Saturday, June 4, 2016

On buying less stuff to have more experiences

For many years now, we have been promising our three children that will be going on a family overseas holiday in 2018 - the year of husband and my 20th wedding anniversary. With three kids and no private fortune, we have always known this is something we will only do once as a family of five.

Family opinion on where this much-anticipated trip should be to has varied over time, but we are settled now on the UK and France (or, more accurately, London and surrounds, Oxford, Cornwall and Paris and surrounds). We are looking at going for 3.5 weeks from late March to mid-late April in 2018, encompassing Easter and the school holidays as well as one week of term two.

As I am beginning the process of pricing the trip, it has been borne on me that the next two years will need to be otherwise frugal ones to fund our adventure.

We won't be luxury travellers by any means and I am already gathering intel about the most cost effective ways to do things (the London Pass which covers admissions to so many attractions, as well as bus and tube travel, for instance, looks like great value).

There are heaps of free walking tours available too, and the time we spend in Cornwall is likely to have a lot of walking in it in particular. Because my plan is to Air BnB apartments or cottages in our three base locations (London, Cornwall and Paris), I expect to be able to save both money and Coeliac angst by preparing food ourselves for the majority of the meals.

But with the sneakiest strategies in the world, the base cost of the trip, starting with five airfares from Australia, is not going to be small. Moreover, we don't plan to stint ourselves of seeing or doing things we all are enthused about. The kids would be unhappy to leave London without visiting Harry Potter studios, for instance, while both my husband and I agree that we want to pay the extra for a Stonehenge tour day that includes going inside the circle. We're going such a long way, and we will likely never get there again - I don't want to miss out on things because of worries about cost.

So yes, we need to save and be very careful for the next 18 months. We have fixed costs that must be met - mortgage, bills, education costs, insurance,  running costs on the car - and I have already booked and indeed paid for two budget local holidays (3 nights in Marysville in July, and 9 nights in Warrnambool next January).

Other that necessary expenditure, though, we will need to really limit our spending on ... stuff. We are not excessively spendthrift, but we have tended to be a bit too cavalier about weekly takeaway,  lunches out, and seemingly small consumer goods that we buy just-because (books, clothes,  household items ...) And much as we have been enjoying our MTC season tickets this year, that's a luxury that won't be repeated. It all adds up over time.

If I keep getting a good amount of freelance work and can set aside every second payment for the trip over the next year, we will be well situated to prepay for those things that can be prepaid well in advance (flights,  passes, tours, travel insurances) by July or so next year. I can then turn my mind to booking and paying for accommodation after that.

 The trick, though, is to be controlled enough with other spending (and to get enough work!) to make that possible. But at the end of the day, I know what's going to make us happier - it's special experiences we have together, not more stuff.

1 comment:

  1. I meant to note - the decision to move to being a one car family is partly motivated by the need to spend less where we can. Some expenses are unavoidable - some are optional. Figuring out which is which is the trick!