On Monday, after battling a cold for most of the weekend, I was in a mood, and mentioned to my boyfriend that we rarely do ~fun things~. Of course, my complaint was exaggerated by the fact that my throat was sore and my nose was runny, but it’s true that we haven’t treated ourselves much lately. I am very lucky that I get to see my boyfriend a lot. I work from home, and he is in grad school, so even though I often prefer to work by myself, we will sometimes work together at one of our apartments, or a coffee shop. However, this isn’t really a substitution for spending time together. I feel like you can see someone regularly and never really get to spend time with them, and I often fall into that trap. Sitting across the table from one another after dinner, while we’re both starring at laptops, doesn’t really count as enjoying one another’s company.
Beyond that, our lives have been pretty boring lately. We haven’t had tons of friends around, I have been spending a lot of my weekend nights babysitting (#hustle), and my boyfriend recently got his car totaled (someone else’s fault) and has spent most of the last month dealing with insurance claims and looking for a replacement car. And while I’m pleased that we’ve both saved money, and been focused on our work, I don’t think working hard is as incompatible with enjoying an evening out, or taking a break, as we’re making it.
So, we resolved to do something. Anything. The problem is, going away — even for a few days — isn’t really in our budget. My freelance income is enough to cover my monthly bills with money leftover, but it fluctuates, so I like to save diligently. And my boyfriend is taking out loans, so we keep a pretty tight budget. Whenever we do spend on travel, it’s to see family, which is amazing, but not quite the same as a weekend getaway.
I see friends, and couples my age going on trips, and holidays together, and it makes me feel like I’m not doing something right. Our friends invited us on a European vacation for a week in the summer, and it was hardly even a conversation as to whether we would go. Sure, going to France and Italy sounds wonderful, but there’s no way we could’ve swung the plane tickets, let alone the additional expenses. (Plus, neither of us wanted to miss a week of work.)
While all of this is true, and many others face a similar reality, we’re also not taking vacations together because we aren’t making it a priority. I have saved really well this year— and while I don’t want to spend it all on an extravagant trip, I could afford a weekend away. I just haven’t prioritized it. Between work, school, and social obligations, there’s also a limited amount of time. We looked at a calendar on Monday, to see if we could try to take a weekend trip, but the rest of this year is filling up fast.
We both wanted to make time, without sacrificing work or school, so we decided to go now before too many things pile up. I don’t think taking a spontaneous trip is a financially sound choice, and would never spend reckless amounts on a whim. However, in this case, we made the decision to go away for the weekend knowing that both of us had put a fair amount in savings in the last few months, and had spent less than each of our allotted budget in September. Still, we gave ourselves a rigid budget, and decided we wouldn’t book anything unless we could both comfortably pay our share.
Here are four tips that explain exactly how two people, who would not ordinarily be able to afford a vacation, are funding a small weekend adventure.
1. Minimize the amount of work you will have to sacrifice. If you can’t get away until Saturday, and need to be back by Sunday night, pick a destination that’s close by and just go for one night. Or, if you work in an office and can’t take a vacation day, ask your boss if you can work an adjusted schedule on a Friday. Offer to come in at 7 AM if your boss will let you leave at 3 PM, and then leave straight from the office. For our quick getaway, we specifically aren’t leaving until Saturday, so that I can work my full day Friday, and babysit that night (which will fund half of the Airbnb). We can both work remotely on Monday and drive back after working hours.
2. Be willing to sacrifice luxury for well-priced accommodations. We looked on Airbnb, and all of the listings for entirely private spaces/homes were more than $100 per night, which wasn’t in the budget. We hunted around for shared spaces a little bit farther from where we wanted to stay, and lucked into finding someone’s cabin/carriage house behind their house for $65/night.
3. Find somewhere you can drive, or take a bus to. I live in LA, so we are driving 4-5 hours to Big Sur, because the drive itself is supposed to be amazing, and I’ve wanted to see the area since I moved to the west coast. I understand that not everyone has access to a car, and a stunning coastline right around the corner, but wherever you are, you can likely get somewhere amazing in five hours. If you don’t have a car, try car sharing, or a bus. If you’re in New York City, go upstate! (Take a four-hour bus ride to Ithaca, and I will personally send you a list of inexpensive and amazing things to do.) Go see the closest state, or city, and stay in the suburbs where it’s cheaper. If you’re a few hours away from the coast, take a trip to a beach town because the prices will be much lower now that it’s fall. Find a cute town with a harvest festival, and hunt down cheap, interesting lodgings.
4. Don’t eat out for every meal. We’ll go to a grocery store to buy car snacks, and breakfast foods. I’ve also researched the restaurants in the area we’re staying that have only one Yelp dollar sign, and they look promising. In my opinion, a weekend away is a weekend away, even if it involves multiple PB&Js (which I’m not opposed to).
It is always going to be challenging to make time for something you don’t feel like you need to do. When life is stressful, and I haven’t seen my boyfriend recently, work is challenging, I’m sick, or I’m trying to save, I put pressure on myself to power through. I assume that working through it is the cure-all. I will probably never shake that mentality, but when did making the responsible choice mean I had to deprive myself of doing anything fun? I’m working on finding a happy medium.
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