#RealMoneyTalk: This Trip Is Costing Me Too Much

Real Money Talk Full length of happy girlfriends with luggage moving on speedwalk at airport.

A few months ago one of my best friends from high school texted me to say that in two weeks she planned to surprise our other friend for her 30th birthday. The two of them live in Southern cities that are fairly close to each other while I live in New York. For about 30 minutes I debated whether or not I should just book a flight and join in on the surprise. On one hand, it would cost me about $600 for a last minute flight and to partake in the dinner plans and boat excursion. On the other hand, I didn’t want to have to watch the Instagram stories of two of my best friends hanging out on a boat when I easily could’ve been there. FOMO kicked in and I booked my flight. I can honestly say, I have absolutely zero regrets. Getting to see the shocked look on my friends face when we turned up at dinner and spending a full day on a pontoon boat were worth the cost. The secret: I have a special savings account earmarked for these moments and I’ve learned how to say no sometimes too.

Here are the ways you can decide: is this trip (or other obligation) costing me too much?

Prioritize

There will be years when the invites come flooding in: milestone birthdays, bachelor/bachelorette parties, family reunions, weddings – sometimes it all seems to happen in the same year span. Frankly, you absolutely cannot do it all and must figure out a way to prioritize how you’re going to spend your precious vacation time as well as your hard-earned cash.

One kind way to tactfully decline an invitation is with a small gift. Nothing major. If it’s a wedding or a shower, perhaps a $10 to $20 item off the registry. Another option is to treat your friend to drinks or dinner as a way of saying thank you for inviting me and I’m sorry I can’t attend.

You also need to prioritize your spending habits. Take time to comb through how you’re spending your money on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Evaluate if there are any mindless, habitual purchases you can nix and reroute that money towards your other financial goals.

Be honest with yourself and your friends

The first step is to be honest with both yourself and your friends and family about what you can afford to do. In some cases, this step may mean that you still go on the trip, but either don’t engage in all the activities or offer more affordable destination options during the brainstorming phase. In others, it means you have to take a pass on going entirely. When this is the case, be sure that you don’t string your friends along – allowing them to plan the trip assuming you are coming. It impacts their budget calculations too. If you know you can’t afford to go, then be upfront at the start.

One option for situations like weddings is to attend one pre-wedding event but not all. It’s common these days to have to travel for a bridal shower, a bachelorette party and a wedding. That’s three trips for just one wedding and you may be invited to more than one a year. Instead, pick between the bridal shower and the bachelorette party and tell both the bride and the bridesmaids (or whoever is planning the events) early that you can only budget for one.

Create a FOMO account

I know it sounds silly, but if FOMO truly is a driving force behind how you spend your money, then you should budget accordingly. One way to do this is to set up a savings account that’s earmarked for those FOMO moments.  

Personally, I route money out of each paycheck into a travel savings fund. Travel is one of my biggest indulgences, so always having a buffer ensures I never blow up my budget. I set a goal of having at least $3,000 in that account at any given time, so each time I take a big trip it’s on me to try and rebuild the account before indulging again.

Figure out how to earn more

Yes, here comes the cliché side hustle advice. But if you really want to pad that FOMO savings account, then you’re going to need to figure out how to earn more money. Babysitting, dog walking, or capitalizing on any of your creative talents could help bring in some more cash that can go straight into your savings account.

But it doesn’t have to be a side hustle. You could also get ready to negotiate at your job and use the money from a raise to aggressively concentrate on financial goals like funding your FOMO account or paying off debt that prevents you from getting to indulge when you want. You could also strive to create a passive income generator. This often takes a lot of upfront work, and sometimes financial investment as well, so it isn’t a simple solution.

Consider travel hacking

Travel hacking is the art of using credit card rewards to subsidize travel. For example, a credit card offers 50,000 bonus miles if you spend $3,000 within the first 3 months of opening an account. Those 50,000 bonus miles are enough for a roundtrip flight, so you’re able to book a flight with rewards. The key here is that the $3,000 should part of your normal spending behaviors and not result in you incurring any debt.

This is a game that should only be played if you’re in great financial health and don’t have credit card debt. In fact, you shouldn’t even partake in travel hacking if you’ve had a history of struggling with credit card debt. It isn’t worth falling back down the debt hole.

Take care of your mental health

Can’t make it on a trip? Don’t torment yourself by checking-in on social media. I’m not suggesting you stay off of social media entirely (but props to you if you can). Instead, make your browsing experience a safe space by either muting your friends or particular hashtags on Instagram. That way you don’t see their posts on your home feed nor see their stories unless you proactively go to their page. Your friends won’t know you’ve muted them. You could also do this on Twitter or Facebook.

The views and opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or view of Intuit Inc, Mint or any affiliated organization. This blog post does not constitute, and should not be considered a substitute for legal or financial advice. Each financial situation is different, the advice provided is intended to be general. Please contact your financial or legal advisors for information specific to your situation.

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