Weddings and Travel Budgets

This weekend the Mrs. and I travelled across the country to attend the wedding of a very good friend of ours. We’re going to be attending two more weddings in the next few months – it’s definitely wedding season! It seems like now that our friends and us are entering our mid-twenties, love is definitely in the air. People are putting on the diamond rings left and right. It was a wonderful weekend, with a lot of music, dancing, reconnecting with old friends and making new ones.

These are the times in life that I cherish so much. It reminds me why we continue to save and work so hard to create the lives we’ve dreamed of. It’s not about the money. It’s about the ability to buy plane tickets to travel and be a part of such a memorable experience. Money is just an extension of who you are at the core – the type of person you are shows itself in your finances. Being able to travel is incredibly important to us – whether it’s for visiting family and friends or just to get away by ourselves. That’s why a solid portion of our monthly budget goes toward savings for travel expenses. Naturally, we can’t go all out quite yet in this category (we have a mortgage to pay off!), but that doesn’t mean we can’t divert some of our cashflow to travel for important events.

When planning our trip a few months ago, we knew the budget was going to be a bit tight. We had been diligently saving for the event, earmarking money every paycheck so we would be ready when the time came to book tickets, the hotel rooms, and secure transportation arrangements. Because of the timing of the wedding, we actually found that we were a little shorter than we thought we’d be. Like I said, we’re already planning to attend two other weddings soon, not to mention other family events coming up in the fall and winter months. We’ve been trying to lock down the biggest, most volatile cost – airfare – ahead of time for a lot of these events in an effort to save the most money. One unintended consequence of that is, despite our consistently good travel savings, we were left with practically no money for food (I’m talking less than $20) for the whole weekend!

Round trip flights for both of us? Check. Nice hotel room where the wedding reception would be? Check. Transportation arrangements? Check. Card and gift for the bride and groom? Check. Money for meals and entertainment with the bridal party? Uh oh. In our zeal to cover all of the big things in our budget for this trip, we found ourselves wondering how to cover one of the most basic items, food.

The first step to solving this problem was deciding what not to do. We stood firm in our budget in not taking money from our emergency fund (a silly thing to do), and we didn’t want to compromise other elements in the travel budget (like the amount of our gift to the bride and groom). This decision really helped us, because we didn’t give in and let the budget fall apart. We know one of the keys to our success thus far has been due to discipline with our budget. We didn’t want to get into the habit of letting things slide. So what did we do?

Buried in our linen closet were two small televisions in perfect working order. They were cute little TVs from our college days. Seeing as we already have one nice, newer TV in the house, these two were clearly unnecessary. I saw a way for us to get creative. Time to put these suckers on Craigslist.

This was actually our first time selling anything on Craigslist, as we’re usually buyers. We figured we could do a good job of selling though, by putting ourselves in our potential customers’ shoes. After taking some pictures and putting our marketing minds to work, we put up a nice little ad in the Electronics section for our local Craigslist site. It took a bit of work – reposting the ad so more people would see it at different times of the day, changing keywords in the ad title, etc. Within a few days, we were able to successfully sell one of the TVs for a cool $80. Not bad for a little 22”.

TV Emerson

This money went directly to buy us lunch and going out money while we were away at the wedding location. It was still a tight squeeze, but we were prudent while still allowing ourselves to enjoy the moment. Sometimes it’s hard to find that balance.

There were some good lessons to be learned here. Selling the TV to help us go to the wedding reminded of some good life lessons. Here are the takeaways:

1)   You probably have too much crap sitting around that you don’t use. Giving it away or selling it will make you much happier.

2)   Exercise those self-control muscles and stick to your budget. Allow yourself some flexibility but don’t cheat yourself. Keeping up the good habit of staying the course will pay out a hundred fold in the future, as far as being able to manage your life.

3)   Use your brain creatively to figure out financial problems even if they are not real financial problems. Taking the path of least resistance often leads to poor decisions.

4)   Money is just a means to an end – a representation of man’s best efforts. The guy who bought our TV got to enjoy some entertainment, and in exchange Mrs. Mase and I got to eat out at a local restaurant without having to worry about the bill.

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