We need to rein it in. Yes, sometimes even people who call themselves “personal finance bloggers” (new to it though we may be) catch themselves overspending.
It started with our little mini vacation. I had an orthodontist appointment (yay adult braces!) in the city we used to live in, so we decided we would just make a long weekend of things and drive 3 more hours to Adam’s parents’ house, then two more hours to Panama City Beach, Florida (where his parents were staying for the weekend). I have to admit, I was probably most excited about the food. I knew since we wouldn’t be home that we’d have to eat out and I couldn’t wait. We’re usually pretty frugal when it comes to fast food or restaurant dining, so this is a treat. We may have gone a little overboard.
Our cars are 13 and 17 years old. To feel safe (and to get decent gas mileage), we rent cars anytime we’re driving more than a couple of hours out of town. With such a long drive ahead of us, we had no reservation renting a 2013 Chevy Cruze with all the amenities for a nice weekend rate. ($67.27)
When we got to our old city, we had to eat out at our favorite Chinese restaurant. We did great on the drive down because we brought snacks and drinks. We didn’t stop at a gas station for quick grabs like we used to do. (And boy, can convenience store prices add up!) This particular Chinese restaurant isn’t overpriced at all, so we had no problem having a nice meal for lunch without worrying too much about our budget. ($17.33, including tip.)
Since it was on the way, we stopped at our favorite thrift store the next city over after my orthodontist appointment. Adam “let” me pick out a few things and he did, too. We’re on a tight budget. Adam is still looking for work in our new town, so impulse buying is something we try to avoid. But since Adam knows I like to indulge in that from time to time, he let me buy two pairs of shoes. He also picked out two personal finance books (Dave Ramsey and Larry Burkett) for a buck each so we felt pretty good about those purchases. ($8.88)
While we were dating, one of our favorite things to do was go to Dairy Queen and get small Blizzards (me: double fudge cookie dough; him: turtle pecan cluster). It was cheap and tasty, so we could “eat out” without spending a lot of money. We don’t have a Dairy Queen in our current city, so we were looking forward to visiting one in Adam’s hometown. I am on DQ’s Blizzard Fan Club, so we came armed with a Buy One, Get One Free coupon and fully intended to use it. We ordered our regular meal and were pleased with our plan to eat half-off ice cream for dessert. Well, that didn’t work out too well. It turned out that the coupon I had was printed for the DQ in our old city, so we couldn’t use it in Adam’s hometown. No worries, though, our hearts were set on ice cream (and Adam was too tired to argue), so we paid full price and got our treats anyway! ($19.68)
We spent that night at Adam’s parents’ home while they were out of town and took care of their cats and dog for them. We woke up the next morning and raided their fridge and pantry and Adam cooked us a great breakfast before we were on our way to Panama City Beach! I think we got a little too excited: we forgot the snacks we planned to take with us for the drive down. By the time we crossed the Florida state line, we were hungry for a snack. Plus, I had an iffy stomach and we wished we’d remembered to bring at least some Pepto Bismol. Cue the all-too-convenient convenience store. We got bottled water, Cool Ranch Doritos, a chocolate bar, and the smallest, most expensive bottle of Pepto Bismol we’ve ever seen. ($11.19)
Here’s where we are blessed: Adam’s parents will not let us pay for our own meals when we’re with them. We went to a restaurant called Schooner’s right on the beach for lunch and had fried oysters, fried shrimp, cheese sticks, sodas, etc. Adam’s dad paid the bill for us and we graciously accepted. We took this opportunity of not having to pay for lunch to free up some cash so we could go tourist-shopping.
We hit up Alvin’s Island to buy Adam some new swim trunks and a few souvenirs (keychain for my sister, bracelet for me). We went to a beach dollar store and I bought a couple of Christmas gifts. We visited a few other shops where we didn’t buy anything, and finished at the local Goodwill, where we picked up new-to-us toiletry bags. ($37.32)
When it came time for dinner, we met up with Adam’s parents again. His mom mentioned that they were running low on their vacation budget so we needed to eat somewhere cheaply that night. We insisted to them that we were more than prepared to pay for our own meals, but they wouldn’t let us, so we made the decision to go to a great little local pizza joint and have great pizza and good conversation. Their budget was set and there was no problem there – it was a guideline they followed and they didn’t act as if it was something that strained their enjoyment. They worked within it and we were all happy. They are great examples!
After we swam in the gulf and walked up and down the boardwalks, we were tired and ready to head home. In a moment of weakness, we stopped at Krispy Kreme and ordered a dozen assorted donuts and a large coffee. We ate half for a late night snack and half for breakfast the next morning. ($11.21) Then we decided we needed McDonalds for lunch to get us through the rest of the long drive home. ($7.51)
That marked the end of our vacation, and we actually came in just a little under the budget we’d planned for the entire trip. We knew we were going to splurge and enjoy ourselves. We saved money by not getting a hotel on the beach and Adam’s parents fed us for several meals when you consider we spent two nights at their house enjoying their fridge. Here’s where things went wrong: we were still in vacation mode once we got home.
Tuesday night, neither of us wanted to grocery shop or cook dinner, so we took advantage of a Domino’s $7.99 carryout pizza deal. ($8.67, with tax) I impulse-bought a Pepsi and a Baby Ruth at a discount store when we were buying antifreeze for our cars. ($2.73) We had a sweet craving on Wednesday and made another Krispy Kreme run late that night. ($8.71) I had a particularly rough day at work on Thursday, so Adam made a plan to get Subway and we ate by a gorgeous fountain downtown during my lunch hour. ($13.83) We were falling back into old habits easier than we thought possible.
Thursday night, after we updated YNAB, we realized we had spent much, much more than we intended. Maybe those numbers seem small, but as Adam mentioned in his Friday blog post, we have about a $50 shortfall right now and Adam is currently job-hunting. We don’t have any wiggle room in our monthly budget and we just threw all that to the wind even after our planned mini-vacation was over. Adam looked over at me and said, “We have got to rein it in.” So that’s what we’ll be doing this weekend. Reevaluating our budget, tightening our belts and definitely eating at home.