What happens when someone who’s “good at money” tracks their spending the old school way? With a pen and paper and not using an automated system like Mint?
Inspired by the Man Repeller and Refinery29 money diaries, I thought it’d be fun to see what happens when I track my spending for a weekend. Although I’m conscious about my overall spending, I’m at a point where I don’t feel the need to review purchases line by line. But that doesn’t mean there’s no room for surprises.
I didn’t want to go upstate. A few months back, our friends invited us to stay for a weekend at their summer house in the Hudson Valley. A dream scenario for any normal human being, right?
Yeah, except for me because I’m a numb nut. As the weekend grew closer, I started having second thoughts. I asked my husband, “But what will we do there?”
“I don’t know…relax?”
I haven’t yet figured out how to feel OK about going away without bringing a laptop. Me and relaxing don’t exactly compute. Plus we’ve already gone away for the past few weekends, and still had two more trips to go. So again: “Yeah, but, what will we do there?” Going on another trip felt a little, well, indulgent, unless we had a real reason for going.
But we decided our main purpose was to spend time with friends, and here’s how our weekend spending went down, just-winging-it style.
I reserved a car weeks ago just in case, but it looks like we don’t need it. Our friends have a car and said we could hitch a ride with them, as long as we don’t mind hanging out with their two pug puppies in the back. DEAL. After work, the plan is to meet them at their place and hit the road at about 8pm.
But first—dinner! We aren’t starving, but we won’t arrive upstate until past 11pm, so dinner is now or never. After work, my husband and I decide to grab some food from the Whole Foods hot bar. My husband gets subpar pizza and my mishmash of chicken curry, potatoes and roasted carrots end up being way more expensive than I thought: $12.85. We also buy some bread as a host gift. $25.83
One loaf of bread doesn’t feel substantial enough, so we stop by a wine store and buy a bottle of Bloem Sauvignon Blanc as Host Gift Part 2. ~$15
We arrive at the house at 11:30pm. I’m tired, and my legs feel like jelly after sitting behind a 6’5” person in a car for two and a half hours. But I perk up when my husband produces a thick envelope from his bag. “This came for yo–”
I snatch the envelope from his hand before he can finish his sentence.
I know exactly what it is: the Marriott credit card I’ve been waiting for for two weeks. A new credit card in the mail is like an Ivy League acceptance letter to a 16-year-old: a beacon of opportunity. I need to make the minimum spend to get the 100,000 bonus, and I found the perfect thing to help me get there. There’s a Starwood American Express promo where you can buy rewards points for 30% off. But the promo ends tonight, so I have half an hour to lock it in.
Buying points without a plan can be silly, but this is an investment in a future trip. Long story short, since Starwood merged with Marriott, there won’t be easy opportunities to earn points in the future ie. no more credit card bonuses. I can use the points to stay at insanely luxurious hotels in Italy. If those get booked up, then I’ll look to Hawaii. And if that doesn’t work, then I’ll look to Paris. Bottom line is, I will figure it out. The second bottom line is, sometimes you need to spend money to get something more valuable in return. That’s why I don’t blink an eye at signing up for credit cards with $95 annual fees. Because I know I can get way more value when I redeem points. I buy 30k points for myself, and another 30k for my husband. $682.50 each, so $1,365 total.
Friday Total: $1,405.83
Our friends take us to a local spot for brunch, Our Daily Bread. I’m officially in vacation mode, which means I just order what I want without considering the consequences. One such example of reckless spending: fresh squeezed orange juice. For my meal I order the shakshuka (wrong decision in warm weather) and my husband orders a middle eastern eggplant salad. $30.51
Off to Berry Farms to pick up some fresh produce for tonight’s dinner. We’re watching A Quiet Place tonight, and what’s a horror movie without ice cream? I pick up SoCo salted caramel ice cream (might be new favorite!) and some plums. $9.90
Once we’re home, everyone heads to the main feature of the house: the pool. I finally get to use the drink float I mentioned in one of my very first money diaries.
Dinner tonight is outside on the patio. Our friend is on a ketogenic diet, and I’m in awe of how delicious all this keto-friendly food is. Caprese salad, perfectly seasoned grilled portobello mushrooms, and grilled chicken.
After the pugs are tucked in and snoring, we watch A Quiet Place, which actually ends up disappointingly being more of a thriller than a scary movie.
Saturday Total: $40.41
Our friend is into Buddhism and mentions taking us to a meditation center close by. I was beyond excited for this, because I’ve never meditated before. That whole culture is very new to me. But then he tells us there’s some private event going on, and we can’t go. Nooooooooo.
Well, who needs a fancy meditation center when there’s this mini waterfall in the backyard of the house?
For lunch we head to Hudson, one of the more famous quaint towns of New York. We’re at a diner called Grazin’ and I’m happy to see there’s a 4 oz. burger available instead of the standard 6 oz. I order that to see how the size compares. It’s cheaper, but then I cancel out the savings by adding an egg on top. Our friends pay with cash, because they don’t feel like waiting for the credit card hoopla. So far they’ve ignored my Venmo requests to pay them back, so this meal has been free.
Then our friends lead us to Casa Urban, a place where they say they can never leave without spending $100. I can instantly see why: the place is filled with hundreds of toiletries from all around the world in cute packages. It’s impulse-buy central. The three of us stay strong, but my husband is intent on buying a bottle of beard oil. Considering his usual beauty routine is deodorant and lip balm, this is a big step! Cost? $16.75
We luck out with another warm day, so it’s mandatory to relax at the pool.
There’s a restaurant nearby, Bartlett House, that’s supposed to have amazing pistachio croissants, so obviously I need to get that. Plus a fig bar. And cookie for my husband. $9.25
Our keto friend whips up dinner from leftover ingredients: a frittata with a side of cucumber salad and fresh heirloom tomatoes.
It’s now time to head home! Some more quality time with baby pugs in the backseat of the car, and then we’re off on a subway train taking us from the Upper West Side to Brooklyn.
At home, even though I’m bleary-eyed, I remember a few items I’ve been eyeing are on sale. Now’s my chance to make sure I snag them before they sell out. I order a pair of Sleepy Jones liberty print pajamas and yet another blue button-down shirt, as mentioned in this post. Respectively, $129.02 and $95.
Sunday Total: $250.02
Weekend Total: $1,696.26
Consensus: I’m Glad I Went!
We spent under $70 on the actual getaway part, and that just seems so wrong, considering all the things we got to enjoy: quality time with friends, hanging out with pugs, swimming in a private pool, healthy home-cooked meals. It turns out that I didn’t have to worry about there not being anything to do at all. We never even took out the board game we brought up just in case we got bored. And even though we were there for just two days, it felt much longer. I guess that’s what they call “relaxing.” When you kinda forget where you are and how long you’ve been there, because you’re so in the moment.
On a money-related note, our food spending this month has been crazy low, just $385, and there’s one reason for that: we’ve been visiting family or friends the past three weekends, and they’ve subsidized us by hosting us in their homes and cooking us meals. Normally by this time we would have spent at least $800. While transportation costs to visit family and friends are steep (think $80 per day to rent a car), those costs are offset by eating meals at home. We’re a pretty lucky bunch!
Anyway, I’m excited about the possibility of going back upstate, maybe to the Catskills next summer. Honestly, I’ve never really valued close-to-home vacations, and often find them almost as expensive as traveling to further places. But at the same time, you also don’t have to travel far to truly relax, either.
How did your weekend spending go? Are you a fan of close-to-home getaways?
Feature Image: The Luxe Strategist