As a little bit of background, I have included a newsletter article that I wrote three summers ago when faced with the reality of a “staycation” the first time:
For Sale: Contentment
A very sad reality hit our family this week: Grandma is selling her cottage. Every summer for more than ten years (since we were engaged on the dock) our fondest memories have been made at CharlestonLake. The last few years, the time we spent there was the highlight of our entire year. It was a refuge from the stresses of life. When I heard the news, I cried.
My husband, wise man that he is, said that we need to see the vacations we have had as a grace to us, not an entitlement. (True.) He said there were no guarantees and that each year was a gift. (He’s right.) He reminded me that this really shouldn’t be a surprise as it has been on the table before. (I know.) He asked me to think of all the other families that don’t have the resources or the opportunity to have any kind of vacation. (Yeah, yeah.) But it still sucks.
If contentment were for sale we would all rush out and buy a lifetime supply. (I would buy the cottage.) But, of course, it cannot be bought. We truly have to cultivate contentment in our lives through faith and thankfulness. We have to choose to align our thinking with God’s thinking and this takes practice (although my husband seems to have the right idea). When we encounter a situation that causes discontent we need to accept that God is in control and that He has our best in mind. Instead of wishing that things could be different, we need to receive the graces that we have been given and trust God for the strength to deal with the rest.
If my experience is any indicator, all that is fine to say but really hard to do. We are plagued in our society with the idea that we would be happy if we had more, if we did more, if we were more. As North Americans, the concept of “enough” totally eludes us and we wonder why we can’t find contentment. Our expectations and perspectives have to change.
This summer will not be what I expected but I will be looking to be thankful. And though I will miss the cottage, I know God has something better in mind.
So, 2009 and 2010 were staycation years and 2011 we went back to the lake to introduce Fraser to the place and to let all the magic sink into our skin again. Though we rented and were, obviously, at a different location on the shoreline, we enjoyed every second of our time there as a family. All the photos still play in a slide show on our screen saver and each frame brings about fond reminiscences.
That brings us to Summer 2012.
As part of our survival strategy during the complete home renovation this winter we spent our vacation budget on a trip to a resort on SparrowLake for our whole family. We needed to have a break from the chaos that was characteristic of our daily living in a (temporarily) condensed space. The interior of most of our house was repainted while we were away and when I began to imagine how that would have worked with four small children cooped up in the house without even the relief that school provided, I could see that the escape was a necessary one to move forward without completely going insane.
Needless to say, that left us a little shy this summer for vacation funds so another staycation was on the horizon. (Sigh.)
I was already making a concerted effort to carefully choose how to spend my money this summer. I’ve been embracing lots of free options for myself and the kids (see Freedom List) and I was trying to frame the staycation as merely an extra challenge. Jay and I each made lists of the things we could do without spending a cent to see how we could build a bit of an itinerary for the two weeks he is off so we wouldn’t just sit around asking, “so, what do you wanna do?” all day. A plan was in place to fill our time with outings in the area and good old-fashioned family time. Through all my planning, I was trying to reconcile myself to the idea, feebly attempting to convince myself that staying at home would be great.
And, well, I wasn’t convinced.
To save face, though, I didn’t admit my discontent to the rest of my clan (not sure I have grown that much since 2009). I really wanted to be okay with being home.
Jason and I met about a week ago to finalize our staycation schedule and while I was typing the agenda on my computer, he was surfing(unbeknownst to me) www.cottagecountry.com! Of course, I began to search the same site and began to look for availability, a dangerous move in the grand scheme of trying to save money.
We realized that we were both longing for a getaway and we began actively sending inquiries to cottage owners and property managers to see what kind of places might be available for the last minute vacation planners. We hated the idea of a summer without some time on the lake and I guess we were going to find a way to make it happen, if we could.
What I am learning is that one of the first steps in sorting out your spending plan is to acknowledge what is actually important to you. So often we just nickel and dime ourselves out of cash that could accumulate and allow us to afford something far more significant. When I am honest, I know that experiences are far more important to me than material goods. I would rather do something than have something.
So, we have decided to, at least partially, thwart the staycation idea. This year is a compromise: as it stands right now we will spend the first week away (not at CharlestonLake, sadly, but at a cottage on MorrisonLake, near Gravenhurst) and the second week at home (revamping the original staycation schedule of local excursions and old-fashioned family fun).
I am revisiting some simple wisdom about spending in this decision: budgeting is a series of trade offs. You will be motivated to keep more money in your pocket if you know that the small deprivations will give you larger opportunities. I am choosing to forgo temporary and small pleasures: I am taking my tea in a mug from home, matching the prices in flyers, packing snacks for the kids, wearing the clothes I have and doing many other things to save those nickels and dimes.
This isn’t an exact science, it’s more like a conscious effort to be aware of my money and to always ask the question: do I really want to spend on this? (It’s kind of like being mindful in your food choices by asking a similar question – but that is an idea for another post.) In doing so, I am creating room in the budget for something bigger and better, something I am less likely to regret spending money on.
And, for me, a week of making memories with my kids will be money well spent compared to various take out meals, lattes, or miscellaneous clothing items that I may have to do without in the process.