What I’m Doing this Month to Save Money for Travel (And What I’m Not Doing)

Summer is a really difficult season for me to stick to my budget. In winter, it’s a lot easier to stay hunkered up at home and decline invitations to make the trek outdoors (particularly when you’re in Boston and there’s three feet of snow on the ground). The past few months haven’t been great on my budget- maybe that’s why this blog has been rather quiet. In addition to a lot of weekend travel (which I haven’t done a great job documenting up here), there’s been a lot of fun weekday activity, lots of guests visiting me in Boston, and lots of beach time and family time. In between all that I moved into a new apartment, where my best friend and I upgraded from our small two bedroom apartment into a 5-bedroom apartment with three of our other friends. The apartment is coming together, but the two weeks leading up and the week we’ve now been there have been pretty chaotic. Needless to say, summer has been a whirlwind and a blast. I wish I had shared more of it with you all here on the 9 to 5 Wanderer, but so it goes.

June and July were filled with my own travel, and moving expenses were obviously a pretty significant chunk of change out of my budget. I’m a little nervous sticking to my budget in August as well. This past weekend I went to New Hampshire on a family weekend, so that wasn’t a huge drain on my August budget, but from now until September, I have three different sets of guests coming, some for good portions of a week. Sometimes we forget that entertaining can be just as expensive as travelling. And while the time spent with friends and family you only get to see once a year, if that, is precious, showing them around town and treating them to the special things your city has to offer can be super expensive, even if you have the best intentions of keeping it budget friendly.  In addition to all the out of town guests, having just moved to a new, very happening neighborhood, there’s also a lot of “Hey! We just moved to a new place, why don’t you come over and we’ll check out this great Indian restaurant at the corner…” type nights. On top of that, my three siblings AND my mom have their birthdays within a week of each other. So yeah, August is going to be a tough one for financial responsibility and budgeting.

Because of this, I anticipate it being another not-so-great month on the travel savings account. I’m semi-anxious about it, as I think my best bet is to try not to go completely over budget for ANOTHER month; coming in under budget is just not going to happen. Because I’m in damage control mode for the month, what I’m doing is mostly around being frugal in the areas of my life I can control.

When #taxpocalypse hit, I switched over to cash completely, which massively helped me stick to my budget. However, in the interim, I got a flight rewards credit card (part of my 25 for 25 travel hacking ambitions) and I can’t get points if I’m not using it, so I switched over to credit card spending. In order to keep myself accountable, I downloaded the “good budget” app, a slightly lower-fi version of Mint. This has been going okayyyy, but the last month or so, I’ve just gone over budget. It’s good to know when I’m over budget and by exactly how much, but I think there’s a mental difference between going into the red on a digital money account and actually looking into my wallet, seeing I only have $10, and recognizing that I can’t buy a $15 worth of takeout. The good budget has definitely helped me stay closer on track while using my card, but it’s still a littttle too easy to go over my spending limits. So I’ve decided I’m switching back to my trusty cash in the pocket method for this month, and maybe a couple months into the fall. However much it takes to get me back on track.

I’m eliminating the credit card flight rewards, which I’m not thrilled about, but spending beyond my means is a bigger issue than not accruing miles, so I’m going to take the hit for the time being. I’m withdrawing a set amount each week, and doing my best to live within that budget, if not under it. Anything left from the week goes into my little piggy bank, to be pulled out and used when my friends roll into town. Because I spent super carefully last week and had the family weekend (weekends are usually my biggest spend days), I managed to put a whopping $40 into my piggy bank. It won’t be that much every week, especially when said friends arrive, but it will certainly help offset some of the costs without dipping into savings outside of my budget. The piggy bank might sound a little childish, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Once the money is in there I can’t see it, and it’s just hard enough to get out of the bank that I won’t just dip into it before I walk out the door on a Friday night out on the town.

When you have visitors, you’re not just housing and visiting with them, you’re also keeping up with their “I’m on vacation, let’s do ALL the fun things!” mentality and spending patterns. I’m looking into buying a few Groupon and Living Social deals for fun things to do with my guests, as well as, of course, fun free things to do around the city. I’m usually not a fan of Groupon type sites because they tend to just make me buy things I feel like I need but don’t actually need. In this case though, I’m hoping to buy tickets to touristy attractions and dinner vouchers to places that I might like to take my guests. Sure, they aren’t expecting me to foot the bill for all their meals, tickets, fares, etc, but if I can suggest things I’ve already gotten a discount for, I’m hoping it will ease the cost of some of the activities. So far I’ve gotten river cruise tickets and Imax theatre tickets through my work discounted activities program for less than $10 per ticket. I’m looking into vouchers for a few restaurants with reasonably priced menus that I’d like to take people to.

A few expenses that I’d really like to take care of, I’m going to defer until September (sad face). This is mostly stuff like shoes that need to go to the cobbler, a pair of pants that need to see the tailor, bike needing a tune-up, dry-cleaning my wool coats, etc. Since becoming more financially conscious, my mantra has been much more about maintaining the things I already own, rather than just buying lots of new things all the time. We’re a very consumer driven society, so we feel the need to constantly have new and pretty things. I’ve been trying to resist the urge to shop for new things, and instead buy quality and pay to maintain it. Even a $20 cobbler repair on my leather shoes/boots every couple of seasons is usually cheaper than buying a a new pair every few years after I’ve worn my cheap ones into the ground. I’ve got a long laundry list of things I need to get done before autumn hits, probably adding up to at least $100 or more (cringe). But I think I can get away with waiting until September, so they are being bumped from the August expenditure list.

The title of this post is a little misleading, because the bottom line is that I’m not going to be saving for travel this month, SIGH. If anything, I’m hoping simply not to take away from my travel savings. But I do think that it really does tie into travel and the life of a wanderer. No, not the birthdays and the move, but part of the wonderful thing of being able to travel and make new friends from far flung places is that eventually, their wanderings might bring them to you, and give you the opportunity to extend your hospitality to them and show them what your culture has to offer. Financially a bit painful, but exciting times ahead for August. Despite the added stress, I am counting down the days until they come!

What do you do to entertain guests from abroad in your home city without destroying your budget?

Happy wandering!

-xo

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