As I said in my earlier posts referencing our holiday trip, the whole experience was a complete budgeting failure. I did one of the cardinal sins of budgeting – I basically just decided on a random number because it sounded good without really digging into what the trip has cost in the past, and without considering carefully all the expenses we were likely to run into.
I budgeted $500 for all Christmas-related spending, including gifts and travel costs. This was not such a bad idea, except that when I thought about travel costs, all I considered was the cost of gasoline and arbitrarily set the “travel” portion of the budget at $100. I neglected to consider that we would be in a car for 12-14 hours each way, and would need to stop for food. Yes, we could bring some with us, but there would be some costs incurred in stopping as well. And I also neglected to factor in tolls. This might seem like a small expense, but the area we drive through has no less than 4 toll roads we traverse for a total of ~600 miles each way. The expense of tolls each direction is between $25 and $30. So, if we pay $50 in tolls for the trip, then that only leaves $50 for gasoline and food for a 1600 round trip drive…
I think you might begin to see why I am calling this a complete budgeting failure.
There was one thing saving me and the budget. I did really well on spending for gifts and only spent $300 instead of the $400 I anticipated. This helped keep us much closer to the original $500 budget than we would have been. I also didn’t factor in (because I had no way of knowing) that gas was fully $0.40-$0.50 per gallon more in every state we drove through than it is at home, and our gasoline spending was also much higher than I had anticipated (and I had under-estimated anyway based on my typical gas mileage and the length of our trip by ~$25 or so to begin with).
The total damage was $570. That broke down into $300 on gifts, $50 on tolls, $180 on gas, and $40 on food. The food number could have been lower but we didn’t plan as well as we could have. We had a multitude of snacks but not a lot of meal-type stuff with us. Overall, we only ended up ~$70 over our original $500 Christmas budget. Thank goodness I spent less than I planned on gifts.
But then, there are the incidental expenses that may or may not be considered part of the Christmas spending budget. First, I lost my wedding ring on the trip. It was missing for 6 days, and I was very distraught about it the whole time. My spouse found it while unpacking once we got home in one of our bags, so that ended up not costing us anything. It had been loose for a few weeks now (my hands must be slimming down, hopefully my abs follow suit soon) and I should have gotten it resized before I lost it. It must have come off when I was packing up presents and luckily it resurfaced. Whew.
The other two “incidental” expenses were not resolved so easily or cheaply. The first is our cat fountain. Yes, our cats have a fountain. Well, had a fountain. We have a cat who does not drink enough water and she gives herself pyschosomatic bladder infections and then pees all over everything we own. Anyway, my spouse left the fountain plugged in while we were gone and the motor burned out when the water got too low. (The cats had several other sources of water to drink, we did not parch them, but the fountain did get close to emptied.) When we got the fountain several years ago, it was $50. I am going to try and find a better deal online for it but it still will cost something to replace. We’ll see.
The final related expense is still not completely resolved. When we were almost home, we got pulled over by the state police because neither of our taillights or rear bumper brake lights were working, and only one bulb of the five in our rear windshield brake light was working. We obviously had no idea. We only got a warning, not a ticket thank goodness, and we were allowed to drive the rest of the way home with our hazard lights on. Yesterday morning, my spouse took the car to the dealer to get it fixed, and they said the bulbs had both burned out, along with the bulbs in our top brake light (on the rear windshield). They replaced all the bulbs, and $82 later (I got an oil change too), my spouse drove home. But when he got home, the top brake light worked fine, but only one of the two taillights were still working and neither of the rear bumper brake lights. So obviously, there is something more going on. Hopefully we can get that resolved on Wednesday, but I don’t know what the final damage will be financially yet. Not that our trip caused the problem but it happened on our trip, so maybe I should add it to the running total.
Ah. The complete budgeting failure. We actually did okay with spending, we could have done better but we could have done a lot worse than $20/day for four people eating on the road, but the budget behind the trip was completely off the wall. Luckily we did have $260 backup from the extra paycheck for any budget overages on the trip, so we’ll be okay overall. Once the dust settles and I calculate out all the December activity, we might have enough left over to completely knock out the credit card debt. If not, by the time my spouse gets paid in January we will.
Happy New Year Everyone!