Gail Vaz-Oxlade, I'm gonna make you proud! I just love Gail on 'Til Debt Do Us Part. Her no-nonsense approach not only makes great TV, it makes sense to me. This show is one of only about three that I actually sit down and watch. Usually the TV is on, keeping me company, while I'm doing other things. This show is worth paying attention to.
One of the things I like best about Gail's approach is that she encourages balance; even if you have debt to pay off, or you are lacking in your emergency fund, Gail believes that you need to have some fun once in a while, so long as you budget for it ahead of time and don't go overboard with the spending. I think that's important. Nobody can thrive when all you do is work for a paycheck.
Anyway - Walker and I had planned to spend a week on Sanibel Island in the Gulf of Mexico last November. Those plans had to be canceled so I could do my daily radiation treatments. When we were ready to try for another trip, we could not find decent airfare to Fort Meyers, the closest airport to Sanibel. We could have waited a bit to see if the airfare came down, but there was stuff coming up at work that would require my presence, and Walker really needed some time away sooner rather than later, so we decided instead to check alternate destinations. Walker has some family snowbirds in Orlando, and while we could get there for a good price, the flights had not one but two stops along the way. This time of year, with unpredictable weather, that bothered me. Who wants to get stuck in an airport half way to their destination due to snow and ice? We ended up deciding on Tampa, and were thrilled to discover we could get frequent flier seats with one slight catch - we had to fly down a day earlier than we were planning to. Ah well, what can you do? Our vacation went from a week to eight days, challenging the budget a bit more.
This is what we had originally budgeted:
Rental car & gas $400
golf (greens fees & club rental) $300
Entertainment, meals & miscellaneous spending $800
Total budgeted cost for seven days and nights was $2,800, which is just a bit less than we had saved in cash. But this is the year of fiscal reform, at least at our house. So here's what we actually spent:
Airfare $212 plus 50,000 frequent flier miles. $92 of that was baggage fees. The thing is, Walker paid to check his golf clubs. He would have spent more renting them than bringing his own, so it was money well spent in my opinion.
Rental car & gas $407
golf fees $122
Entertainment, meals & miscellaneous spending $636 in cash, $108 on the credit card, and 400 Disney reward "dollars". The credit card will be paid in full as soon as all the charges post.
The total came to $2,233, which is $567 less than we originally planned for, even though we stayed an extra day. That's just over 20%. Wahoo! The thing that's worth mentioning is, we didn't scrimp. We did not live on peanut butter bread and tap water as some of my friends did when vacationing during their college days. We spent a full day at Disney World, Walker went golfing three times, we rented a mid-size SUV rather than a compact car, we ate good food in fun restaurants, and we brought shirts and treats home for the kids. Could we have cut the budget further? Sure. But I'm happy with the budget and the experience we had. We found the balance.