Learning That Frugality Skills Shouldn’t Vacation When I Do: Priceless


The fourth of July promised to be a leisurely, stress-free weekend. My credit card was paid off and ready for gas purchases. My car was running smoothly. Our campsite was at a private cabin at a lake, and we’d long ago collected all necessary camping gear. The food was to be communal so we brought meat from our warehouse store. We didn’t forget anything, and the trip up was marvelous. Camping was great, and then we left. Still stocked with some food and all the cash we had left with, we decided to extend our vacation. Why not?

Apparently, $410 is why not. What went wrong? In this case, nothing mentioned above malfunctioned. What drilled a hole in my wallet was the dreaded human error.

Human error. If we could all work like clockwork we’d have perfect little bank accounts with all our bills paid in full. All payments would be automated and no one could ever forget anything. Like, how to use a map or a phone book, or how not to leave things behind. Or general human desire.

We took a detour after our lake trip because we still had an extra day before obligations resumed and a choice of four routes to get home. We intended to stop at one of our favorite brewpubs in the nation for lunch, but we found they’re only open for dinner. Had we called ahead, we could have instead found a campsite and grilled up some brats for lunch and waited for dinner, but instead we got there with two growling children. An alternate lunch location was found. $45

This happens to be the only town within a day’s drive that has the shoes my husband likes and you can’t buy leather shoes without trying them on. We were there and his toes were poking out. $60

Trying to find the sign that pointed to a hot springs we heard were worth visiting, we took a detour in our favorite kind of free park: the cemetery. On our way out, passing a police car triggered the obligatory glance at the wallet. Wait, where’s the wallet? $ (the rest of the cash)…until I told the very stressed husband that the only thing to do was to completely retrace our steps through town. He thought I was nuts but he listened anyway, and ta da the guy at the shoe store was waiting for us. Always go back and look before giving up.

The hot springs, we discovered at the gate, now have an entrance fee, and we didn’t bring towels. $30.

The brewpub was open for dinner, and has the most amazing menu of any micro brew I’ve ever been to. Since we make a habit of not ordering out what we can make at home, dinner and beer and house-brewed root-beer-to-go quickly became a very tasty $120.

Darkness had fallen and it was time to set up camp. The map said go down this road. I guess I was wrong, try this one. Um, I didn’t see the signs, here you look. Across from where? Ah…wait there’s nothing there. (It’s really hard to read a map in the car in the dark.) We gave up. We could be home in 3 hours; let’s just go home, or find a campground along the way. An hour later, fatigue made fun of us and the signs that said campground ahead flaunted their lack of specificity. First hotel with a vacancy sign: $110.

This particular hotel does not have a free continental breakfast, but instead a full kitchen. Trip to grocery store for eggs, doughnuts, coffee, and milk, then back for butter to cook the eggs, coffee filters, and salt and pepper: $35.

The two hour trip home was broken by a detour to some caves and waterfalls. State Park fee–we should get a yearly pass sometime: $10.

So I’m wondering how I manage to call myself frugal, and creative, and careful. Everyone makes mistakes, and trying to keep things laid-back and easy apparently turns off certain receptors in the brain, like the ones that make you do these things. It was a lovely, full day of ‘duh’ moments. I packed swimsuits but no towels? What was I thinking? I guess if you average it over our four absolutely fantastically fun days, $410 is doing pretty well. On the other hand, it really stings knowing we weren’t supposed to spend anything over fuel-ups.

Image courtesy of Steve took it

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2 Responses to Learning That Frugality Skills Shouldn’t Vacation When I Do: Priceless

  1. Kristian says:

    There is a truth I encounter almost daily… Convenience costs. Hotels are more expensive than campsites, gas is more pricy when we are far from big towns, eating a meal cooked in a resturant requires greater financial outlay that does eating the same meal at home.

    Another truth I encounter as often… You can’t put a price on experience or education or time with family.

  2. Lisa says:

    Food out is pricey. When my son was younger, I almost always took snacks and water with us. If we went away for more than a day we took sandwich fixings. If I forgot Murphy’s Law would kick in and kick me. With my ex it was more difficult because he didn’t consider it a vacation if he doesn’t eat out every meal and just go with the flow (no planning) which is almost always more expensive as the article above shows.

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