This week is our much anticipated Mackinaw City vacation! I can't hardly wait- I've been planning it since late Winter. It takes that long for me, because I need to make sure I can earn the money ahead of time, and have it all set and ready to go.
This year was different. The last time I spent half a year planning the same vacation, I wasn't earning nearly as much money, as I was only doing Gather as a source of income for the most part. It took a lot more saving, a lot of careful planning, plus cheaper lodging, and still having money set aside out of our taxes to do it.
This time around, I've been running an actual business online. It's a LOT more work than doing this, but I earn anywhere from $350-600 a month, so it makes a big difference.
Several times, money had to be used to cover expenses that came up. I don't think I would need to plan and save for so long next time, but it was good that I did, because when things came up, I had the money available to cover them.
What's really nice this time around, is that I wound up over-saving. I like to have a pretty well laid out budget in place before hand.
A- it helps me know how much money to save, and...
B- it allows me to see how many things we can 'do' while on vacation.
So, going into it, I knew exactly what the lodging would be (last time, it was a tent at $14/night, this time it's a cabin at the same camp ground for $40 & $45 a night), I know exactly how much every tourist thing we're doing will cost. I know about how much gas will be (based on my gas milage, gas prices, and how many miles we'll drive round trip). I have money set aside for each of the kids specifically for souviners. I gave us each a daily budget for snacks (we eat breakfast & dinner at the campground, and pack our lunch every day, so instead of budgeting money for eating out, I budget us money so everyone can get an ice cream cone each day, or whatever else each person wants- within their daily budget of $3.50 per person).
All in all, I knew exactly how much it would take to be able to comfortably afford to do the trip- just under $850, which would allow for about $30 extra space just in case.
Right now, I have well over that saved up AND, we already paid up 3 of the 4 nights of the cabin when I reserved it, so that knocks about $150 off what we needed.
I'm really excited- it means we don't have to count every last penny (I still will), or write down what is being spent at each place (again, I still will). I'm always worried about money- it comes from years of supporting a family of 5 on a shoestring budget. We still have what I would consider to be a low income considering we are a family of 5 on a single income, BUT, we're at the point now where we don't have to worry about whether or not we have enough gas money for the end of the pay period.
It will be nice to be able to say, "Oh.. yeah, that's a little more than I anticipated, but we can afford it!". Last time, I had a very tight budget, so I wrote down every last penny we spent from the start. There wasn't a local branch of our bank up there, so I treated it like a checking account, and kept track of every penny, and what we had left after each transaction.
I probably won't do it quite as strict this time, but I am hoping that we'll have $200-300 left at the end of the trip, even after splurging a bit.
I also decided this week to try and find a roof top carrier for our car. I figured if I could find one for $50 or less, we'd be good. Well, I found that while I can order the type that don't require a roof rack, finding one in person was hard. All of them I found required a rack. I called the auto parts store to see if they had one, and they explained that I can get temporary racks that snap into place, rather than having to have one installed. It was $35. The carrier they had was also $35, so I grabbed it.
Then, I had in my head that the same brand carrier was the same price at Target, but a bigger size. I should have double checked- instead, I returned the smaller one, drove into Lansing, and found that I was remembering the price ONLINE from Amazon. At Target, it was $50. OUCH! Since I already returned the other one, and I did want a bigger one, I just grabbed that one. Expensive lesson- always call and double check prices.