Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Boston Trip Sum Up

Wow, I feel like I need a vacation from my vacation! I got back from Boston late Sunday night (well, I technically got home early Monday morning...), and have been feeling absolutely exhausted since. Apparently I can't stay up late like I used to! But of course you don't want to hear me complain; it's time for me to report the "damage" from this trip.

I had always really only accounted for the airfare and hotel portion of travel and not pay much attention to cash flow while I'm traveling. This time around, it's the perfect opportunity for me to get a better understanding of what/how I spend during my trips. As I explained in my last post, I promised myself to only go on this trip if I didn't have to pay for airfare and housing. It worked out, so my entire focus was on where my money went while I was in Boston (and at the airport).

I came up with a very rough budget of $200 before the trip. It was kind of a worst case scenario situation. I estimated 10 bucks per meal for 4 days and assumed that I'd eat every meal. That's $120. I left myself another 80 bucks for transportation, drinks, and other miscellaneous spending.

Turns out I overestimated by quite a bit. I spent a total of $148.49, about 75% of my budget. After coming out of the airport terminal, I put $5 on my Charlie Card for use on the T (subway) and buses for the next few days. Instead of taking a cab, I rode the T to my friend's place. However, I was too tired to do the same on the way back, so I took a cab. That set me back by $32. As predicted, the rest of the money went to food and drinks. I didn't eat every meal I budgeted for, nor did I shell out $10 for each meal. Lucky for me (and my wallet), I managed to get some free food out of organized reunion events. It turns out my traveling habits are very similar to how I usually spend my discretionary fund. I ate multiple small meals (and coffee, of course) and shared food with friends in order to maximize my time/budget for socializing. This way, I still had some money left to go out at night and buy a few drinks.

Now that I know what my spending patterns are like while traveling, I’ll be able to budget my two upcoming trips better. Hopefully, this will help me save more money in the future.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Boston Trip Budget

Hey guys! I didn't have time to load this before I left for my trip, so now that I have "down time" and internet access, I can post it. Please note that this budget was established before the trip. I'll report my results ASAP!

If you've been reading my blog, you'll know that I've been planning a total of 3 trips this year. Two of which are reunions to see my friends; the other one is to attend to a wedding. In order to travel without going broke, I came up with a monthly discretionary budget of $100. The intent is to set a limit I can base my spending off of. If I can manage to do this for even just a few months, I'd be able to save a good amount of money for traveling and still leave some cash in my savings.

It's been 4 months since I implemented the plan and finally, the time has come for my first trip. This trip takes me back to my Alma Mater in Boston, MA. It's a weekend to reconnect with old friends and meet/network with older alumni. However, because I'll see some of the same people at the class reunion in July, I was kind of iffy on whether to go or not. After a lot of thinking, I promised myself to only go if I can avoid paying for the biggest expenses of traveling to Boston: flight and housing.

I managed to find a way to receive enough mileage points on United's Mileage Plus program to exchange for one round trip air ticket (I'll share how I did it in a later post). As for housing, having graduated just a few years ago, I still have quite a few friends in the area. When I decided to try to make this trip happen, I let them know and asked whether I can crash with them. Within a few days, I received confirmation of several places to stay for free.

Compare to finding free flight and a place to stay, deciding on an amount of money to budget for the rest of the trip seemed harder. When I made travel plans in the past, I didn't really keep track of how much I was spending. I mean I know how much I paid for flights, hotels, and other forms of transportation, but I had never really tracked how much I spent on everything else related to those trips. So now I can only guesstimate the damage to be $200. I came up with this number by budgeting about $10 per meal. I'll be spending a total of 4 days away, so that will set me back by around $120, assuming I eat every meal. I left $80 to use on drinks and other miscellaneous expenses such as cab fare, souvenirs, or anything else that may come up. This time around, I'll be more active in noting my own habits for future references and improvements. Hopefully, I'll spend less than I budgeted for!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

April Budget Sum Up

First off, I want to apologize for slacking off a bit this past week. I've been feeling pretty tired lately, and before I knew it, it's May already! Crazy. Anyways, it's time for my April $100 discretionary budget summary. Because I did a lot of resting on weekends instead of going out this month, I managed buy 2 new shirts and still come out below the budget. Most of the cash spent were on coffee and other beverages (seeing a pattern here?)

Another reason why I was ultra careful with my fund this month is because I was looking forward to my trip to Boston the next few days. The fact that I know I'll be traveling means that I wanted to save as much as I can in April for that purpose, even if it's a separate budget. That's another thing that I have become aware of when it comes to budgeting money: mental accounting. It's basically a tendency for people to create categories in their mind, thinking that money from different sources can be used differently when, in fact, they're all "your money." For example, someone may spend his tax refund freely while being extremely stingy with his salary from work. At the end of the day though, his net worth is based on the collective amount he has, no matter the source. WellHeeled wrote a great detailed explanation of the concept on her blog a while back; I encourage you to go check it out.

For the month of April (excluding boot camp again) I spent a total of $72 even. Here's a breakdown:

  • $33.82 on coffee
  • $34.42 on other food/beverages
  • $3.51 on socks
  • $0.25 on parking

Besides this discretionary fund, I've decided to start a fitness budget. After weighing the cost and benefit of boot camp and other exercise activities, I think fitness is such an important part of my life that it deserves its own attention. This budget will include gym membership, classes (like boot camp), race registration, gear, and equipment. I'm not sure what amount to set this to though. Right now, boot camp is costing me $127 a month, but my rock climbing gym membership that's currently on hold is $55 dollars per month. I'll spend some time thinking this through and report back. Any suggestion is welcomed!