2017 Kid Expenses – Yikes!

Do you track expenses for your kids? Where do you draw the line for things that are expensive but they really, really want to do (if you can afford them but require compromises elsewhere)? If you have older kids, did the expenses get worse? 

Kids are cute, but they are expensive! How expensive for us? Time to find out.

Ending private pre-school helped tremendously, financially speaking. That said, as kids get older they eat more, get pickier on clothes, often have more expensive interests and,  they may even need car insurance from you one day.

In tracking kid costs, I don’t even get into extra travel, cost of extra car, medical and life insurance, extra housing space and utilities, etc. I am focused on direct expenses.

I don’t have much detail for previous years so let me start here, at the end of 2017, when kids are 6 and 8 respectively,  healthy and in public school with no after care.

Holy crap.

2017 (Two) Kid Expenses

Summer Camps $1,400
Tae Kwan Do $1,400
Swim Classes $1,300
Horseback Riding $1,270
School related $1,210
Christmas Presents $700
Entertainment $500
Clothes and Shoes $400
Allowances $240
Babysitting $130
Total $8,550

So yeah….

I have a very hard time saying no to things they really seem to love, especially sports and experiences as my own parents spent a fortune on my professional athletic career. If this required us to go into debt or give up something that was a key life priority, I would then draw a stricter line. For now, we can do with some minor compromises as we are incredibly lucky to have such level of income and expenses to play with AND, the very reason I want to have money in the first place is to be able to have more experiences for me and my loved ones so I never want money itself to be the goal.

2018 Outlook

I thought our kids expenses would go down in 2018 as we finished up swim classes, and my son is about to hit TKD Black Belt. Unfortunately (but happily), they have decided to completely and obsessively fall in love with horseback riding, and that does not come cheap. Eek.

In order to fund this and still meet our reduced overall expenses goal for 2018, we will have to trim our travel budget by $4k in 2018 (we all made the decision together and they understand the compromise, mainly kid travel will be affected) and reduce personal and other odd expenses, mainly for the adults, kid clothes and Christmas presents allowance (about $2k worth).

We are willing to make this change at least one more year, see how much longer their love for horses last and what else they decided to try out. We will adapt accordingly after that.

2018 (Two) Kid Expenses

Horseback Riding $5,000
Summer Camps $1,000
School related $1,500
Tae Kwan Do $600
Christmas Presents $500
Entertainment & Other $400
Clothes & Shoes $260
Allowances $240
Babysitting $100
Swim Classes $0
Total $9,600

2017 First Year Rescue Dog Costs

Pets are not the best for your budget, but, the love you get when entering the room after a day away and your dog jumps on you like you are the most important person ever: priceless!

We always knew we wanted a dog but were scared of the work and responsibility now that finally our kids were becoming a little more independent. Finally, and in alignment with our purposeful living goals, we decided this year is now or never, especially if we want to retire early as nomads.

And so, in early February this year, we rescued a beautiful 9 week old girl, we think Pit-labrador mix but don’t know for sure. She is full of energy and yes, sometimes I wish I had my freedom back but in the end, a great addition to the family. We got her while I was going through a difficult emotional  time so I credit her a lot with helping me keep pushing forward and see the other side. For that, I am extremely grateful.

Before getting her, we did research on costs of ownership and found many general guidelines but not much on specifics. Below are our new puppy expenses for 2017 (from early Feb through Nov actuals, plus December estimates), perhaps it will prove useful to someone else.

It was actually very eye opening to see the numbers! (and makes for a good place to look into spending less for 2018).

2017 First Year Dog Expenses

Boarding/ Training $1,250
Food & Supplies $1,205
Vet/ Meds $400
Dog Purchase $295
Total $3,150

The cost of purchase was steep but it included vaccines and neutering. As for the vet / meds, we don’t have insurance so this is all out of pocket.

Where it really added up was food, supplies and boarding for when we go on vacation. My husband went a little nuts at first and got her a ton of toys, a crate, a bed, and several leashes (she ate 2!) etc. and only the best food for his puppy. This has started to calm down thankfully but he is still totally in love with our girl.

As for boarding, we do travel a lot and put her in a nice place when we leave. We also took her to puppy classes after she ate (and returned in the middle of the night) 3 of our socks, a rug, my only sentimental value book left, the stairs, and my son’s headphones. Hey, at least she helps us with our minimalism!

I don’t want to do the math on how many more months or years we will have to work because when it comes to owning my dog, I prefer to focus on the quality years (and maybe added time) of life she is giving us!

Tell me about your feelings around pets and financials!?

2018 Life Goals

2018 is the year I turn 40! Where does time go?!

Continuing from my life goals for 2017 I present you the 2018 Goals.

This may appear way too rigid to some but I find it incredibly relaxing. This framework helps me purposely focus and accomplish most vs the ‘one day I want to …. and then I never do’ approach that I tried before (and I can’t get time back!). It is also flexible, changing and adapting as life unfolds, or even deciding not to use it at all if it ever becomes a stressful impediment (balance!).

In 2018, the plan is to use this framework to focus and ground me, and to share with you (probably quarterly except for financials and experiences) how things are going, where I struggle, where I need to adapt, etc.

If you would like to try this approach, I created a “how to” guide to help you be very thoughtful and get to the point below (much like I do at work with my staff).

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Health: I need to do way better in the eating department, all else keep doing what I am doing. Despite my best intentions, I don’t go for fruits or veggies so hope juicing as a supplement helps.

Professional: Keep hitting my day job goals. I will also like to focus more on the blog, aiming for one post a week, on average. This is definitely a guide only, I don’t want to add content where it adds no value or it becomes a chore, so this goal will likely evolve a lot.

Relationships:  Purposeful time allocation to those most important to me. This is going well in 2017 so keep doing what I am doing!

Financial: More specifics here, but the summary above hits the major points. The biggest change is our expense side (need to cut $5k from 2017 budget).

We also must complete our will and testament – we have the paperwork just not notarized and with young kids this keeps me up at night.

Wants: Putting money away specifically for our used electric car fund for replacing our old second carUpdate: Our old car died end of November 2017, before we even got to 2018 goals, so we bought a car. I guess we can cross this off the list!

Experiences: What I am MOST excited about and where my planning helped most to do a ton in 2017. Here some ideas for 2018:

  • At least 5 bucket / travel list items:
    • Bali (with husband)
    • Canyoning,  private dinner at own villa & volcano hike (with husband)
    • Colonial Williamsburg (with kids)
    • Snow Tubing, ice skating, sleeping on a dome, theater play (with kids)
  • At least 3 personal challenges:
    • No buying clothes or ‘stuff’ for a year for me except personal hygiene and food items. Experiences and travel are allowed and encouraged.
    • Vegetarian for a month.
    • Reduce closet by 10 items by EOY (without replacing).
    • Rental of convertible (the one thing I failed to complete in 2017!)
  • Five zero waste changes:
    • In 2017, we traded plastic bags for reusables, changed to waste free period pads cups and underwear and entered a journey into minimalism. In 2018 we have to find 5 small changes towards a less wasteful way of living.

Do you have plans for 2018 already or are you a more normal human being that likes to just go with the flow see what life brings? 🙂





Luray Caverns Review

On our drive back south from Washington DC we decided to give Luray Caverns a look. What a great pit stop for the family! We were there for about 4 hours and toured the caverns (largest on the East coast – one hour guided tour), did a maze challenge and joined a high obstacle course adventure. We also visited one of their onsite museums of old cars which was small but very cool.

Even though this was the Saturday after Thanksgiving and it was a little crowded, it was by no means packed or uncomfortably full. If you have not visited and are in the area I highly recommend it!

Overall we stayed a week in DC plus a visit to Luray on our way back. We took advantage of the Marriott package in which you transfer airline miles (aa in our case) plus you get a 7 day gift voucher for a 1-5 category hotel. We also visited a couple of free museums, had included breakfast at the hotel and drove up. All in all we spent under $1,300 for a week vacation for 4 of us. Not bad!




On Holiday Traditions, Christmas Lists & Boundries

Ah the holidays, a time of love, laughter, family and…stress?!

As a kid under 10, I had huge parties and tons of toys both for Christmas and Three Kings Day (Jan 6) but Santa was kind of just a story.

I lived at the beach growing up and traveled a lot so snow is not a thing I care about particularly and I understood other people celebrate different things. My personal favorite holiday was (still is) Day of the Dead. I have also visited friends during Diwali or other days they celebrate, for example, just to learn about who they are. This is fascinating to me and I really appreciate their willingness to share that with me.

For decades though we have done no traditional tree or gifts at all for holidays in my wider family. Very thoughtful gifts for no reason still a go.

I don’t celebrate my birthday with parties since I was 16 and if I do, the “gifts” are almost always food, an experience or travel. I opt instead for small group or 1-1 deep conversations with close friends and my husband. I love few things more than the connection this brings.

Sweet Married Life & Boundries

By 20, it became apparent my then boyfriend would become my life partner, so I tried to adapt to my husband’s family celebratory ways and started following their Christmas (and other) traditions.

I married into a family (except my husband it seems) that loooves holidays – Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, Halloween and 4th of July, birthdays and gift giving overall. And they love Santa. As in loooooove Santa and all the stuff that comes with it – pictures with him at the mall and explaining this to kids in terms of magic and naughty/nice list, Santa ornaments and lights everywhere and all that jazz.

Beyond a very festively decorated house, for Christmas we had gift lists and we each got something for other members of the family from them. And there was family, card playing and lots of food. I noticed though there was not much deep conversations at all, which is essentially what happens in my family so that was an interesting switch.

Since their family pressed that this holiday was incredibly important to them, we went there as many year as we could for almost 10 years instead of to my family – for them, as long as we visited they did not care when.

I honestly quite enjoyed it first few years but quickly realized it was hard to get all my family together at other times and with limited PTO I started seeing less and less of them (different country so not so easy to just go see them for a weekend).

This hit me fully when my dad passed 9 years ago and I realizd how little time I had spent on holidays with him the previous decade. This was fully my choice but I learned to be more thoughtful about how I spend my time now and set and respect my boundaries vs trying to please others.

Additionally, the need to put stuff on that list for me and buying more and more stuff after many nieces and nephews were added to the family, was becoming very stressful and not consistent with the values I wanted for myself and my family. Husband was in full agreement with me.

Having Kids & Going Rogue

Then we had kids.

This made us rethink what was most important to us now and what “our” family traditions were going to be.

And so one year, we put on the list some donation like gifts vs more stuff for us which affectionately earned me (but not my husband?! Lol) the nickname Grinch. I had done the unthinkable! Hey, I thought they would appreciate it as to me it better captures the spirit of the holiday but guess not lol.

We stated doing holidays at our house with our immediate family only or traveling though we still spoiled our kids and husband’s family kept asking for list as they said they loved giving. We complied but we did not feel we needed to buy stuff for others nor did we expect to get anything (we had this conversation with them, they got it).

We still got the occasional comment from his family (and friends to my surprise!) about how we are ruining our kids youth by “killing the magic” with no Santa pictures or that we chose to explain Santa with the actual story of how we have this tradition instead of telling them this is real. I don’t have a problem at all on how other people handle it, so we were really shocked with such strong unsolicited reactions about my family’s view. Oh well.

Finding Our Perfect Balance

Today, (kids 6 and 8) we celebrate Christmas and other holidays on our own at home, we travel and or we have my side of the family over (more similar minded).

As for the list? Major credit to my husbands’ family, after a transition period now they are very respectful and understand we are just different. We still share a list as a compromise as they like to give but they absolutely started getting us experiences vs stuff more and more. Thank you family!

This year our list consists of 4 items for each of us plus a general ask for horseback riding classes gift cards as an option for experiences.

We asked our kids to be very purposeful about what goes there and they don’t have a $ limit per se (until they asked for a horse yikes!) but rather what they really really wanted that was age appropriate (example we said no way to iPhone for 8 year old).

The total max spend this year for all our combined lists will be $800 bucks of which $300 is for a Nintendo Switch which we are funding with the money we made selling stuff in our minimalism journey, and a couple hundred are theater tickets for the family for the year.

I realize this is still a lot of money but we used to spend almost double and keep in mind we buy them nothing really during the year (they pay stuff with allowances which takes them forever).

In addition we ask our kids to work with us on our 2018 travel and bucket experiences list as part of our family gift and we learn about making choices with limited money. We have fun plans ahead!

Today I am finally happy with the balance of celebrating and splurging and my boundaries.

And kids seem pretty happy about it, too! At least they have not yet told me I have ruined their childhood and our nightly “I am grateful for” exercise is still yielding positive results. I will keep you posted though. Just in case I will keep putting some money on their future therapy fund (true story they do have one lol). 😋

Tell me – what are your holiday boundaries? How do you decide on presents? Do you stick to a number or budget? What is your favorite and least favorite part of holidays? Has it changed through the years?



2017 Goals, Travel & Experiences Review

2017 proved a great year in terms of checking off some bucket list items for the family and hitting some major goals!

As a family, we did:

  • Got a rescue dog!
  • All-inclusive at the beach for the first time.  Best deal for a week at the Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta during spring break by using Citi thank you points for 2 tickets, aa miles for the other two and 4 night free of the hotel with our Citi prestige benefit stacked against a hotel promotion of kids 50% off.
  • First family and dog hike! 4 miles.
  • Went camping as a family for the first time, s’mores and all! We followed this with a few short hikes to waterfalls in our area.
  • Stayed at a stationary RV to test it out. A huge win with the kids – place had a hot tub they were very happy.
  • Stayed overnight on a yacht in Charlestown and visited Patriots Point as a family.
  • Stayed overnight at a treehouse!
  • Went indoor rock climbing all together
  • Spent a week in Washington DC and visited Luray Caverns.
  • Kids began formal horseback riding lessons and are completely in love
  • Started our minimalism journey – let go of 3k + items!

For adults:

  • Saw our favorite comedian live
  • I got the tattoos I have wanted for decades
  • My husband took me to see my favorite play!
  • I began monthly massages and facials as part of my self care goal
  • We allowed a babysitter not related to us to stay with out kids for the first time ever while we went on a date
  • Switched to reusable period products and never going back!
  • Donated our old car
  • I went to a shooting range for th first time
  • Killed our financial goals for the year!
  • While I still have some room to grow, most definitively big improvements on physical, spiritual and emotional health, most importantly with a more limited but focused relationships inclusive of being more present with my kids.



Phew, not bad for a year that started out very rocky, which allowed me time to truly focus and make things happen!

How about you? What bucket list items did you do / are you doing by the end of 2017?