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A Paid-for Vacation

March 25, 2017

March 25 - A Paid-for Vacation. And Octupuses.

Hi y’all!

I’m recently back from a vacation to the beautiful area of Monterey, California. It was/is so exquisitely beautiful and I had a great time with family!

Exhibit A: Carmel-by-the-Sea at Sunset.

Late afternoon beach and ocean shot. This pales in comparison to a picture of the same scene my uncle captured with his cell phone but this’ll do for now.

Okay, so. You get the idea that it was beautiful. I loved seeing all the foliage and green, both from afar and up-close. This time of year Utah is remarkably just brown; the snow has melted but the greenifying (that is apparently an actual word!) Spring rains are still ahead.  The food was amazing and we didn’t skimp on calories. Favorites included the samples of clam chowder handed out (poured out rather, then handed out) along the wharf, ice cream in Big Sur, Vietnamese food down the street from our hotel, and a cozy sushi joint in Carmel-by-the-Sea.

One thing that was really cool was that this was my first vacation since becoming debt-free! I have taken vacations in the past 2 years (while paying off debt) and have been good about budgeting for them; this one, however, just felt different since I had no debt waiting for me at home. Zip. Zero. Zilch. I can’t really describe the feeling to you, except to say that I liked it and I want a lifetime of it. Every meal tasted better and our entertainment was just more satisfying without debt payments hanging over my head.

Ice cream time! We’d spent hours planning just the right treat and, while it wasn’t the shake the brother wanted, we were all pretty happy with Lapperts.

Lest you think, however, that my finances are immune to the thing we call “life”, I should share that said glorious vacation kicked off with a dose of financial reality. My car had been logging some items in the Maintenance Minder and I thought this trip would be a nice chance to have those few things taken care of. You know, leave the car there while away so they had all the time needed to do the maintenance without me having to take off work or sit in their small waiting room or borrow the not-awesome loaner boat car. Well, it did indeed work out nicely to leave the ol’ CRV with them but the list of items included in the 105K-mile service was, ah, robust to say the least. The total bill to take care of all recommended services was over $1,100. What?! I had $400 budgeted for car repairs which I naively thought should cover it all (obviously I don’t know what spark plugs alone run much less the serpentine belt). Randy at the mechanic’s called me while I and my brother’s family were waiting to board and he and I had a lovely 20-minute conversation about all the recommended items. During that chat I noticed something. It was the first time in several years that repairs-more-than-expected were not going on a credit card and it made me WAY more curious about everything he was recommending and confident in the conversation. Basically, I was a tougher customer, asking loads of questions and pushing him to explain things in greater detail and questioning the necessity of some of them. The reason? I suspect it was because the $700+ difference was going to be coming out of my Emergency Fund and I found I’m fairly protective of those dollars:)

Selfie with my aunt on Fisherman’s Wharf. This was after sampling clam chowder and before discovering a sea lion lying below us. We’re happy!

Okay, so my car is all fixed up and all the maintenance I put in will help it last lots and lots of years. I know that’s a relief to us all, but let’s go back to the vacation because I’ve got to tell you something. We spent hours at the Monterey Bay Aquarium (very worth the steep admission price) where I marveled at the cleanliness of the facility, the politeness of the employees, and of course the stars of the show, the marine life.  The sea otters were suuuper cute, the feeding in the big tank where the really big fish live was fascinating, and I learned that Pacific white sharks all visit a spot between California and Hawaii known as the “white shark cafe.” Think about that next time you fly debt-free over the ocean to Hawaii, eh?! We also learned (for the second time for me; I’d read a National Geographic article earlier) that no one has ever seen a great white shark mate or give birth. Awesome huh?! Okay, so anyway. Here’s where I build to the climax I know you’ve been waiting for. A nice volunteer docent lady spent 10 minutes with us at the octopus exhibit and WOW. She informed us that adult octopuses (we’re talking big guys) can fit into a pipe 1-2″ in diameter. Said feat is possible because they have no bones in their body and because they’re 90% water. So strange and cool!!! I’m still processing how this is possible but thought I shouldn’t withhold information like that from you.

Speaking of you, how are YOU doing? Having a good Spring? Learning anything interesting about science or nature? Sharks? I’m gaga for shark knowledge so feel free to share! Have you had any more-than-anticipated expenses lately and how’d you cover them? As always, you are so welcome to reach out* and let me know how I can help you succeed financially: always happy to listen and share advice, encouragement, commiseration, and tips!

*As I typed “reach out” I couldn’t help but think of an octopus tentacle, creepily waving about as it reaches out. Shudder. Please don’t reach out like that.