Frugal Friday: Free Summer Fun 

By on May 5, 2017

Hey, guys! Happy Cinco de Mayo! I almost forgot to share my post “6 Free or Cheap Summer Fun Ideas” from Budgeting in the Fun Stuff! I’m here to share some ideas for your frugal summering. Fun does NOT have to cost a lot of dough, but we sometimes need to plan ahead for free summer fun. Lots of you already do many of these, such as hiking and biking!

Young explorers!

I can hardly believe it is May already. I know time moves at the same pace no matter what, but it sure feels fast to me lately. Perhaps it’s something to do with the fact that we BOUGHT A HOUSE a few weeks ago and we’re moving in ONE MONTH! So there is a ton to do around here to get ready for the move. 

JUST KIDDING! Not our new house 😉

We still intend to enjoy plenty of frugal fun this upcoming summer as we settle into our new home and new town. Head on over to Budgeting in the Fun Stuff to read the article! 

Our actual new house! It has tons of trees and space; we can’t wait!

Tell us, friends, what are your must-do summer fun activities? Is there something you’re willing to spend a bit more money to do, or are you strictly frugal?


Water Parks, The ER, and An Interview

By on March 9, 2017

Whew! We just arrived home from nearly a week away, and it was lovely to sleep in our own beds again. The above title sums up the past few days pretty well, but I know you’ll want the full story! As you can guess, the COD family went to a water park on our recent trip. I also got to experience the joys of the emergency room at the local hospital (always fun to be sick when on vacation, right?). Mr. COD finished off the list with his on-campus interview for a university teaching position. 

Last weekend was the women’s Christian conference I attended with a friend. Our whole family stayed with their family, so Mr. COD and his buddy hung out with all four kids for the day while my friend and I relaxed and refreshed our spirits at the conference with 2,500 other women. Great speakers and music, plus it was my first full day away from my boys since July. Yeah. My friend asked me if I was having a hard time being away, but I had to admit, NO! It was so freeing to be myself for like nine hours, without anyone needing anything from me. 

Our kids had a ton of fun with our friends’ kids and their new puppy. Hanging out in the evenings was great, and it was overall a terrific weekend with old friends (Mr. COD has known the two of them since college, and they are awesome people.) 

En route back home on Sunday morning, I knew Mr. COD was getting anxious about his upcoming interview. He’d planned to drive on his own on Monday, interview Tuesday, and drive back late Tuesday night. But we got the idea that having me and the boys along could help him decide whether to accept the job, should he receive an offer. He’d been concerned that the kids would distract him too much, and he needed to focus, quietly, to nail the interview. 

Thankfully, he changed his mind and decided we should all come along. We made it a little adventure and decided to stay in a cool hotel Sunday night on our way north. So we got home, hurriedly ate lunch, packed again, and took off that afternoon. 

Mr. COD found us the perfect hotel! We got a great deal, $100 for a jacuzzi suite. Not necessary, but with small children it is nice to have separate rooms to help all sleep better. Plus, there was a small water park area for little kids. My kids are still too young for the huge water slides at most water parks, but this was just right. We didn’t have to hold them every second, as we would have had to in a regular pool. Shallow water and small slides and fountains thrilled them to no end!  

Swimwear is a bit big on mini COD😀

So, after an hour of water-tastic fun, we returned to the suite to cram the four of us into a jacuzzi tub! My stomach was starting to bother me a little, but I didn’t think much of it. 

It wasn’t until after we’d all pulled on our jammies and settled down for TV and a snack that my stomach started hurting in earnest. Mini COD climbed onto my lap and squished my belly and it hurt like hell, so much that I cried out and pushed him off me. Mr. COD shot me a look of concern and said, “Are you sure you don’t have appendicitis?” 

NOOOOO! I panicked and wished for the pain to instantly evaporate so I could laugh off his question. Alas, the sharp pain continued as waves of nausea swept over me. Mr. COD was googling symptoms and broke it to me that it sounded like I really might have an appendix issue. 

I did not actually throw up (don’t you love all the gory details?), but my rosy-pink complexion after swimming and jacuzzi time had given way to a colorless face. I was now experiencing chills as well, and the abdominal pain hadn’t gone away. 

So at about 9:30 pm, I managed to pull on shoes and a jacket while we loaded the boys (still pajama-clad) into the van yet again. Thank goodness for Google maps, which guided us to the hospital emergency room in an unfamiliar town. One kid was asleep before we arrived, so I went inside alone and Mr. COD drove them back to the hotel. 

Let me tell you, I turn into a great big baby anytime I’m sick. Throw in the possibility of surgery, and I’m a basket case. All I can imagine are worst-case scenarios, and I imagine us on the news the next day. “Vacation in the Dells turns into nightmare as wife clings to life.” So were the thoughts in my head as I kissed Mr. COD goodbye in the car and glanced back at my precious children. 

I had some time to pray and think and watch Golden Girls reruns while I waited for various tests and results. (Why is it that Golden Girls is always on in hospitals? Betty White is rather comforting, I suppose.) No cell service within the hospital contributed to my sense of isolation. I answered the same questions four or five times, had my first ever CT scan (scary but cool), and they eventually found that my appendix was fine. Yay! It turned out I only had “periumbilical abdominal pain”, a souvenir from childbirth. Right by my navel, it simply flared up into massive pain for a brief time that night. Doc said it wasn’t cause for concern and I was free to go.

Statistically, I realize that an appendectomy is a very common surgery, and rarely a huge deal, but with any surgery there’s always risk. So my fears definitely took over as I worried over my diagnosis, whether I’d be okay, who would watch the boys so Mr. COD could be with me as I recovered, and whether he would have to miss his big interview. A bit of guilt entered my mind as I recalled my relief in being away from the kids on Saturday. Now all I longed for was to hold my little guys again.

Of course, I know that Mr. COD would never place a job interview over me or my health, but I still didn’t want to mess up his plans. And the friend who went to the conference with me on Saturday would have watched the kids for us (we asked her right away when we thought my condition was serious). 

I was so looking forward to snuggling with my babies once I got back! I hated having to call my husband at 2 am, especially since he had only returned to our hotel around midnight and the boys would be asleep. But he got them back in the car and drove back to pick me up. I waited in the lobby, half-asleep on a couch, half-listening to a Mike and Molly episode. 

How ironic that the one time we spring for a suite and have such comfortable beds, we end up only sleeping in them for about four hours! Oh well. No surgery and no more abdominal pain? Nothing but thankful! 

The remainder of our trip was positive. The kids handled the car ride fairly well (God bless the in-vehicle DVD player). The scenery was pretty and the university put us up in a comfortable waterfront hotel for two nights. While Mr COD was in his daylong interview on campus, I took the boys out to play in the dusting of snow by our hotel. After the mild winter we’ve had, the bracingly cold wind was especially hard to endure!

We watched a bunch of PBS Kids and then I drove around a bit. I took the kids to Aldi for a few picnic supplies for the return trip, then meandered through neighborhoods to get a sense of the place. The main reason we went along was so I could see the city and area in person, to determine whether I could visualize us living there. Otherwise, if he got the job offer, we’d have to go back in a few weeks so I could see the town before he would accept the job. 

My verdict so far: yes. I can see us living there. It’s definitely colder than the southern states I’d started to dream of, but the lake is gorgeous. The area has an aquarium, zoo, and children’s museum; those all are pluses for us these days! Plus, there’s an Aldi, haha😉. It has a couple of Acts 29 network churches, which is sort of like a denomination. Our current church is part of that network and we absolutely love it. 

It’ll be a few weeks before Mr. COD gets an answer, and he still has interviews lined up at other schools this spring. However, I can say that he really liked what he learned in his meetings with various faculty and the dean. He can see saying yes easily if they offer him the job. 

Now…we just wait. I’m trying not to think too much about the monumental task of packing and moving. The idea of leaving the area where I’ve lived for nearly fifteen years makes my heart sad, for sure. We’ll see what happens. Lots of things are up in the air right now, but we’re okay with whatever happens. A medical scare has a way of improving one’s perspective, right? We’re so grateful for our health and our family. Stay tuned for updates!

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Frugality Report: February

By on February 28, 2017

Awesome frugality or not, February has been a good time for us. I’m doing more freelance writing, Mr. COD is busy interviewing, we enjoyed a frugal birthday for our two-year-old, and our weather here in IL has been freaking INCREDIBLE. 

Here are some of our frugal highlights for this month!

  • No Valentine’s Day gifts or dinner out. In typical COD fashion, we kept it low-key. I baked my heart cookies the weekend beforehand, which we enjoyed for several days (and had plenty extra to take to church). I did get a kick out of seeing the multitude of guys purchasing flowers, balloons, and candy the night before!
  • I finally went to a children’s resale shop that is literally two blocks from our house. I happened to end up there on a sale day when all clothing was $1! Wahoo! That sale scored us a bunch of stuff for Junior COD, which was great since we’re starting to run out of hand-me-downs as he grows bigger. I found two sets of swim trunks and rash guards, several shirts, a pair of pants, and some really nice sneakers for him, all for $13.50. Only the shoes were “full” price, which was $4. Much better than $15-20 or more, which is not uncommon for kids’ shoes. 
  • I refreshed my pasta-making skills a couple of times, and my technique is improving!
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  • Last week I also took on (for the first time) Mrs. Picky Pincher’s homemade tortilla recipe, which was a big win! It’s a super-duper easy recipe to follow. If you want to check out her new e-book, that’s where I found this recipe (plus a ton more recipes and a detailed four-week meal plan): 
  • Slash Your Grocery Bills In 28 Days: Eat like royalty on a shoestring budget

    Tasty tortillas!

  • Mini COD’s birthday festivities were fun, but also mellow, as we’d hoped! On the actual birthday, we grilled out for lunch on our deck (never thought we’d do that for a February birthday in the Midwest). I made his cake from a boxed mix because I had one in the pantry and just wasn’t in the mood to make it from scratch. His PJ Masks figures became the cake toppers instead of getting wrapped up, and they’re perfect little toys for him. We didn’t have a party, just the four of us at home, a few presents, and cake, and it was just right. Since we’re both homebodies and slightly lazy when it comes to celebrating, and he’s too little to care, it was perfect for us! 

    that’s about as fancy as my decorating gets!

  • A trip to the children’s museum was a big hit one Saturday. It does have an admission fee, but since we squeaked in there before Mini’s second birthday, he got in for free! Woohoo!
  • The nicest weekend weather led us to Madison and the Henry Vilas Zoo, which is totally free! We met Mr. COD’s sister and her family for the day and the boys were ecstatic to hang with their cousins and aunt and uncle. It was so gorgeous out that we ate a lovely picnic by the lake as well. Super frugal fun!  

    not sure what exhibit this was…

  • Our Madison picnic view…an icy lake on a 65° day!


    the view of the zoo from the adjacent park

 

Frugality Fails:

  • Groceries got waaaay out of hand this month, which is a bummer after we kicked some grocery budget butt during Uber Frugal January. We got lazy and got back into old habits like going to the market four days in a row. That’s what happens when we don’t plan meals and shopping! Over $500 in the shortest month of the year = dang it!
  • Along the same lines, we ate out quite a bit. Honestly, though, we’re not sorry. We found an awesome new sitter the boys love, and dating your spouse is important! Once those kiddos are grown up, it’ll be just Mr. COD and me again, so we gotta stay connected. 
  • Too many gifts for Mini COD! We gave him two resale shop board games, which were cheap, but he’s still not ready to play them. He liked the other toys we ended up buying, but a week later, they’re already largely forgotten. Plus (and this is the worst part), Junior COD was definitely watching, so he’s been sharing his birthday wish list for the past week. Whoops. We may have set too high a precedent for him that will make it harder to stay frugal and limited when he turns 4. Plus, that’s not for another three months…sigh…

How about you guys? Any big frugal wins or flops this month? Hey, at least if we failed, it can’t be as big a gaffe as that one on Oscar night…


Valentine’s Day and Risks

By on February 14, 2017

The COD team hopes that you all have a wonderful Valentine’s Day! Of course, if you’ve been reading this blog, you already know we subscribe to the goal of simple and meaningful for all of our holidays, and Valentine’s Day is no exception. You’re probably wondering why the word “risks” is in the title. Read on to find out!

A SPECIAL ANNIVERSARY 

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Grief and resolution: on the loss of a neighbor

By on December 11, 2016

One week ago, we learned of the loss. While plowing snow off the neighbors’ sidewalk that day, Char came to inform Mr. COD of his passing. Jim was the first neighbor we ever met when purchasing our house seven years ago. It seems so sudden, so hard to believe he’s really gone.  (more…)


On A Mission To Move

By on November 16, 2016

We like to talk dreams around here. On the too-rare occasions Mr. COD and I find more than ten seconds of peace and quiet, our conversations generally turn to the potential of our future. When we’re enjoying a frugal drink on our deck after the boys are asleep, that’s a time for vision casting.  Road trips are chances to talk at length about our hopes and dreams. What our next steps may be. 

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Dandelion wishing

Dreams are fun, there’s no doubt about it. It’s exciting to imagine a life outside of what has been normal in the past. We’re pretty darn happy right now, and with good reason. But no matter how great things are in the present, there are plenty of goals we want to accomplish in the future. 

Last March, when I gave my notice at work, conversations between Mr. COD and I often turned to possibilities. Perhaps taking a leap in one area of our lives opened up our minds to other potential leaps. I had never really considered changing the status quo: teaching high school was all I would do for practically forever. Now, almost without warning, I was soon to be unemployed. Staying home full-time with my kids would be a reality. Suddenly, our minds opened up to other possibilities! Different careers I might be able to pursue one day. Ways I planned to teach my kids while I’m at home. Potential locations where we might live. Side hustles that could enable us to travel more. It was exhilarating.

At work, my colleague and I would chat over lunch duty about our latest ideas. It was fun bouncing ideas off each other, sharing our “someday” dreams, even though many were far-fetched. It provided some entertainment, as we stared at lunching students staring at their phones, to dream of future plans. (Incidentally, this is the same friend who, during the course of several conversations about her time as a stay-at-home mom, helped to convince me to take the leap and quit my job! Thanks, Brenda!) 

Moving Away

Mr. COD has been itching to move back to his home state of Wisconsin…well, pretty much as long as he’s been in Illinois. Fortunately for him, living in this strange land led him to meeting and marrying me, so it’s worked out well! But when we married, we agreed we’d likely head north eventually. It’s become a long-running joke with us, the “in 2-3 years” plan to relocate. Will this finally be THE year? 

One of our early ideas was to move to Dubai and teach. The pay for American teachers is supposed to be rather lucrative there, including extras to cover your housing, potentially saving us a huge chunk of change in just a couple of years. It could boost our retirement savings in a BIG way if we did that once I was done with the stay-at-home mom gig.

Dubai came…and went…pretty fast from our conversations. For the reasons you’d expect: too far from home, too hot, too “extreme” a change. (Relax, Mom, at least we’re staying in the U.S. for the foreseeable future!)

Next up: we toyed with moving to someplace foreign, yet not quite so far away as the Middle East, such as Panama or Ecuador. Teaching would also be an option there, and cost of living would likely be low, again allowing us to save like crazy. Plus, what an awesome experience for us and the kids… learning a different language, participating in a new culture. Good stuff. It’s a dream we have harbored for years: making another country our home. (It may seem ironic to say that in light of recent political events and the crash of Canada’s immigration website, but our expat dream wasn’t brought on by the election.)

Every time we visit our families, we’re again torn about the idea of moving farther away from them. Proximity to them is important to us, especially so our kids will have strong relationships with them. Despite our long-held dreams of living in another country for a few years, we’ve decided to remain stateside for the time being. Yes, moving overseas has a certain exotic appeal, but not at the expense of family and friends. We value our relationships with parents and siblings and nieces and nephews, and moving so far away would obviously hinder those from growing. 

Here’s where we are now…

  • Mr. COD is teaching a course as an adjunct professor at the university where he earned his doctorate. This is confirming for him that he really does want to teach at the college level, and those are the positions for which he’ll apply throughout this school year.
  • He’s enjoying the teaching gig so much that he’s willing to move to a state other than Wisconsin. We hope to “end up” on his home turf eventually, but we’re okay with a temporary move elsewhere if it opens up a teaching opportunity for him. Two years in North Carolina… Montana…Georgia…???… may be a fun adventure as well!
  • As I said, our relationships with family mean a lot to us, so we hope they’ll come visit us, wherever we go next year! Our kids are cute, so we assume that’ll help outweigh the added hassle of traveling farther. Skype and FaceTime might be handy tools to help us remain close no matter how far apart we may be.

Where do you want to go? Any big moves on your horizons?


Birthdays, Change, and the Meaning of Life

By on September 19, 2016

I recently celebrated the 36th of my birthdays. The realization that I’m now one year older makes me think a lot about where I am in life. That’s a pretty natural response to birthdays, I think.

We all have goals, right? Especially around our birthdays, we entertain high expectations. It’s not just about having an elaborate birthday party or people treating us better than usual. We want to accomplish x, y, and z by the time we reach certain birthdays. Who here recalls Phoebe Buffay’s 31st birthday celebration on Friends? She thinks she’s turning 30, but when visiting her estranged twin Ursula to wish her a happy birthday, she learns that they’re actually (gasp!) 31.

Such a revelation would make anyone question their life path. Phoebe laments, “I haven’t done any of the things I wanted to do by the time I turned 31.” Of course there’s humor in that concept (most of us make to-do lists for more common milestone ages such as 21 or 40). Phoebe wanting to meet a Portuguese person or have the perfect kiss by age 31 seems rather random, but aren’t all of our age goals kind of arbitrary? How do we determine that we want to be married before age 30, or own a house before 40, or become company president by age 45?

There’s an emotional weight involved in reaching a certain age. We attach meaning to every age, and our perception of each age changes as we approach it. One of my students woefully told me last spring that since she had just turned 16, her life would just go downhill from there. Boy, did I feel old when I heard that!

Remember when age 18 seemed like the promised land? Or when you assumed age 25 would be the age you’d instantly have it all together? I know that as I approach and then pass up certain years of age, my views of that age are always different from what I’d expected. I certainly thought that by age 36, I’d be much wiser than I feel right now.

Birthdays, like New Year’s Eve, prompt a lot of introspection, at least for me. Around my birthday, I ponder some of the bigger questions of existence. Why am I here? Am I fulfilling my potential? Where am I failing? Where am I now, compared to this time last year?

Sometimes the birthday pensiveness is dangerous. Nothing like a little pressure from yourself to do better than the year before. I turned on Flipboard this A.M. and came across a Forbes article on entrepreneurs under age 18. Yep, these kids are all less than half my age and have already started successful businesses. Thank you, Flipboard, for making me feel like I’ve done nothing with my life!

I’m kidding, mostly. Bravo for those kid entrepreneurs and the ways they’re changing the world. I have to stay away from the comparison game. I may not be an innovator, but it’s not as if I’ve been sitting around playing video games in my parents’ basement since high school. My life’s had plenty of positive changes since then.

Reasons To Be Proud/Grateful

I taught high school for fourteen years, which gave me a lot of really awesome experiences in the classroom. Introducing teens to another language and culture is not exactly the worst way to earn a living. It’s what I’ll probably return to once my kids are a little older.

I’ve traveled to England, France, Germany, Spain, Haiti, and Costa Rica. Seeing such gorgeous parts of the world and meeting fascinating people has been a blessing.

I’ve run three marathons. (The most recent was in 2008, which seems a lifetime ago. Today, I feel like a 10K may be as far as I’ll ever run again!)

I’ve met and married an incredibly patient, generous, loving guy. We’re learning and growing as we raise two healthy, energetic little boys.

Now that I’m away from the classroom, my own kids keep me busy. We are adjusting to the mundane sweetness of spending every day together. It’s not perfect, but it’s perfectly grace-filled. Here are a few shots of us on my birthday.

Exploring a local forest preserve

Watching geese head south



Pet store! These two love animals!

 

Goals Yet to Achieve

Birthdays can also provide positive pressure. Give us the extra motivation we might need to kick-start our goal achievement. Of course, I have plenty of hopes and dreams for the coming years! This is a good thing; if you stop dreaming, what’s the point of living?

The ultimate and ongoing goal is always growing closer to God. Faith must grow through daily walking with the Lord, studying the Bible, prayer, and service. Honoring God with everything I am and everything I do is of utmost priority.

Writing a book has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. I have begun many book-writing projects that I have yet to complete. So that’s number one in things I will accomplish eventually. Published or not.

Other goals are primarily for fun (and still important!):

  • Learning to speak Spanish.
  • Learning to play the guitar.
  • Visiting many of our national parks.

Some goals are mainly financially oriented:

  • Running my own business.
  • Paying off our home early.
  • Assisting our kids, nieces, and nephews with higher-education expenses.
  • Retire or partially retire by late forties/early fifties.
  • Give with outrageous generosity.

Unlike Phoebe, I haven’t put an arbitrary deadline on most of my goals just yet. For some of them, I know I’ll have to become more focused in order to make them happen (like the book-writing). And no matter what, I want to be flexible and recognize that we’re always growing and changing, so goals are bound to evolve too!

Life is a precious gift. My hope is that each one of you reading this is able to pursue the passions that fulfill you. For today, what’s the primary purpose in my life? They’re right here.

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What’s on your list? What do you hope to accomplish in the next year, 5 years, 10 years, and beyond?


Shopping Time Is Gone (How Kids Save You Money)

By on September 14, 2016

There’s no shopping time when you’re a parent. You do the bare minimum to get your groceries and necessities, but that’s it. Hence, having kids is not nearly as expensive as people may lead you to believe! Rejoice! Don’t listen to the lies!

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Timeshare Woes, Or My Greatest Financial Shame

By on September 7, 2016

Timeshare woes. Ugh. Yep, this is the blog post I’ve been dreading for months. The one that’s going to be physically painful to write. I mean, you might have to forgive any typos or grammatical errors on my part. I don’t want to dwell on this topic one second longer than absolutely necessary. This is the one that will detail the moment I regret most in the annals of COD history.

I guess I can’t put it off much longer. This is the one where I finally come clean… dum da dum dum…about our timeshare.

No! Oh, the shame! Oh, the embarrassment! How could two intelligent, relatively frugal people possibly be duped into buying one of the WORST products ever in the history of the world?

Ugh. I don’t really have a good answer for that.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Let’s backtrack to the beginning. Mr. COD attended a counseling conference about four and a half years ago. Apparently the hotel he booked for his conference was in the Hilton family, so of course the booking agent on the phone had a “great offer” for him. This was Mistake #1 in the whole process: listening to the agent’s spiel. I mean, it’s all very Adam-and-Eve. Serpent in the garden, the whole deal.

The deal was a few nights’ stay at a nice hotel in Myrtle Beach for a discounted price. All we had to do was attend…you guessed it…a short sales presentation during our stay. After that, we would also receive a voucher for a free night at a Hilton hotel of our choice.

Mistake #2: agreeing to the initial Myrtle Beach stay with the sales caveat instead of just finding a great deal on Groupon or some other travel site. There are myriad ways to travel on the cheap, and while this deal was okay, it wasn’t really anything special.

I was incredibly adamant that we would never ever ever ever buy a timeshare, so I reasoned that we’d be perfectly safe. We could handle a sales pitch without getting trapped. I knew perfectly well that timeshares were a scam. Doug Heffernan of King of Queens taught me that. We could handle this. Famous last words.

We loved the hotel. Our beach-front view from the room was wonderful. It would be a terrific place to celebrate our second anniversary.

Our sales presentation was the second day in town. We got ourselves a bit lost finding the place, which made me super crabby by the time we found it and parked. I was really not in any mood to listen to a sales talk. Mistake #3: not turning around the moment we couldn’t find the sales site. Oh, if only I could rewind to that moment in the car!

Alas, we got there and dutifully sat down across from a lovely lady with a Southern accent. I had anticipated a big room filled with fellow travelers stuck listening to one salesman droning on. Nope. These guys are smart. They put us alone with the salespeople.

Mistake #4: letting this sweet blonde woman charm us with her accent and her story of how she has these amazing timeshares for all her kids. We let her convince us that the amount we spent on hotels every year for vacations and visits to family was equal to the cost of the timeshare. (We neglected to notice that there are no Hilton hotels near any of the relatives we have to visit.)

Mistake #5: enjoying the tantalizing photos of the many timeshare locations worldwide. Mr. COD and I do love to travel and knew we would continue to make it a priority. The pictures our sweet little saleswoman scrolled through lulled us into a luxurious, vacationing state of mind. Much more susceptible to stupid financial decisions.

Welp, anyway, we fell prey to this sales rip-off. We walked out of that office, new timeshare “owners”…not two hours after I was grumpily insisting we would never buy a timeshare.

Returning to our hotel in a kind of post-shopping daze, we discussed all the reasons we should feel okay with the purchase. We dreamed of using our points some years to give a nice trip to family members. Another idea was to sell our points to someone every two or three years to help pay the fees. We figured that spending this much would force us to take vacations every year, which was important to us.

Why Our Reasoning Was Wrong

  1. We’ve been trying to give points to friends and family, but no one has taken us up on it. Logistically, it hasn’t worked out for any of them. Perhaps it’s too much of a hassle for them to coordinate the dates and locations with us.
  2. Selling points also has not worked. Lots of websites let you sell a week at your timeshare. No one has bought any of ours yet (we haven’t tried that hard yet, so maybe it’ll happen someday).
  3. We love to travel and don’t need to be coerced into a trip!  We would have traveled anyway, without this program. We could have used Kayak and Groupon and other travel sites.

Other problems with the whole timeshare concept: location, extra fees, lifetime commitment. Our “home” base is Myrtle Beach, which is about a two-day drive from our home. We loved the flexibility of being able to use points for other resorts in the Hilton family, but… surprise, surprise! Extra fees apply when reserving any place that’s not our home base.

Lifetime Commitment Trap

It sounded so amazing at the time: you pay for the timeshare once and then enjoy it for a lifetime (and beyond). You can deed the property to your kids after your death. The problem with this: it dooms you and your beneficiaries to paying the yearly “maintenance” fees forever. Why would I want to subject my kids to that burden?

To me, this is the absolute worst part of the whole sham. We paid off the principal balance early in order to minimize our interest payments (generally a wise idea). However, we’re still on the hook for yearly maintenance fees, which are about as much as we’d spend on hotels anyway. Plus, we still have to factor in the transportation costs for each trip. So it’s not as if we really prepaid for our vacations; rather, we’ll be paying double for them.

I absolutely hate this product and the feeling of being trapped. If we can be a cautionary tale to anyone, that’s why I’m writing about it now. The idea of having wasted so much money on this (and continue to have to do so) makes my blood boil.

Escape Routes Barred

In case anyone is wondering, yes, we have heard of Timeshare Exit Team. Unfortunately, since we’ve already paid the principal, all they could potentially get us out of is the yearly maintenance fees. I don’t even know for sure if they can do that sort of thing. It just seems as if we would be hurting ourselves more by calling them.

We’d pay a couple thousand dollars to have them get us out of the contract, but we wouldn’t recoup what we’ve already spent. I detest this system so much, I would actually choose this route and cut our losses. Mr. COD insists we may as well take vacations for a few more years. We’ve inquired with the timeshare company about selling ours, but the amount they offered was pitiful.

So, here we are. We made a stupid, spontaneous purchase, and we both wish we could go back and change it. But for now, we’ll keep it and make the best of it. This past summer, we returned to Myrtle Beach with our little boys. It was an enjoyable trip, although the kids were too small to do much besides swim in the kiddie pool.

Our view was lovely!

Visiting the rays at the aquarium (our only outing away from the resort).

Monitoring kids on the balcony…not so relaxing!

I could vent all day about timeshares, but I’ll just stop here and sign off with this: Don’t buy a timeshare. Ever!


Toys Part Two: Organization & Decluttering

By on July 23, 2016

Little kids like to make messes. It’s fun for them. I have discovered that children don’t know what decluttering or organization mean. I don’t like messes. It throws off my zen and moves me towards the Dark Side. When I notice how messy an area is, I can’t unnotice this fact. Consequently, a few times a week, I become a cleaning tornado where I take 10-15 minutes to pick up random Cheerios, throw away junk mail, pick up toys, and put away clothes. Afterwards, I look around and say “This is good,” and my OCD self is again at peace. I’m not sure if Mrs. COD finds this humorous or disturbing. Both? I’m afraid to ask.

This is my problem to solve, not my kids’. Admitting I have a problem is the first step. Some organization keeps me from going crazy or at least as crazy. Me not feeling crazy = better parent. So what default have we changed to limit the problem? A couple things. Kids don’t need access to every toy in the house at all times. This doesn’t mean you don’t love your kids or you’re a bad parent. We Limit Maximum Disaster Potential (LMDP), perform strategic rotations, and other toys are primarily on a request access basis.

Limit Maximum Disaster Potential (LMDP)

We learned to LMDP by not having all toys available at all times, especially blocks, colors, or any other items where there are dozens or hundreds of pieces to pick up.

Toy Rotation

Some donated toys from family and friends have remained securely packed away in our basement. We have given the boys some of these toys for birthday and Christmas presents.  Of course, we wrap them up and they still get a boatload of new gifts from everyone despite our pleas. Then we rotate old items back to the basement for our youngest or donate them to a charity.

Request Access

Not all toys are within toddler reach. Some loud annoying toys, colors, markers, toys with small pieces, pianos, etc. are out of sight, out of mind. There are safety concerns with some of these because of the baby. We also want him to learn to ask for things and not have instant access to everything. It also works to Limit Maximum Disaster Potential.

How do you manage your toy landfills? How many toys are too many toys? What do you do with old toys?