In this post, I’ll tell you about four kinds of free summer holiday activities that your family would love; and these will also make your wallet sing with joy and spare cash.
Summer holidays could be expensive. I’m not talking only about the costs of transport (in our case usually flights if we are to enjoy some sunshine), accommodation and food.
What really can push you over budget are the multitude of ‘little’ things that your children want and that you think that you ought to indulge in because you are on holiday. Let’s let our hair down, right?
Wrong. Buying a lot of rubbish and paying for activities that you thought you’d enjoy but didn’t can push into debt and/or compromise your financial aspiration.
Do you know what the one think that is completely wasted on me as a way to have fun when on summer holiday? Going on boats. Last time I tried, the experience was worth it (we visited Lalaria Beach and it is like you walk into a postcard) but the after effects (being sick most of the night) was not. I no longer go on boats and immediately save in the region of 100 euro (John and our son love boats so they go without me).
At the same time, summer holidays are for fun; all holidays are for fun. This is what got me thinking about the ways to have free, or as good as free, holiday fun.
‘But, Maria, don’t you get what you pay for?’ – you may ask.
Now I’ll ask you to think back and remember moments in your life when you had most fun with your family.
How are you doing? I’d wager that…
…most if not all gloriously fun moment in your life were not expensive. Very likely you remembered, just like I did, a string of free holiday activities.
So, here are the four free fun activities you can have on your summer holidays.
#1. Go to the beach
I know, I know. Kind of obvious, right.
Yes and no. Most people end up on commercialised beaches where all is for sale, there are beer joints every twenty meters and they all blast different but equally annoying loud music.
This is not what I’m talking about. Explore, my people. Try to find virginal, or nearly virginal, beaches that calm your soul. Sit down and listen to the song of the sea; soak the sunshine and let all your troubles go.
This is what we do: we explore the less commercialised beaches.
#2. Visit local historical sites
It doesn’t matter how small the place when you are holidaying is, researching and visiting the local historical sites is always worth is. Even if you must rent a car to get there.
You can also plan your summer holiday so that you visit a place with rich history.
#3. Do some good
Nothing makes me feel as good as doing good. Not joking.
One way to indulge in free holiday activities is to research the ways to do some good for the community you are visiting.
When we go to Skiathos, for example, we always go to the local dog shelter to walk the dogs. This is run by British volunteers and is need of help and funding. We combine the fun of walking the dogs (helping with walking the dogs) and making a financial contribution: after all, these people are doing an excellent job getting unwanted dogs off the streets and rehoming them.
One downside is that I always want to bring a dog back home and must be reminded that Suzi the Dog is not going to be very happy about it.
Are you one of these people who go to a sunny place in a faraway exotic country to eat chips (French fries) and drink German beer?
Hope not. Because there is great satisfaction to be found in trying the local cuisine (even if it looks gross and even if you suspect you won’t like it), learning about local habits and hearing about the local history.
I always do that and let’s face it; there are three things I like about Greece – the language, the food and vintage Metaxa. I still do Greek dancing.
You don’t have to break your bank account when on summer holiday; you can partake in some free summer holiday activities instead.
You can explore beaches and historical sites, you can do some good and you can immerse yourself in the local culture and traditions.
If all these fail you can always indulge in some celebrity spotting. This year on Skiathos we saw a famous rapper (my son was in rapture and all I could think is that I didn’t like his ink) and we knew that Johnny Depp is on the island at the same time as us. Not to mention that the yacht of the Sultan of …, well one of the Gulf sultanates, was marooned near one of the beaches we go to.
The important thing is to remember to enjoy your time on holiday; and you can do this for free or as good as free.
What are your favourite free summer holiday activities?
For the last two weeks or so I lived my life in flip flops (yes, the ones on the picture are my flip flops, my feet). There was a simple routine to my life: sleep until you wake up, read in bed for a bit, get up and go to the beach, sunbathe and swim, have a siesta read some more, have dinner and end the day with a cocktail.
Life of indolence, you may think. You’d be correct! In fact, it was my mission on this holiday to do as little work as possible. Apart from a bit of writing for The Money Principle and recording couple of video clips I did nothing productive.
This is hard for me: I’m not sure where this comes from but I have this workaholic obsession. I suspect someone told me that I’m lazy when I was little and I took offence because since very early age it simply impossible for me to be idle.
For the last two weeks, I was; intentionally so.
And you know what?
Being indolent for two weeks was probably the best investment in myself that I could have made. I feel very zen now and what I refer to as ‘the noise in my head’ has died down. I can focus, laugh and be creative as I have not been able to do for the last year or so. It is also much easier to deal with the inevitable calamities of life.
Life has been sorting itself as well. During the last week, I learned that:
I have been selected to consult on a research project of high visibility (paid, of course);
I’ll be speaking on universal basic income at FinCon17 as part of a panel.
Boom! One academic and one blogging achievement.
Not to mention that I’ve just started a year and a half sabbatical leave from the university; on full pay and all benefits. Don’t ask me whether I’ll be going back – I have absolutely no idea at this point. What I know is that I have this unique opportunity and complete discretion over what I do for a relatively long time.
My life in flip flops may not be over just yet; this doesn’t mean that I’m going to continue my existence as an indolent, self-indulgent middle aged woman.
Since I’m amongst friends here I’d like to tell you what I have decided to do.
Here it is:
I will write a book setting out my theory of research spaces and research fields. For close to twenty years I’ve been building towards this moment through my research and academic writing – towards setting out a theory that can go some way towards enhancing the understanding of the links between policy and the science and innovation system. The notions I’ve been developing are already being used and it is time to consolidate these in a book.
I will write a personal finance book on financial health. This will be a proper book that covers all aspects of personal finance with an emphasis on the foundation, namely our mentality. There will be three e-books on separate issues of personal finance as well: one on debt (nearly finished), one on money management and one on making money and investing.
I will learn to do SEO like a boss. Yes, you heard me right. SEO is not the sexiest of competencies to develop but in today’s world I reckon it is the Occam’s razor. Mastering SEO will allow me to take The Money Principle to a different level by reaching, and helping, more people; have a skill that I can sell to others and improve the visibility of my academic work as well. Yeah…it is a noisy world out there and I’ll learn how to cut through the noise.
These are the three main things I intend to focus my energy on during the next year and a half. All, while still living my life in flip flops.
What do you think? Is there something you’d like me to do?
Nothing sets you up for a fulfilled and productive life better than a bit of summer holiday fun. In this video (post) I take you on a tour of our favourite holiday destination.
When it comes to personal finance, and achieving the hefty personal finance goals we set ourselves, most of us think about saving money, making money and investing money. All worthy occupations!
Still, without spending money, without having fun and making memories to keep us warm on the cold and dark nights, out lives are much the poorer.
Enjoying life, even when your finances may be strained, is important. I call it ‘the Cinderella rule of personal finance’ and it states that we all should make an effort to have fun and budget for it.
Today, I’m not going to tell you how we are having summer holiday fun and we have certainly budgeted for it. (Between you and me, there was time when we’d simply put the cost of the summer on a credit card. This only gets you in trouble. Today, we pay for all summer fun with money we already have.)
For a third year running, we are having our summer holiday on the small island of Skiathos, at the Zorbas Family House. And you know what? We are by far not the ones with the longest visiting streak: there is a family who have been hear twelve times; yes, twelve.
What can make one go to the same place again and again? Apart from spending being completely predictable, that is.
Here is why we keep coming back:
#1. We have found our piece of paradise
Yes and I’m not even exaggerating: Skiathos in general, and Zorbas Family House in particular, is the closest I’ve ever come to feeling in paradise (or the version of it that I imagine).
It is a small island that swells several-fold during the summer. Still, it is so small that old-fashioned morality holds: the first year we came I forgot my backpack (with my Mac in it) on the bus. I was naturally worried – most places I visit around the world, this would have been the absolutely last time I ever saw my lovely laptop.
Not on Skiathos. Here my backpack was delivered 30 minutes later with everything in it. Go figure (when you come from Manchester this is).
This paradise, apart from being lovely and scenic, is also safe for our teen to explore with his friend.
#2. Everybody knows my name
And not only my name but also they know John and our son.
We know people, and like them, and they know us. We go to a restaurant and the chef comes out to say ‘hi’ and ask when we arrived; we sit around the bar and we chat to people we met on previous visits.
I like it!
#3. I get healthy
There are two things I do here immediately after I arrive:
Order an ice cold beer (not very healthy but so much fun); and
Eat tomatoes and other salads.
Eventually, I ease off the beer – I’m a very cheap drunk – and stick with the tomatoes and feta cheese.
Healthy, wholesome diet this is and my body loves it.
Apart from this, I swim and run. Running is not long but there is a hill (this one is a killer; please watch it even if you don’t see anything else from the video) and running on the beach is so…well, so everything.
#4. There is a lot to do
Yep, this may be a small island but it has a very big array of things to do.
There are over 50 beaches here and we have seen probably eight of them. After we’ve rested a bit and had enough sleep – you know how it is; we are always shattered when we come here and need to catch up on sleep – we intend to visit several of those (I’ll probably take videos).
We’ll be walking stray dogs again though I find this one hard; not walking the dogs but saying ‘good bye’. Last time we did this I wanted to take a lovely dog called Fergus home.
#5. Routines help you relax
You know how everyone tells you that routines help you be productive?
I have news for you: routines not only help you be more productive; they also help you relax.
We have routines here. We know how things work.
We know where the cash point machines are; the supermarkets and the restaurants we like.
There is no stress; just sheer and pure joy.
You wondered what makes one go to the same place for summer holiday fun over and over again, didn’t you?
Well, if you have found a piece of paradise where people know your name, there is loads to explore and stress is at a minimum why go anywhere else?
Coming to Skiathos is like coming back home for a summer break and seeing our distant relations.
And just in case you were wondering, we’ll probably come here again next year.
What do you usually do for your summer holidays? Are you a nomadic wanderer or a creature of habit?
In this post, I share the reasons for my decision on taking voluntary redundancy pay in the hope that this may help some of you, my friends, make up your minds when in the same, or similar, situation.
Lately, I’ve been focusing mainly on writing pieces that may help you. While there is an exhibitionist in every blogger – we don’t shy away from sharing our lives – I do not fall in the camp believing that my life is a beacon to lead others on the path of success and righteousness. Hence, most of what I’ve been sharing has been a mixture between research, experimentation results and personal reflection.
Today, I’ll share with you my decision on taking voluntary redundancy pay from my job and why I made it.
I still stand by my conviction that job redundancy can be one of the most glorious opportunities in your life. Just to remind you, the seven ways to conquer the fear of being made redundant and transform this into an opportunity are:
#1. Focus on gain not on the loss
#2. Love your work not your job
#3. Work out what your strengths are
#4. Map opportunities ‘out there’
#5. Do your sums
#6. Take it one step at the time
#7. Believe in yourself because you are more resourceful than you think
And my decision is:
I’m not applying for voluntary redundancy pay.
How did I get to make this decision?
I did what I have most problem with: I followed my own advice.
This is what transpired:
Focusing on the gains, I felt excited about all possibilities that taking voluntary redundancy pay offers.
One set of possibilities are around career change which I’ve been considering for some time now. For instance, I’d love to write pieces (articles, blogs and books) that people enjoy reading, find helpful and see as knowledge that improves their quality of life. Over 30 years of my life I’ve dedicated to figuring out the ways in which science works and contributes to health, wealth and quality of life. I’ve published many research articles and books on the matter; some are highly cited. None of these matters and on occasion my work has been misused. I reckon it is time to change that and I’d love to help, support and entertain – using the same arsenal of skills and competencies that took two Masters, two PhDs and a lengthy career in research to develop.
Another set of possibilities is to continue doing what I do very well (research and publish in my field) but move to a place that provides me with better conditions to do so. This set of possibilities didn’t make me jump with excitement, though.
A third set of possibilities, is to focus, almost exclusively, on my investments and businesses. This is a contender for the top spot but I’m concerned that I may get bored over time.
Very likely I’d enjoy my life including a combination between these possibilities.
Given all these gains from taking redundancy pay why I decided against?
Because, just like more than one roads lead to Rome, there are more than one ways to realise all these gains. One is to take a sabbatical leave. It so happens that I’m due eighteen months of sabbatical leave on full pay.
I love the work I do. Research and teaching are part of my soul and things started getting strained and uncomfortable when my university (and other universities in the UK) started taking these out of my soul and making them just a job.
To do the work I love, I don’t need to be employed (in the long run) by a university and certainly not one in the UK. Again, taking a year and a half sabbatical leave, I hope, will allow me to do the work I love without the irritations of the job; and time to make up my mind decisively.
I see the ‘network economy’ as a major opportunity for me; and others like me. Success in the network economy – and success on line – requires a skill set that overlaps almost completely with the one that any moderately successful academic already has developed. Risking sounding cocky, I’m quite a bit above the average.
Another opportunity is investing. Over the last five years, I created three conditions for success in that: a) I built capital; b) I learned a lot about various kinds of investing; and c) I experimented with some success.
Again, eighteen months sabbatical would give the opportunity to test my investing mantle and my ability to make it in the network economy. Hence, the question for me becomes, whether I’d be able to generate income – mostly passive – that is equal to me current professorial salary. I’ll keep you posted on this one.
I did my sums, friend. This is the main factor that swayed my decision against taking voluntary severance pay. To put this bluntly, eighteen months sabbatical leave on full pay, contributions to my pension and NI works out to be much more than the fourteen months basic salary offered by the redundancy programme. So, there!
Just for the record, I still believe that I have the resources to make it outside the university. It is just that I have the option to go for the radical solution (take voluntary redundancy) or withdraw for eighteen months and do my damn best to ‘resurrect my cashflow’ in the relative safety of a sabbatical leave.
I‘m choosing the latter.
Couple of months back I found myself on a list of academic staff at risk of redundancy. This meant that I had to make up my mind whether to apply for voluntary redundancy pay or not.
In this article, I shared my reason for not applying for voluntary severance (redundancy) – while blissfully looking forward to all the gains that leaving my job may offer, I have another route to getting there. This route consists of taking a year and half sabbatical leave on full pay and benefits. I thought that this is a no brainer and I’ll be able to do all the things I want to test in relative employment and financial safety.
This is my reasoning for not applying for redundancy pay. Can you see any gaps in my reasoning? Am I getting this one wrong?
So, which one are you? Take a look at the brief description of each of the four types below:
1. The Spender
The spender is the saver’s opposite. If they see something they want, like the latest smartphone, it’s theirs immediately. Money is no object. In fact, cash is no object because the Spender will fearlessly rack up purchases on their credit card. The Spender is a big believer in YOLO: you only live once. Why pass up a purchase that gives pleasure?
Well, one big reason is because no cash in your savings and maxed out credit cards are not a recipe for financial happiness. Ultimately, if you want larger purchases such as a car, house or investments, you will need a certain amount of money saved. The Spender puts themselves out of the running, and it may take years to undo the damage. The best thing for the Spender to do is commit to a budget notebook. They need to write down everything they spend for a month. This can be very revealing of spending patterns, particularly when they see the impulse purchases add up.
Once the Spender gets a sense of what they are spending on, they can plan a reasonable budget in which spending is intermixed with meeting basic needs and saving. It’s all about balance. You don’t have to cut all spending — just make sure spending is not injuring other categories.
2. The Saver
The Saver saves. They can tell you to a tee what the balance is in their accounts. They shop for the best deals in interest rates. Savings accumulate faster that way. They may use an app that saves automatically based on an algorithm. They don’t splurge on movies or any other entertainment need, figuring that Netflix or the library can fit the bill for most movies. They make their own pizza rather than ordering out.
In fact, the Saver may save almost too much. They’re likely to avoid using credit cards and are the ones who don’t own a car/bike walk to work. A car down payment would put too much of a dent in their savings. Admirable, certainly, and green to boot. But the fact is, the saver also needs to make purchases like a car or house at some point.
People who are Too Pure for Money genuinely see money as a source of bad things — think greed, hypocrisy and envy. So they tend to avoid it to pursue the finer things in life. Often, Too Pure for Money people will put off asking for a raise because they fear it will make them look greedy, selfish or demanding.
The key for Too Pure for Money folks is to see money as part of life. It is almost impossible to go through life without paying bills or being concerned with salary. If anything, Too Pure for Money people can be accused of arrogance rather than greed.
That said, there are some things they can do to make life easier. If they don’t want to deal with money, setting up automatic bill pay will help. Bills will be paid on time, and Too Pure for Money will not have to sit down and deal with it, past the initial set up. Automatic savings are also helpful for this personality.
4. The Know-Nothing
The Know-Nothing neither spends nor saves. They simply refuse to look their checkbook in the eye. Checkbooks are never reviewed to see balances or whether checks have cleared. Bills may or may not be paid. They don’t know quite how many credit cards they have or whether or not they are maxed out. From there, things may go from bad to worse. They may stop opening bills or any financial communications because they imagine the situation is much worse than it is.
Know-Nothings imagine terrible things ensuing from financial engagement. They need to adopt a “step at a time” approach. Commit to opening all bills for a month and paying them on time. Then move to balancing accounts. See financial knowledge as part of community responsibility.
Know-Nothings can also benefit from monitoring their spending. It, like bills, may turn out to be not as bad as they feared. The chief need for a Know-Nothing is to know more about their spending and saving. Then, plan for their top three financial goals. Whether those goals are a house, a vacation and a car, or something different entirely, saving for each will foster engagement.
Understanding which of these money personality types you are, as well as the strengths, weaknesses and tendencies of that personality, can help you live your best financial life.
Editor’s note: Anum Yoon is a millennial money blogger who runs Current on Currency. Catch her latest personal finance tips on Twitter @anumyoon.
In this post I discuss seven ways that will get you away from viewing a job redundancy as the end of your dreams and see it as the opportunity of a lifetime. Faced with job redundancy we feel fearful and stressed; this is only to be expected. Heck, I want to crawl in bed just now and not get out of it for a very long time. What I feel at the moment, however, matters little; what I do next is important. In this post, I’ll share with you what I do/have done to transform job redundancy into the most exciting opportunity of my settled, cushy, middle class life.
In brief, the seven ways to make a glorious opportunity out of the threat of job redundancy are:
#1. Focus on gain not on the loss
#2. Love your work not your job
#3. Work out what your strengths are
#4. Map opportunities ‘out there’
#5. Do your sums
#6. Take it one step at the time
#7. Believe in yourself because you are more resourceful than you think
Imagine how one morning you get up, have breakfast, read the news and complete your ablutions. You sing in the shower because life is looking good: you know what you want, you have a plan how to get it and you enjoy the way getting there. You get in your car (hop on your bike or the bus) and arrive at the office. All kinds of opportunities are open to you and underneath all these is the unshakable belief that you’ll continue this sequence of events and you’ll be coming to the office, contributing to the organisation and it is your choice how long this goes on for. It is about feeling secure and in control, you know. Then you open your e-mail and you can’t believe your eyes – what you see is a message announcing a round of job redundancies.
So, my friends, I’m sitting here writing this post and my job is at risk of redundancy. And it is not only my university: the whole higher education sector in the UK is in profound crisis. Three other universities are undergoing job redundancies and many others are considering their options.
Do you want to know what I felt when I first read the job redundancy message?
I felt wronged, angry, fearful, full of righteous indignation and silly fight, I felt defeated. In this order! Than I reminded myself to breathe and started thinking about how to make the best of a very bad situation.
Somewhere on the way between fear and acceptance I realised that this job redundancy, assuming that I manage to get it under the conditions I’ve worked out, may be the best opportunity to do something sensible with the rest of my settled life.
Here are the seven ways I used to transform the threat of job redundancy into a most exciting opportunity for happiness and fulfilling existence.
#1. Focus on what you’ll gain through job redundancy not on what you’d lose
When I first heard the news about the job redundancy my mind jump-started an inventory of all that I’m going to lose. You know, these are all random thoughts about loss of status (oh, I’m not going to be Professor Nedeva any longer), identity (I’m not going to be an academic and a respected researcher any longer) and income (there won’t be a large(ish) amount of money hitting my bank account every month) shooting through your mind.
Reminding myself that ‘if I’m not enough without it, I’m not enough with it’ helped a bit; a tiny bit.
Then I decided to change my focus and think about the things I’ll gain if I engineer my job redundancy.
I saw myself in complete control of what I do with my time.
I imagined myself writing books that people what to read not research papers my university wants me to publish.
I reminded myself of all the wacky and wonderful projects I’ve thought about and never tackled.
And, you know what, I felt my fear of job redundancy recede and a youthful excitement take its place. I can hardly wait to begin the rest of my life!
#2. Do you love your job or you love what you do?
We often mistakenly believe that we love our jobs when in fact we love what we do. These are two very different things. You may love selling flowers and dislike your job in a particular flower shop, right?
When it comes to being a university professor, the difference is even more pronounced.
I love what I do. There are few things that give me more pleasure than holding a class of undergrads transfixed and seeing the spark of curiosity and passion for learning in their eyes. Every cell in my middle aged body starts humming with pleasure and excitement when I do my research (all stages).
For several years I have been less certain that I like the conditions under which my university expects me to do what I love doing. I’d go as far as saying that I would have checked at least four of the five signs that you should leave your job.
Realising that I love what I do but have grown to dislike my job makes the experience of loss because of job redundancy much less strong. Also, I started thinking about different ways to continue to do what I love doing while forgoing my job.
#3. Do you know what you are really good at?
This is a hard one because people tend to either overstate or understate their competencies. (Some people can get this one completely off kilter but this is not usually the case.)
I tend to underplay my competencies. Hence, it was very helpful to do an ‘inventory of competencies’. I just wrote everything I can do (this should be done without much thinking and strain). When you do this, please don’t concern yourselves if you find that you’ve put on the list things like ‘I can wipe a baby’s bottom’ or ‘I’m very good in the sack’.
Because the next step of this exercise is to get back to your list and match each competence with a way to mobilise it for income generation. You can choose not to take some obvious possibilities forward.
This exercise made me feel good. Unexpectedly I saw that my competencies as a successful scholar are almost exact match for the competencies one needs to succeed in the network economy. A possibility to make income from writing also transpired. Not that hopeless after all!
(I did find this very hard and would appreciate some help from you guys at some point. I’d like to ask you about how you see what I’m good at (have to find a form to do that.)
#4. Brainstorm some opportunities that you can see ‘out there’
This one is deceptively simple. To do it properly, however, you’ll need to achieve a good grasp of the developments in the economy, your industry and have an overview of future trends. Apart from that, you’ll need to move continuously – and for some time – between the opportunities to make income and contribute value that are ‘out there’ and the competencies you have.
You may need change your skills set. You may need to gain different social capital (start hanging with new people, make contacts with people in other industries etc.).
Sounds complicated but it isn’t. All this takes is intelligence, determination and persistence.
#5. Do your sums
Loss of income is probably the aspect of job redundancy that scares people most.
There are few things that deal away with fear more effectively than firm grasp of the fact. Here is where maths and numbers come into the picture.
To cope with the fear of loss of income you have to move away from the emotion and make it into a problem. Sit down and go through your monthly spending. I did this using The Money Principle Monthly Budget Planner. Check your income streams, savings and investments. How much is in your emergency fund? Work out how much you’ll get as severance payment? Check what will be the effects of job redundancy on your pension?
I’ve done most of these and I’ll be talking to a pension consultant over the next week. And you know what?
Numbers don’t lie and I feel so much better for the level of certainty they bring to my otherwise shaky existence. I know exactly how much income I have to make (as a minimum). It is not too bad, really.
#6. Take it one step at a time
The threat of job redundancy can leave you completely paralysed if you get ahead of yourself. Your best chance for getting it right, and approaching it with something at least approximating a dignified rationality, is to work out a sequence of actions and focus points and follow this strictly.
For me, the first question is do I want to apply for voluntary redundancy? (This hide several questions such as do I want to stay in academe, do I believe that I’ll make it outside etc.). What is important is that this decision is still under my control.
Next, if I were to decide not to apply for voluntary severance, would be to wait for compulsory redundancy. This is stressful but…
Main thing is not to allow yourself to worry what may or may not happen when you leave your job. Remember that most people when faced with adversity behave like Israel: they hustle according to their need. In other words, it seems to me that expanding energy worrying about what you’d do ‘after’ is a wasteful strategy: you’ll be all right at the end.
#7. Remind yourself that ‘it will be all right at the end’
Life has an uncanny way of sorting itself out. Please remind yourself that:
“It will be all right at the end and if it is not all right, it is simply not the end.”
Bonus…The Eminem Approach to Job Redundancy
To apply the Eminem approach to job redundancy you have to believe that
Success is your only motherf*cking option; failure’s not!
I believe it’s wrong to live with the worry about the next debt payment, about losing your house, your job or whether you’d have dignity in old age. So I’ve dedicated myself to teaching people in financial trouble how to build sustainable wealth.