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Photo by: Andrea Chiu

OK, I ended up going on that vacation which is why I haven’t written a new blog entry for a few weeks.  Sorry for the lack of entries and thank you for your input on my last post. I want to continue on this topic of whether you or me deserve a vacation while in debt. As we can see with all your comments, everyone’s got an opinion and they’re pretty diverse.

I asked Gail whether she thought a girl like me deserved to go on a trip and this was her response:

For a girl who calls herself an Unspender, you’re doing a lot of shopping: there’s the trip to Hong Kong, the new laptop (yeah, I know, the ipod was free), the wedding in Calgary and now the trip to Vancouver. Only you can decide if these are worth the long-term costs. It’s your money and your life. But don’t delude yourself. If you are spending money you haven’t yet earned, you’re not going to be in a Happy Place when a crisis hits. And if you think having a 5-year-old laptop was a crisis, think again. You may think you NEED a vacation, but you WANT a vacation. You NEED a roof, enough food, and clothes to keep you warm. You NEED to be able to get to and from work. (Okay, if you work on the new laptop, it might be a NEED, but only if you couldn’t work on the old laptop.) I’m not going to tell people they shouldn’t take vacations when they have debt. I do believe you shouldn’t spend one iota on unessentials until your debt is repaid — and while your vacation is a frugal one, you seem quite resigned to being in debt for a long time. Hmmm. Little Debt Fatigue rearing it’s ugly head? Have you calculated what it’d take to be out of debt in three years? Two years? One year?

Now I don’t disagree with Gail. I know the difference between a need and a want, but I don’t agree with the idea that a person in debt should not spend any  money on any unessential things until they’re in the black. That approach may work for some people and I tip my hat off to them. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s realistic for me to exclude occasional trips to the movie theatre or a round of drinks with friends. That just isn’t living to me and I know I would be very unhappy and overwhelmed. I think many people feel the same way.

Reader and fellow-blogger Nancy Zimmerman has an approach I agree with much more. She put it well when she left this comment:

What worked for me in the long term – and this goes against almost all financial planners – was to pay just a bit more than my minimum debt payments, and just resign myself to that as part of my life for the next several years, and at the same time, start saving up for things and start investing.

That accomplished a couple really, really important things for me:
1. My money started being FUN and INTERESTING and ENCOURAGING instead of always only about the black hole of debt
2. I discovered what it felt like to save up for something, and go on a trip, and come back without having increased my debt.

Long term, the debt went away, and I still had the savings habit plus a portfolio.

Lots of people will say: don’t do anything but pay off your debt (often said with a judgmental tone!). That makes cold financial sense, true. But even more effective: for you!

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Let me know, would you recommend Gail or Nancy’s approach to becoming debt free? Perhaps you have another way of attacking debt?

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Photo By: Thomas Hawk

Until very recently, I didn’t discussed money with my friends. But when I decided to start taking my personal finances seriously, I began asking friends as many questions as I could–without being too nosey–and the friends I happen to be discussing this with happen to be men.

It seems the gentlemen in my life are much more open to talking about money. They even like talking about it. Most of my guy friends have no student debt, invest and even own property. When I discuss money with my female friends, however, it’s more negative. They more often complain about money management and debt. Based on my small sample of friends in their 20’s and early 30’s, I’m led to believe that in general, men are better with money than women are.

I’m not convinced that this is entirely true, though. I wonder if men are just more comfortable talking about about their net worth and money, whereas women feel they play down their financial success. Could it be for the same reasons that young girls act dumber in school so as not to intimidate the boys? Or like my partner has suggested, do women value having things over having money, whereas men value money?

What do you think? How do men and women approach money differently? Are there any differences at all?

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Photo By: frischmilch

I hate e-mail newsletters. I never sign up for them because I find they’re contain too much marketing and not enough deals. But when I told my friend Claudine that I was planning to take a trip to Vancouver, she suggested I sign up for Air Canada and West Jet’s newsletters. This way, you won’t miss a seat sale, she said.

Claudine is a smart frugal lady so I listened to her advice. She was right. For the past couple of months, I’ve been able to track the rise and fall of airline tickets. If I had purchased my ticket two months ago, my round-trip would have cost me $800. As time passed, both airlines began offering seat sales for trips in June, then July, then August and now September. Now Air Canada has the dates I want for just over $700.

Lesson learned: This year, domestic flights are becoming cheaper, not more expensive, as travel dates near.

My mother, who happens to work in the travel industry says $700 is still too high. She’s also a frugal mother who doesn’t think I should be spending a penny on a vacation until I’m debt free, so I take her professional advice with a grain of salt.

So dear travler friends, unspenders and strangers in the blogosphere, tell me: Do you think flights will continute to go down for early September travel? Should I book now or wait a little longer?

Photo By: Ville Miettinen

“Why do otherwise normal women refuse to go Dutch?” asked Madame X of My Open Wallet. She was quoting an earlier article she read on Gawker, in which the writer (Emily Gould) reports that her friends were shocked when they learned she split the bill on a first date. Why the big fuss? Women have spent years arguing for equal treatment and salaries, why should the dinner tab be any different? Still, some of Madame X’s readers said it is different, guys should pay and I’m pretty sure they’re not the only ones who think that.

I don’t expect I have many regular readers at this time, but to the few of you who do read this, please tell me: How do you decide how much you pay on a date? Does it depend on who did the asking out? Does it depend on your income?