Budgeting for Vacations, Other People’s Weddings, and Other Summer Stuff (Yay Summer!)

by Mike Dang and Ester Bloom

Mike: So Ester, it officially feels like summer! Maybe because it was 90 degrees the other day (but I still haven’t put in my air conditioner, perhaps to Josh Michtom’s delight). But I will! I did it in July last year.

Ester: We haven’t either! I always hold out ’til the last possible moment, til I feel like a wax person whose own skin is melting off my body. For environmental reasons.

Mike: I guess for me it’s part environmental reasons, but also because I don’t think it’s so terribly hot yet? I’m also not home very much, so that may be one reason. I’m at the office right now, and it’s usually on, but it’s quiet here today so I have turned off the a/c and opened the windows. It’s below 80! Who needs it? Okay, so, the thing I wanted to ask you is whether you have summer travel plans and if you planned for it financially in advance.

Ester: Last summer, as you may recall, my husband Ben, babygirl and I decamped for seven weeks — we stayed in Vilnius, Lithuania, in an AirB&B that thankfully did not burn down (the Lithuanian rain would have taken care of that right away anyway I guess), in a couple different places in England, and then in a family friend’s house in Spain. That was pretty amazing — and kind of ate up our travel budget for two years. So we don’t have anything planned for this summer, really, except to figure out how to have, entertain, and enjoy time with a kid in the heat without leaving NYC. How about you?

Mike: I have a savings account through Ally that is specifically for vacations. I just checked and there is $400 in it.

I don’t think I planned anything for this summer because of my recent trip to Playa Del Carmen. I have a black tie wedding to go to in a month. And then at the end of summer, I have another week-long work trip to Park City, which although will be for work will also kind of be a vacation? That’ll be all paid for by the other company I work for.

Ester: How long do I have to work for you before you take me to Park City? 🙂

Mike: Hah, um — we can do a Billfold Trust Fall retreat at Coney Island if you want and hotdogs are on me.

Ester: YES. Let’s take this show on the road! Anyway, my only travel things are wedding-related too. Do you budget for weddings via the same Ally vacation account? (How do people budget for other folks’ weddings?)

Mike: No, I don’t have a separate account for it, but have mentally budgeted for it, including the fact that I will be buying a tuxedo. The reason I’ll be buying is because I looked at rentals and they were about $200 for these cheap tuxes, and there is nothing worst than renting a cheap tux (I remember them from high school!). But also, I have been looking at tuxedos for a month and cannot decide.

Ester: Please oh please write about the experience buying a tuxedo for the site. One of my most cherished memories about my wedding is that Ben went out and bought himself one — for the same reason as you — and then realized, the day of the ceremony, which was in D.C., that he had grabbed the wrong garment bag and left his tuxedo in New York. He ended up wearing an extra suit jacket that his groomsman had with him. Maybe you should try on THAT tuxedo actually! I don’t know if Ben has ever even finally worn it.

Mike: I’m pretty sure it won’t fit me! It’s likely I will buy one off the rack and then have it tailored to fit. I’ve been looking for a while. Also, some of my friends were like, “Oh, and you can wear it to the Met Ball,” because that is obviously happening to me in the future. (NOT HAPPENING.)

Ester: Or any ball! One never knows when one might get invited to a ball. Maybe one wakes up one day in a Jane Austen universe, or in “Downton Abbey” where a tux wouldn’t even be good enough for certain occasions. Anyway, I like the idea of you owning a tux. It feels right.

Mike: I do remember that “Downton” episode. Okay, so I do have this other $400 that is supposedly for some kind of vacation. If you had $400, what would you do with it travel-wise?

Ester: I would hire a babysitter and then go screaming naked into the water somewhere, drunk with freedom. But that doesn’t say much about what you should do. Um. I would do one of two things, probably: either pick a small city not too far away that I hadn’t been to yet, like Charleston or Savannah (or Montreal!), and arrange a trip for a (long?) weekend; or I’d try to round up some friends and rent a house somewhere in the middle of nowhere and be languorous and indulgent together. Actually we’re sort of doing that next weekend for a friend’s bachelor party. (Said friend defines “bachelor party” very loosely.)

Mike: So for the Fourth of July, some friends and I are going to a cabin upstate, but the cabin is family-owned so it’ll be a cheap weekend getaway, which is along those lines I think. The other thing I was thinking about was to just, like, not spend the money at all and keep it for next summer when the account will have more than a grand in it, and I can go to Italy or something.

Ester: Totally! That makes a lot of sense. Or you could split the difference and spend some of it on a day at a water park to or from the cabin, say, and a really nice dinner? It is really awesome that your new company is springing for two trips for you, essentially, one at the beginning of the summer and one at the end of it; next year might be different for some reason, and it makes sense to budget for that. But you should still do something nice and splurge-y for yourself.

Mike: Hah, I am a BAD SPLURGER.

Ester: Duh! I imagine that’s why you have a VACATION FUND in the first place, to remind yourself to take vacation. (Did you read my piece on this? it makes you more productive and a better worker, seriously, science says so.) I am a bad splurger too though so I sympathize.

Mike: Yes, and I trust science. It’s funny because I just bought a $50 gift certificate to an airline for a friend’s birthday and when I sent it to her, I was like, “use this to have fun and find yourself a new adventure!” I should send that note to myself.

Ester: Me too! SCIENCE. I’m writing this at my improvised standing desk right now. But yes, totally. A relative gave us $100 once and earmarked it for something “frivolous” and I swear we took that injunction so seriously — what was sufficiently frivolous? We talked and talked and finally settled on Splish Splash, a water park on Long Island, and it was the best ever. We had so much fun. Another thing I might do with $400 though if I were only responsible for myself is visit a friend who lives elsewhere. I have friends and family on the West Coast; I might visit them. That only counts if they’re friends or family you actually enjoy spending time with though. Obligatory / guilt-related family visits do not count as vacation.

Going back for a second, though, #RealTalk: black tie weddings? During the summer? I’m looking at my monitor kind of askance. Is it black tie optional at least?

Mike: No, it’s black tie required! I have a really nice suit already that I would have worn were that the case. But I have a feeling this won’t be my last black tie event, so I feel okay about going out and getting one. My inspiration has been looking at all these old classic photos of Sean Connery and Cary Grant and just finding something similar. Also, I kind of just want to wear it to the park and have a picnic? Like, why not, it’s my tux and I’ll do what I want with it.

Ester: Yeah! I’ll have a black-tie birthday party. It’ll be great: we’ll get to dress up baby girl, and everyone can identify their old-school style icon. The trouble is maintaining that glam retro cool while sizzling in the sun. That is also my issue with black-tie summer weddings. Like, there better be a pool next to which to lounge in a stupor like Daisy in the Great Gatsby if you’re gonna make me wear a gown, you know?

Mike: It’ll be indoors! And I think there is a rooftop with a pool? It’s a Manhattan wedding.

Ester: Oh my god, you know such amazing people. My next big wedding is at a rustic rural New Hampshire summer camp. There will be streamside yoga and campfires.

Mike: Hah, um, that sounds kind of fun? My secret is that I actually like going to weddings.

Ester: Me too! I cry at the ceremonies and dance at the receptions. But I’m also totally that guest that notices everything, from whether you invited too many people and it’s crazy cramped, to the timing of the toasts (while we’re still in the buffet line? come on).

Mike: Hah, I’m good with whatever the couple wants. Want a big Wedding Industrial Complex wedding? OK! Want me to show up at the courthouse with yellow tulips? Will do! Don’t have enough food? I’ll make something!

Ester: Hey, I said I *notice,* that’s all. I too am good with yellow tulips or the whole shebang; in fact I’m helping a groom’s mother pick out a dress this afternoon, and I am always available to write and deliver a last-minute speech. I love pitching in. Weddings are great! I wish they were slightly less costly and inconvenient, often, to the guests as well as the couple, but overall they make me really happy.