Budgeting Let My Wife Surprise Me for Christmas

by Kevin on January 6, 2009

Today my wife and I have been married two years. (Babe, that’s crazy!) I thought I’d share a story to show off just a little piece of how awesome she is.

We are incredibly blessed. We spent the entire week of Christmas in our mutual hometown sharing time between both sets of parents. Our dog, Maggie, even got to come along and play with my parents’ dog. (For non-dog owners, an exhausted dog is a happy owner.) This time was especially great simply because it had been a year since I had gone home. We live about 6 hours away and in the midst of my MBA program finding time to travel home has been difficult.

(Yea, that’s our dog Maggie on the right. Tongue hanging out and ear flipped over.)

We drove home Monday and planned to stay through Saturday. Unknown to me, my wife had arranged a special mixed Christmas and Anniversary gift for me. She let me know on Christmas morning that we would be leaving the next morning to travel about an hour away to Asheville, North Carolina. She had reserved us a room at a bed and breakfast.

Needless to say our stay was amazing and relaxing. We hadn’t really had a weekend away from the dog in quite some time. For some reason, even on the weekends, the dog has to eat and go out and all that jazz. She doesn’t seem to understand the concept of sleeping in. So sleeping in was amazing. It’s kind of like having a kid although I understand it is also nothing like having a child.

Spending Money is Perfectly Fine

When you have money set aside for a goal spending is perfectly fine. Spending life as a hermit is not a healthy way to live. (Spending your life like a free-rolling rock star isn’t, either.) Have a goal, save for the goal, then enjoy the goal.

In this instance my wife tapped our trip fund. Each month we “deposit” $100 into the trip fund and agreed that either person can tap the money for a surprise trip. Alternatively we can agree together on a trip in the future and save up for it.

There is a slight bit of risk to this idea — what if we both “surprised” each other with trips around the same area of time? While highly unlikely, it also isn’t a big deal to us. We’re not talking thousands and thousands of dollars here (and we wouldn’t just up and spend that amount of money without talking anyways). This is a small fund used for things just like this. It was a fantastic surprise and I can’t think of a better use for the money. If we managed to go into the negative on the trip fund we would simply not take any trips for quite some time and let the fund build back up. (It also helps that we are not living paycheck to paycheck and could afford to be in the negative on a category for a brief time.)

Budgeting Made This Trip Possible

This is the point I want to hammer home here. Budgeting made it possible for us to take this trip.

Because we have a budget:

  • we know what level of income to expect each month
  • we know what our specific expenses are
  • because of the first two, we know how much money should be left over for spending, saving, and investing

Knowledge of how much money we should have at the end of each month to spend and save allows us to set priorities. How much do we want to set aside for retirement? How much for future children education?

Trips are part of that savings budget. Without the budget, there wouldn’t be well planned trips. Note: I’m not saying there wouldn’t be trips, but they would likely be costly in a financial sense over the long run (“Another trip to Mexico? Sure! Of course we can afford it!”). So go ahead, take a nice trip. Surprise your spouse. Just plan ahead for it and keep your goals in focus.

And thanks to my great wife for such a sweet and relaxing surprise. You’re a dream come true.

{ 1 comment }

Russell Fascenda January 11, 2009 at 8:17 am

Happy Anniversary to you. I don’t have a dog to take care of, and I also don’t have a wife to plan surprise trips, but I agree trips like this can be done economically and having a trip fund is a great idea.

I don’t budget my trips with a trip fund, but I have a somewhat consistent number of them each year, so in a way that’s how I budget. Each year I have 5 weekend trips with motorcycling groups spaced through the year. (I’m the planner for most of those trips and we generally stay at smalltown places that are $35-$60 a night shared by two people.) I take other weekend trips, but those I usually stay with my friends or my mother so there is little cost except dining out.

On occasion I’ll take a two-day trip on my own, and to keep this on-topic, some of those have been personal financial retreats. Thankfully it’s been a few years since I’ve had to do one of these. In the past when there have been times that debts have seemed overwhelming or my budget wasn’t working out, I’ve piled a box or two of mail and papers onto my motorcycle and hit the road for a day. I’d find an economical motel someplace, check in, and spread all that stuff out on the bed. A notepad of paper and a lot of quiet time were the main tools I used to make my plans.

I know it doesn’t sound like as much fun as you probably had in Asheville, but I think it’s worked for me.

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