Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Staying Solvent While Socializing

I have an entire week off, paid, between Christmas and New Year's. That is awesome, please do not get me wrong, but I am also anticipating that it will be somewhat expensive. My friends at grad school (or, in a couple of cases, still in undergrad) will be home visiting, and I'll want to see all of them often, and it'll be one of those times when I schedule my days like this: Lunch with X. Coffee with Y. Dinner with Z. Drinks with big group. Taxi home. Declare bankruptcy immediately. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200. Since I'd obviously rather stick pins under my fingernails than withdraw from my savings account to cover the extra socializin', I'm thinking about ways to minimize its financial impact.

1) Use grocery money.
Not as dumb an idea as it sounds, I promise. Two reasons: first, with my boyfriend visiting his parents in Chicago and my sister home from college, I'm guessing I'll probably do what I did over the long Thanksgiving weekend, and pack up my little overnight bag for a stay at my parents'. That means? That's right. No grocery shopping. Second: leftovers. They throw a huge party every Christmas Eve, and I speak from experience when I say that there are leftovers for two weeks. I'm sure they'll let me take some home. This frees up about $75 for catching up with friends while drinking beer.

2) Use clothing money.
Am I going to need to buy new clothes right after Christmas? I think not. That's why God invented gift receipts. I can divert that $50 into Necessary Taxis, which I foresee occurring with increased frequency during this week.

3) Play a lot of Scrabble.
It is the game of the young and hip (you think I'm joking, and I am totally not). Really, the point here is to find ways of socializing that don't include cash outflow, or that include less cash outflow (e.g., "Hey, let's all take the 7 out to Queens for a cheap matinee instead of seeing the movie in Times Square!")

4) Don't buy more than one drink.

What money won't I be using to cover the extra expenses of my profligacy? My gift fund money. Not only does my boyfriend's birthday approach soon after Christmas, but the whole point of the gift fund is to save it when I've got it so as to be able to spend it when I need it. I'll begin contributing to 2007's gift fund with the paycheck I get on the 28th of December (I really, really love it when I get paychecks while not in the office).

The idea here is to predict what I'll actually be doing and rebalance my budget expectations so I can set realistic goals based on which budget categories will be circumstantially straining at their boundaries and which will be largely unnecessary. Like I've told my boyfriend a couple of times, budgeting for me is all about knowing my own habits.

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