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Category: Q&A Tuesday

My Sanity-Saving Tips For Thriving on a Trip Overseas

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I’m interested in the practical aspects of food on your international trips. I’d love to hear what you bring with you and what suggestions you have. I eat very carefully for my system to function well, from necessity. We went on a family mission trip last fall where we had no access to a grocery store. The meals were prepared for us and my system didn’t like it (not very healthy food with very few fruits and vegetables). We are going again next month and I’m trying to plan what to bring that is allowable in my suitcase (even like a hotpot and oatmeal). Thanks. -Karen D.

That’s such a great question! And in the multiple international trips I’ve taken over the past two years, I’ve definitely discovered that it can mess with your system — especially if the food is very different than what you’re usually eating, if your sleep is interrupted and fitful because of big time differences, and if you’re tired because of not getting enough sleep and long days.

I’ve learned a few tips that have made a big difference for me in how I feel while on international trips:

1. Drink Lots of Water

Every since I quit coffee (going on 10 weeks now, can you believe it??), I’ve been drinking a lot more water. In fact, I aim to drink 1 and 1/4 gallons of water every day.

This felt like a massive amount of water in the beginning, but as it’s become more and more normal for me to drink this much, I’ve noticed that I’m a lot thirstier and it’s becoming an ingrained habit to have downed at least 3/4 of a gallon of water by early afternoon!

There’s so much more I could say of the benefits of no longer being dependent on coffee and how much healthier and more energetic I feel by completely changing my eating as well as drinking a lot more water, but I’ll save that for another time. What I did want to say is that when we went to South Africa recently, I made drinking a lot of water a huge priority and I noticed a big difference in how I felt overall — not only did I have fewer stomach and digestive issues, but I also had more energy and slept much better.

My Sanity-Saving Tips for Overseas Travel

I brought a water bottle with me everywhere I went and filled it up every opportunity I had to refill it. Because we were staying at a location that had good water, this worked well. When we were out and about during the day, we brought extra water bottles with us.

If you’re going to be somewhere where you won’t have access to really clean and safe water, I’d recommend bringing a water bottle with a filtration system, asking the locals what water is safe to drink, and also buying some extra bottled water at the airport in the states and just carrying them on the plane with you. It’s not great to have to lug them with you on the flight, but it’s a way that you’ll have some backup water bottles if you aren’t able to readily have access to good drinking water for parts of your trip.

2. Get as Much Rest as You Can

Your body needs sleep in order to digest your food well, among a number of other very important things. When you don’t get enough sleep — especially while traveling internationally — it can wreak all sorts of havoc on your body and inhibit your ability to really be able to make the most of your trip.

If possible, try to work out your sleep on flights so that it adjusts to what time zone you’ll be in. This has been very helpful to me on my last two trips, especially. I will keep myself awake for as long as I can so that my body more easily switches to a new time zone.

I’ve tried a LOT of different things when it comes to sleeping on long flights and the thing that I’ve found to be most helpful is to wear comfortable clothes, use an eye mask, put comfortable headphones or ear plugs in, bring your own travel blanket, and use a travel pillow like this one. I prop my feet up on my backpack, drape the blanket over me, put my seat back (the little amount that it will lean back in coach!), put my headphones in, snap the travel around my neck, and then put on the eye mask.

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I’m able to sleep pretty well like this. It might not work at all for you, but I’m grateful that I can usually sleep at least 6-8 hours on a 15-hour flight to South Africa. It makes a BIG difference!

Last time around, I used this Non-Drowsy Natural Dramamine for the flight and it caused me to be a little sleepy, took away the motion sickness, but kept me from feeling completely drugged like regular Dramamine makes me feel.

When we get to our destination, I try to acclimate to the time zone as quickly as possible by only letting myself sleep during normal bedtime hours. I know that it can be tempting to want to crash at 2 p.m., but unless you’re someone who can take short naps very successfully, I’ve found it’s better to push through and make myself stay awake until at least 8 p.m. so that I can hopefully get a good night’s rest at normal bedtime hours for that time zone.

If you’re on someone else’s time table and schedule, at least try to make sure that you’ll have at least some days on the trip when you can wind down early and sleep in, if need be. I also will occasionally take some kind of sleeping aid if I’m really struggling to sleep.

Last trip, because I followed the above protocol (and was no longer drinking coffee!), I actually didn’t have any trouble sleeping at all! Which was my first international trip to not have any sleeping issues on!

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3. Choose the Best Food Options You Can

You might not have a lot of food options for some (or all!) of the meals, depending upon the nature of your trip. But in many cases, you’ll at least have some options — and when you have options, choose the best options you can.

If someone is offering you food that you’ve not eaten before and it would be unkind to refuse it, you can always say, “Can you just give me a really small serving?” Or say something like, “Thank you so much. I’d love to try a little bit!”

When you have the option to eat food that you know will sit well with you, eat that. If it’s food that you feel is a little risky, take the smallest serving you possibly can while still being polite to your hosts and then eat your own snacks when you get hungry (Obviously, eat your own snacks at some time when you can do it discreetly so you’re not being un-gracious to your host… I’ve even eaten in bathroom stalls before! Sometimes, you do what you gotta do!)

4. Bring Your Own Snacks

One of the lessons I learned from my trip to Israel and Italy earlier this year is that you should always bring some snacks on international trips — especially if you’re someone prone to stomach and digestive issues.

This last time around, I made up 30 baggies of homemade trail mix — with dried fruit, nuts, and a little coconut and cinnamon. I also brought lots of Wasa crackers.

I ended up not needing as many snacks as I thought I would need, but I was so happy to have them available in my backpack as backup when we were out and about throughout the day or for an early morning breakfast if I woke up a few hours before breakfast was available at the lodge we were staying at.
My Sanity-Saving Travel Tips

5. Get Some Tummy Rub

I cannot sing the praises of Tummy Rub highly enough! This is a blend of popular oils assists your digestive system.

If you’re feeling sick to your stomach, if you have diarrhea, if you’re feeling constipated, or if your stomach feels off, massage a few drops onto your abdomen area in a clockwise direction to help alleviate symptoms. (This oil blend is already diluted with 70% coconut oil so you don’t need to worry about diluting. However, you can also make one of the recipes listed here.) I usually will apply it 2-3 times throughout the day until the symptoms clear up.

This is one oil — in addition to Thieves and OnGuard — that I will never be without on a trip. I can’t tell you how many times it’s helped our family with stomach issues!

What advice or input do the rest of you have for Karen? Leave a comment with your input!

P.S. I want to bring back the Q&A posts I used to do — maybe even on a weekly basis. If you have a question you’d love for me to answer in a post (on any topic), leave a comment on this post and I’ll consider it for a future post!

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Q&A: What kind of bread machine do you have?

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What kind of bread machine do you have? Do you find it’s better for the machine to do it all, or just make the dough? -Stephanie

If there’s one tool in my kitchen I would never want to be without, it’s my bread machine. My aunt and uncle got me one as a wedding gift and I used it so much it finally was giving out.

Just around the time it was starting to breathe its last breath, my dad surprised me with a Zojirushi Bread Machine for Christmas. Let me tell you, this bread machine is the king of bread machines!

It’s high-tech and offers quite a few different options — including the dough cycle that I mostly. It’s also roomy, so you can make larger loaves and bigger batches of dough.

Make Your Own Homemade Bread

My favorite thing about the Zojirushi Bread Machine is that it has two kneading paddles. This creates a much better and softer texture in the dough which translates to softer, better-shaped bread and rolls.

Make Your Own Bread

I rarely ever bake bread in my machine, because I’ve found that the crust is much softer when I bake the bread in the oven. It does mean that you have to be home and remember to take the dough out of the machine and bake it when it’s done, but it’s still so much easier than making bread completely from scratch.

I can stick all the ingredients in the bread machine for Bread Machine Buttery Rolls and and hour and a half later, the dough is ready to be shaped into rolls. No mixing, no kneading and no worrying about setting a timer. Truly, in about ten minutes of total prep time, I can have a hot and fresh batch of rolls made.

My Favorite Simple & Easy Homemade Bread Recipes

Do you have a bread machine? If so, what kind & do you like it?

Q&A: How do I get my husband on board with living a debt-free life?

I am just beginning on my mission to get out of debt, live more simply, and find happiness with the bounty that I have before me. I feel inspired and motivated and have put together a rough plan about how to accomplish this. My problem is getting my family on board.

My husband falls victim to “needing” the latest gadget, random shopping trips, and keeping up with the neighbors’ latest toys. I take care of the budget and bill paying but I don’t want to treat him like a child and control all of his spending. How do I get everyone on board with living a simple and happy life? -Stephanie

This question is something that comes into my email in various forms on an almost weekly basis — and my heart goes out to all of you who are struggling to get on the same page with your spouse financially.

I’m not a marriage expert and I’ve been blessed with a husband who is goal-oriented and a bit of a nerd when it comes to spreadsheets (I use the term “nerd” endearingly!), so I can’t guarantee that I have any brilliant words of wisdom to offer. But we’ve had a number of other areas where we’ve not always seen eye-to-eye on in our marriage and here are some things I’ve learned — mostly the hard way!

1) Nagging Doesn’t Work

If you want to ruin your relationship, start trying to nag and drag your spouse along with your latest and greatest ideas. It’s a recipe for disaster — and discord.

2) It Has To Be an Us Thing, Not a Me Thing

There is no “I” in team. If you want to successfully get on the same page, it has to be a game plan you come up with together.

Don’t expect your spouse to jump on board with you. Instead, ask your spouse if you can sit down together and talk about where you both are financially and where you both want to go together.

3) Compromise Is Key

When you sit down to discuss your finances, come with an open mind. Don’t have everything all mapped out and badger your spouse into signing off on your plan.

Share your concerns in a gentle manner and then listen to your spouse’s thoughts and concerns. If they see that you genuinely want to work with them and want to hear their heart on the matter, they are going to be much more apt to join you in the journey. But they will likely resist from the get-go if you don’t seem to care about their desires and or have any willingness to compromise.

4) Give Grace — And Some Breathing Room!

In most marriages there is one spouse who is more of a spender and one who is more of a saver. In our marriage, my husband is the spender and I’m the saver.

For me, I’d be pretty much fine with rarely ever spending money. However, I’ve learned that my husband is happier when he has a little breathing room in the budget.

But instead of our opposite natures causing a lot of conflict, we’ve actually helped balance each other out. Since being married, my husband has become more frugal and careful in how we steward our money and I’ve learned to lighten up and learn to enjoy life a little more.

Because of our different personalities and natures, we’ve found a beautiful compromise in an agreed-upon blow category in our budget. We each get an allotted amount of money that we can spend on whatever we’d like, whenever we’d like. This set-up has worked well for us and prevented many unnecessary arguments over money.

When we both accept our differences, agree to compromise, set goals for our family together, and give each other grace, we have so much more unity. And this unity propels us to both be working together to wisely steward our money — instead of constantly fighting and bickering over stuff that really isn’t going to matter too much in 25 years from now.

For more suggestions, check out my post on How Can We Improve Communication About Finances In Marriage?

I’d love for the rest of you to chime in with advice and suggestions for Stephanie. What has worked to help you improve communication about finances with your spouse?

photo from BigStock

Help! I’m so frustrated with trying to use coupons that I’m thinking of giving up!

I’m giving up on coupons! Kroger accused me of “fraudulently” printing a coupon for a free package of Kings Hawaiian Bread, which was sent to me via a Facebook offer. Then today at Walart, they refused three of my coupons that were printed from Coupons.com because they didn’t have the right bar code.

Is this a common occurrence for users of coupons? Is there something I need to be doing differently with my coupons. I just wonder is this is something that happens to others. Hints, tips, and suggestions as to how to avoid these issues in the future? -Cyndi

I think most all of us couponers have had a bad experience or three while using coupons, so we feel your pain and frustration.The bad experiences are usually very minimal in comparison to the good experiences, but they happen to all of us at one time or another.

A number of years ago, I was accused of cheating and firmly asked never to come back to a store by a manager. Truth be told, although I replied kindly and left the store, I was shaking and wanted to give up coupons then and there.

Instead, because I knew that the manager was misinformed on coupons and had overstepped his bounds in the way he had treated me, I went home, wrote out all of the details of what had happened, and placed a call to that store’s corporate office the next morning.

You know what? They apologized profusely, reiterated the fact that I was using coupons in accordance with their policy, and were very concerned with how the manager had treated me.

In fact, they asked me if I’d like for them to have him call me and personally apologize! I said that wouldn’t be necessary, but I just wanted to ask if they could make sure the manager was better informed as to what their coupon policy was so that I and other couponers who shopped there in the future wouldn’t have such a difficult time using coupons.

I never found out exactly what happened, but I do know that from then on, that store became a much more coupon-friendly store and the manager never gave me or my other couponing friends who shopped there any issues.

So don’t give up — even when you feel frustrated! Your wallet will thank you and I promise that not every experience using coupons will be so bad in the future.

Here are some suggestions as to ways to prevent as many bad couponing experiences as possible in the future:

1. Make Sure You Know the Deals & Store Policies Well

Get a copy of the store’s corporate coupon policy and bring it with you when you shop. Know it backwards and forwards. That way, if there is any question regarding your coupon use, you are well educated and can make a clear case for why you are using coupons in accordance with the store’s corporate coupon policy.

2. Look for Efficient and Cheerful Cashiers

I always scan the checkout lanes before heading into one and look for a cashier that is speedy, efficient, and cheerful. For some reason, I always seem to have better success in using coupons with these types of cashiers.

In addition, I’ll look for people who are using coupons and checkout and if I see that the cashier is running them through cheerfully, I’ll head to that line. As the cashier is usually what makes or breaks your coupon-shopping experience, finding cashiers who are coupon-friendly go a long way toward a pleasant checkout.

3. Be Polite and Courteous, But Firm

Unfortunately, many cashiers do not know the store’s coupon policies. I can’t count the number of times a cashier has told me they can’t accept a coupon for one reason or another.

While their reason might be 100% true and valid, more often than not, I’ve found that they will tell me something that I know is not right per the store’s coupon policy. When this happens, I politely, but firmly explain what the store’s coupon policy is. More often than not, this is all it takes and they willingly accept all of my coupons, no questions asked.

Be a polite and informed customer, follow the store’s coupon policies to a tee, and you’ll usually earn the respect of the cashiers. When they respect you, they are much less likely to question your usage of coupons.

4. Don’t Make a Big Stink

In some instances, I’ve cordially explained the coupon policies and a cashier won’t budge. Instead of getting frustrated or upset, I just calmly ask them to remove the item from my transaction and return my coupon.

Yes, I miss out on some deals, but I’d rather leave the store without the deal if it means I avoid holding up the line and making a scene at the cash register. Plus, in many instances, I can use the coupon at another store to get a great deal.

5. Work on Lowering Your Grocery Bill Without Using Coupons

While I’m a big advocate of using coupons, I think they are just one piece of the grocery-savings pie. If you live in an area with few coupon-friendly stores, you might find that you just aren’t going to see the savings that someone with a lot of store options and stores that double or triple coupons is going to see.

Don’t be discouraged by this! There are many, many other ways to save money without using coupons. Pick a few of these to implement each month and determine which ones work best for your family.

Not everything that works for someone else will work for you, but I’m sure you’ll find many simple ways to lower your grocery bill without using coupons. Paired with the savings you can also obtain by using coupons, you can eventually really see significant savings!

What advice do the rest of you have for Cyndi? I’d love to hear your suggestions and tips!

photo courtesy of Big Stock

Is it possible to survive on a $30 per week grocery budget?

Think it's impossible to live on a tiny grocery budget? This post will inspire you otherwise and give you the tips & tricks you need to make it happen!

I am single and have about $30 per week for groceries which I find hard to do and get a balanced diet. I do go to multiple stores to get the best prices and use coupons the best I can. The thing that bothers me, is when a staple item I use is on sale, I normally don’t have an extra $5 (let alone more) to spend to purchase it. How can I stock-up on sale items when I have such a little bit to get by with anyways? -Renee

Contrary to what many people may tell you, I think you can definitely eat well on $30 per week — and you can find a little wiggle room to buy ahead, too.

My husband and I both lived on a $30 per week grocery budget when we were first married. This included all the ingredients to make 21 meals for both of us each week, plus all household products.

A Can-Do Attitude Is a Must

Don’t let yourself think, “There’s no way I can eat on this small of a budget.” Instead, decide that you’re going to do the best you can with the resources you have.

Make it a game, of sorts, to see how well you can do on a little. By challenging yourself to exercise creativity and think outside the box, you’ll enjoy it a lot more. And when you’re enjoying something, it no longer seems so difficult.

Make Short-Term Sacrifices

In order to be able to scrape together enough money to start buying ahead and building up your stockpile, I’d encourage you to commit to eating really simply for a few weeks. Cut your grocery budget back to $25, and save the extra $5 to invest in those rock-bottom, can’t miss deals — or to purchase almost-free toiletries and household products.

If you’re thinking there’s no way you can eat on $25 per week, here’s a grocery list and menu plan I came up with:

Sample $25 Grocery List and Menu

Prices are approximate and will likely vary a little by area. You may be able to beat these prices with great sales and/or coupons.

Regular Grocery Store, Aldi, or Walmart

1 canister of oatmeal –$2
1 gallon milk — $2.50
1 bag of apples — $3
1 bag of carrots — $1.50
4 bags of frozen vegetables — $4
1 bag of frozen chicken breasts — $7

Dollar Store

1 loaf of bread — $1
1 jar of peanut butter — $1
1 jar of jelly or honey — $1
1 bag of dried beans — $1
1 bag of rice — $1

Breakfasts:

Oatmeal with milk (add in some chopped apples, honey, or peanut butter to change things up a little)

Lunches:

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, apples, carrots

Dinners:

Beans and rice with steamed veggies on the side
Chicken, rice, and carrot soup
Baked chicken breast on a bed of rice, steamed veggies
Rice, chopped chicken, and steamed veggies mixed together and sprinkled with salt
Homemade refried beans, baked chicken, steamed veggies
Chicken and veggie stirfry served over rice
Leftovers

Yes, this isn’t a very exciting menu. But if you’re willing to scrimp for a few weeks and eat very simply, it will free up that extra $5 or so each week to start buying a few extra things that are on a great sale (like a bag of flour, like that incredible deal on strawberries — some to eat now, some to freeze for later, or that fantastic special on beef).

As you invest some of your grocery money in the rock-bottom specials and deals, this helps you to build up more of a stockpile so that, over time, you’ll be able to have more and more variety without increasing your budget.

Do you want to take better control of your grocery budget? If so, you’ll want to read my newest eBook, 5 Days to a Better Grocery Budget!

This eBook will give you all the tips, tricks, and practical advice you need to create a grocery budget tailored to your family’s needs that you can actually STICK to (because that’s the key!)

In this eBook, you’ll learn:

  1. How to create a grocery budget that fits your family’s needs and your finances!
  2. New systems to help you keep track of what you spend at the store!
  3. How to actually stick with your new budget and save money for years to come!
  4. Ways to save up to $50 off your grocery bill THIS WEEK by using the 10 simple strategies outlined in this eBook!

Read to get started? Just use the form below to sign up!

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Ask Jesse: How do you feel about keeping life insurance as a form of inheritance?

My husband and I are currently switching our life insurance policies from whole life to term, thus resulting in better coverage for the same premium. We are wondering how you felt about keeping our life insurance as a form of inheritance for our three children (our youngest has severe autism). We are in our lower 40’s.

I understand the premium will go up as we grow older but we want to insure that all of our children, especially our son with a disability, is covered. He also has a special needs trust. – a reader

I applaud you for taking the bull by the horns and thinking long-term. It is not often that people, when still younger, not only think about but make preparations for the care of their children, in the event of your death.

I think it is important for anyone, whatever their age, if they have dependents, to make sure to have a lawfully executed will with guardians set up for their dependents. So many people do not have this and, instead, leave it to the state to determine who gets what and who takes care of the children, if both parents are gone.

The purpose of life insurance is to make sure your children have something to take care of them for their support and maintenance when you die. It should actually be called “death insurance” or “care insurance” but that is beside the point.

Because you have a special needs child, it sounds like you have done the necessary estate planning to make sure he is cared for with a special needs trust. This trust can be funded with life insurance by naming the trust as beneficiary of the life insurance. The trustee would then disperse and manage the money according to the terms of the trust, while the other children would be named as beneficiaries and get the money outright (unless they are minors at the time).

If you did not have the trust set up by an estate planning attorney, I would highly recommend it and have them look at the methods of funding. Most trusts go unfunded and the last thing you would want is to have this special trust not funded properly and your child not benefit from your planning. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

That said, while at this point you can fund with that life insurance, your goal should be to fund it with other assets developed over time so you don’t just have to rely on the life insurance–especially if that life insurance is the term insurance. While you could always reapply for term insurance, which is wise to do when the term gets close to being up, it would be good to have a real asset there to fund the trust if that life insurance is no longer available.

Thus, I do not think that it is necessary for you to keep both the whole life and the term policies going simultaneously, especially when you can get quite a bit more insurance for the price of the whole life with term insurance. The term should work just fine as long as you keep on the ball with estate planning.

Again, I would recommend you talk with an estate planning attorney in your state to make sure all i’s are dotted and t’s crossed.

Jesse Paine is a licensed attorney who owns his own law firm. He’s married to Crystal and is the numbers nerd of the MoneySavingMom.com team! If you have a question you’d like him to answer in a future column, you can submit it here.

The content of this column intended for informational use only and is not to be construed as providing legal, investing, accounting, or other professional advice. Your situation is factually specific and you should accordingly seek qualified professional counsel concerning your specific legal, investing or accounting needs.