Friday, January 12, 2007

Planning for Sudden Expenses

My boyfriend's sister has tentatively set the date of her wedding for April 7. The wedding she has planned sounds lovely, small and low-key and beautiful. I haven't been to a wedding since I was like 15, and I've never been to the wedding of someone I consider a peer (Boyfriend's Sister is 26). So I'm looking forward to it, and beginning to think about how best to incorporate its extra expense into my budget.

Clearly, the best way to field this kind of expense is to start planning for it well in advance. For us, that means that I'll begin bugging my boyfriend for information that will let me begin planning as soon as possible. This is how I go about incorporating a large but not immediate expense into my budget:

1. What will my expenses be?
Here are certainties: we'll be flying to Chicago. We'll be buying a gift. I can probably adapt the brown chiffon dress I bought for my parents' Christmas cocktail party for spring, thus sparing the expense of a new dress, but to do that I'll need springy accessories--probably a new wrap or shrug and maybe a piece of jewelry. Last time we were in Chicago, we stayed with my boyfriend's parents, but I don't know if that will be the case this time around. For the sake of my bank account, I hope it is. Either way, there will probably still be incidental expenses there--eating out more than usual, that kind of thing.

2. Where might there be hidden expenses and how can I avoid them?
One thing I always have to keep in mind when considering the cost of travel is that it's subsantially cheaper to fly out of JFK than out of any other New York airport, because it's the only one that can be easily and reliably reached by public transportation. LaGuardia means a cab (there's a slow, complicated bus route,, but since we live just across the Triboro Bridge, it wouldn't add nearly as much to the total travel cost as taking a car service to Newark. An itinerary out of Newark would have to be $100 cheaper than one out of JFK to actually save us money. We may be able to ask my boyfriend's parents to pick us up at the airport if we come in at a convenient time--the cheap redeye will mean a not-so-cheap cab ride on the other end.
Good planning can also save money around other necessary purchases--like things (gift, clothes) that are bought online. If we buy them well in advance, no expedited shipping will be necessary.

3. Where can I make this fit within my normal budget?
I budget some money every paycheck for things I buy regularly, like clothing and meals out. If I make the clothing I buy for the wedding clothing I'll wear on other occasions, I'll have no reservations about using my regular clothing budget here. I also regularly put money into a dedicated savings account for gifts. This gift will probably be pretty expensive, but I think I can be okay with taking $50 or so out of an account that should see total deposits of around $600 by the end of the year. I can probably pull a little from my normal eating-out fund, but I'm definitely going to need to have some budget flex for entertainment while I'm there. I don't want to be pinching pennies when I should be celebrating.

4. How much extra do I need?
If indeed we stay with friends/family as I hope will be the case, the only things that will require finding money will be the plane ticket and incidentals. A little research tells me I can probably bring the plane ticket in for under $100 round-trip, and having another extra $100 for incidental expenses will make me feel like I've got a nice buffer.

5. Where can I find extra money?
Well, as it happens, this one is easy. March is a three-paycheck month for me, and I can cover the trip's extra expenses with my extra free cash. If this weren't the case, I'd divide the $200 I need by the number of paychecks between now and then (6), and trim the excess ($33) out of my normal budget.

All of which means that I get to stay cool, calm, and collected while I enjoy a mini-vacation and celebrate Boyfriend's Sister's wedding. That's the reason I plan--to avoid stress.

P.S. Clearly, "my boyfriend" is becoming a tired phrase, and the person to whom it refers needs some kind of alias. I'm open to suggestions, but I balk at calling him Mr. English Major, both because of the marriage connotation and because he would never have been an English major.


S/100/30 said...

Sounds like fun! We love Chicago -- it's the city we fantasize about moving to.

I refer to my husband online by his (true) first initial. Not very clever, but it works...

HC said...

I'm also a big fan of the initial.

If you preferred, you could also refer to his academic interests. It would make for a nice counterpart. If he didn't declare a major, then perhaps "Biology Buff" or somesuch.

Ms. MiniDucky said...

MajorMan? In common parlance (non bloggy friends) I might just refer to him as "Boy." My coworker refers to her boyfriend as "Dude."