One of my favorite personal finance websites is The Billfold, whose tagline is “How other people do money.” It’s full of stories written by individual contributors about their unique financial situations. The site also has two series that appear weekly on Fridays and Mondays. On Fridays, the editor estimates what he will spend during the weekend and invites readers to share their own estimates in the comments. On Mondays, the editor then recaps what he actually spent and how it compared to his budget; readers do the same. I’ve been creeping on the site for about a month now and have yet to leave a comment. I had a fairly interesting weekend so I am now going to dive into the details — and perhaps finally make a contribution to the site!
Friday: Every year, my boss invites my company (we’re small) to her summer home in Fire Island for a day full of sun, sand, food and booze. Since it’s a work outing, we get to charge everything to the company. That includes transportation (Long Island railroad, a cab, and a ferry) as well as whatever we contribute to the potluck. So I basically got to chill on the beach and eat delicious food all for $0. I wish every Friday was like this.
Saturday: While I have significantly cut back my coffee consumption, there’s nothing like an iced coffee to start the weekend off right. I think of it as my little treat and at $3, it provides quite the bang for my buck. I had to pick something up from the drugstore ($7) and then made my way to the farmer’s market, where I bought some apples and juicy summer peaches and some bread ($11). I also stopped at the grocery store to pick up some milk and eggs ($7). I hurried back to my apartment to drop off my loot since I was going to head into Manhattan to meet my friend at the Whitney Museum. It recently re-opened in a gorgeous new Renzo Piano-designed building right at the terminus of the High Line and had been getting a lot of buzz. I’ve wanted to check it out for a while but it’s one of the few museums in NYC that doesn’t have a “pay as you wish” policy. However, I did some research and found out that Bank of America covers admissions for cardholders during the first full weekend of every month. Score! So, instead of the $22 admission, I paid $0. That made the air conditioning and the views (as well as the art) that much better. We checked out Chelsea Market afterwards and I had to give in to a gelato ($5) which was the perfect treat for a sweltering day. I went back home and took a quick nap before embarking on part 2 of the day.
One of the things that I’ve cut back on is going out to dinner AND drinks with friends. Not trying to be a social hermit, I will agree to go to one or the other (and it usually ends up being just drinks). The key to keeping it reasonable when doing both is 1) picking a fairly priced restaurant and 2) sticking to beer. I met up with grad school friends at The Pickle Shack, an awesome beer and vegetarian sandwich place in Gowanus. I split a tofu banh mi and fries and had a grapefruit IPA ($27). Afterwards, we went to the Royal Palms, a shuffleboard club right down the street. One friend treated us to a round of beer and the other bought a round of shots, so I was covered for the night, with the exception of me paying $9 to push biscuits around the floor with a tang for an hour. (More fun than it sounds!) Ample Hills ice cream was right next door and I mean, I couldn’t say no… so that was another $3.50. I finally put myself in an Uber ($8.50) since I didn’t want to walk home by myself at 11:30 p.m. Safety first!
Sunday: I knew leading up to the weekend that Saturday was going to be spendy so I made a mental effort to limit my spending on Sunday to the absolute essentials. Started the day off with a run in the fresh, hot air ($0). I needed to buy groceries so I made the trek to Trader Joe’s and stocked up for the week ($57). There were a few impulse purchases added to my basket but it could have been worse (the greek yogurt guacamole dip is actually not as disgusting as it sounds). Then spent the rest of the day chilling out in the air conditioning and made some granola for the week ($0) and went to mass ($4 donation).
Analysis: Going into the weekend, I had budgeted $110 and ended up spending $141, an overage of $31. Looking back, I can think of a couple of ways I could have trimmed this down (did I need the second ice cream, or the chocolate wafers from Trader Joe’s?) but it’s not worth beating myself up over. I had an excellent weekend and felt like I really took advantage of NYC on Saturday. A museum, dinner and drinks, shuffleboard, and the country’s best ice cream? Might need to repeat this next month.