October 8, 2010 by Leah
I suck at being frugal. Since I started this blog, I haven’t made a budget, I’ve just been doing some after-the-fact analysis. The idea of budgeting fills me with dread because I have no idea how to enforce a budget. August spending appeared to be better than July, but I haven’t analyzed September because I know what I’ll discover, and it will be horrifying. I’m sick of thinking about money and I don’t want to do it anymore.
September was awful firstly because we haven’t paid rent on our house yet and the situation is getting dire. (It wasn’t dire in July.) This is one of those weird things – the rent is supposed to be deducted from Aaron’s salary and it hasn’t been. I don’t see Aaron’s pay stubs, so it’s been “out of sight, out of mind.” You’d think the government would be interested in getting its money, but apparently it isn’t. We now owe over $5000 in back rent and I’ve been completely ignoring the fact. It means we’ve been spending proportionally much more of our income than we should be (although I’m including hefty loan payments in the “expenditures” figures, so that, at least, is something).
Secondly, and worse, because these were controllable expenditures, we bought four more plane tickets. Travel is an expensive habit, both monetarily and environmentally. Aaron is lucky – his entire extended family is within driving distance of one another in Oregon and Washington. Mine is spread from California to Alaska to Minnesota/North Dakota to New England to South Carolina to the Czech Republic. We are heading to Boston tomorrow and driving through New Hampshire and up to Maine over the next couple of days.
The primary reason for the trip is so Aaron can meet my grandma, her husband, and my aunt Becky, all of whom are wonderful and none of whom were able to fly to Alaska on a month’s notice for our wedding. (Go figure.)
The secondary reason is for Aaron to experience an area that is dear to me and new to him. We’re doing it as frugally as possible – the one night we have to spend in a hotel, we sacrificed comfort for location so we would actually be near the Freedom Trail upon awakening. Our room will have two single beds and a shared bath down the hall. Still, that’s $99. We also discovered that waiting until the last minute isn’t the best way to get the best rate on a rental car. That said, Enterprise always has the best rates, comparatively, and we’re getting the smallest car (which should also help with gas mileage and expenditures). For the rest of the time, we will be enjoying the hospitality of my lovely relatives, treating them to dinners out, and viewing leaves and lighthouses. (Oh, and we are also going to see the Boston Symphony Orchestra play Mahler. This will be a real treat both musically and monetarily – the tickets were gifted to us by some friends who had purchased them and then weren’t able to use them, which is sad for them but great for us.)
Our next trip will be to Minnesota for Thanksgiving. Once we’ve been there, Aaron will have met ALMOST all of my relatives and family friends (I’ve been to Oregon four times this year in order to accomplish the same feat regarding his relatives and family friends). I am really hoping to get us to Prague next spring (Aaron has always wanted to go, I would love to spend more than two days there, and my cousin and her husband live there), and I miss Alaska like crazy, but something may have to give here. Once I get a job, we’ll have more money but less available vacation, and a harder time coordinating our vacation time. Additionally, all this flying makes for a ridiculously big carbon footprint.
Growing up in the upper middle class in Alaska, I viewed it as my god-given right to escape from the Last Frontier on a regular basis (of course, I also flew back and forth between my parents, one in Alaska and one in Minnesota, on a regular basis). Now I’m not so sure. A more sustainable and frugal lifestyle might mean cutting the travel. And yet, travel is so good for us in so many ways, particularly in allowing us to see the world from perspectives not our own. I’m not sure how to reconcile the airplane habit with my stated goals of saving money and cutting down on our environmental impact. I’m also very tempted to just give up on the whole “managing our money” thing because it’s just too damn hard to pull together all the information. We’ll see how I feel when I get back next Saturday – maybe I’ll be refreshed enough to make a budget and step up the job search.