We just returned from a 9-day trip to visit relatives on the West Coast, and had a wonderful time. It feels weird writing about a trip out there when you are working on paying off loans, but for us, since we didn't travel last year (new baby and bar exam to prepare for), and given the fact that my husband's grandmother was turning 99 and hadn't seen our youngest yet, and that his parents were celebrating their 50th anniversary, we felt like we should go. After this year, though, we are planning on cutting back on flights because there are other more pressing expenses, like clothing and needs for our kids (sports, church programs for our kids, etc.) that are being squeezed out by trying to pay for a vacation where we have to fly.
The costliest expense for us was the tickets, of course, but beyond that, we really tried to save money where we could without not contributing where we felt like we should. My husband's family owns timeshares, so our stay was covered in terms of lodging, and his parents generously got a rental van for our family. We took turns preparing meals in the evenings and covered our own meals during the day. I tried to avoid airport and park food by packing picnic lunches and dinners. All in all, I was happy with where we came in as to what we budgeted.
As I typed in our numbers tonight, though, I was a little puzzled and frustrated because it still seemed like we would end up slightly lower than I thought for our final bank account balance of the month. Then, as I looked through the expenditures, I realized that I made a mistake in projecting our final balance because I forgot to add in some necessary expenses, like a week of groceries, some last-minute medications we needed for the trip, an extra tank of gas to actually get to the airport that's one hour away, etc. You would think that a degree in economics would give me a better handle on my day-to-day expenditures, but I am still working on getting a better grasp of where all the money goes. I don't think our issue is spending frivolously, but rather failing to realistically account for needs.
This is a challenge for me because I want to be all in on this quest to repay our loans, but I also know that I am running a marathon, not a sprint. I also can't get starry-eyed in my expectations - some things just cost money and I have to account for them instead of wishing they weren't there. One thing I do think we will do soon, though, is have a garage sale so that we can raise some extra cash for some upcoming extra expenses.
Despite all of the financial puzzles, I am glad that we went on the trip. Our kids enjoyed a lot of time at the beach and pool, and through the generosity of friends and family also got to visit a great aquarium and Legoland. Hopefully, as we pay off our debt, we will be in a better position in the future to pass on the blessings we have received to others.