Once Upon A Budget
Once Upon a Budget
Q: Thanks for meeting with me! What started your most recent buyer’s journey?
A: My kids wanted to go on a sledding trip but it has been so warm, we haven't had any snow yet.
Q: I wish we could all say the same.
A: I know! Right? I think the adults have loved it. The kids have wanted more snow days and more sledding, skiing, snowman-building, and stuff like that.
Q: So how did you all decide where to go?
A: We wanted our kids to learn how to budget more, so we used the money that they helped us earn by dog-sitting and told them: here’s your budget, what do you want to do? Where do you want to go?
Q: Okay. That makes sense. How much did they earn dog-sitting?
A: I thought it was $80 for 8 days but it might have been $110 because one of the bills was a $50, so I’m not sure. That may have been separate or from somewhere else. I’m not sure.
Q: It’s the holidays.
A: Exactly. Keeping track of everything isn’t really possible. So…
Q: Okay so you guys went out of state?
A: We did. We drove up to Somserset, PA and stayed overnight.
Q: Okay, and that was within the budget you gave your kids?
A: Yes, but it was close — they had searched for hotels that were within like the snow storm areas according to Weather.com, and that were no further than 3 hours by car, and that weren’t over $80, and that included a free breakfast, and that had an indoor functioning swimming pool.
A: We went on a trip a few years ago and Kayak.com listed the motel as having a pool. When we got there, the pool was being repaired, and was outdoor, no compensation or coupon or voucher or anything was offered because we were pretty far out in the country.
Q: That’s terrible. I hope that didn’t happen this time.
A: No. We called each of the three finalists, the three hotels that came up and met all of our search filters. One said their pool was outside, so we didn’t book there. Another one was outside of our 3 hour driving limit, so we ended up in at the Holiday Inn that’s in Somerset, PA.
A: The pool wasn’t only functioning but it was heated.
A: It was so nice. And the room we got was huge, so there was enough room for all of us.
Q: That was all less than $80?
A: Not exactly. We spent $37 on refilling the entire gas tank…and then we spent like $6 at Burger King about half-way there and the kids got to stretch out and play on the play place — which was soaked with rain water but when your on vacation and when you’re a kid, who cares?
Q: Absolutely. So that takes you to $43 out of your $80 budget.
Q: So the hotel cost — ?
A: Oh, yeah! Right before we booked I remembered we had a Hotels.com voucher for $99, so we used that and the hotel was like $35 on top of the voucher.
Q: Okay. So that takes us to $78?
A: Yes but the swimming pool was awesome and the sledding was going to be free but the storm lessened and only hit up north, like three hours away from us, in the wrong direction. I told the kids to use Trivago because it seems to have more listings, like more metadata than Kayak and Expedia, like Expedia does some things really well but some of those travel sites try to list hotels, flights, and rental cars and when your a jack of all trades, sometimes you become a master of none.
Q: OK. So you all didn’t go sledding?
A: Well first we hiked up to see a beautiful waterfall because a few days earlier we had hiked up Little Gun Powder Falls in MD and didn’t see the falls, like after hiking up a mile with four kids, all we saw was the creek. Totally lame. I guess there are falls somewhere up there but…
Q: I think that’s happened to all of us at one point or another. We’re hiking for something that we don’t quite reach but the journey is still an adventure.
A: That’s true. So after we hiked up to see Jones Mill Run Dam waterfall, after we drove by and saw the Ohiopyle waterfall in PA, we drove south for an hour and ended up sledding on the grass on this steep hill where TripAdvisor said a lot of kids go. There was no one there when we went but we still had a lot of fun and the kids didn’t want to leave.
Q: Sounds like beautiful country!
A: My husband proposed after we hiked up to a waterfall, so now we try and hike up to them whenever we can, with our kids and without our kids.
Q: Great! So you all drove home after that? No problems?
A: Almost. Our 2000 Honda Odyssey’s transmission decided to stop working when we were about an hour from our home in Potomac, MD.
Q: Yikes! What did you do?
A: Called Triple AAA — if they knew what kinds of cars we drive (Honda’s) and where we buy them (Craigslist sellers), they would have tripled our monthly membership fee.
Q: Hmm…that sounds pretty rough.
A: Yeah. It wasn’t too bad. Like we stopped to get some Wendy’s and after that, the car couldn’t really get into 2nd or 3rd or 4th gear.
Q: But wouldn’t Wendy’s blow your budget?
A: Nope! We had free frosty coupons from my mother in law. Another Victory!
Q: Awesome! But the repairs on the car must have cost more than $80?
A: Usually they would but we ought that car and had to replace the airbags, then after a trip to South Carolina a few years ago to see the eclipse, in totality, we had to replace the transmission. Since we had a ’95 Honda Odyssey, our awesome mechanic just swapped the parts. And in Hagerstown, we called Kars for Kids and donated our 2000 model. So that was like $400 in a tax deduction for Fiscal Year 2020.
Q: That’s incredible! You stayed under budget?
A: I guess but now we’re minus a car and we did have to pay for another hotel room at the Sleep Inn, which we got a discount on since the pool was not functioning.
Q: You ask this every time before you book a room?
A: Yep. We have to because sometimes the pool doesn’t work and sometimes we can get a discount by just asking that simple question.
Q: OK. So the hotel room blew your budget?
A: Depends how you count it. The hotel room was discounted and came to be $75 after our $100 deposit was returned — New Year’s Eve stuff. Then my kids suggested we go to Wal-Mart and buy face cards, marshmallows, and Christmas clearance candy and play poker, like we did when we went to see the eclipse.
Q: How did you get to the store, Uber, Lyft, Via?
A: We walked. The Wal-Mart was right behind the hotel..and we went to Wendy’s for dinner even though we brought enough food to eat from home, like we ate some of that for our lunch earlier that day.
Q: “Statistically, at least 85 percent of every project is over budget to some degree (source).”
A: Yeah. I don’t think we went over the budget. Tax deductions are sometimes worth more than the same amount in spent money because they can increase your tax returns, kind of like tax credits. AND we no longer need to pay for a new windshield — the old one was cracked along the bottom and we had been putting off paying for it to be replaced — now we don’t have to. AND we don’t have to pay for safety and emissions testing.
Q: Well, I hope I can learn how to budget like you and your family do.
A: It can be tedious but it gets the job done.
Q: If your friends saw your social media updates from your trip, is there an item you think they’d like to purchase from your picture and video updates?
A: Not sure. Depends on the friend. I think some of our friends would purchase discounted hotel room stays. Other friends would purchase Wendy,s or Burger King. Some relatives would buy ski passes since we were close to several (WISP, Hidden Valley), and some would probably donate to me out of pity for the car breaking down — honestly I think it was those mountain roads and some cars just can’t handle the incline at 70 mph.
Q: Great! Thanks for meeting with me. Here’s your free Amazon giftcard/
A: Thanks. Happy New Year.
THE BOTTOM LINE
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