This trip was originally a great way to check another race off my wish list and visit my big brother. It turned out to be a great lesson on green travel and an incredible lesson on budgeting. Part of living sustainably for me is living a lifestyle that matches my budget. Money is a renewable resource, like trees and many other natural resources. Trees wouldn’t be so renewable if people didn’t harvest seeds, plant them in the right soil, and replant them after cutting them down. My bank account works in a similar fashion. I make the money, put it in my account (watch it collect minuscule amounts of interest), and remove it from the account when I find a worthy reason to spend money. I replenish the money and the cycle begins again.
I have struggled a lot with budgeting in the past and I am using this summer to learn how to make my budgeting more sustainable.
This trip was the perfect way to open my eyes to how I spend money and what I could do to make my money last longer.
Here’s a rundown of every dime I spent on this trip:
$52.50: Round Trip Bus Tickets
$41.80: Race Registration
$5.45: Falafel Lunch in Atlanta
$6: Bus Snacks
$5: Coffee in DuPont Circle
$9: Lunch and Snack in DC
$20: Metro Card
$2.70: Coffee Somewhere
$5.30: Coffee in Hipster Bar
$1: Museum Donation
$14: Pasta Dinner
$35: Lunch On Me
$19: Drinks and Appetizers with Barrett and Victor
$8.50: Brunch in Knoxville with Unlimited Coffee Refills
Per Day Spending: $45.25
Overall I am very pleased with my spending on this trip. I didn’t buy useless souvenirs and I made sure I was getting the most bang for my buck with each meal (while eating locally). I only visited free sights (with the exception of the $1 dinky museum) and I tried to eat at places that provided a substantial and delicious meal for a reasonable price. I still feel completely fulfilled by my trip and I don’t feel like traveling on a budget cost me a great experience.
But, what could I do to spend even less?
Coffee is a huge weakness when I’m traveling, but I don’t drink coffee normally. There is something about traveling that makes turns me into a coffee-holic (which I define as someone who has coffee four times in five days apparently). I just need to think about it for a minute when I go to buy coffee and I will likely remember that I don’t need it as much as I think I do. If I can pull all-nighters and sit through 8am meetings without coffee I can surely walk around a city without it too.
One thing that constantly irritates me is that I waited too long to book my bus tickets. My original fare was $41.50, but I waited a week and the cost went up by $11. It may not seem significant, but every little bit counts. I also could’ve saved $8 on my Metro Card if I’d done some research about the best type to buy for a few days of light use.
If I planned better and eliminated the false security of coffee, I could have saved a total of $34 on this trip. That’s 15% of my budget.
This knowledge will be essential on the extremely exciting, but unfortunately expensive trip I will be taking this summer to England. I will be there for 21 days. If I stick to a $75 per day budget I can spend £46.90 per day (with a £1.60 to $1.00 exchange rate). This will make my total budget $1,575 (£985). Can I do it? Let’s hope so.