Each Year, We Empty Nester Moms Get Our Kids Off to College and Fly the Coop — This year to Central Europe

Several years ago, a long-time friend of mine, Kathleen and I decided to start taking Girls Trips together each September, after we drop our kids off at their cIMG_2451ollege(s).   We’ve been friends for 22+ years.  Our husbands worked together, we both had our last babies at the same time  – would sit on the phone for hours and talk about Oprah’s latest topics – our latest explorations into whatever fad/topic of the day from Andrew Weil’s holistic medicine approach to whatever Psychobabble Guru of the Day was selling and would delve into our wounded inner-child(ren) at length… We have one of those easy friendships that just picks up quite easily no matter how much time has passed.  A real gift and blessing.

2 years ago, another oil field wife and also a long-time friend, Stephanie joined us for a trip to England, as her baby girl went off to Baylor and the trip was a great distraction from her trepidation over the milestone.  We skipped last year for financial reasons on my part.  Mark and I had put in a pool, cabana and backyard flower beds in our blank canvass of a backyard and needless to say it dried up any available  funds for travel.

This year, we went on a Viking River Cruise through Central Europe – the name of the cruise was “Romantic Danube”.   It wouldn’t have been my first pick but my friend Kathleen, a gypsy-free-spirit has travelled the globe, and this area was new to her.

After it was all said and done, I highly suggest going on a Viking River Cruise.  You get spoiled, pampered and spoon-fed your vacation and the history of the places you visit.   It is intimate with 150 or so guests.  The food is great and when you aren’t touring a castle, church or hamlet, you enjoy literally watching the beautiful world go by as the boat putters to your next destination.    Viking plans to expand to even the Mississippi River and when they do, I’m going to book for sure.

Turns out, these river cruisDSC00073es started out just in the 1990s and one can tell that they have been a great boon for the local towns’ economies that they visit.  For example, I would have made plans to visit Vienna maybe, but never to visit small but richly important towns like Melk, Regensburg and the like.  I’m hoping the same for the US towns along the Mississippi if Viking pans out here in the US.  It will be interesting to see what happens…

We went through 42 locks going down the Danube.  According to Wikipedia, A lock is a device for raising and lowering boats between stretches of water of different levels on river and canal waterways.  Most of the locks we went through I slept right through, but passengers spoke of the loud noises they made.   Pretty extrodinary to experience, but I would maybe inquire how many locks you would have to endure for whatever cruise destination you are considering if they are a bother and keep you up.

Trip/Town Notes – I’ll start with this:Business Class Fun!

Our British Airways’ Luck

I was dreading the trip because I don’t like having to fly cooped up in a small space for so long.  I was miserable on our flight to England two years ago and had planned to knock myself out with sleep meds.  Kathleen reminded me that I’m in the car for hours when I drive home, what’s the difference.  She had a good point there, but…  Well, we got to the Houston airport early to see if we could upgrade to Business class at a discounted price.  It was still pricey, but so worth it!   We could get pampered even in the airline’s private Lounge at the airport and on the plane we were able to stretched out and just relax for the 10 hour flight.  In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have upgraded, because I don’t ever want to fly economy again!

Two Easy Financial Tips to Help You and Your College Child Budget Day-to-Day Expenses

college moneyLooking back on that Freshman year in College of our two daughters, there are 2 things that I’m really glad we did:

1st – Get them a Personal Checking Account when they turn 16 and are still in High School:

College kids already have so much to transition into besides having to learn a crash course in money management. I witnessed this first hand with a sister struggling to learn how to budget her money in the first few months of college and the un-needed and added stress it brought on her and my parents. Also, I offer this as food for thought: Imagine the stress if you never knew what your paycheck was going or wasn’t going to be each month…. the added stress on what decision to make or not make not knowing what would or would not come in — Add onto that —- Stressful last-minute phone/email/text conversations asking for money — and you as a parent having to make an unexpected, surprise quick run to the bank or computer transfer…

We sat down with each of our daughters when they turned 16 during their Sophomore year of high school. We had a calm discussion about what they felt they spent on average throughout an entire year (holidays included) going out with friends to movies, gas, clothes, you name it. We’d come up with an amount and then we placed a set amount in their checking account on auto-pay on the 1st and 15th of each month. The amount was not generous, but it was adequate. During this time, we taught them how a debit card works, how to balance a checkbook, etc.

doc martenOur oldest daughter (now age 29) ended up buying a pair of Doc Martens with her very first allowance when she was 16 and found herself asking me for money to go to the movies the following weekend. Saying sorry and not giving her more money was hard to do, but it was important that she learn. Needless to say, she never did that again.

As time and grades would allow, the girls both started working a fun job that they liked to earn extra money. Over time, they became proud to say that they actually paid for Mom/Dad’s gift themselves or were able to buy a few more of those designer jeans or whatever because they contributed to the ability to do so and the satisfaction that comes with it.

2nd – Get them a Personal Savings Account at age 16 and in High School:

With our youngest daughter, we immediately also set up for her to transfer $25 from her own checking into her own regular savings account on the 1st and the 15th of each month via auto-transfer. It may not seem like much but, $650 a year add ups for anyone much less a teenage. We told her not to spend it as if you dip into savings too much, the bank will make you pay a penalty. She didn’t touch it until late in her Freshman year of college when she need a deposit ASAP for her new apartment that she was moving into and she needed use it to bridge until our transfer to her checking account came through. She did put the money back into the account after we reimbursed her.

The summer before her Freshman year, and subsequent summers after, she worked at the Buckle and would put extra money away in her savings. During the Holidays, Buckle would call her to ask if she could help out again and textover time, she just automatically, on her own would put money away for Spring Break fun, etc.

The Fall of her Sophomore year in College, she proudly told us not to worry about buying her college books and supplies anymore, as she was able to do that herself. She has paid for her books for all of her Sophomore, Junior, Senior and now Super Senior year.

This summer as a 5th year Senior she got a summer internship in her industry. She found herself earning $32 an hour in her full-time job, summer internship as a Mechanical Engineer. She was astounded at how much money she was bringing in on her own and approached us to just stop her allowance completely, as she had this easily on her own for the rest of the entire Sept. to May school year.

I’m not saying that they were perfect angels at money management, but I feel that doing this did help alleviate some of the stress of what we needed to put aside each month for them to handle the day to days of school and what they needed to work within as best they can…

Hope this helps.

The Kool-Aid House

DSC02585Just got off the phone with Mark’s Mom, Mary.  I called her last night to ask for a recipe for her homemade ice cream that Mark remembered enjoying while growing up.  I’m going to buy an ice cream machine.  Madison and friends are coming home for a long 4th of July Weekend next week and I thought it would be fun for them.  One good thing about a child leaving home for College is that when they do come home it is exciting and fun.  We are all more engaged and present to each other than when they were here day in and day out.

I admit now that Mark and I shamelessly work to make our home “the Kool-Aid house” during the holidays, etc.  We work to selfishly entice the kids to stay here and play as much as possible.  For Reference: The Kool-Aid house is the house all the kids in the neighborhood want to hang out at because it’s fun and the Mom probably is a lot more lenient that she should be.  LOL!  We work to update Video Games, Media Room DVD fun, get current Board Games, a bunch of funny wigs/glasses, of course the pool and cabana up the game quite a bit… We’ve planned cooking classes here at the house (ex. a friend in Frisco taught everyone how to make Egg Rolls and another time, we tried our hand in making homemade pasta – a riot)… And, this week I just added a Karaoke Machine to the mix…

This is Madison’s last summer of College.  She’s a super senior (5th year in Mechanical Engineering) this next school year at Texas A&M.  We are so proud of her.  She’s interning at a refinery in Texas City and is really enjoying it.  Next year at this time, she’ll be employed and may not be able to even take a vacation for an entire year, as is the case with most 1st year hires.

Kind of sad to think about, but at least I know the value of what I have coming up next week and will revel in every minute of it.  🙂