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Monday, 24 August 2015

The Latte Factor: Are We All Guilty Of This?

The Latte Factor was coined by David Bach in his book titled Start Over, Finish Rich. This simply means the little things that we mindlessly spend on daily, like buying coffee every day on your way to work, thus the term Latte Factor. It covers more than just that simple latte, it could be grabbing that bar of chocolate at the till every time, that magazine that you aimlessly pick up while doing your weekly shopping , those lottery tickets that you religiously buy every week or that lunch that you buy at work daily instead of making them yourself. These little trivial things do add up and at the end of the month, you will be surprised to know how much you have spent on them when they could be avoided.

The authors suggests that we monitor our daily or weekly spending and identify our Latte Factor. A daily cup of coffee on your way to work could cost you £3. That is £15 a week and £60 a month. A total of £720 a year! For someone who is an advocate of the idea of enjoying the small things in life, this does not really sit well with me. For someone, that daily cup of coffee from a barista could be their little luxury like mine would be flowers and candles. I suppose I could just get flowers from our garden which I tend to do sometimes but nothing beats that beautifully cultured flowers from the shops. I guess what the author wanted to emphasize is how much you are willing to forego of the little luxuries in life in the aim of saving for something bigger like adding that up to your yearly holiday or to your retirement fund. By all means, if you enjoy these little luxuries, keep them. As they say, life is short after all. Now excuse me while I cancel that digital tv subscription. We do not have time to watch television, anyway.

Now I get the point. Did you?

Friday, 14 August 2015

How To Travel On A Budget Like A Pro

Gone are the days when travelling was considered luxury. In this digital age when everything is at the tip of our fingertips, travelling has never been easier. When as before, booking a flight means going to the airline office or getting a travel itinerary means going to a travel agency, opening your laptop is all you need nowadays. But if you want to travel on a budget, you need to be more savvy than just being able to operate a computer.

Travelling on a budget does not necessarily mean staying in a hostel or B&B nor does it mean taking the red eye or eating from a food truck your entire holiday. All you need is a plan and a little skill. 

Chances are, your mode of transport will be the most expensive item that you will buy on a trip unless you take the train or go with a budget airline.  Even with budget airlines, you could be paying big money if you are not careful. 

Plan ahead. It's highly unlikely that you will get cheap flights at the last minute so I always plan our trips way ahead. From three to six months in advance, you can definitely bag a bargain holiday. Case in point, our flights to New York in March was booked in September. Exactly six months from our flight saving us  £350 each return and that is flying with British Airways. Our recent trip to Oslo which was booked three months in advance, was £180 return for three people and that includes airport parking. It also helped that we flew midweek. Flying on a Tuesday, Wednesday or a Thursday will always guarantee a bargain as much as flying early in the morning and late in the evening. 

This also applies when travelling by train.

Once your bargain flight is secured, you can now start searching for your hotel. You have more leeway in this area. Whereas you cannot cancel a flight without being charged,  with hotels, you can cancel as late as twenty four hours before check-in. I tend to start with comparison websites like hotels dot com and booking dot com. I book them on the free cancellation option and between then and my flight, I keep tabs on the prices. If they go down, I cancel and rebook on the new lower price. 

Be intuitive. Do not be fooled by comparison websites though. A handful of times I discovered that the hotel's main website offered the exact same rate. Sometimes they are cheaper and also with free cancellation. You get perks when you book directly with the hotel so it is best to cancel and book directly when this happens.

I am never the one to scrimp on food, especially on holiday when there is an abundance of choices. But if there is a chance of spending less on food without compromising on the quality then I am in. 

They say hotel buffet breakfasts are expensive but there is actually some savings to be had when you avail of it. Let us face it, nobody really wants to wake up at the crack of dawn during this time. Chances are, people tend to wake up late in the morning and having the buffet breakfast as brunch (breakfast and lunch) is savings in itself. There are so many options on a buffet breakfast that it fills you up until afternoon. The next time you need to spend on food would be for an early dinner. 

Another option is bringing breakfast in. When we were in Paris, we did not include breakfast with our hotel as we wanted to have breakfast in a cafe, al fresco a la Parisienne. We did a lot of walking the day before that a lie in the next day was a very tempting idea. The thought of waking up early did not appeal too much anymore so we bought some delicious pastries from PAUL and had them for breakfast with the free coffee in our hotel room the next day. PAUL pastries are not cheapest of pastries but it was still cheap compared to eating out for breakfast. We did splurge by eating in Angelina's for lunch that day. We were on a holiday after all. 

Monday, 10 August 2015

Raising A Wanderluster

She has the world at her feet.

Every one tells you how tough it is to be a parent but what I can tell you are the joys that comes with it. Case in point, travelling with kids or in my case, travelling with a kid. 

It might not always be the case with every one but travelling with mine has always been a breeze. Her first flight at four months was long haul and she slept during the entire journey. 

Now at  six years old, she has never been more excited to travel and see the world. Learning a word or two in a new language fascinates her. Whether it is going 86 floors up the Empire State Building in New York, learning about the history of Fatima in Portugal, admiring the marvellous Niagara falls in Toronto, sipping hot chocolate at Angelina's in Paris or eating Xiao Long Bao in Singapore, there is always something worth learning for her young and inquisitive mind.

Ava at three years old, standing on the Sea-card right outside Padraos Dos Descobrimentos in Lisbon, Portugal.

It is a wonderful experience seeing the world through my little girl's eyes. Through her eyes, I see magic in everything. I get asked questions that I would not have thought myself and it is a joy to experience these things with her. 

Running with excitement once the gates opened in Disneyland, Paris in her princess dress, of course.

Sipping hot chocolate at Angelina's in Paris.

She has been travelling with us since she was a baby and now she shares our passion to see and explore the world. Travelling definitely teaches her a lot of things she would not learn in a classroom. Learning history that is right in front of her makes it more interesting than it already is. It also teaches her to live some days of her life outside her comfort zone. That could only be a good thing.

Ava standing right across the famous Boat House in Central Park in Manhattan.

In awe of Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada.

Admiring Edvard Munch's famous painting The Scream in Oslo, Norway.
She has been to several cities in seven countries in three continents. She has learned the art of travelling in her own little way. She now knows what she needs while waiting in airports, on a long haul flight or sitting on a train to somewhere new. Here are her travel essentials and an iPad is not one of them. In this day and age when children her age are glued to their iPads and missing the world around them, I could not be more proud of my little wanderluster.

from L to R: books, vintage iPod, Hello Kitty headset and Fujifilm instax to take photos with.