Back in the spring, I received the opportunity to attend a national learning conference in Tucson, Arizona for work. The conference was scheduled for October. I thought, hey this sounds like a great opportunity for me professionally and also OH HEY I GET WARM WEATHER IN OCTOBER, YES WHERE DO I SIGN UP? The best part? This trip would be covered by my job.
My flight and hotel room had been booked, and any meal expenses would be reimbursed after the trip. But let’s talk about those meal expenses.
Given that I would be at a conference for all of the days during my stay in Tucson, the only budgeting I had done came down to those meal expenses. Typically my monthly wealth management (what I refer to my budget) plan takes into account all my bills and extra expenses. The general categories that I break it down into are:
Repayment Loan Plan
Gas (typically runs less than $140 a month)
Groceries (typically accurate estimate of what I buy from Aldi a month)
Leisure (a set limit on how much I am allowing myself to spend on fun things that month)
Safety funds (a general amount I give myself as back up for the month)
Any money that doesn’t get added into those categories is left in my general balance or added into special categories for that month. For example, if I know I have to pay my dentist deductible that month, then I add that as another category. For October, I had added a category for “Arizona meals”. For this, I had set aside $140.
My time in Arizona was scheduled from Sunday through Wednesday with some meals provided by the conference. Per my employer, any meal that is not provided by the conference is theoretically covered, but we will get to that in a minute or two.
I felt confident with my $140 because I also had that extra amount in my account for my general balance. Silly me, I totally forgot that life will continually throw some financial curveballs my way!
In this case, my dog injured himself. Those vet expenses add up, ya’ll. On top of that, I had some medical deductibles to cover and also had to pay some other things at home. That extra money in my account? Gone after these unexpected expenses.
This left me with only the $140 I had set aside from my meals in Arizona + gas for my car. Even typing this out, I feel embarrassed on spelling out how little I had in my bank account. This isn’t a joke. I didn’t have a savings account hidden somewhere. I have a four month plan for getting a savings account in its feet, but at the moment there was nothing else. I should mention, I get paid on a monthly basis, on the 16th of every month. My Arizona trip was two weeks before pay day. With my $140, I still felt confident I could make ends meet. After all, once I returned to Chicago, all I had to do was not go out. Gas to get to work and back was covered.
Let’s just say meals at a resort are a lot more expensive than normal meals at home. I paid $3 for a bottle of water one morning. That was before I found a stash of free water bottles that were complimentary to hotel guests that joined the morning hikes. Yes, I got up early for those damn hikes and my complimentary bottle of water! I also made sure I went to the complimentary tequila toast every day because tequila!
In the end, I will get reimbursed part of what I spent on meals by my employer. Granted, I probably won’t see that money until 2018 (the process for reimbursements always seems to be very, very slow), and it won’t be as much as my meals actually cost.
So, am I good now? Yes. I chose to wrote this though to be completely honest. Typically when we talk about money, we don’t want to reveal to others how much we actually have. Saying I only had $140 + gas in my account opens me up to plenty of judgment. You may be thinking I’m reckless or I still don’t budget appropriately. You may be way better at budgeting than I am or have a different approach, but again, this is about chronicling the journey of financial management. For me $140 was scary, especially post-bankruptcy, however, it’s still a step forward. Why?
Four years ago, I kept going under in my bank account. I kept racking up overdraft fees. I kept not paying my bills on time.
Fast forward to the now: I pay my bills. That has perhaps been the biggest financial accomplishment for me now. I am able to pay those unexpected vet bills now. I can cover other home expenses when my mom is unable to. I can typically spend money on leisure activities, too, and I am able to save money for traveling (non-work related). Having the ability to do these things, makes me note that I have progressed and accomplished a financial stability that I never imagined I would find.
I can have $1 in my account, and I still will know that I have come further than I ever imagined. Obviously, $1 is not ideal, and it is an exaggeration on my part. However, all I’m saying is I made my peace being down to $140. It is an upgrade from having my card declined at a White Castle at 1 AM in the morning, and that is a story for another post!
P.S. I got to hang out my the lazy river in my downtime. You don’t need any extra money to ride a floatie in style.