September was a really great month for results on paying down balances, and it was practically effortless. Nothing was going on that month! October, November, and December on the other hand – different story. Traveling is a bigger part of my life now in Boston than it ever was when I was in New York. Traveling doesn’t just mean accounting for plane and train tickets, but also for spending money on going out with the people I don’t get to see for months at a time. Meeting up with people for brunch, dinner, and drinks can easily spiral out of control if there aren’t some limits. To give myself hard-stops on spending and in order to have fun within my means, I planned my allowances for each of the four major trips I will be making before 2015.
Thanksgiving Long-Distance Travel: $200/Person
Boston is a college town. There are students from all across the country and around the world living in these parts, and the market deciding the price for flights and train tickets seems to use that as a means to profit greatly off of these poor indebted souls.
Option A: Roundtrip Flight Boston-Newark Wednesday 11/26-Sunday 11/30: $427.10 – 1,233.99/Person. Ugh.
Option B: Roundtrip Flight Boston-New York (JFK) Wednesday 11/26-Sunday 11/30: $360.00 – $667.21/Person. Better than Option B, but the time it takes to get from JFK to to our destination in New Jersey is practically as long as the drive or train trip.
Option C: Roundtrip Train Boston-New York Penn Station Wednesday 11/26-Sunday 11/30: $284/Person. Amtrak had the most flexibility with pricing and times.
We went with Option C. The total bill from Amtrak was $568. We put $200 in wedding money towards the ticket to lower the price per person to $184. We will still need to buy an NJ Transit ticket for $15 or so to make it to our final destination so the price is closer to $200/person.
Thanksgiving spending money: $200 – This includes traveling to New York from New Jersey to visit our friends, and any entertainment for the trip.
Caitlyn’s Wedding Long-DistanceTravel: $53.99
Originally I had planned on taking the bus and spending $60 on this trip. I really really really didn’t want to take the bus. I looked at the Megabus website and whined like Cher freaking out about getting her outfit dirty on the parking lot ground when she’s getting mugged at the party in the valley. You know the scene (start at 0:42)
As I went to select my tickets and pay for them, I kept hearing a story replay in my head that a friend of mine who had visited from New York recently told me. It was about this crazy washed up club owning woman incessantly talking to her, and then said woman picking a fight with someone who was listening to music in their headphones too loudly. The bus driver pulled over and waited until the women were done with their shouting match. I hate noise. I hate people. I can’t do it. I decided I needed to give my brain a little more time to breathe on that one and wait on purchasing the tickets. A few days later while walking home from work, it dawned on my that this wasn’t going to be a holiday weekend, so I could get a better price on a train ticket AT LEAST one way. I found a $49 fare on my phone and snatched up a ticket from Boston-NYC.
I couldn’t stop there. I was still hellbent on finding an alternative to the bus for the return trip. While browsing flights of all things on Expedia, I found one from Newark – Boston for $54.99 on Jetblue. If I had seen a flight for any other price, it probably wouldn’t have triggered my memory that I had a $50 credit from Jetblue from a flight back in May. My husband and I were stuck in the worst terminal at Logan airport and the plane we were about to board had engine failure. We waited around for two and half hours, and in exchange, we received $50 each in our travel banks. That being said, I only spent $4.99 on my return trip from New York.
Caitlyn’s Wedding spending money: $200 – this includes a gift for the couple, transportation around the city, food, and drinks. It’s a short weekend, so the amount allotted for non-gift expenses probably won’t be exceeded.
Christmas-New Years Long-Distance Travel: $267.20
Back in August, I decided that we would make the trip out to Buffalo to see my parents and the niece and nephews. Flights between Boston and Buffalo/Rochester are infrequent and expensive, so I was really glad I found one under $100 and at a convenient time of day before Christmas.
Boston-Buffalo Flight, One-Way Tuesday 12/23: $98.10/Person
Buffalo-New York JFK Flight, One-Way Friday 12/16 $117.10/Person
New York Penn Station-Boston Amtrak, One-Way Sunday 1/4 $52.00/Person
Sub-expenses for the trip:
- Gas Money for my parent’s car and anyone who gives us a ride: $50
- Food and drinks: $100 – luckily Western New York is really affordable for both of those things if you’re in the right place (a DIY distillery in a corn field, for example).
- Transport from JFK to New Jersey: $25
- Transport from NJ to BK for NYE: $20
- Spending money for entertainment and return travel from NYC to NJ: $200
- Christmas presents for all the nieces and nephews: $175
All of the budgeting I came up with is based on my fixed income alone and no freelance or perks. For the rest of the year I can only put $350/month towards my credit card bills. If I get a bonus this year, I’ll put at least half of it towards my credit card bill with the highest interest rate and the biggest balance. I desperately need new clothes to wear in the office. The Catholic school uniform-wearing person within me likes to insist that it’s okay to wear the same 5 outfits over and over again. I’ve gone a long time making clothes a “want” instead of a “need”, but I’m overdue for a trip to H&M to pick up some business casual pants that will fit my ass which has grown since I started a desk job. We’ll see how it goes if I get that extra money.