February Update

Well it has been a while since my last post.  There has been a lot going on lately.  I had two trips and have been pretty busy at work.  I know I shouldn’t neglect the site like that, but I think the week long vacation in Hawaii really helped me recharge.  My stress level reset while there and I feel more energized right now.

Our trip to Hawaii was fantastic.  We spent most of it at the pool or the beach, so it was relaxing and not nearly as expensive as it could have been if we were on the move each day.  Since our boys are 33 months and 15 months (almost 3 and just past 1), the beach and pool were perfect.  They were up by 6am each day ready to go outside.  Some mornings we ended up in the hot tub because the ocean and pools were too cold that early!

It was the longest I have been away from work in my 15 year career (actually tied for longest with my wedding/honeymoon at 7 work days off).  It was well worth it since I was able to get yard work done and decompress once we got home on Friday.  I had all weekend to get back into the groove.  Unfortunately, the kids did not adjust back to the time change very well.  They have been sleeping in and then staying up late.

Big Travel, Small Money

We were able to leverage a lot of things to save money on the trip to the Marriott Ko Olina Vacation Club.  We also sat through a time share presentation to earn 50,000 Marriott points (worth about $400).

  • We used a new Barclays World Arrival MasterCard for the round trip shuttle to/from the airport and 1 day of a rental car.  The combined $240 was completely reimbursed with part of the 40,000 bonus points we earned on the card.  And we still have 20,000 points left!
  • We had a friend give us a ride to Costco and Target to get groceries.  I used a $70 gift card I had been saving, but we still spent about $250 on groceries
    • The groceries saved us a ton of money and I had fund cooking in the condo
    • We had planned on using our annual Costco rebate, but it showed up in the mail right when we got home from the trip
    • $9 a gallon milk is expensive!  It was under $6 at Costco and that felt like a deal
  • One meal out for the six of us (me, wife, 2 little ones, grandma, and wife’s brother) was $130.  That is with no alcohol.  Crazy expensive!
  • We spent a bunch of money to attend a luau to get the entertainment experience.  The show was great, but the food was bad and they stuck us on the side.  I called the food and beverage manager the next day to ask for a discount, but before I could give a number he said he would take care of it.  He refunded the entire cost of the show to us!  I was shocked, but grateful that he was making it right.  Thumbs up for the Marriott!
  • I previously mentioned how I go us 4 tickets to Honolulu for about $700, so I won’t go over that again, but it was a big factor in saving us money.

Work Travel

I also had a quick trip to Tucson in mid-February.  It was for a small conference with some others that we meet with twice a year.  There are a lot of presentations, but the setting is usually pretty nice.  I got about 1,500 IHG points for the stay at the Westin La Paloma Resort.  I also got a few US Airways miles that will be merged into my American Airlines account soon.  This picture was the view from just outside the meeting rooms.

I really should have taken my wife and kids with me, but since the Hawaii trip was the next week we were trying to save money.  Usually I would take advantage of the work travel and make it a mini vacation as well.

Tucson trip pic 2015

Other News

Some great news to mention also.  We paid off the last of my wife’s student loans in February!  It was amazing how fast the balances disappeared once we started paying extra on them.  The rates on the last couple of loans were around 4.5% (highest were about 6.5% I think), but that was still high enough that I wanted to just get rid of them.  That frees up a lot of cash flow for other things.  Our net worth increase in the MoneyStepper challenge was fantastic, so February was a great month!

One possible use of some of those funds are working on replacing the flooring in our 2,600 square foot house.  We are looking at a dark hand scraped strand bamboo flooring for the main floor.  A rough estimate is about $5,500 for the planks, underlayment, and other materials like transitions and trim.  I have someone that will help me install them.  It should be interesting trying to get that done over a weekend.  With an angled stair case and getting rid of the tiles in the kitchen, we might be living with concrete floors and do it over two weekends.  The first floor is probably 1,300 square feet of area that would have bamboo, so its a big project (not including laundry room or bathroom).  I haven’t done the final measurements yet, so my estimate might change.

I don’t want to put bamboo floors on the stairs or the second floor, so our nasty brown builder grade carpet that is about 8 years old will be replaced with a much heavier weight stain resistant carpet.  The upstairs has 3 bedrooms, a long hallway, and a second family room.  I can’t wait to have nice clean carpet that we can lay on.  This will be outsourced and will probably end up costing close to $5,000 as well.  We will get good padding and the cost to carpet stairs is not cheap.  I don’t want to do the carpet removal this time, so we will probably just move the furniture ourselves to save that cost.

I don’t really want to spend $10,000 on flooring, but the carpet is in pretty bad shape and it was a builder grade plain light brown.  Using high quality materials will pay off if we ever decide to move.  If we don’t, then we should benefit from less allergens by having the bamboo and more comfort with the softer carpet.  At least I will earn some bonuses on a new card or two for these purchases!  That could offset close to $1,000 and maybe more if I did a third card.

Ebates Coupons and Cash Back

Ok, I feel like I got close to catching up.  Anybody else have travel or renovation plans that are conflicting with savings goals?

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5 Responses

  1. Congrats on paying off the wife’s student loans, that is huge!

    Costco and cooking in the condo is the absolute best way to save $ and eat somewhat healthy on vacation. We always try to do the same and Hawaii is so expensive.

    Think of the flooring as an investment in your house. We are saving some money each month to put into the future floor upgrades, it is certainly not cheap.

    • vawt says:

      I want to think of it as an investment, but it is difficult! I think I will enjoy the change, I just need to get over the sticker shock.

  2. Felix Money says:

    Hey, I totally get what you’re saying about neglecting the blog. I’ve been feeling guilty about that too lately. I’ve been working 7 days a week and even though I have the evenings off, I’m usually so exhausted that I just crash.
    Sounds like you had so much fun in Hawaii. I’ve never been, but we love to travel and are thinking to do a trip to Europe this year. And we also want to replace our floors, we have old, stained carpet, and we want to put either tile or wood, maybe this year. It’s expensive, so we’ve been delaying it.
    Also, I wanted to let you know that I’ve nominated you for a Liebster Award here :http://www.mymoneyfesto.com/?p=242
    It’s a way to network and get to know out favorite bloggers better.
    All the best!

    • vawt says:

      I would like to take a trip to Europe at some point as well. My wife has been, but I have not. Being on the west coast makes that a long flight! We would probably want to stay in NY for a day or two to balance it out.

      Thanks for the nomination!

  3. We all need to take some time to recharge the batteries my friend. I always tend to come back doing my best work after a vacation.

    When I first got out of college I had the best boss in the world. He forced his reports to take vacation, because he believed that we would be more useful to him if we took time for ourselves. He said it was the only way he could ensure the highest quality work from us.

    I also here you on paying for home improvements. I struggle with the sticker price all the time. We just try to keep a budget for this type of stuff every year.

    Glad you had a great vacation!

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