We recently returned from a month-long visit to the U.S. It was our first trip back in two years, and to say we were looking forward to it would be a bit of an understatement. For months we’d been planning and dreaming about what we wanted to do and see while we were there, how we would pack in all those American favorites we’d missed while living abroad.
Unfortunately, “pack it in” is what we did. When the final days of our vacation arrived and it was time to collect all the things we’d bought, we realized that we needed more room. A whole other suitcase, in fact, thoughtfully provided by my family when they saw our predicament. And while we didn’t have to purchase it or pay extra to bring it with us, it did shed light on just how much stuff we’d manage to acquire over a four-week period.
Some of it was for friends and French family members, items they’d requested that we bring back for them. Some of it was for my work, educational materials that are costly to ship. A lot of it was books (heavy!) and grocery store items that we can’t find here. We hadn’t felt that we were doing that much shopping-just a little here and a little there-but it really added up in the end.
We also did a lot of dining out on our vacation. We rarely eat at restaurants in France, but something about the relaxed “vacation” atmosphere made spending money not such a big deal, and hey, we weren’t spending it on groceries, right?
Because we were staying with family, we avoided paying hotel costs, and we had our own on-site laundry (and sometime laundress). We didn’t go to any big amusement parks or other expensive outings. And sure, the airfare was outrageously expensive for a family of four, but that had been paid for months earlier.
Since we would-be frugalists saved all our receipts, I could do the responsible thing and tally up exactly what we spent, but after being back for over a week now, I’m not looking forward to the prospect. The truth is, I don’t really want to know how much this vacation cost us, because I don’t think, given the chance, that I would do anything differently. I can say that from the (perhaps naÃ¯ve) perspective of someone coming back to a secure job and a decent emergency fund in the bank. For me, it was worth it. (Although we did come home to several unexpected and rather large expenses, and it remains to be seen what effect these will have in the longer-term.)
What do you think? Is it acceptable to be “willfully non-frugal” from time to time? Do you make exceptions to your financial rules when it’s a special occasion? What situations can present a temptation for you to temporarily loosen the frugal belt?