Avoiding a Financial Hangover

29 Oct

FountainebleauWe lounged @ Fountainebleau Miami Beach’s cabana-laden center pool

This weekend, I lived like royalty with five of my favorite gals in Miami. We were ringing in my 30th birthday – loudly – and without much concern for the resort bill, which was racking up rather quickly.

Poolside cabana? Naturally. Dinner at one of the city’s most exclusive steakhouses? Sounds delicious. Shopping on Lincoln? A must. Room service afterwards? Perfect.

For the first time in a long time, I purposely avoided clicking into my credit card app. I won’t even bend the truth. I was in total denial.

But the good news is that I had planned for total, temporary denial. When it comes to girl’s weekends… especially one in Miami, where the cheapest glass of wine a girl can buy is $18, you’ve got to prepare.

In the months leading up to the trip, I made a few decisions that helped to ease the pain of a serious financial hangover following our trip:

  1. Travel is an investment in yourself. But only if you can do it debt free. I’m a bit of a crazy person when it comes to finances. In my 20s, I adopted a pretty frugal lifestyle so that I could pay off my student loans and car, and save up for a down payment on a home. If I were carrying a balance on my credit cards, I (hopefully) would have skipped the trip. While indulgent getaways are amazing, a solid credit score will get you a lot more than a golden tan.
  2. Anticipate “soft” travel expenses, and then set aside enough to cover them. Figuring out the hard costs – airfare and hotel prices – was easy, but in truth, I never could have predicted the outrageous prices of dining and drinking while in Miami. I anticipated dropping a couple hundred dollars on seafood and cocktails, but I spent more than $500 over a three-day span. (That’s just stupid, I know.) Fortunately, the overages didn’t break the bank, but it did mean that my shopping excursion was less exciting than some of my friend’s.
  3. Swing into the liquor store on the way to the hotel. Some people would call this tacky, but I call it genius. Cocktails at our hotel – the stunning Fountainebleau Miami Beach – ran about $24 per pop. So we did what any other partying girls would do. We asked the driver who picked us up at the airport to make a pit stop at a nearby liquor store. After loading up a couple (or ten) bottles of wine, we headed to the fancy-schmancy hotel and ordered a $20-per-night mini fridge for our room.
  4. Carry cash to split bills and avoid the group-split. Typically, my friends and I ask for separate checks when we’re eating out, but sometimes, it’s easier to avoid the server’s scowl and just split the bill amongst yourselves. With cash, it’s easy to toss in your amount owed and avoid the “Shall we throw in our cards and just split this six ways?” conversation, which undoubtedly means you’ll be paying for the Grey Goose martinis of your friend to the right, rather than your SINGULAR Blue Moon.
  5. Plan bar rounds (and other treats) in advance. In my case, I was so appreciative of the fact that my best friends were flying to Florida to celebrate my birthday, I knew I wanted to do something special to say thanks. Instead of picking up one of the full tabs at dinner, which would have been knee-buckling, I researched the cost of cabana rentals at our pool, and reserved one for the best weather day of the weekend. Having that “gift” set aside meant that I didn’t feel obliged to pick up every bar tab that weekend, and it was also something nice that we probably wouldn’t have done otherwise.

What tips or tricks do you have for avoiding financial hangovers in your life?

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