Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My Epic Failure To Control Costs During Thanksgiving

I have my apartment all to myself again! I love my sister and we had a blast. But I have to admit, I love having my independence and privacy back, especially to blog!

Anyhoo, that being said, it's been a spend-crazy 6 days that I'm definitely NOT proud about. The spending binge started well in advance of my sister's arrival.

To make my apartment presentable for my sister, I spent the entire day cleaning, including washing clothes, towels and bed sheets. As I was making the bed, I remembered that my beloved cat scratched up all of my bed sheets and pillow cases. (I've been lax about trimming his nails and unfortunately that laziness translated into torn carpet and fabrics here and there.)

I was planning to buy new bed sheets/pillow cases anyways and I figured I could get inexpensive bed sheets from Target or Walmart for about $20. Near the end of the day, however, I was exhausted from lugging 5 loads of laundry from my apartment to the laundry room (2 flights of stairs plus approx. 50 ft each way), so I decided to go to the out of business sale at Linens 'N Things that's only 2 blocks away. I figured with 30% off, I can get just as good of a deal.

Lesson #1 - NEVER shop tired: I was looking for yellow sheets and I found a perfect set ($27.99 sale price). I was too tired to read what was included in the set and purchased a separate pillow case set ($13.99 sale price) as well. Turns out, the bed sheet set already included pillow cases. Grrrrrrr.... (Total: $45.23 (incl. tax); Over Budget: $25.23.) Worst part about this is since I bought it at a Going Out of Business Sale, all sales are final and I can't return the pillow cases. Gaaaaaahhh!

THURSDAY (11/26)
I was set to pick up my sister at the airport at 9:45 a.m. I diligently checked United's website to make sure the flight was not delayed and learned that the flight was expected early. I considered taking a hot mug of tea and a newspaper with me to read, but since the plane is expected to arrive on time, I thought, "Why bother?"

It was raining cats and dogs and I nearly killed myself driving through flash floods near the airport. By the time I got to the airport I was slightly late and the arrival sign indicated that my sister's plane had already landed. I waited for about 15 minutes but she's nowhere to be found. As it turns out, my sister's plane indeed landed but in another city. Due to inclement weather, the United flight couldn't land and eventually ran out of fuel, forcing it to refuel in Palm Springs.

Lesson #2 - Always Plan For Delays At The Airport: At this point, I was ruing my decision not to bring my tea and newspaper. I also forgot to bring my jacket so I was also freezing. I ended up buying a tall pumpkin latte at Starbucks. (Cost: $4.04. Over Budget: $4.04.)

My sister's flight finally arrived at around 11:30 a.m. and we headed straight to a local Chinese restaurant for some dim sum. (Cost: $45.00 paid for by sis; Over Budget: $0.) After lunch, my sister was very full and tired so we took it easy at my apartment catching up and napping. We then went out for our Thanksgiving meal at a tony French restaurant which set my sister back $200. (Over Budget: $0.)

I'm sure I have a money lesson here about excessive spending at restaurants but since my sister paid, I will withhold comment. :-P

FRIDAY (11/28)
We spent a leisurely morning eating breakfast at home, reading the newspaper and watching one of the DVD's I rented. I asked my sister whether she wanted to do anything and she didn't offer any suggestions. Unfortunately, since I had nothing planned, we ended up walking to the nearby mall to brave Black Friday. I vowed I wouldn't buy anything but... ended up buying a Donna Ricco shift dress on sale at Nordstrom for $81.78 and a couple of long sleeved shirts at Ann Taylor for $30.17 (Over Budget: $111.78).

The only other meal we had was a late lunch of shrimp burritos, chips and beans ($12.14). Food-wise, it was a very frugal day.

Lesson #3 - Don't Go To the Mall Out of Boredom/Don't Go To the Mall Especially If You Don't Intend to Buy Anything: I guess that's self-explanatory.

SATURDAY (11/29) - SUNDAY (11/30)
As you may know, about a couple of weeks ago, I booked a $216.91 hotel stay at the Bellagio for Thanksgiving weekend. In addition to the hotel cost, I spent $39.05 for gas, $8.95 for water/snacks and $6.40 for 2 coffees at Starbucks. I was pleasantly surprised that even with the additional snack and coffees, I was about $30 under budget for gas.

My decision to borrow audio books from the library for the road trip was a FANTASTIC idea. It was frugal and it definitely prevented drowsiness while driving through the monotonous desert scenery. It also kept me relatively sane during horrendous traffic jams on the ride back.

I also had great plans to do cheap stuff in Vegas. But what do they say about best laid plans again?

By the time we got to the hotel, it was 1 p.m. and we were famished. We went to the 24/7 cafe in the hotel where we shared a greek salad, veal schnitzel plus 2 Cokes. This set me back... drumroll... $66.00 for lunch. (Over Budget: $45)

After sightseeing and strolling down the Strip, we headed downtown to catch the free Fremont Street Experience show and to try some 99 cent deep-fried Twinkies. Just to let you know, it IS as disgusting as it sounds. As this article eloquently states, it was worth it "[f]or giggles..., ......for sh!ts... no."

My sister and I then decided to have a "light" dinner at Nobu's. This set my sister back about $90.

When we got back to the hotel, I wanted to check out the 27-foot tall cascading chocolate fountain at the Jean Phillipe Patisserie at the Bellagio. Unfortunately, we couldn't resist the pasteries and I ended up spending $31.25 for 2 coffees, a box of French macarons and a strawberry/lime cake. (Over Budget: $31.25; Eee yikes!!)

On Sunday, as MoneyMateKate so presciently predicted, my sister wanted to get a massage at the spa. Since I knew I already blew my budget six ways to Sunday, I begged off and took a long morning nap while she got her treatment. (Gotta celebrate my small victories!)

When she returned from her spa treatment, however, I again blew it by lunching at the Bellagio Buffet (Cost: $71.00; Over Budget: $50. Egads.)

Sooo... all told, in addition to $216.91, I ended up incurring an additional $167.79 to my Bellagio room charge.

MONDAY (12/1)
My sister's last day with me. As usual, we ate breakfast at home, read the papers and watched the final 2 DVDs I rented. In the afternoon, we went to the touristy downtown area. We had 2 drinks at a posh historic hotel which set my sister back about $28 and we had dinner at a Spanish restaurant that cost me $55 (Over Budget: $35). On the bright side, I'll have a couple day's worth of lunches from the left over paella. :-D

TOTAL SPENT (Not Including Stuff My Sister Paid For): $667.92
OVER BUDGET: $272.47

Well... what I can say about this carnage? Nothing. But not to worry folks. I just crunched the numbers and I have enough money earmarked in my "misc. fund" and "vacation fund" to cover this. (The earmarked funds are separate and apart from my Emergency Fund.)

During this holiday, I was thankful for my family (i.e., I never felt the urge to strangle my sister while she stayed at my place).

I'm also grateful that I haven't gone further into debt this year. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday too!


Sallie's Niece said...

Wow I thought the buffets in Vegas were cheap! It sounds like you had a great time and you didn't have to use a credit card to pay for it so it's not so bad. You're lucky you get along with your sister.

Moving on up! said...

I went shopping this weekend because I was bored and bought a Christmas present and a present for myself. I hate it when I do that!

MoneyMateKate said...

Hey, you did one HUGE thing right: once you realized your budget was irreparably blown, you didn't just give up and lose all control. Really, in Vegas, it would have been too easy to start pumping $20 bills into slot machines hoping to win back the overspend. AND you resisted the urge to join your sister at the spa...though maybe that wasn't so difficult, since you'd hardly be able to relax and enjoy a $150+ massage while feeling guilty about the indulgence.

Yay for cheap gas!

Miss M said...

Welcome back! It looks like most of the money was spent eating out, crazy how expensive even a vegas buffet has become. How long did it take to come back, I think it took me 7 hours once and that was just to LA.

Shtinkykat said...

Sallie: It's unbelievable but there was a time when my sister and I didn't get along at all. Now she's my favorite travel companion. The Vegas buffets have unfortunately gotten more expensive over the years. There are buffets that are cheaper (i.e., less than $15) but most are off the Strip so you need a car or hail a cab. We just paid through the nose for our laziness. :-P

MOU: Shopping out of boredom is bad for me since I always feel guilty afterwards. But it's not nearly as bad as shopping out of peer pressure!

MMK: Ha ha. Thanks for finding the positive over the weekend. I read a WSJ article about a guy who's unemployed and went to Vegas, hoping to win big. Of course, he didn't and lost $200. I didn't want to be that guy so I vowed not to gamble. Speaking of spa treatments, I'll be writing about a massage I may get this weekend with my friend. :-(

Miss M: Most of my indulgent spending is usually for food. Food and good night's sleep are the 2 things that make me the most happy these days. :-D It took us 5 hours to get to Vegas but it took us nearly 7 hours to get back. I thought I was going to die during the drive home.

Sharon Rose said...

Hi there-well well done indeed for keeping track so diligently my dear! Yes you did go over budget, but you found the extra money from other areas without going into debt and you had a fabulous time in the bargain! You ate well too, your sister certainly did her fair share money wise, good for her. I think you deserve a big woo-hoo!!

jpkittie said...

Wow - you splurged & really didn't go in too deep!!! I am actually proud of you --- all the temptation!!! It would have drove me insane!!!

Glad you had a good time!

debtfree2009 said...

I've been waiting for this update. Sometimes you just have to live a little and it sounds like you had a great time.

Also you have the extra funds to cover the extra expenses without charging. Good job.

Shtinkykat said...

Sharon Rose: Woo hoo but I think this is going to affect my savings next month. :-P Oh well, live the moment, I say!

Jpkittie: After every splurge, there's the hangover... Something I need to deal with. Eep.

Debtfree'09: I was debating whether to confess since I was worried about people saying what a stupid idiot I am. Fortunately, haven't gotten any negative feedback... yet!

FruGal said...

Time spent with loved ones is important, so don't be too hard on yourself about how much you spent. Afterall, that's one of the perks about being careful with money most of the time, you can afford to splash out a little every now and then!

I always buy extra pillow cases when I buy sheet sets. I like to change the pillow case every few days - more often than the sheets get changed once a week, so if I bought extra, the new pillow cases still match the sheets :)