Expensive things are happening at Chateau de Luxe. Let me count the ways: on November 2nd, at exactly 9am, my husband snagged us a coveted dinner reservation for $367. In late October, I bought two tickets to a money conference for $378. And if you’ve noticed I’ve been quiet on social media lately, it’s because I’ve been locking down logistics for my honeymoon, spending over $1,800 on lodging alone, plus over $500 on a car rental. There were so many large transactions at the same time, my credit card company kept pinging me, “Are you sure it was you who authorized this charge?”
Yes, credit card, it was me. I did it.
And let’s not forget the future expenses that go along with the above events:
I’ll need to pay an extra $800 on the hotel and plane tickets for the money conference, and also buy outdoor gear for our honeymoon. Because I guess hiking in Adidas NMD sneakers doesn’t cut it in New Zealand?
This $3,000 spending tornado happened in less than a month. A dinner with a stratospheric price tag, a money blogger going to a conference that costs money (how ironic), and a vacation to a far-flung place. Put it all together, and you might be thinking: “Wow, must be nice to be rich.”
I’ve thought that before.
In the intro of one of my earlier posts, I wrote about the seemingly endless display of wealth here in New York City. One example was logging onto Facebook and feeling a pang of jealousy at seeing my friends eating at Eleven Madison Park. Well, now it’s MY turn to be that friend, because I’ll be eating at that same place in a few weeks. Now I’M the one who’s displaying wealth that’s so out of touch for lots of people.
While I’ll never know how my Facebook friends can afford things, I’m an anonymous blogger with a unique opportunity. In a world where talking about money is taboo, I can try to set the record straight. Having money doesn’t mean it’s necessarily easier to spend. Some people really do spend a lot of money without a second thought…but I am not one of those people. I’m not going to lie–my husband and I make nice salaries, but if we spent without considering the consequences, well, our financial progress would be ruined.
And let’s not forget how easy it is to form judgments around other people’s spending. Look at the hundreds of comments on money diaries. People love to get mad about how other people spend their money. But what you rarely see, even in the money diaries, is the context–the decision making behind our choices.
You don’t see the trade offs.
The idea that every single purchase you make is an opportunity cost. If you buy a $25,000 car, that means you can’t use that money to travel the world for a year. If you buy a $4,000 engagement ring, it means you can’t use that money for the actual wedding itself. If you have a monthly cable package, it means you can’t use that money to buy a coffee every day.
Most of us can’t have it all. Well, at least, not all at once. In many cases, making trade offs is exactly how people afford the stuff they want.
I’m no exception. Today I wanted to walk through how I’m dealing with luxury purchases so our budget doesn’t get totally out of whack. Because you know I’m not just going to sit there and do nothing about it.
First up, the expensive dinner.
A Dinner for Two at Eleven Madison Park: $347
In a few weeks my husband and I will be dining at Eleven Madison Park, which topped this year’s “World’s Best Restaurant” list. With a title like that, naturally there’s a price tag to match. Are you drinking coffee right now? If so, are you ready to spit it out? Because the 11-course tasting menu costs $295 per person. For both of us, plus tax, the total price was $647.
The cost was subsidized by a generous friend who gave us a $275 gift card as a wedding gift, earmarked specifically for this restaurant. Because you pay up front and don’t pay gratuity, the purchase is a done deal and our total out of pocket costs ended up being $347. Which is still a lot.
This transaction swiftly landed in Mint and triggered the appearance of the Red Bar of Hell.
I’m not a foodie on the regular, but I don’t mind spending money on a one-time dining experience that’s truly delightful and feels special.
What I’m Doing About It:
To keep our budget somewhat in line, my husband and I are reducing our regular restaurant visits through January. We’d rather trade 6 average dining experiences for 1 legendary one.
Two FinCon Tickets: $378
If you’ve never heard of FinCon it’s basically like Anime Con or Comic Con, except it’s for money nerds. I missed this year’s conference because I used up all my vacation time for our honeymoon. But after reading my fellow bloggers’ recap posts, I got a serious case of FOMO. Once I saw tickets available for next year, I pulled the trigger at $189 per ticket (yes, my husband is coming as well!). Attending this conference would be an opportunity to network with other bloggers and gain some insights on how I can improve the site. To me, it’s a no brainer. Over a thousand people who like talking about money? YESSSS. Also, it’s taking place in Orlando next year, and I’ve never been to Disney World before, so obviously something needs to be done about that.
What I’m Doing About It:
FinCon was a one-off, unexpected expense that wasn’t part of the budget. My husband and I are what I’d call, “loose budgeters,” in that we set up a budget, but don’t live or die by it.
The first thing I did was buy the tickets right away to take advantage of early bird pricing. The later you wait, the higher the prices rise.
The hotel costs $159 per night, so the total would be about $600 or so. All in all, the total would be about $1,200 to attend this conference. I started looking at Airbnbs to see if there were cheaper options in the area, but they seem a bit far removed.
If worse comes to worse, I saw there is a Sheraton hotel a 15-minute drive away that I could redeem points for with my Starwood points.
But our biggest trade-off idea is simply swapping in this conference with a vacation from next year. Usually, we do about two trips a year, so next year we’d just do one. It’s that simple.
Two Weeks Worth of Lodging in New Zealand: $1,800
Next month, my husband and I will be exploring New Zealand’s South Island as our official “honeymoon.” Traveling across the world is already expensive, and doing so in premium classes is something I would never pay for out of pocket.
What I’m Doing About It:
I started looking at flights more than a year in advance, so the majority of our flights are covered by points–yay!
But there aren’t any hotel chains in New Zealand to use points on…
Anticipating high lodging costs, I had my husband sign up for the Capital One Venture card. I saw they were offering an elevated signup bonus. Usually, they offer 40k points after spending $3,000 within 3 months, but they upped it to 50k points. The 50k points equals about $560 that we can redeem as a statement credit for travel spending. We’ll use this to cover costs like taxis and hotel purchases.
I’ve also built up about $500 in cash back from my Discover It card I can redeem for a statement credit. I used my Discover card to buy $1,000 worth of Hotels.com and Airbnb gift cards from Amazon. Then I used those gift cards to book all the lodging. The reason? This quarter’s 5% cash back category is Amazon and Target, so I saw an opportunity to earn even more cash back on spending I’d be doing anyway.
With both credit card points, I’m planning on being able to shave off about $1,000 in travel costs.
And like I mentioned before, I’ll need gear for the trip: hiking boots, a warm jacket, and a waterproof jacket. I absolutely HATE buying clothes for vacation or for one-time use, so I’ve been trolling eBay for gently used North Face jackets and Merrell boots. If the purchase is a “necessary evil,” then I should try to get it as cheap as possible, right?
You never really know how someone else is able to afford things that seem out of reach. But the next time you see something expensive you want, think beyond just the price tag. What can you negotiate on, or compromise on to make it happen? Is there a way to make it cheaper? Can you trade something ordinary for the epic? Life is really about a bunch of trade offs. You have more choices than you think.
Would you spend over $600 for a dinner? If you’re a blogger, do the FinCon costs scare you away? Do you wonder how other people can afford vacations? What are the trade-offs you make in your own life to afford what you want?