My Money: ‘Our alternative quarantine holiday’

by nyljaouadi1
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Alyssa Hulme

My Money is a series looking at how people spend their money – and the sometimes tough decisions they have to make. Here Alyssa Hulme from Heber City in Utah, US, takes us through a week in her life during the coronavirus pandemic.

Alyssa, 31, is a freelance writer and educational consultant. She and her husband Randy have four children: Ellie, eight, Max, seven, Amethyst, four and Josie, one. She has been homeschooling her children for a year, months before the pandemic started.

She says her week started out mundane but ended up awesome! She had no idea on Monday where she would be by Sunday.

Over to Alyssa….

I started the day nursing my one-year-old, passed her off to her dad for breakfast and settled down for a solid 45 minutes of private time before spending the rest of the day homeschooling three kids and caring for a baby. After prayer, meditation, and setting my To-Dos for the day, I purchased a course, the 30-day Money Cure with Carol Tuttle for $297 (£242). The course is on gaining financial affluence by clearing out limiting belief systems that don’t serve me and replacing them with healthy practices. I have been looking forward to this course for months and have set aside money for this specific purpose.

After that I moved on to begin my day with my family and set everyone to their beginning tasks of piano, chores, and math. We’ve been homeschooling for a year now, so it’s been a pretty typical day. But at lunchtime instead of transitioning to a play date, my husband took our eldest out for one-on-one time to help supplement the loss of activities and outings that has come with Covid-19 lockdowns.

We’ve been isolating since the end of February and the loss of friends is wearing on us all. During our midday quiet time I taught two online vocal training lessons virtually to students who live in town. Typically they’d come to my home, but we are all still isolating. After that we settled into our evening routine: I made dinner, we ate together and then held our weekly “family night” – an evening of talent shows, games, treats and fun.

Total spend: $297 (£242)

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Alyssa Hulme

I continued with the money course. I am starting up a homeschool consulting business and really want to get on the correct and mentally healthy track for the sake of my business. The course has helped me identify several limiting beliefs I can clear up to allow space for more growth. Then, as every weekday for months, we did homeschool, lunch and quiet time in the afternoon.

During quiet time I had a virtual occupational therapy appointment for my one-year-old in order to evaluate her for possible gross motor delays. This is free through our state. Next I had a virtual appointment with my therapist. This costs $110 after insurance and is withdrawn from my Health Saving Account, an account we pay into monthly through my husband’s pay check and is tax free. Therapy always really takes it out of me and today it was compounded by some new business issues I’m working through, so my husband picked up dinner from a fastfood Chinese restaurant for $40. It ended up being a lot of food and will last a good two and a half meals for the six of us.

I took the evening to work more on my business and work on my personal goals. Normally I’d go out with friends or go to the gym, but everything is closed, so I get to save more money and get to know my bed a little better.

Total spend: $150 (£122)

Our big outing today was a trip up the canyon near our home. We spent two hours hiking in the woods, building fairy houses and crossing streams.

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Alyssa Hulme

Later in the evening I started making plans for next year’s homeschool and bought some notebooks and stationery through I really dislike online shopping, especially for something as personal as a notebook. As a writer, the size, weight and binding of a notebook really matters to me, so buying from an online shop is very disorienting.

I also bought a summer dress through, something I can easily nurse in and hope to be able to wear out and about someday here soon when the quarantine is lifted. Our county just moved to a low-risk status, so hopefully my husband and I can start up our weekly date nights soon.

Total spend: $110.52 (£90)

Late last night my husband discovered that he will not be returning to work in his office until the end of 2020. We discussed buying a motorhome, living in it for the next six months, renting out our home, and working and doing homeschool on the go. This has been a dream of ours for 10 years, but it never worked out with our careers. Now is the time.

Today we decided to rent an RV (recreational vehicle) – $1,160 for four nights – and start testing out different configurations and living quarters. We decided to head for Yellowstone National Park. Two of the four entrances are now open! I found an RV site and started packing up.

I normally would have gone grocery shopping last night but our travel plans halted that. As a result we were out of food today, so I grabbed lunch from a local shop for $33.50 and dinner from a restaurant for $45. This is not a normal thing for us to just pick up and drop a ton of money on travel, but we have now been in isolation since the end of February and we are all so ready to have a new experience.

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Alyssa Hulme

This money is coming from the allotment my husband and I had set aside to celebrate our 10 year anniversary tomorrow, but all our kid-free-for-the-first-time-in-five-years international travel plans were squashed by the virus. This will be an interesting substitute.

We parked the RV along our path to Yellowstone at a Walmart. Anyone can park there overnight for free, so it’s a great backup to have in mind when travelling.

Total spend: $1,238.50 (£1,005)

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Alyssa Hulme

Happy 10 year anniversary to my husband and me! We celebrate the day by first getting groceries from Walmart and starting the trek to Yellowstone. I bought groceries for the week for $233. Not too bad for a family of six with limited fridge and cupboard space. We stopped to fill up the RV with gas for $213. After several hours of driving, we arrived at the spot I had reserved online yesterday for two nights, a total of $180, including water and electricity plug-ins. It’s a little high for an RV site, but it’s the closest I could find to the park entrance online and we decided to value time in the park over the cost of the campsite. (All the sites inside the park are closed due to Covid-19.)

Total spend: $626 (£510)

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Alyssa Hulme

My Money

More blogs from the BBC’s My Money Series:

We woke early and headed to the park today, but it was closed due to a snowstorm. The road ended up getting 12 inches of snow in some places! Instead of exploring the park we explored the National Forest just outside.

Total spend: $0

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Alyssa Hulme

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Alyssa Hulme

We got up early again and were able to enter the park! We used our National Parks Pass to get in, so no cost today. We did everything that was open in the park, the big attractions for us being the Upper and Lower falls outlooks, the Grand Prismatic Spring, and Old Faithful.

We saw so much wildlife on this trip, far more than my husband or I even saw here as children. We drove by and hiked next to elk, bison, deer, egrets, and even several bears including a baby and mama bear. We attribute this expanse of wildlife to conservation efforts in the park as well as the closure of the park over the last several months.

The snow also allowed us to see all the animal tracks throughout the park which our kids loved! Old Faithful had the largest crowd, but still very small even for this time of year. We watched with a small, social distancing crowd for the big event, and then headed out. We were tempted to get take-out from the lodge near Old Faithful, but decided to continue eating the food we’d already purchased knowing the lodge food prices are really marked up.

We packed up and exited the park through the South Entrance and drove through Grand Tetons National Park and got gas in Jackson Hole for $176. Wyoming has lots of open land for free parking, but with a new vehicle and dark terrain, we decided to stay overnight in a National Forest campsite a half hour away for $15 for the night. We pulled in about 23:00, paid via cash in a drop box, and enjoyed sleeping next to a river and under a blanket of stars.

Total spend: $191 (£156)

Total spent this week: $2,613.02 (£2,125)

How does Alyssa feel about her week?

Thanks for coming with me on my 10 year wedding anniversary trip! This is not the trip we’d planned, but it’s been wonderful for our family. We’ve seen two more National Parks, taken a break from quarantine in a way that feels safe for us, and enjoyed our beautiful nation.

This is an unusually high week for us because we went on our trip. But considering $2,000 of that was spent on our trip and only $613.02 spent on our normal life, I feel good about that. We had $2,000+ saved for months now to go to Barbados later this summer, but we have given up all international travel until the virus settles down. All in, I feel like this was a successful trip. We would not be moving forward with purchasing an RV had we not had the real life experience of travelling in one for an extended period of time.

The remaining $613.02 also reflects an unusual cost in the money course I am taking. I haven’t purchased class tuition in probably five years, but being home all the time has me under-stimulated and needing a project.

I think like many families these days, our spending in many areas has decreased (no extracurriculars, less shopping and self-care purchases, almost no gas purchases), but in other ways expanded. I don’t bring my kids into any grocery stores anymore, so when my husband is too busy at work to be with them and we run out of food, I get take-out meals. When our mental health is being run down by monotony, we rent RVs, buy our kids bikes, and online shop for anything to help the kids make it through the day. This is survival for us.

I feel very privileged to be financially secure and have a very stable income. While the world is in chaos we will continue to use money as a tool to support our mental wellbeing and try to take advantage of the new opportunities opening up to us.

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Alyssa Hulme

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