I'm in San Francisco. This is the first vacation I've taken since developing a frugal mindset. It's tough for me to let loose. My pennypinching ways are causing me pain.
For example, we drove to San Francisco because (a) I love to drive, and have never had a chance to do a long trip like this; (b) having our own car would allow us greater flexibility; and (c) I believed it would save us money. (We'll tally expenses at the end to see if it really did so.)
However, as soon as we arrived at the hotel I was greeted by a rude slap in the face: we must pay $32/night in parking! This had never even crossed my mind. I'm a hick at heart, and hicks never pay for parking. This setback is going to cost us 6.4% of our vacation budget. That's basically the equivalent of a hotel stay on the drive home. (We're driving back up the California and Oregon coasts.) This made me sulky until Kris pointed out how ridiculous I was being. There's nothing we can do about the cost, and we can afford it, so we should just roll with it. It's a bummer, yes, but what can we do?
We've exercised our frugality muscles in other areas.
We packed some fruit and water and snacks from home so that we didn't have to stop along the way. These snacks will also stand us in good stead so that we can avoid paying for breakfast. To save a little money, we fueled up and ate lunch in Ashland. (There's no sales tax in Oregon.)
Aside from the Parking Debacle, I had one other minor case of non-frugality. I was drowsy while driving, so we pulled into a rest stop to get some caffeine. I could have had a Coke for a buck, but I decided to try a Red Bull energy drink. There was no price listed on the vending machine, so I assumed they were also a buck. Bad assumption. The machine took my dollar and asked for $1.50 more. Holy cats! I pressed the coin return, but no luck. It wouldn't refund my money. I threw good money after bad and ended up with a $2.50 beverage. (Which, fortunately, did its job: it woke me up.)
Today we join Kris' family for a touristy exploration of San Francisco. I'm surprised at how overwhelming it is. I don't have much experience outside Portland and, especially, its rural towns. San Francisco is big. And cosmopolitan. And a little intimidating. (Yet very, very exciting.) It feels sort of European, actually. My goal is to forget about the $32 parking and just have fun. And stay frugal.
Addendum: Kris notes that I've also been flustered by tipping. When we travel, we normally stay in motels. Because we're traveling with her parents — and because this hotel is being subsidized by inheritance money — we're staying someplace a little nicer. People keep doing things for us. Some guy parked our car. Do I tip him? I don't know. I asked the woman at the front desk, and she seemed offended that I had asked. Faux pas piled upon faux pas. Fortunately, I did know how to tip the bellhop — one-dollar a bag, right?
Author: J.D. Roth
In 2006, J.D. founded Get Rich Slowly to document his quest to get out of debt. Over time, he learned how to save and how to invest. Today, he's managed to reach early retirement! He wants to help you master your money — and your life. No scams. No gimmicks. Just smart money advice to help you reach your goals.