When Money Doesn’t Feel Like Money

I’m traveling this week to St. Louis for an academic conference. It’s a very friendly conference that I’ve been to several times before. I like listening to other papers, chatting with folks, and getting outside the classroom for a few days. Somehow, walking briskly down the sidewalk in a major city wearing a suit, I feel much more professional than I do wiping all the chalk dust off my sweater and gathering up lesson plans and grade books. Perhaps because I’ve spent most of my life in a classroom, it doesn’t feel like “work” the way another setting would.

This is my first time traveling since I’ve gotten serious about paying off my debt. There’s one other thing that feels different when I travel: money. Somehow, when I’m on vacation or even just away from home for any reason, it’s like I’m on a vacation from my budget too. Little indulgences seem perfectly acceptable, and big splurges seem more exciting because “I’ll never be here again!” My “two budget” mentality definitely rears its ugly head any time I’m in a hotel (I love room service) or out at a new restaurant (cocktails, appetizers, and dessert? Sure!).

As an experiment, I decided to tally up what I spent at last year’s conference in New Orleans. Granted, the conference was in New Orleans, not St. Louis. Since I grew up in Missouri, St. Louis doesn’t have that “I’ll never be here again!” feeling. I’ll be meeting family one night for dinner, and I’m not all keen on shopping downtown, so temptation won’t be what it was when the conference was next to the French Quarter.

This year, my department is paying $615 to cover my hotel, plane ticket, and conference registration. I have two meals included with the registration; I’m on my own for everything else. I’m budgeting $145 for parking, the airport shuttle, and food. Much stricter than last year! Let’s look back through the mists of time. . . .

Last year, I received $958 for hotel, flight, meals, parking, and registration. I got more funding last year from our university faculty development office. This year, I’m tapping that source for a different conference. So, what did I spend out of pocket? To the credit card statements!

$26.00: Airport shuttle in New Orleans. I lost this receipt so couldn’t get reimbursed for it.
$ 6.52: Travel Traders. ??? I have no idea. . .maybe a magazine or book?
$87.18: Wise Buys. I think this was the very cute dress I bought and still love to wear.
$53.97: Wish. Hmmm, I wish I remember what this was for!
$26.16 What’s New. A souvenir, perhaps?
$40.00: AirTran. Oh yes, my upgrade to first class. It was a very lovely flight home.

$239.83: TOTAL

Yikes! I charged up $239.83 on that trip with no plan for money to pay it off. A year later, I still love and wear the dress, but can’t even remember what some of the other charges were for. Well, this year, no shopping and a clear budget. I won’t use the credit card, so let’s hope that spending cash keeps me on track!


One response to “When Money Doesn’t Feel Like Money

  1. Pingback: » Festival of Frugality #119: The Quitting My Day Job to Blog Full Time Edition on Consumerism Commentary: A Personal Finance Blog

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