Travel Finance

I started my next post on our trip to California and was suddenly all, “Crap. Should I do this chronologically or leave the latest update on our quest to reach the Griffith Observatory for the end of the post?” And I stopped there.

So instead of doing that, I’ll do this.*

My 16-year-old dog and 17-year-old cat are perking along, more or less. It’s expensive to keep animals this age going and that’s really eaten into my travel budget because my travel budget comes out of my allowance. I pay myself an allowance, and any money I have left in that budget at the end of the month used to go towards travel. Now half goes to vet bills and half goes to travel, which is nearly $1,000 that I’m short for my 2018 trip.

We’re going to end up doing the trip I outlined back in August driving into New Mexico for a couple of days, except even more scaled-back. We go to at least one branch of the National Park Service every year, and Carlsbad Caverns National Park is only about seven hours away by car. So that’s our first day in New Mexico. Our second day, we’ll visit White Sands National Monument and spend the night in Las Cruces. Then we’ll drive north up towards Taos. One of my friends has a hotel that she recommends up by Santa Fe, so we’ll probably stop there for the night. The Wild Earth Llama Adventures people recommend staying in Taos for a couple of days to get acclimated to the elevation before the camping trip. We don’t have the money for that, plus the camping trip would be $800+ for the two of us. I’m going to call the Wild Earth people and ask about their llama day trips. If they’re less strenuous and we could do it in a one-day Taos stop, I’ll shell out the $250 for us to do that. If not, we’ll just knock around Santa Fe and Taos for a day. Then our final day in New Mexico, I would like to drive into Colorado just to do it, because at this point, Colorado will be a lone unvisited island in the center of Utah, Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. In other words, I’ll’ve been to all of the states that surround Colorado, but never actually to Colorado itself. If not, well, we’ll do a Colorado trip some other time.  Our final stop will be Capulin Volcano National Monument (which will take care of our every-even-numbered-year volcano), and then we’ll head for home, stopping for the night in, probably, Lubbock.

I’ve passed the $500 mark on paying myself for my language studies, and with the final $200-ish, I’ve purchased my first share of stock. I was ready just as the bottom dropped out of the market this last couple of weeks, but it looked like that stock was about to rebound, so I bought. And then the price dropped farther. It doesn’t matter, though. I’m an investor, not a speculator, so just so long as I hold my current position, I should come out plenty of money ahead in the long run.

I want to go back to tutoring foreign languages this year (I was my junior college’s Spanish and German tutor back in the day) and get more experience so that I can get closer to my goal, which is to be able to work translating children’s books out of any of my assorted target languages into English. The money from that will be put in with the money I’m paying myself to study and all of that will go towards what I guess I’d call my “stretch goal,” which is to get a graduate degree in a modern language. By my calculations I only have $15,500 to go.

*I will get back to California eventually. Hopefully in the next day or two. Probably.

Well, a temp-to-perm assignment, for the time being. I’m still working as a pharmacy technician, but won’t be in retail anymore. Well, I’ll still be in retail part-time for at least the next few months, because I won’t be able to afford the COBRA payments if I were to leave completely. Instead I’m going to work at least enough hours to meet my share of the insurance payments until I can get on my new employer’s insurance. After that, I may decide to continue working at my old job part-time, because I like money. Also, did you see the words “temp-to-perm” up there? If I’m not a good match, I don’t want to end up completely without a job. So if it doesn’t work out I can always go back to my old retail job.

I really, really want it to work out, though.

What does that mean for this blog? Well, I’ll have more weekends off for travel, and even as a temp, I’ll be making about 110% of what I’m making at the retail job. If I stay on after the initial three months, and my pay goes up as much as the temp agency guy says it will, then I’ll be making 130% of what I’m making now. This means that I might be able to go back to putting a little money aside every week for an international trip in the next few years. Also, my day will now be ending, at a minimum, two hours earlier than it is now, so that will hopefully translate into (a) visiting museums and parks and things in the evening sometimes, and (b) more energy for blogging in general.

I’m still just so nervous, though. I accidentally discovered the off-label use of propranolol for anxiety (I was prescribed it to prevent migraines) when I was in and just out of college. I wonder if I could get away with intentionally using a beta-blocker that way.

So I’m getting a new one in the next few weeks — giving a cat insulin.

One of my cats has had inflammatory bowel disease since 2011. In 2015, his IBD got a lot worse and we ended up putting him on prednisone, a move that I had put off as long as possible, since prednisone can cause cats to develop diabetes.

Last week, nearly two years after we put him on the prednisone, my vet did some blood work on him and found that his blood sugar was elevated. I brought him back in so that the vet could check his urine on Thursday of this week. The vet examined him and he was alert and his coat was shiny, and his liver felt good (cats who have diabetes tend to be lethargic, have ratty-looking coats, and have enlarged livers), so she told me that she didn’t think he had diabetes.

Well, there was sugar in his urine. So we’re going to have to take him off the prednisone and put him on a new anti-inflammatory medication and also put him on insulin. There is a greater than 0% chance that the diabetes may to into remission, assuming that the diabetes was caused by the prednisone.

The new anti-inflammatory is likely to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $70 per month, and so will the insulin. This is going to eat into my travel budget. I will probably have to economize on lunches and such (looks like I’ll be making tea for my lunch for the foreseeable future) in hopes that I can keep both the travel and the cat. If it comes down to it, though, the travel will be the thing that has to give.

I may eventually give in and put some Google ads on this page or something, in hopes that I’ll get enough money from that to make up the difference. And this may be the thing that leads me to start promoting this blog.

On the other hand, perhaps this will drive me to curl up in the corner in a fetal position and just hide there for a while.

Frankly, I don’t know.  I keep reading about people who get comped meals and hotel rooms and things so that the blogging helps pay for their travel.  And that might be great for them, but it would make me uncomfortable. Besides that, as someone who’s taster-gene impaired, I really don’t think I’d give my readers a good idea of the food at restaurants.

Although, since I work in a retail pharmacy, I sure could use some help paying for travel.  As you’ve probably noticed, I haven’t really done anything to monetize this thing. I’m just not sure I have enough of value to do so yet.

When will I feel that I have?  I’m not sure.  Possibly after I get back from vacation in two-ish weeks and have that trip written up, maybe not even then. I would, ideally, like to find some kind of audience and I fear that having ads on the blog might impede that.  On the other hand, perhaps the ads should be in place when I find the audience to begin with.

Should I experiment with clickbait titles? How could I make a clickbait title out of the Witte Museum, or Walker Ranch Historic Landmark Park?  Or even Yellowstone? Well, maybe I’ll have “Three Encounters with Wildlife at Yellowstone” or even “Three Encounters with Wild Life in West Yellowstone” or something of that nature.

Fortunately, I don’t have to make any big decisions.  I’m just navel-gazing at this point.

Previously, I explained how I’m adapting the 52-week money challenge to allow me to travel to farther-off places than I might otherwise be able to go.  However, I just realized that I never went over how I, with a job in retail, can afford to travel at all.

When my now-ex and I split up, I had been through a lot.  I had had cancer, my mother had died, and then my marriage had ended (and with it, my hopes of ever having a second child).  I was a little depressed during the final days of my marriage, and after my marriage ended, the depression got even worse.  I found it hard to do things like get out of bed, much less getting the energy together to cook.

But I didn’t have enough money to go out to eat daily, plus with my history of cancer, I really needed to “eat in” as much as possible. So I came up with a scheme.  For every day I cooked, I would put a certain amount of money aside.  This dollar amount was about half of what I estimated that a restaurant meal would have cost for Alex and me.

Eventually, that money grew into a regular allowance.  Entertainment, restaurant food, and work snacks and lunches all come out of that allowance. At the end of the month, anything left of my allowance gets transferred into my vacation fund account.  If I stopped spending anything on entertainment, restaurant food, or work food, I could probably afford to go to Europe every other year, just based on that money.  Unfortunately, I do still eat work lunches, and Alex and I do go to the occasional movie or restaurant.  But still, it adds up.

Oh, and by the way, despite having been given six raises (one per year) and three promotions, I’ve never given my allowance a raise.  I have considered it, but I’m used to doing the math based on that number and I don’t know how I would adjust it to make it as easy to keep track of. Maybe someday I’ll be able to work it out.

You know that 52-week money challenge thing that goes around once in a while, particularly towards Christmas?  Well I use a similar approach to save up for bigger trips.  The 330 weeks I mention in the subject line is how long it will take me from my start just about a year ago to save up the money for a planned trip to China in 2021.  I started studying Mandarin in 2007 in hopes of one day taking a trip to China, but it never worked out, so I have tentatively scheduled this long-awaited trip for 2021. At the moment, I have two other trips planned that I am using a similar approach, one to Germany and one to New Zealand, between now and 2021.

And before you ask, I’m not ever going to put $330 aside in one week. The plan goes something like this.  For a trip to China, I figured that $10,000 should do it (and checking Expedia, it looks like I can do it much more cheaply than that, but you never know what will happen to prices over the next five years).  So I counted the weeks between the date I started and the end of December 2020 (since I want to book the trip around six months in advance, plus I made this calculation using San Antonio and Shanghai as my endpoints and I hope to do a bit more traveling around the country than that, which will raise the cost) and got 330 weeks.  Dividing $10,000 into 330 weeks gives me an average amount of just a little more than $30 per week, so my first week will be $1 and my final week should be $60 (though it won’t, as we will see).  Since 330 divided by 60 is 5.5, I will round down and start at $1 the first five weeks and go up $1 every five weeks after that.  This will mean that my final five weeks will be $66, rather than $60.  At the end of those 330 weeks, I will have a little more than $11,000.

And you know what?  If my trip to China doesn’t end up costing me $11,000, then I can use that money on another trip.  I want to return to Naples (I loved Naples — more on that later) to see the blood miracle of San Gennaro in the early 2020s as well, so that seems like it might be a good use of any extra money.

Additionally, in practice, it doesn’t always work out so perfectly, since sometimes money is a little tighter than others and I end up having to carry that week’s amount forward another week or two to tide me over.  But, in theory, I should have plenty of money to do whatever travel I want to do in China saved up in plenty of time for the trip I hope to make.

I am also doing a reverse version of this to save up for smaller trips.  I chose a dollar amount as a maximum and I am counting down in reverse from that amount, decreasing every two or three weeks, depending on my financial state that week.  This money added up quickly and if I suffer some kind of financial setback, the money is already there for me to use on a smaller weekend trip sometime in the future. The thought occurs that I should go to Mexico at some point, speaking of travel to countries where I speak the language. Mexico is, after all, right there. I went to Nuevo Laredo once in the 1990s, but have never been farther into the country than that.