Wine Tasting With My Girls

Heidi-ho, folks!  I feel out of the PF loop since last week was my first week at the new job, and by the end of the day I just wanted to go home and sob (not really, it’s great).  To make up for it, I had a great weekend full of seeing my roly-poly godson on Friday night, and then going wine tasting with Tonya and Mackenzie!  I met Tonya before during our first half so I knew we’d get along, but I’m happy to report that Mackenzie is every bit as genuine, awesome, and hilarious in real life as she is on her blog!  It was so much fun going to different wineries with them, stuffing our faces with cheese and crackers in the car since it was so windy, and gabbing like we’ve been long-time friends.  There were so many quotable moments, but this was my favorite as we were driving to the next winery (I completely ad-libbed):

Tonya: “Okay, turn right here.”

Mackenzie (about a couple minutes later): “Um, this road is starting to look like one in a horror movie…”

Tonya: “No, the main road is at the end on this map, see?  We’re fine.”

Mackenzie: “I think that’s what the first person who gets killed always says.”

I’m bummed I didn’t meet Mackenzie sooner for more hang time, but I suppose if ever it’s a great reason to visit Portland (yes, girl, I pretty much invited myself over).  And lest you worry since these are PF’ers, Tonya did a fabulous job scoring some 2 for 1 deals (as well as printed out a great map of all the wineries), and we stayed in reasonably priced lodging so that no one was driving home drunk.   I was surprised that the lodging was actually nicer than I thought, considering it received a 2-star rating (because, you know, nothing but the best for us! 😉 ).  I guess it just goes to show that with some reviews, you just gotta take it with a grain of salt.

Other than that, there isn’t much to report, so I’ll keep it short and sweet.  I hope everyone has been doing well and I look forward to catching up with you soon!

Do you like wine?  Or you more of a red or white wine?  Do you like leather in yours like Tonya?  Do you pair it with beef bourguignon like Mackenzie?

My Biggest Money A-ha Moment

fin_lit_carnival_2014Happy Wednesday, everyone!  If you don’t know, April is Financial Literacy Awareness Month, and the lovely Shannon at The Heavy Purse is hosting a carnival on financial literacy and bloggers’ biggest money a-ha moment.  If you’re not familiar with Shannon’s writing (though who in the personal finance subculture isn’t?), she’s a CFP who not only talks about the importance of financial literacy and setting long-term financial goals, but aims to teach her readers about the root of financial problems and methods to manage it. I have learned so much from her posts, and at the risk of being the biggest brown noser on the block, I attribute a significant a-ha moment due to one of her posts.

When I finally resolved to kick my debt to the curb in early 2013, I turned to personal finance blogs for methods, support, and encouragement.  Knowing that people ‘out there’ shared a common goal was a huge motivator for me, since it gave me an outlet to relate to others that I wouldn’t normally have in real life.  It was also eye-opening as there are a ton of blogs and great information out there on the different methods to attack debt, whether it be the strategies behind the snowball vs. avalanche methods, setting a budget, creating a money envelope system, etc.  While all this information was extremely useful in the implementation of my goal, it still felt something missing.  I recall reading a couple of blogs that stated that financial goals and emotions don’t, or rather shouldn’t, mix, and that seemed a bit puzzling to me.  However, since these bloggers obviously had their financial stuff together, I figured if I needed to also get to their level, that I had to learn to extract the emotion out of anything related to finance.

That’s when I came across Shannon’s blog, in particular this post.  She essentially states that money is emotional, but understanding the emotions behind spending or not spending is where you can truly gain financial freedom.  Once I read that post, a few things started to gel with me during this particular ‘a-ha’ moment.  First of all, that the simple acknowledgement of what I was experiencing was really validating, especially coming from a finance expert.  Also, it kind of felt like it was one of these things that seemed to float around in my head, but doesn’t truly click until someone says it in a coherent and understandable way.  It isn’t so much that I had to deny or stop these emotions from occurring, but rather recognize and work through them before acting impulsively.  It might seem really logical to some like my Spock-like husband (and I say that in the most endearing way possible!), but for me it takes some practice.

The biggest take-away from it, though, was when she talked about emotional spending and identifying your triggers.  While I knew that I had a history of overspending because of my emotions, whether it was because I was happy because I got a new job and I “deserved” it or sad because of a break up, I didn’t really make an effort to acknowledge these triggers as the reason behind my bad financial habits.  However, after some practice on identifying these spending triggers, I was also able to identify other emotional triggers when it came to debt repayment, whether it was feeling anxious about ‘missing out’ with friends’ outings or just from debt repayment burnout.  Once I was able to identify these debt repayment triggers, I was then able to figure out the reasons behind these emotions, as well as talked myself through it since I knew my long term goals were more important than these fleeting emotions.  It took some time, but recognizing these emotions and, basically, troubleshooting them was definitely helpful in completing my debt repayment goal.

Even though I no longer have debt, I do understand that being able to identify financial triggers will most likely always play a role in my life.  Whether it’s catching myself falling back into emotional spending (it happens, though infrequently) or, most recently, feeling skittish about now putting all those debt repayments into investing due to the risk involved, at least I’m aware of the emotions that come into play, and take steps to resolve them by realizing how these actions affect my long term goals.  And for me, that’s become a pretty important step in my experience to become more financially literate.

Be sure to check out Shannon’s Carnival on Financial Literacy Awareness – I’m grateful to be a part of this carnival, as well as excited to read about others’ a-ha moments (see what I mean – emotional about everything, I am 😉 ).


You Know What’s Awesome Part 2

Hi everyone!  Back in 2013, I wrote a You Know What’s Awesome post that can be found here.  So what do you say about another round?

1) When you keep forgetting to check the sturdiness of your sports bra hooks, so you hear a ‘pop pop pop’ as all 3 snap off two miles into a run.

2) When this isn’t the first time this has happened, so at least you double bag now!

3) When you get mad at the driver taking their sweet time in front of you, so you change lanes in order to surpass them, only to find out it’s a merge lane that takes you right back behind the driver.

4) When you wake up when you’re supposed to not because of your alarm, but because the person sleeping next to you pooters and it startles you awake.

5) When you change your name at the DMV, and you realize you have to take another picture despite only updating it two months prior.  Because had you known, you would have done something about the femme ‘stache you’ve been rocking and proceeded with other facial landscaping!

6) When you first-world-problem complain about an outfit not looking right because, unlike the models on the website, you have birthing hips so it doesn’t look as sleek, and your husband agrees way too quickly.

What’s been awesome with you lately? 🙂

Honeymoon Part 3 of 3: Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires was B’s part of the honeymoon, as he really enjoys visiting more urban places.  We stayed there for 6 days, and while originally we thought that might be too long and were thinking of making a pit stop to Iguazu Falls, it turned out to be a saving grace as B came down with a nasty stomach bug for a couple of days.  Unfortunately, we did an absolute rookie move and didn’t bring Pepto-Bismol or Tums, but learned that the equivalent of Imodium there is called Suprasec or Loperamida.  I hope this is useful for anyone that might have this while down there, since B took a couple of things that weren’t effective and… well let’s just say we can now laugh about some things that happened (though let’s face it, I laughed during because I’m a bad wifey who enjoys low-brow scenarios). 🙂

Anyway, here’s some highlights and good things to know about Buenos Aires:

Reciprocity fees – U.S. citizens will have to pay a reciprocity fee of $160 per person, and will need to sign up and pay for this online.  LAN, whom we flew with, made sure that we had this document prior to leaving Santiago, and we needed to present it to Customs.  Total cost of fees: $320

Transportation – the subway (subte) is probably the cheapest way to get around quickly ($1 for 2 people one-way), but BA is organized incredibly efficiently where each block is 1 km, so 16 blocks is one mile (as told by our tour guide that I’ll mention later).  Taxis are also relatively cheap, as we took one from La Boca to Puerto Madero, about a 15 minute ride, for about $3.  We were advised to be sure to take taxis that said “Radio Taxi” – not sure why, maybe less scammers?  The biggest hit was the transfer to and from the airport that our Air BnB hosts provided, but since the airport was pretty far from the city, it’s still reasonable.  Total cost for transportation: approximately $95, as we walked a lot.

Housing – we again used Air BnB for this trip, but this time we rented out a studio instead of just a room.  Again, I was super impressed with the studio, as it was more of a vacation rental and felt like a hotel room with the benefit of a kitchenette and rooftop pool.  The views from the balcony weren’t all that great to be honest, but everything else was awesome, clean, and the company who ran it were super nice and helpful when we needed change to do laundry or we needed help with our internet.  The location was great, as well, as it was on the main green line for the subway, and it was pretty easy to walk around everywhere.  Total cost for 6 days including AirBnB fees: $650

Tours/Excursions – the only tours we spent were the voluntary tips for the BA free walking tours.  This was equally amazing as the one in Santiago, and there were two tours available – the A.M. one with Gaston, the founder, who gave a historical and political view of Buenos Aires (plus it was during an exciting time as there was a teacher strike already on its 13th day with a lot of rallies and marches going on), and the P.M. one with Victoria which gave a cultural and social perspective.  I recommend both of them since not only are the guides engaging, but it gives you a great “Porteno” insider look into the city.  Other than this, we also did the touristy thing and bought tickets to a tango show, though we went with a cheaper version at $70/each since most run around $120-140/person.  The food wasn’t very exciting, but there’s definitely no denying that the dancers and musicians were amazingly talented – how women dance in high heels while I’m walking like a clumsy Transformer is simply awe-striking to me.  We also spent an entry fee into MALBA, a museum there, though we happened to go on a Wednesday which is half off normal fees.  Total fees for tours/excursions/shows: approximately $190

Currency – currency is really interesting in BA as they’re currently experiencing inflation of about 30%, so there’s currently two rates – the official rate which was around 8 pesos to the dollar, and the blue market rate which is about 10-11 pesos to the dollar.  If you use your ATM or credit card (as we did the first day), you’ll get charged the official rate, or you can try to exchange your dollars at the blue market.  The blue market is actually still controlled by the government so it doesn’t sound illegal, but unfortunately people, and tourists especially, can receive counterfeit money, so it’s not really advisable to use this unless you know how to distinguish the two.  Thankfully, my dad’s friend happened to be in town while we were there, and helped us get the latter rate in order for our money to go farther (plus he’s the one that gave us the tip on Suprasec).  Also, if you use credit card at restaurants, be sure to have cash for tips, as there’s no line item for that on the receipt.

Food –  food is undoubtedly the BEST part about visiting Argentina, especially if you like steak dinners or cheap eats in general.  The only thing strongly lacking were great breakfast places since most eat light breakfasts and coffees at cafes, which is plentiful there.  Thankfully, Well-Heeled Blog gave me a tip to try Oui Oui, and the breakfast there was so incredibly delicious!  We didn’t get to try as many restaurants out as we would have liked due to B’s condition, but that didn’t stop us from taking in a few steak dinners – two half rib eye steaks, salad, rolls, and bottle of wine for $47 total! – and some Italian eats (lots of Italian restaurants there).  Our favorites were Bahia Madero in Puerto Madero and La Playuca which was only a block from our place.  Oh, and don’t even get me started on the dulce de leche!  From macarons to gelato to cakes to breakfast spreads on croissants – if it had dulce de leche, I shoved it in my mouth!  Total spent on food and drinks for 6 days: approximately $465 for both of us.

Souvenirs – BA has some amazing open air markets during the weekends, but unfortunately that’s when B got sick.  He rallied enough on Sunday morning to go by the one in Recoleta, though, and we found a great tango artwork piece from a local artist.  We don’t usually spend more than $100 on our souvenir so we didn’t get the $200 one we really liked, but we both agreed to get two mini-pieces of something similar since she’s amazingly talented.  Total cost for the two pieces: approximately $120.

People – people in BA reminded me more of NY people versus Santiago’s citizens.  It’s not that they’re not nice, but I think they’re just more like city folk, if that makes sense, and the drivers can be pretty rude, already inching towards you while you’re still trying to get across the street.  There were also a lot more smokers when you’re walking down the street, and it got a little annoying if you wanted to sit outside a cafe and the table behind you lit up a cigarette.  But on the other hand, they’re also really nice if you ask them a question, and our tour guides were awesome.  We also received a lot of advice on pick pocketers and thieves, and while we didn’t experience any of that (thank goodness), we also heeded caution on keeping our bags in front of us even if a backpack, which a lot of people did.  If you’re going there soon, I can offer up a bunch of the other tips they gave us, so just let me know!

Overall, Buenos Aires gave us a great feel of what city life was like.  There’s undoubtedly a lot of great activities, but city life just isn’t for me (and in BA in particular, be sure to look out for dog poo all along the street!) so I was eager to come back home to the more laid back and sprawled out San Diego.  I love traveling and this honeymoon was such a great experience!  I hope you enjoyed the tips and pictures, and let me know if you have any questions!

Honeymoon 2 of 3: Easter Island!

Before I begin, I met The 1500’s!  Mr. and Mrs. 1500 are even more engaging, warm, and witty in person as they are on their blog, and it was such a treat to be able to meet them  (and have Mr. 1500 plant the seed of going to Yosemite after seeing his cool pics).  I say it constantly but I have to say it again – I would have never guessed that I would not only learn so much about personal finance through this blog and reading other blogs, but also meet these amazing people that I wouldn’t have normally encountered! 🙂  Okay, back to the regularly scheduled program:

When we first started this whole honeymoon planning, I bullied made a request to B if we could please visit Easter Island as I’ve been obsessed about it ever since I had to take an art history course where I learned about the Moai statues.  Once I laid my eyes on those amazing creations, I knew it was a place I wanted to visit one day.  He agreed to it easily and wanted to also tack on Santiago since the daily flight to Easter Island flew out of there, as well as Buenos Aires since he prefers visiting cities.  Had we done further research as some of the other Easter Island tourists did, we would have also probably tacked on the weekly flight from Easter Island to Tahiti, as that sounded really amazing.  However, we still got some ‘island time’ with Easter Island, and for the 3 nights of hotel, all tours, and transportation, we spent a combined total of $970.

Here’s some highlights and good things to know about Easter Island:

Reciprocity fees –Easter Island is a territory of Chile, so no reciprocity fee was paid since Chile is now part of the Visa Waiver Program!

Transportation – the only transportation we used were the vans to take us to and from the airport, and during the tours.  Otherwise, the island is pretty small and you can walk around the few blocks of the ‘main’ area.  At night, though, be sure to bring a flashlight, as you share some walkways with the main road and it’s mostly dirt.  Another tourist we met rented out a dirt bike to cruise around the island himself, and it sounds like it’s pretty pricey to do so.

Housing – We stayed at a hotel there that included a breakfast buffet every morning.  Since it’s on an island and pretty rustic (it reminded me a lot of Kauai), it was pretty basic lodging, though it was clean, had modern bathrooms, and A/C.

Tours/Excursions – the tours were undoubtedly the best part of the trip, and I think a must to learn the history and culture of Rapa Nui and the Moai statues.  There’s only about 5 or so tours total, and we did 2 half-day tours and 1 full day tour.  During the tours, you get to learn about the Bird Man competition which seemed like an extreme version of triathlons, how the Moai statues were a tribute to their ancestors and not gods, that they face the island in order to protect their inhabitants, and how all the “randomly placed” statues while walking around the park were really their factory for making the Moais!  You also get to learn how they were able to create them, transport them to and from their places (our guide stated it was something like this), and all sorts of great stories regarding them.  The tours have Spanish, French, and English speaking guides, so communication wasn’t a problem.  This was such an amazing experience and I relished this part of our honeymoon the most!

Currency – the currency is the Chilean Peso, and ATM’s and credit cards can be used with ease.  I think they also accept USD in some places, but we just stuck with CHP.

Food –  Food was pretty pricey in Easter Island at most restaurants, but if you dig a little deeper you can find some great eats for way cheaper.  We ate a delicious chicken sandwich with avocado and cream cheese for around $5, though there’s some places that would also charge $20 for a fish burger with fries.  And of course, pisco sours were present there, so we consumed those daily.  Food and drink cost for 3ish days: approximately $350 since breakfasts were free at the hotel (this was divided with Santiago, but this is a reasonable guesstimate).

Cream cheese, roasted chicken, and avo sandwich

Cream cheese, roasted chicken, and avo sandwich

Souvenirs – there’s some great artisan shops around the main area, but we didn’t really find anything we super liked.  We decided on 5 mini Moai statues made of the volcanic rocks from the island, and we’re going to place them in a framed shadow box.  Total cost not including frames: approximately $14.

People – the tour guides were really nice but we didn’t really talk to anyone else other than tourists.  The tourists were amazing, though, and came from all over the world and were traveling everywhere from Patagonia to Machu Picchu to Antarctica.  It was really enjoyable getting to know other people, plus it gave B and I something to talk about other than ourselves. 🙂

Obviously, this was my favorite part of our honeymoon and despite it being somewhat costly with airfare (around $1300 for both), I have absolutely no regrets going on this awesome adventure!  Final destination – Buenos Aires!