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What *NOT* to do when you buy an e-commerce site

What *NOT* to do when you buy an e-commerce site

I recently sold an e-commerce site I owned. The buyer had plenty of time to ask questions before the sale and was happy with the price. He didn’t even negotiate. The transfer included not just the site with all products + suppliers, but also the facebook […]

What is gate-checking a bag? And is it bad?

What is gate-checking a bag? And is it bad?

A few days ago I flew home from London with Easyjet. I was one of the last passengers to board, and was carrying a big backpack. An employee told me the flight was full and I would have to gate-check my bag. At first I was […]

How do you know when you have succeeded?

How do you know when you have succeeded?

As I was walking to work with my husband this morning, we had a conversation we have often. It always goes something like this:

The Ambitious one: “I hope that X deal happens and Y deal happens and that Z project makes us $abc”
The Optimist: “Yes. But remember even if that doesn’t happen we’re still doing well.”
The Ambitious one: “But I really just want X and Y and then I’ll feel like we’re ok”
The Optimist: But remember where we were 2, 5, 7 years ago? Now we have A, we’ve achieved B, we have C in the bank”

The examples and amounts change, but it’s usually the same format. I’m most often in the Optimist role.

So, what does this conversation mean?

As we start to approach our goals, our goals tend to evolve to be more and more ambitious.

This is the part where I tell you to write your goals down, to take time to celebrate your small wins. Ok, but I actually have trouble doing that in real life. Easier said than done, I think.

Say, for example, your goal is to make X sale, which will make you a profit $10 000. You’ve decided that if you achieve that goal, you should get a reward (because an internet self-help article told you to! ha!).

So you decide your reward will be a [insert gaming console name here], which costs about $500. You write it all down, etc etc.

You make the sale. Now you’ve achieved your goal. Time to buy the Switch, right?

(see? I knew what you guessed!) Yes. BUT…

(1) Does part of you question whether maybe you would have bought it anyway, even if you hadn’t achieved your goal? Maybe you would have made a smaller sale and decided you deserved it anyway.
Or maybe you wouldn’t have made any sales but would have decided that you don’t reward yourself enough and that you want it anyway.
Or maybe you wouldn’t have made this sale but would have made another one in 6 months and bought it then.
Sooooo many great reasons you could have just bought it anyway. So is it really a reward?

(2) Isn’t there a voice in your head that says “sure, I might enjoy the Switch for a while, but that $500 could be put to better use doing X. (groceries, travel, clothes, savings, etc etc.) Maybe I should do that with it instead.
Whether X is a “responsible/boring” thing to do or a “fun/frivolous” thing to do, either way you might decide to do something other than your reward.

  • “fun/frivolous”: ok sure, at least you’re taking a reward as planned. But is it something you might have bought anyway?
  • “responsible/boring”: now you’re not rewarding yourself!

So now I bet you’re expecting me to give you a trick to avoid this, right?

Sorry, I’m still working on this one! But I do like to look back often and try to keep track of all the things we have achieved.

B has been doing annual reviews, and this year I participated and actually liked it.

In a Word doc, we write what went well, what could have gone better, and what we plan to do differently next year for 4 different categories: I think they are Personal, Professional, Physical, Entrepreneurship? But you could choose any categories that are most relevant to you or none at all.

I’ve been resisting it for a long time (sounded very self-help-y!) but it was actually nice to gradually remember all of our wins for the year, and I look forward to reading back in a few years and being reminded of the cool stuff we did!


How Much Money do I Need to Quit my Job and Travel?

How Much Money do I Need to Quit my Job and Travel?

A good friend asked us this lately, and I wrote up a whole Google Doc to answer his question. I tried to keep it brief, I swear! Then I thought this might help someone else, so here it is below. The context is that our friend […]

How do you plan a year of travel?

How do you plan a year of travel?

We planned to travel for a year, starting in June 2016. As it turns out, we’re still going! (with some stops along the way). If you’re planning to travel long-term, how do you plan? How much should you plan? With lots of time comes a […]

When to Buy Cheap Things vs When to Buy Expensive Things

When to Buy Cheap Things vs When to Buy Expensive Things

This is something I think about a lot. Sometimes buying something cheap means you’re spending less money, which overall is a good thing. You can’t buy “expensive” everything- with no limits, unless you’re Jay Z you’d eventually run out of money. Other times, investing in something expensive that you love and that lasts is actually a way to be spending less money in the long run.

“Cheap” and “expensive” are relative. My MacBook may have cost a lot of dollars (and before I got it I questioned the sanity of anyone who would spend so much money on a computer), but now that I have it, and appreciate it (the functionality, battery life, weight, integration with my phone, no endless Windows updates, etc), I wouldn’t say it’s expensive, I’d say it’s a bargain.

My backpack dilemma

I’ve been thinking about this lately because I’m thinking of replacing my backpack.  My old backpack is still alive. It has a couple holes in the lining between two of the pockets, but I can sew those shut.

I bought it 3 years ago for $25 or so on a whim in Chile- so it was really cheap. It’s a good size, really lightweight, has a hip strap, lots of pockets. But it’s not perfect. We’re about to leave to travel for a year, things are comfortable financially, and lately I’ve been having a lot of “you deserve it!” thoughts. I deserve the $150 Osprey backpack, right? I use my backpack a lot. A good backpack will last a long time. I can afford it if I want to. I deserve it.

…BUT. Why haven’t I bought the Osprey backpack yet? (1) I’m not sure that I’ll like it more than my current backpack (“it’s not as lightweight, will that interfere with Carryon limits, etc etc”) (2) It’s the type of item that never goes on sale, and it’s a bit pricey for what it is.

Things are good for us financially, but I still don’t have unlimited money. My old backpack is still fine, and I don’t like buying things unless I really need them, just for the sake of putting less shit out into the world. We won’t be carrying our bags as much this year, and I like how lightweight this bag is, and maybe I can just carry it until it really dies and replace it on the road.

After all those excuses…

Ok, as I’m writing this, after typing out all those excuses, I just went on Amazon and looked at the Osprey backpack I’ve been lusting after. And I’m thisclose to ordering it. Sigh.

During our year of travel, we didn’t buy much because we couldn’t fit much in our backpacks. And that falt really good. I walked away from SO MANY cute shoes and tops and dresses and sweaters… and in the end, it felt really good to have a year of quasi-monk-like non-consumption (if you don’t count the flights and the restaurants and the airbnbs and the 4 swimsuits I bought etc etc… sort-of-a-little-bit-monk-like).

Now for the past 9 months we’ve been in one place, knowing that at the end of the year we’ll leave with just our backpacks, so I’ve really held back on buying things. For winter clothes, I knew that we’d leave everything behind when we go, so I just bought a couple sweatshirts new and a couple sweaters at the thrift shop. I showed a lot of restraint!

But AFTER all that restraint…

A couple weeks ago, I went on Mango’s website and bought some clothes. Nothing crazy, just things I can bring with us to travel, just stuff I need, everything was on a crazy sale so it was the right time to buy them.

And then I bought some bras and underwear. Because it was a crazy sale and I really needed them (true story, I didn’t have any real bras left and I do love what I got).

And then I finally found the PERFECT shoes (I really need just one pair of versatile heels for a wedding + travel, these are perfect) and guess what? I bought those. And there was a t-shirt on sale too so I got that because I do need a t-shirt.

And NOW, when I think of buying a new backpack TOO I’m like, “woman, how much shit do you NEED?!?”

I really haven’t bought that much stuff compared to my “normal-ish” shopping habits back when I was un-homeless, especially if you average out the last year or two or three. But it feels like a lot, and making so many purchases in a row, I’m starting to wonder if it’s becoming a habit.


But I really would love to have a nice new backpack.

So what were we talking about?

Oh, right. When is it better to buy the cheap item vs the expensive item? Here is a roadmap:

  • Is the expensive item better than the cheap item? If no, buy the cheap one. If yes, keep reading
    • Does it matter to you, for the use you will make of the item, that the expensive item is better? If no (ie, you only need to use it once or you’ll need to give it away in a few months), then get the cheap one. If yes, keep reading
      • Do you actually need/really-really-want it? (We could spend all day defining need vs want, so this can be a tricky one. But sometimes it’s ok to buy something just because you enjoy it). If no, don’t buy anything. If yes, keep reading
        • Will you get enough use or enjoyment out of the item to justify its price? If no, consider getting the cheap one or not buying anything, unless that will cost more in the long run. If yes, buy it and be happy.

(If someone wants to turn that into a decision tree, that would be awesome. But I can just see myself fiddling with Paint for 90 minutes and making the World’s Ugliest Decision Tree. I have other stuff I should really start working on after this post!)

How do you define “expensive”? How do you define “better”?

Cheap vs expensive are very, very relative. It really depends on you and the situation. There are times when I’ve thought $2 was too much to pay for coffee (“why isn’t it free?!?”), and times when I happily paid $6. Depends how jetlagged you are 😛

There are also plenty of situations when you don’t know whether something “expensive” is better, or worth it, or when you don’t know how much better it is. You’ll never really know for sure how long your new pair of pricey socks or shoes will last until you buy a pair. I didn’t know how much I would love my MacBook until I took the leap and bought it.

I’ve bought plenty of shoes and clothes that I thought would be great quality or that I would enjoy a lot, in part because they were expensive; it turned out that some were and some weren’t. I’ve also bought some cheap things that have lasted way beyond my expectations (hello, $7 t-shirt that’s still going strong after 5 years!)

There’s no right answer to this, sometimes you just need to take the leap.

So what are you doing about the backpack?

Good question. Right now I’m thinking I’ll probably buy it. All those Amazon tabs are open and staring at me.

When I wrote above about how sometimes wanting something enough is a good reason to buy it, that really clicked. I don’t really need a new backpack right this second, but I am in a position where I might enjoy the new one a lot.

I do like my old backpack, and I’ll be sad to give it up (I’m not in a situation where I can keep both; once we hit the road I’ll need to leave one behind) but if the new one is wonderful I know I’ll appreciate it every time I use it, and I know I’ll use it a lot.

Off to Amazon…

Managing Travel Budgets when Traveling as a Group

Managing Travel Budgets when Traveling as a Group

Managing your budget when you’re traveling alone or as a couple isn’t easy, but when you meet up with friends things can get waaay more complicated. B and I know from experience that when we meet up with friends on the road, we spend much more […]

Decluttering… in your head

Decluttering… in your head

Today feels a bit different than a usual workday. Yes, I have things to do. Yes, I’m procrastinating a little bit. But… for the first time in a long while, I feel entitled to a little bit of a mental vacation. This isn’t to say […]

How Much do Restaurants Cost in Bali?

How Much do Restaurants Cost in Bali?

Normally there would be no straight answer to this question: it depends on the restaurant, what you order,etc. Of course it does. But, surprisingly, I found that there were 2 (ok, 3) distinct types of restaurants in Bali, with 2 fairly consistent price ranges.

Type 1: Local cafeterias

How to recognize them: these are the restaurants (Warungs) at the side of the road everywhere, where locals actually eat. Most of them are cafeteria style: they will have 3-10 dishes prepared, plus rice. You point at what you want (or occasionally serve yourself) and they make up a price for you.

The price can vary, but usually should be $1-2USD per plate. A soft drink or water bottle will add another $1 or so. At the lower end of the spectrum you’re getting a price closer to what the locals pay, while at the higher end you’re getting more of a tourist price. Still a good deal.

The food at these cafeterias is almost always delicious, often painfully spicy. Worried about getting sick? Don’t be. We went to the same warung near home almost every day for weeks, and our price progressively decreased from about $1.5 per plate to as little as $.50 per plate. It helps to be seen as less of a foreign tourist and more of a regular!

Type 2: “Foreigner” restaurants

How to recognize them: they’re full of surfers and blonde Aussies on laptops, probably near the beach. Anything with the word Vegan in the name is in this category. This is not bad, there are actually tons of great restaurants in Bali that serve western-style food with beautiful presentation, nice décor, and lots of local/organic/vegan options. They will definitely have coconut, soy, or almond milk for your coffee. Service is usually great too.

Expect to pay $4-7USD for a main dish, $2-4 for coconut water or a fancy smoothie. For most meals like this we would end up paying about $15-18USD for dinner for two. Much more expensive than the local warung, but still a great deal by Western standards. It’s also a merciful break from the intense spice of Indonesian food!

Type 3: A la carte local restaurants

There are also some Indonesian style sit-down BBQ restaurants, usually with low tables where you sit on the raised grass floor. You order a few dishes to share family-style: whole grilled fish or duck, vegetables, etc. Best to visit with at least 2 people, otherwise you’ll have leftovers!

Prices are a bit lower than the Western restaurants, depending what you order of course. Delicious food and wonderful service, as usual.

What about groceries?

Did you notice how normally I’m a fanatic about cooking your own food, but so far I’ve only mentioned restaurants? There is a good reason for this. Groceries are very cheap in Bali… but so are the local cafeteria-style warungs. We loved the food at our local warung and they had a great selection of vegetarian dishes. At $1 or so per plate for a meal, it really wasn’t worth grocery shopping and cooking our own food. After the first few days, we just gave up! (also, the gas stove in our villa was a nightmare to light… no wonder no one fixed it, there isn’t much reason to cook!)

We still made occasional snacks at home: coffee, fruit for breakfast, bottles of beer, some instant noodles… but for our main meals we mostly ate at restaurants and were perfectly happy.

See? I can be flexible 😉

So, what are the supermarkets like?

Well, we never really saw a big supermarket except in the tourist areas. Our closest local store carried just a few dry staples.Lots of fruit stands nearby with a good selection. There was a slightly bigger store about 10 minutes away that had a decent selection of groceries, including fresh foods. A giant block of tempeh (2-4 servings?) was $0.60 or so, there was a good assortment of fresh vegetables and spices. Not many imported foods, so if you do want a taste of home I would recommend bringing some spices or seasonings from home.

It’s also hard to find hard alcohol, so if you want some I would recommend getting a bottle from duty-free. Wine, when you can find it, is expensive and probably not worth it. Beer is widely available in convenience stores, but don’t be surprised if it’s room temperature! Repairing the coolers isn’t a top priority.

I hope this will help you plan your trip to Bali! The food there is wonderful with lots of vegetarian options, but if you don’t like spice you’ll want to avoid the local Indonesian restaurants. Enjoy!

The Unexpected Impact of Having Less

The Unexpected Impact of Having Less

The less you have, the less you want. Having less stuff, having an uncluttered space, leads to a less cluttered mind. And once you’ve done the work to get there, it’s easier and easier to stay there- to not acquire more things you don’t need. […]

The Adventure Continues

Welcome Aboard! / What is this about?

Welcome Aboard! / What is this about?

Good morning,

Nice to hear from you. Thanks for reaching out about…

This is how I start A LOT of my emails. It’s a bit trite, but it works for me. I feel pretty awkward about writing a blog, but I can write a decent email, so to make things easier for both of us, I’ll just pretend that you’re my friend and you asked me a question and that I’m writing you an email. Kay? And we can keep doing that until this gets less awkward for both of us 😉

Oh, did I mention that I over-use emojis? You’d better get used to it 🙂

So, what will we be “emailing” about? Well, I’m not quite sure… I just spent about a year traveling, a year before that preparing to travel, and my whole life dreaming about travel. A big part of that for me is planning and saving for travel. I feel like I had (am having) a great time, and that planning and saving for travel is something I’m pretty good at.

People will often ask me how I travel (at parties, etc), and my ideal answer would be a 90-minute tirade about the philosophy of money vs happiness…. but the person at the party isn’t necessarily into that. SO, I figure I can do all my ranting here and you can serve yourself buffet-style to the bits you like and ignore the bits you don’t like. (Just like some people and religion! I hope you don’t mind my jokes…) Deal?

Sounds great. I think we’ll get along just fine.

I look forward to hearing what you think (that’s how I end a lot of my emails),

Have a great day! (oh yeah, I do that too)


Captain Carry-On