a vacation, a good book, the really warm jacket with a hood that I got last Christmas, good food, my favorite foundation and lipstick, etc. Still, it’s always a balancing act in figuring out how I can optimize my happiness with saving and spending.

Do you feel happier saving or spending?

  • deenadollars - I feel happy when I save, too. It is a relatively new thing for me, and I really love to watch that account inch upward. I was not aware of how much more secure I'd feel with a couple paychecks in the bank.

    The statistics nerd in me can't help but react to this infographic though — but you're used to me, so hopefully you can forgive. :) It seems really weird to show people's happiness as a function of the amount they have in their savings without taking into account their income. I mean, of course having $100,000 in savings makes someone happy, but that implies they likely have a career trajectory that provides them with enough income to cover their basic needs, and then some. I'm not making the argument that they don't "deserve" to be happy or that they didn't work hard to save up $100k, of course. I would be interested to see a serious study of this, where savings was measured as a % of a person's income. I imagine that if you have $100k saved when you have a $500k salary feels different than $100k saved at a $20k salary. I'M SUCH A NERDDDDD.

    Thanks for the interesting share! ReplyCancel

  • dojo - We feel good having a 'cushion'. We do splurge on the few things that matter most and are frugal with others. This allows us to enjoy life and still save money. Knowing that we can face a dark tomorrow really makes us more relaxed. ReplyCancel

  • erinmal17 - Well, I do love spending but I feel happier with savings. I don't have a lot of savings right now (just a little in my retirement and emergency savings), but the more I accumulate, the better I feel.

    That said, spending money on dinners out or vacation make me VERY HAPPY as well :) ReplyCancel

  • save.spend.splurge. - Both. A balance works with me. I enjoy spending money (a lot) but I also get a huge sense of satisfaction in saving it, and seeing my net worth go up. ReplyCancel

  • Common Sense Millennial - I have to agree – saving makes me happy! Spending can stress me out and make me feel anxious, both when I'm actually doing it and afterward when I look back at the money that I could have saved! ReplyCancel

  • fitnpoor - I get super excited to see my balance go over a certain amount of money! When we were saving for the wedding, I saved a screen shot when our savings hit 20k! I've never seen that much money before! ReplyCancel

  • stayingonbudget - Saving does make me happy and spending usually only does for a very short period of time–like when I pick the thing out and before I checkout. Savings are there for a much longer period of time! ReplyCancel

  • Budget & the Beach - It's interesting to think that if something made us feel really good, then why aren't we doing it more? I also agree that the main reason it feels good is because I feel a lot more secure and feel less stress. ReplyCancel

  • femmefrugality - Oh, I'm totally a happy saver. I need to increase my income some more so I can stash more away and get even more of those endorphins. I think one thing that might influence that bottom graph is also earnings. While money doesn't always make you happy, having enough of it can influence your feeling of security. If you've got 100k stashed away, you're probably (maybe, but probably) not making $30k/year. So you're not stressing about your day to day needs being met as much. Which is obviously going to make you a happier person. Oh, and by the way, you make enough money to do some investing and turn your saved funds into oodles of money.

    I do totally agree with the study, though. Healthy savings account=happy Femme. ReplyCancel