The Month My Budget Fell Into Smoking Ruins [And It Was Actually OK]

Alternate Title: That Escalated Quickly


So, it’s been a month! Everything started off according to plan, with a nice relaxing vacation followed by a quick work trip. That was the point at which stuff started to go crazy — and I fell off the blogging map. I was going to get back to it quickly, but then more stuff happened: I went on a last-minute job interview, and my best friend started having trouble with her pregnancy and I decided I really had to go see her, even though I could only afford to take a weekend trip, time-wise.

Here’s the full disclosure part: I probably spent about $600-700 more than I had to, all told. First of all, I ended up paying for more food than I’d planned at a few points. I estimate about $200 of overage there. Then I did a really dumb thing. When I booked the tickets to go see my friend, I was exhausted from all the travel I’d already been doing, and I somehow managed to book the wrong date. OH MY GOD. I’ve never done that before — I always triple-check, and I thought I had this time, but apparently not. So that meant change fees, and also because I needed to go a week earlier than the tickets I’d booked, it was also more expensive — that’s where the rest of the overage comes from. They were going to be expensive anyway, because of the last-minute trip, but they went from “expensive, but within my travel budget” to “expensive, and even with cleaning out my travel fund and spending all my accumulated gremlins/slush money, I still am going to leave $350 on the credit card.”

I thought about hiding that, because frankly it’s really embarrassing to have made that booking mistake, but nope, we’re all about the anonymous total transparency here.

As for the debt, no big deal. I could easily have taken the $$ out of the emergency fund, but I just don’t want to: I want the EF to grow, not shrink, right now. Plus, I feel so dumb about the overspending that I want paying it off to hurt a little more! My plan is to use next month’s travel fund contribution (my normal $250) plus any extra income (I’m expecting about $100 through a combination of interest, credit card cash back, and Swagbucks), which ought to pay it off by the end of April, and then I can start refilling the travel fund plus the gremlins fund.

The upshot of all of this is that, while I thought I was going to shoot way past my $20000 net worth goal for March, I’m now not going to make it at all! But you know what: it’s ok. I’m glad I went on both trips, even though I overspent minorly on one and majorly (through stupidity) on the other. During the month, I continued to grow my retirement and emergency savings, and I have a clear plan for paying off the small debt. Plus, when my friend offered to pay for part of the tickets, I told her no, but did say that if she needed me to come out again, she could pay for those tickets, so there’s a plan in place for how to fund future travel if she continues to need help/presence.

I think I may finally feel like a financial grownup.

30 thoughts on “The Month My Budget Fell Into Smoking Ruins [And It Was Actually OK]

  1. Even when they’re not the best financial choices, I rarely regret spending money on trips and experiences with people.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Yeah, I really really wanted to go out there, and I’m glad I did!

  2. Sounds like you’ve had a crazy month!

    I’ve totally done the book-the-wrong day thing. In fact I’ve done it twice now. One of the times they gave me the change for free (next time, if you explain to them the emergency nature of the visits, the agents will waive the exchange fees for you). The other time I just bought a second ticket since it was cheaper than modifying the first.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Oh, thanks for the tip! I’ll try that next time. (I did look for second tickets but they were more expensive than the modifications — oh well.)

  3. We all have slip ups and that fact that you were there for your friend is a great thing! You’ll get back on track in no time I’m sure!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Yeah, I’ll recover. It was really important to me to go — wish I could’ve done it for $500 less but there it is 😉

  4. Alicia says:

    I think the fact that you have the financial flexibility to roll with the punches is huge! You’re finally “there” 🙂

    Regarding booking the wrong date… whoops, but totally understandable because you were probably a bit flustered with your BFF’s pregnancy issues. That’s the time you’re going to make those type of mistakes 🙂

    1. thesingledollar says:

      I was super flustered, between the pregnancy issue and the job interview. But really! I couldn’t believe it when I realized! I guess it’s just the stupidity tax.

  5. Yay financial grown up! It sounds like you’ve have a whirlwind of a month. After all that, it’s pretty cool that you have a positive attitude. Life is expensive, especially when you don’t want it to be, but you rolled with it.
    But next time, make sure to super duper extra closely check to make sure your dates are correct!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      OMG next time I am QUADRUPLE checking the dates. I feel so so so dumb. You have no idea how close I came to just pretending it didn’t happen and making it disappear from the balance sheet 🙂

  6. ARBM says:

    I am so impressed with your ability to just roll with the changes and the expenses. That is awesome!
    I’m really sorry to hear about your friend having difficulties, but sounds like she has great support with you as a friend. Well done all round! Let’s hope for some more normal months for the next little while, eh?

    1. thesingledollar says:

      I seriously want like four normal months in a row! Thanks, though.

  7. Megan says:

    Yet another reason I try to always fly Southwest — no change fees! But I love your anonymous transparency. It’s good to hear the good with the flawed.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Wow, I didn’t know SW didn’t have change fees! Will definitely have to think about prioritizing them more in the future. I’m glad you appreciated the anonymous transparency 🙂

  8. Chonce says:

    You sound like a pretty good friend to me, and I love your honesty and attitude about everything. Mistakes happen, our budgets fall apart, and we overspend, but we’re meant to make mistakes and just need to learn from them. Life goes on. My silly financial mistake happened over the weekend when I had a plan to get my taxes filed for free but that plan fell through. I was upset since I planned a whole day to get it done and I figured my taxes were simple enough to do own my own this year with some type of tax software. I ended up letting my lack of patience get the best of me and I went and filed them somewhere and they ended up charging me $400+ that could have been best spent elsewhere in my budget but instead of getting upset I’m just going to take it as a lesson learned.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Well, it actually makes me feel a little better that you blew $400+, so I hope it makes you feel better that I blew $600-700ish 🙂 You’re right, people make mistakes. I’m not in a panic about money these days, which is a nice place to be in — I get frustrated when I don’t make progress fast enough, but I’m not worried I can’t pay my rent, and that’s a good feeling. We’re all moving forward!

  9. Man, that hurts. But we’re all human, and stuff like that just happens sometimes. And if anything is worth going over-budget for, supporting the important people in your life is a very good one.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Yeah, it definitely wasn’t in the plan, that’s for sure. I’m glad to be out of debt in part because it makes it easier to deal with both emergencies and idiotic mistakes.

  10. Jason says:

    Don’t feel too bad. I mean most of us have a Ph.D. in DUMB when it comes to debt. Just glad you are getting back on the horse and it is working out! Hope the job interview went well….maybe a t/t position?

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Yeah, it’s t/t but I’m not sure — I was a finalist along with two people who are associate professors already. So we’ll see.

  11. Kristin says:

    Great choice to see your friend! 20 years from now, you will have that memory and not that feeling of regret because you didn’t want to spend the money. Life happens!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Yeah, seeing her was right! You’re right that 20 years from now the money won’t matter at all, whereas the friendship will.

  12. “I want paying it off to hurt a little more!” The Financial Masochist strikes again!

    Vacation, job interview, and seeing a friend in need, though — all great causes. Isn’t there research out there that shows that buying experience rather than things makes us happy and otherwise enriches our lives?

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Well, pain is good for us 🙂 But yes, I don’t regret any of this (except getting the date wrong, I still can’t believe that) — it was all good.

  13. Alas, our budget implodes on a semi-regular basis. We’ll have to go through a round of specialist visits (both have health problems) or we physically won’t be up for leaving the house to take advantage of sales. We always end up spending at least a little more than I’d like (especially when I make the mistake of adding up our convenience food costs), but I’ve learned that it’s better to just roll with the punches than freak out every single time.

    Each time is a reminder to do better next time. And sometimes I even do.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Before I started tracking I had no idea how regularly my budget blew up. This one was big, but there always seems to be something — from food spoiled by an electricity outage, to car repairs, to these plane tickets. I want a large enough stash of $$ that I’m prepared for this stuff!

  14. These things happen. You have the right perspective on this. Years from now, you won’t remember how much those tickets cost, but you will remember being there for a friend when she needed you.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Well, I hope I remember that I made the mistake so I don’t make it again 🙂 but yeah, the important thing was just to get out there. I really wanted to go and I was glad I could.

  15. Yikes! I can only imagine how mad I would be at myself (as I´m sure you were) about booking the wrong dates! I´ve made a lot of stupid and costly mistakes in my day, and they just make me bitter! Haha. Anyway, glad you got to spend time with your friend, and that you didn´t have to pull from emergency savings.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Oh man, I just could not believe it. Still can’t! Sigh. However, life goes on.

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