Lifestyle Tip #5: Pay Yourself First

pay yourself first

In theory, I’m a fiscally responsible grown-up. Or at least I think enough of my financial skills to write about them on my blog. I read about a dozen frugality and early retirement blogs regularly, own and have given away copies of “Your Money or Your Life.” I employ the services of a fee-only financial planner, and have never bounced a check or had a bill go into collection. I’m the chief financial officer of our household.

But I’ve got a dark secret.

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Ting, Dinged.

Lindy and I were customers of discount mobile carrier Ting for two months. We’ve switched back to T-Mobile.

I so wanted to like Ting. The concept was right up my alley: a frugal way to do cell phone service. To me, frugality means not paying for things you don’t need and not paying too much for the things you do. That’s exactly how Ting markets itself.

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Lifestyle Tip #4: Use Amazon Prime

We’ve covered uniforms, gear bags and meal plans. This week’s edition of how I keep my head on straight: I rely heavily on the service known as Amazon Prime.

Is this blog becoming a place for paid shilling? No, Amazon didn’t pay me to write this. And yes, it’s true that if any of the tens of readers of this blog sign up for a Prime trial or use my affiliate links, I’ll make a buck or two. But I’m not such an easy endorser. Amazon Prime has made my hectic life much easier in so many ways, any one of which could be worth the $99 annual price.

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Why I run.

why i run

Much earlier today, Lindy and XY enjoyed a hotel breakfast while I took to the trail. On a perfect 50-degree morning in suburban Hartford, I pounded out nearly seven solitary, fast and enjoyable miles. I had Cory Booker in my ears, and only the occasional baby squirrel or passing cyclist for company.

Moments like these are why I run.

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Lifestyle Tip #2: Make a Meal Plan

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Yesterday evening, I ran out and got XY some Chinese takeout for dinner before the babysitter came over. Why? Because we couldn’t get into the kitchen to feed the kid. We’ve been having the kitchen floor re-tiled, which is a three-day job. The last-minute scramble, minus the tiles, probably sounds familiar to a lot of working parents. But it’s a very unusual thing for us, by design.

Avoiding situations like last-minute takeout food, with its high cost, extra packaging and often dubious nutritional value, is exactly why we make a meal plan every week.

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RVing: the new travel adventure, part four

First of all, everyone is fine.

We’re all back home in the DC area and have returned to school and work. I realized from re-reading the end of my last post that I left the door open for more daily updates. Then I didn’t post again until now. We heard from a couple of relieved friends and family members after contacting them directly when we got back. I’m sorry if I left anyone with the impression that we’d gone Fastball or Alive. Really, it was a wonderful trip.

Alan, Lindy, RVShortly after my last update, we took off for another several hours of driving through the flat cell phone dead zone that is most of Nebraska and eastern Colorado. Then we suddenly realized we were in the mountains. It wasn’t long before we ended up at our destination in Boulder, where the RV sat in the driveway from Saturday afternoon until we returned it Monday. We had a great time catching up with old friends for a couple of days.

So… back to the RV.

I was able to fill up the propane at a local U-Haul outlet in Boulder, two gallons for the three days of refrigerator use along the way. The RV return was uneventful, and the technician who checked me in was kind enough to note that we weren’t the first customers to point out a detached dinette table in a Cruise America RV. He seemed thankful when I told him the screws were in the cupholder.

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If you’re curious, here’s what the inside of a small Class C RV looks like. There’s a bunk bed on top of the cab, which is where the two grownups slept. A dinette converts into a second bed, which is where the kid slept. In larger models, there is also a permanent bed in the back. We didn’t have this. A small kitchen with microwave, two-burner cooktop and refrigerator-freezer are in the back, along with a wet bath. For the uninitiated, a “wet” RV bath has the toilet, sink and shower in a single room that gets wet when you take a shower. A “dry” bath has a separate shower with a door or a curtain. Ours was the wet kind, owing to the small 19-foot size of the RV. Dry baths are much more common in Class Cs, while wet baths are almost always found in the smaller Class B campers. None of this mattered on our trip, because the freezing nighttime weather meant we couldn’t run any water through the shower anyway. The two campsite showers were plenty roomy and hot.

All three of us emerged from this trip wanting to drive an RV again sometime, and leaning toward trying to buy one someday. I learned I wouldn’t want to own a conventional Class C because the cab-over design — which hasn’t changed much in decades — makes for terrible aerodynamics. This means the windy driving peril I described in my first post, and gas mileage that never got beyond the single digits. I’d prefer a B or a “B+” like the Winnebago Travato or Trend.

My favorite moment on the road belongs to my daughter, as so many moments do these days. You’ll recall we got to our first campsite very, very late. She was already asleep for a couple hours when we pulled in and parked. Lindy and I fumbled around with the dinette and got it converted to the bed, then moved XY over from where she had been sitting. She slept some more.

Then suddenly, as I was putting away some luggage in the cabin, she woke up with an urgent need for information that apparently couldn’t wait for morning.

Her: “Where’s Mama?”
Me: “In the bathroom.”
Her: “And who’s driving this RV?”

Fair question. She must’ve liked the answer, because she was asleep again seconds later.

After our road adventure and two days in Boulder, we had an uneventful flight from Denver back to the DC area and got back to life as usual.

Thanks for reading! I’ll have my first post about a lifestyle tip — clothing, in fact — in a couple of days.

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RVing: the new travel adventure, part three

Kearney, Nebraska

Good morning from blustery Kearney, Neb., where I’m sitting inside a toasty RV and waiting for my two passengers to come back from the showers. Never having spent any time at RV parks before this trip, I guess I didn’t give a second thought to what it would take to set one up. As you can see from the picture, it’s just a series of concrete slabs with electrical, water and sewer hookups. Add a building with some shower and laundry facilities, put in a wi-fi router, and drop the whole thing down within a mile of a major interstate. That’s all.

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