Let’s start with the really important stuff: our give away. Now this one is really splendid; it is not only rather generous but also the three blogs that participate in it – The Savvy Scot, Skint in the City and The Money Principle – are uniquely British. Still, anyone can enter using the form at the end of this article and one reader will win the £300 ($450) prize which will be transferred to him/her via Paypal; the giveaway is sponsored by myvouchercodes.co.uk. The competition will run till the end of February when the winner will be selected; if you win, you can use the money on anything. Saying ‘anything’ though reminded me that it is the time of the year when we cope with the darkness, the wetness and the cold by dreaming about sunny places and making plans for our holidays. Just an idea J!

As our readers know, last week was very emotionally charged here on The Money Principle because John and I managed to pay off our £100K worth of debt in three years. So emotionally charged in fact, that I even allowed myself to publish a tribute to my Dad; a very personal thing that I rarely allow on this blog. Distancing myself from all this ‘feelings’ stuff the question that matters to me is: ‘given that we learned how to do things differently, how likely it is to revert to our old ways?’

My answer today would be ‘not likely’. But let me give you example with what we found about holidays and optimising their cost.

In the old wasteful days we used to book ‘package’ holidays – this could vary in terms of quality and price but they shared several characteristics. They­­­­­­ are: a) overpriced; b) experience is random and one can be really unlucky; c) we always ended up squashed in a hotel room; and d) I got annoyed by the limitations to my choices. This works our more expensive even if you were to get a discount using one of the specialised websites.

What we found during the time we were paying the debt off is the following:

  • Holidays work out cheaper and are generally much better value when you break them down. This means that you are likely to pay less and end up in much nicer places if you book the travel and the accommodation separately. Also, look for self-catering, even privately rented accommodation. This gives you flexibility regarding eating – you can either cook your simple favourites or explore the local cuisine; hotels don’t offer good examples of that generally.
  • Doing that requires a bit of organisation. When you book package holiday you exchange the convenience of offloading responsibility for organising your holiday for substandard experience. Organising and making your choices takes a bit of time and brings unique experiences.
  • Do your research. This is absolutely essential if you are to make informed choices. One way to optimise your holiday (spend longer for less, for instance) is to book a flight and a hotel for a night and research accommodation from the locality of your holiday. You may find that you can rent an apartment for two-three weeks for the cost of three nights in a hotel (or one week package holiday).

Fully intending to apply these principles, we were thinking that this summer we would like to go to Washington and New York – I have been there, love the cities and didn’t see the Smithsonian because I wanted to share it with John and our son. Guess what? It turned out that only John and I were keen; our soon to be twelve years old son wants to go to Sofia. Which probably means that we will spend a week at the sea and a week in the mountains; oh well, and some time in Sofia.

What are your holiday plans?

And here are the posts that caught my attention during the last two weeks.

OK, I may be a bit fixated on debt at the moment but it may be worth checking out Jason’s debt movement update. This contains a list of all articles that WorkSaveLive featured during January; remember this was the month that we, personal finance bloggers, were to publish articles that educate about debt busting.

Have I mentioned that Business School academics are talking again about ‘work-life’ balance? But this time they are also referring to something that they call ‘integrated work-life balance’; this basically means, as I joked until recently, that there is no issue of balance since the two have merged in one indistinguishable mess. Issues around the value of free time and how personal finance approaches the matter are a sub-class of that. Is it actually wasteful for you to ‘do it yourself’? This depends but if you would like to hear what on you may read this article on The First Million is the Hardest.

Remember I was saying that I don’t want to leave inheritance but legacy to our sons? If you want to know how to do it read Leo Babauta’s latest post. I have printed it out and intend to tell my sons each and every of the points Leo mentions; but my favourites are: ‘you are good enough’, ‘learn compassion’ and ‘never stop learning’.

You know that I have been working on my writing as crazy. So it is no surprise that one of the articles I loved is about ways to take you writing further. There is always a way to get better!

Seth Godin rarely disappoints but sometimes I read his daily post like I have my morning cup of coffee – I do enjoy it but I know that there will be another one. But…if you are familiar with ‘the dip’ and were wondering why when you do things the whole ‘creation lark’ doesn’t seem like ‘a dip’ but like a roller coaster it is because it is a roller coaster.

You have probably already noticed that Adrian from 7milllion7years is my kind of guy. No, not because he really went and did it (made seven million in seven year that it) but because on his blog he never fails to challenge dogma. His article on taking a loan instead of saving is another example of that.

Finally, if you want to impress your friend when you next see them read this article on Tim Ferriss’ blog. You will learn how to memorise a deck of cards in less than 60 seconds and can enter a challenge to win $10,000.

During the last two week The Money Principle was included in the following personal finance carnivals:

Carnival of Financial Planning at Well Kept Wallet
Yakezie Carnival at Faithful With a Few
Finance Carn. for Young Adults at Master the Art of Saving

Finance Carn. for Young Adults at 20s Finances
Carn. of Financial Camaraderie at Financial Conflict Coach
Carnival of Retirement at See Debt Run
Yakezie Carnival at The Amateur Financier
Y and T’s Weekend Ramblings at Young and Thrifty.ca
Carnival of MoneyPros at Money Pros
Carnival of Financial Planning at My Personal Finance Journey

What a fortnight! Thanks to all who included us in their carnivals and/or mentioned us in their round-ups.

Now, back to winning this £300 ($450). Please enter below and

please do let us know what you will use the prize were you to win?