Date Published: April 29, 2015
“Life must be a mixture of frugality and luxury.” — Marilyn Whelan
Caviar Living is a hand guide of home-spun lessons from a life well lived. Marilyn Whelan shares her wisdom from how to connect with your community to how to play your mortgage like a game.
With short snappy chapters Whelan gives us tips and tidbits on:
· Fun ways to teach your kids and grandkids about money
· How to keep a clutter-free house – and why!
· Creative ways to get a tax break
· How to stretch a dollar on everything from real estate to creative vacations
Part budget guide, part spiritual manual, and a whole lotta charm, Caviar Living is a lifetime of lessons wrapped up in this 98-pages of fun.
“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”
– Saint Augustine
Travel is and always will be my passion. My
vacations are planned around volunteering,
family, adventure, learning and fun. As long as
I can be warm, I am willing to go anywhere at
any time. I have had the good luck to experience
many different types of getaways.
Because my husband was retired military,
this allowed us to travel on military cargo
planes. We often would sign up for five destinations
and take the first one offered. Our main
objective was to cross the ocean. We traveled
often to Spain, Italy, Germany and England and
branched out from there.
We served a tour of duty in the United States
Peace Corps. We served in the Philippines, and
I still keep up with good friends we made there.
Many people do not realize Peace Corps volunteers
are drawn mostly from two groups: people
fresh out of college and retirees.
There are many wonderful opportunities for
volunteer-oriented vacations. Perhaps you’d like
to try an archeological dig, or pulling weeds on
a mountain trail, or counting turtles on a distant
One of my favorite adventures was a month
I spent volunteering for the National Park Service
at Andersonville, GA. Andersonville was
the site of the largest prisoner of war camp in
the South for Union soldiers during the Civil
War. It is now a national park that includes a
museum devoted to POWs from all of America’s
wars. I was a greeter in the museum, helping
visitors look up their ancestors, and I sometimes
helped in the gift shop. My two days off
per week were spent touring the area. While
I was there, I stayed in a small cottage in the
cemetery. I was the only one on the grounds
at night. It gave me lots of time to reflect, and I
took several projects with me to work on. There
was no television reception in the area, nor did
I have Internet access.
My second-favorite volunteer location was
with Pueblo Ingles. This is a for-profit agency
that helps Spanish executives perfect their English.
For the Spaniards, it is a very expensive
program paid for by their employers. The program
does not accept participants who speak
only Spanish, because the goal is for them to
totally immerse themselves in English. Once
you are accepted into the program as a volunteer,
you work with program personnel to select
a date. If you’re coming with friends, they
work with you to offer a week to your party as
We paid only for airfare. We were met in
Madrid the evening before departure for the resort
and taken to a banquet and flamenco show
with our fellow Anglos. Anglos come from all
English-speaking countries, such as the U.S.,
England, Ireland, Wales and South Africa.
The next day we were taken by bus about 2
1/2 hours from Madrid into the mountains near
the Portugal border. The resort was beautiful.
Each of us was assigned with a Spaniard to a
casita with a bedroom and bath for the Spaniard
upstairs and a bedroom and bath downstairs
for the volunteer. We shared a small living
room and kitchen area. A chef prepared three
meals a day, with wine accompanying lunch
and dinner. It truly was an unforgettable week
for a lifetime of memories. You can learn about
this program at http://www.diverbo.com/en/jobs.
Vacations are for fun, excitement and trying
something new. Consider participating on
a cattle drive. Dryhead Ranch in Montana is
a working cattle and guest ranch. One of the
most popular activities there is driving the cattle
50 miles on Bad Pass Trail. This is a three-hour
drive that gives you to chance to get acquainted
with the beautiful Montana country. For more
information, go to http://www.dryheadranch.com.
Getting a trip off to a great start can be as
simple as packing correctly. A list is essential.
It helps to have a master list to start from. On
this list are the items you are most likely to
need wherever you go, such as an alarm clock,
camera, cell phone charger, medication, small
flashlight or night light. Give thought to what
your days and nights will entail. Think of the
things that will bring you comfort and ease.
When planning clothes, select only three
colors that will go with each other. Make sure
you have both solid and patterned bottoms and
tops. Choose items that go with more than one
other item. My rule is that each top must go
with three things. Roll your clothes. They will
take less room and are less likely to wrinkle.
Consider the mood of the vacation when you
pack. Will it be an exciting adventure, casual
down time, family event? Choose your clothes
accordingly. Have a plan. Your trip plan doesn’t
have to be written in stone; it can be changed
along the way. But have a plan for the things
you think you want to do or see. That said, be
open to changes in the plan. Be flexible.
When shopping for souvenirs, consider
adding a special piece to your wardrobe or buy
something for your home you can incorporate
into your decorating scheme. Make it authentic
– something a craftsman made or a work of
art. Let it remind you of the wonderful trip you
took. You want to look at it for years and smile. I
often carry my purchases on the plane with me.
I feel like I can replace my clothes if lost, but
not my special remembrances.
Vacations do not have to be costly. Thanks
to technology, you have more tools than ever
to nab the best price for a great getaway. These
tips will help you save time and money, both
when searching for deals and while you’re actually
- When purchasing airfare, try to be flexible
about your travel days for a lower
- Consider buying early. If you must travel
during peak travel times, such as when
school is out or over Christmas or Easter
vacation, buy as early as possible. Airline
ticket prices typically go up in the
last two weeks before flying.
- Consider buying late. This is major risk,
but sometimes airlines have open seats
at the last minute and offer them in
newsletters to their loyal flyers. A simple
online search will help you find the
cheapest days to fly.
- Shop around. Always, always check
as many prices as time permits. Never
book the first price you see. A small
sampling of sites to check includes
flights, http://www.expedia.com, and www.
farecompare.com. These sites will help
you figure out which airlines fly to your
destination. Next, you can go to the
website of the airline with the lowest
fare and check it directly. Maybe that
airline will offer a special sale or promotion,
or maybe you can just hit the
site at the right time.
- Be flexible. If you live near more than
one airport, check out fares from all the
airports near you. Many online faresearching
engines will ask you if you are
willing to depart from or arrive in alternative
- You’ll usually find the lowest fares for
travel if you look on Tuesdays, Wednesdays
and Saturdays. Also try to fly midweek,
which is less costly. Prices on the
Internet are lower for car rentals, hotels
and flights. You can compare prices
among Travelocity, Expedia and Orbitz.
- Peak seasons are tricky. Often flying the
week before or the week after a peak
season can make a huge difference.
I remember once taking a cruise to
Alaska the last week of the peak season.
It turned out to be the warmest week of
com can tell you when a good deal
comes along. Check for coupons and
specials. This site will track your reservation
and alert you when a special deal
- When buying travel insurance, try a
multi-insurance site such as www.
insuremytrip.com. Don’t buy insurance
from a tour operator, travel agency or
cruise line. They work with only one
agency and may use the one that offers
them the highest commission rather
than the one that best meets your needs.
- For booking a hotel room last-minute,
download an app called Hotel Tonight.
It not only gives you up to 70 percent
off, but you can check availability a
week in advance.
- Have an RV? For a $35 annual fee,
you can park free overnight at one of
351 farms or wineries. Find out more
at http://www.harvesthosts.com. For free or
nearly free RV campgrounds, try www.
- Satisfied with only a place to lay your
head? Consider a Pod Hotel. Arabella
Bowen, executive director for Fodor’s
travel likens the pods to cruise cabins.
After all, most travelers do not spend a
lot of time in their rooms, but consider
the hotel a place to be comfortable at
night. Pod Hotels can be found in many
foreign countries and also airports such
as Atlanta and Heathrow. One example
is Tubo Hotel in Tepoztlan, Mexico,
where you sleep in a recycled drainage
pipe. All rooms have a queen-size bed,
light, fan and Wi-Fi. There is a swimming
pool on the grounds. A package
plan is offered for cooking lessons with
fabulous celebrity chef, Ana Garcia, the
Mexican Rachel Ray. Check it out at
- Italy’s newest high-speed trains, Italo,
advertise larger windows, wider seats,
more elbow room, smoke-free and air
conditioned cars, and Wi-Fi. Find out
more at http://www.raileurope.com.
- When planning a trip, check online for
free activities. Many regions and cities
offer free concerts in the park, lectures
in the library and ranger-led walks, just
to name a few. While online, check for
discounted tickets and special deals.
Look on http://www.restaurant.com for dis85
counts on meals.
- Military families, both active duty and
retired, can fly “space available” to
foreign countries. They can stay on
bases in short-term housing in the U.S.
and abroad. Most bases have a ticket
and tour office where discounted tickets
are available. I recently went with
several friends to the Naval Base in Key
West where we had a reservation for a
three-bedroom house for four days. It
was wonderful, complete with a fully
equipped kitchen and all linens.
While my goal is not to give tax advice, you
can often take advantage of having Uncle Sam
pay for part of your trip. Suppose you want to
buy a boat and “sail the ocean blue.” In addition
to your home mortgage taxes and interest, you
may be able to deduct a second home mortgage
taxes and interest. If the boat of your dreams has
sleeping and cooking quarters and a bathroom,
it could qualify as a second home. This also
holds true for a travel trailer or motor home.
If you are traveling to an exotic location for
a volunteer experience with an accredited organization,
you may be able to deduct the cost
of your travel expenses, as long as the volunteer
work is the primary reason for your expense.
One such trip I found recently is offered by
the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.
It could be considered both a service and a
learning vacation. The committee is partnering
with BorderLinks. BorderLinks is a binational,
nonprofit educational organization at the U.S.-
Mexico border. The organization focuses on
cross-border relationship-building opportunities,
immigration issues, community formation
and development, and social justice in the borderlands
between Mexico, the United States,
BorderLinks has extensive experience designing
programs, and nearly 1,000 individuals
participate annually in BorderLinks learning
opportunities. Volunteers have the opportunity
to meet with Immigration and Customs Enforcement,
go on a desert walk, and participate in a
discussion with a public defender.
Other ideas are provided below. Many of
these organizations charge a fee, but others are
- Want to learn to speak a foreign language?
Your course may be offset by the
lifetime learning tax credit worth up to
- One-day cooking classes in Europe can
be found at http://www.theinternationalkitchen.
- Many foreign countries have Englishspeaking
volunteer greeters who belong
to the Global Greeter Network. Find it
at http://www.globalgreeternetwork.com. The
greeters are not trained guides, but will
spend a few hours with you introducing
you to native haunts.
- Dublin is known as the City of a Thousand
Welcomes. It matches first-time
visitors with volunteers for a cup of tea
or a pint. Find information at www.
organize dinners in private homes in
- Find Couchserfing.com which takes you
to a facebook application whereby you
can join and stay with locals instead of
Flexibility and Resourcefulness
You don’t always get everything you desire
in accommodations. When I scheduled three
weeks in the Berkshires with a friend, we had
a great timeshare with two bedrooms and two
baths. The operators obviously did not want
visitors to do a lot of cooking, because the kitchen
had only a small refrigerator, a very small
microwave and a sink. It was a bit of a shock,
since we had not counted on eating three meals
a day in restaurants for three weeks. We went
to a local Kmart and purchased an electric hot
plate and a set of three pans. We shopped local
farmers’ markets for produce. By being flexible
and resourceful, we ended up preparing meals
that were gourmet quality.
“Travel is fatal to
prejudice, bigotry, and
narrow mindedness, and
many of our people need
it sorely on these accounts.
charitable views of men
and things cannot be
acquired by vegetating in one littlecorner of the earth
all one’s lifetime.”
– Mark Twain
Marilyn Whelan has worked as a reporter, a district supervisor in a first time youthful offenders program, and President of Shoppers Critique International. Her want is to die with something remaining on her bucket list, because when something is crossed off, something else is added.
Marilyn currently lives in Clearwater, Florida, where she is Granny to seven, and Great Granny to three. She loves to travel and plays Mah Jongg twice a week.