Thursday, June 2, 2011

How we got here

We just arrived in Cape Canaveral, Florida, to enjoy a three week vacation. We left as close to the end of school as possible and drove through the night to get here. I've been reluctant in many cases to tell people about our time away. Saying it seems a bit excessive. Three weeks? A family of nine? In a beach house?

Three years ago we were blessed with a similar opportunity through the Lily Teacher Fellowship. We never even conceived of such an idea on our own. As a long shot, Sean applied for this grant which would enable our family to live in Florida for a month, enjoy the local library and rec center, attend family Space Camp, explore Kennedy Space Center in detail and take in all the nature to our heart's content.

I think it is fair to say that experience redefined what vacation would mean to our family. Being able to stay in one location for an extended period of time allowed us all to step away from the pressures, busyness and dailiness of life to connect and grow closer together. At home our lives are very busy and if any of you know Sean and myself personally you know that the work never seems to stop. While we certainly did not lay on the beach everyday, but we did play together, explore and make memories. It was incredible.

Two things have happened since our last trip here, Sean has begun working for Texas Instruments traveling around the country providing instruction for other teachers. This means that much of the summer he is coming or going. No more lazy days of summer for this teacher. Secondly, we became serious about budgeting/saving with the intent that we could repeat our last trip on our own dollar. In fact, it was in the Cape Canaveral Library that I read Total Money Makeover for the first time and we laid out a plan to get out of debt. Please note that we aren't in a perfect place financially. It's a journey with many detours. But we were convinced with some ingenuity we could provide this vacation without incurring debt.

Knowing that this is the last summer for our family to be without a high school student (practices, jobs, camps, obligations,earning money for college...) and realizing that the youngest ones had no recollection of our last vacation together, we decided last August to start working and saving for a three week get away. Everyone was excited at the thought of returning to the same place. I thought that it would be a little easier to set aside the money, but found out otherwise in December when my hours at work began to be cut. Sean's extra work has become a necessity so we had to get a little creative.

Here's how we did it. I hope it will encourage you to dream big for your family and consider how you might work together to meet a goal.

1. We cut back on weekend trips and field trips this school year. No overnights in hotels- we just drive through the night.

2. We sold baked goods whenever we had a chance- garage sales, events at Sean's school, other people's garage sales.... (Actually, I think that my own kids probably raised half of the money themselves when I told them they had to pay $.50 like everyone else.) We used coupons and sales to buy premade cookie dough when possible to cut down on the cost.

3. We had a fall and spring garage sale. We earned several hundred dollars through these sales just from stuff we had around the house and really didn't use. We also sold our no longer used books/CDs/DVDs to Half Priced Books. A little bit here and there adds up over time.

4. We kept a jar and saved every bit of change we could. Last week we rolled almost $300 in coins.

5. We held "Babysitting Saturdays" at our home. This was a family effort in which we opened our home to kids from 4-7:30 on selected Saturdays, had a structured play time, craft and a light dinner. My younger children thought this was the best thing ever to have so many playmates over at once. I'm hoping the older girls continue this business on their own. It was a hit!

6. Sean had two regular tutoring jobs throughout the school year. We held back the checks and cashed them all right before the trip just to make sure the money didn't slip through the cracks.

7. We bought our gas on a gas card that gave a 5% rebate. I'm not a fan of credit, but I am a fan of rewards. As you can imagine, gas for a 15 passenger van is a huge expense.

8. We bought and cooked most of our meals in Indiana, froze them and hauled them in coolers. Prices are much higher here and it's a relief to know dinner is already made (from meat that I bought on sale.)

9. We cleaned houses. The older girls and myself put ourselves out for hire to do any job or project inside or outside. Usually the people had a list and we worked our way through it. We charged $30/ hour and stopped when we were told.

10. God provided- a generous thank you gift from a student's family, a bucket of change from a family member, gift cards, an unexpected refund check.

Was it worth it? I think the picture says it all.

It's so much fun to see the boys explore Kennedy Space Center. John really thinks that he is going to go up in a rocket.


Heather L. said...

I'm so excited for you all!!!! And, you've inspired me to start saving for a vacation of our own - maybe next year!!! We'll see how it goes.....

Denise said...

Thanks so much for sharing your story! Enjoy your much deserved (& earned!) vacation.