Kris and I are in the final stages of preparing for our trip to France and Italy. We’ve packed, the housesitter is arranged, and one of us (hint: not me) has learned a bit of French. All that’s left is for me to finish prepping the guest posts that will run in my absence. I’m waiting for one more piece to come in for October 4th, and then I have to schedule all of the reader stories, but that’s it!

My big questions now both relate to my quest to pack as light as possible:

  • Do I really want to carry an extra pair of shoes? My primary footwear will be a pair of hiking boots, but I also want to take a pair of running shoes so I can exercise every day. I really wish I had some hybrid shoe: something dark that I could wear in restaurants/cathedrals, but also suitable for running. Suggestions for the future?
  • Can I really survive for a month without a laptop computer? At a minimum, I’m taking my iPad and a wireless keyboard. When I have internet access, I should be able to process e-mail and comments. But what if I want to write a blog post? Or do something else that the iPad makes difficult? But a laptop is much bulkier and heavier. sigh

To distract myself from these dilemmas, I’ve been reading about money elsewhere on the internet. For example, here are some of the stories I’ve found:

Jon’lethia recently wrote to share what she found in her 12-year-old’s algebra textbook: honest-to-goodness financial literacy info! An entire appendix full of the stuff! For example, here’s the section on credit cards [PDF]. Thumbs up to Big Ideas Learning for including this content in their book.

On a related note, another GRS reader (whose name I’ve misplaced) sent me this video clip of grade-school students in northern Ireland learning about personal finance:

“In Northern Ireland, personal finance is compulsory for all school children,” the report says. Bravo! (And dig those cute school uniforms!)

Kiplinger’s has an article on how to fix your 401(k). A lot of companies provide their employees with these retirement programs, but not all of them are as good as the could be. How good is yours? This article gives tips for how to tell is your 401(k) plan is up to par. Most of all, it provides tips for how to use it well to invest for your retirement.

My wife insists that I link to World Mapper, which is just what it sounds like: a site filled with world maps. But each world map is re-drawn so that the countries are sized proportional to a specific statistic. There are lots of maps covering work, income, wealth, and poverty, as well as many other subjects. For instance, here’s a map of women’s income around the world:

Women's income around the world

Finally, Len Penzo posted an interesting article describing 10 key characteristics of debt-free people (of modest means). I don’t agree with all of these — plenty of debt-free people remain materialistic — but I do think that most are spot-on. Patience, self-reliance, and self-confidence are key to getting out of debt, I think. You must take responsibility for your own financial future.