Being in the throes of paying down student loan debt is a challenge. You can’t sequester yourself from the world and subsist on a diet of rice and beans, but every time you leave the house money slips through your fingers like water.
So far June has seen no unnecessary spending, but wait! Just as the landscape seems clear of expenses, what’s that on the horizon? Why it’s a work trip to Atlanta, sure to be filled with spend-y events that beckon forth the wallet and loosen the purse strings.
I’m excited to go on the trip because it’s a great opportunity to meet other people in my industry and soak in new information. Also, my work is paying for the hotel and flight, and, I gotta say, staying at a fancy hotel in downtown Atlanta is a rare luxury for me. But I’m reluctant to go because, frankly, I’m scared at the idea of spending too much money while I’m there.
The best I can do in this circumstance is to prepare myself. In fact, I’ve spent considerable time the last few days thinking about the trip and my plan to not spend too much, but still enjoy myself.
Below are the steps I’ve taken to ensure I spend as little as possible over the weekend.
Assess the situation
First, I asked myself: what is going to cost me the most on this trip?
How could I know where to save if I didn’t have all the information?
Next, I asked what would the conference itself provide for free besides my room and flight?
- A shuttle to and from the airport
- Dinner when we arrive on Thursday, and breakfast and lunch on Friday and Saturday
- Cocktails on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening
You better believe we are taking advantage of all of that!
But that means that transportation around the city, dinner, and any form of entertainment after work hours would be a bill I’d need to foot.
I consulted my resources
I had two tools on hand: friends that live in Atlanta, and the internet. Here’s what I learned:
- Walking: Free, and I’d like to do it as much as possible. It’s a pleasant way to see any city while getting some exercise. It also allows for discovering things you might not see if you were speeding by in a vehicle.
- Streetcar: $1.00 for a one way trip
- LightRail: $2.50 for a one way trip.
- Bus: $2.05 for a one way trip
- Uber/Lyft: dependant on surge pricing, but I’m expecting it to be pricier in Atlanta than the city we live in, which is smaller.
- Car Rental: Our initial search showed that car rental would be about $75.00 a day, and $45.00 to park in the hotel (chosen by my work) overnight. S. dug a little deeper on the interwebz and found a deal for a $15.00 a day car rental, and a parking lot near our hotel that only charges $15.00 a night.
As of right now, we’re not exactly sure if we’re going to get a rental. It’s an expense I’d like to avoid, but if we want to do things outside the city, especially S. while I’m working all day, it would be handy to have. According to my research, Atlanta is a very car dependent city. So is our city, which means I realize that the public transportation isn’t as convenient as NYC’s or Chicago’s.
However, weather is forecasting rain, too… doubt we’ll have much need for a rental if it rains.
As I mentioned, I fully plan on taking advantage of the free food and cocktails offered at the conference. That means we just need to worry about dinner and everything in between.
Everything in between: I included snacks for the airport/airplane in my grocery shopping this week, so we are set on that front. I’ll pack them in my bag and that way we won’t be tempted to drop any dough at the airport. I was also smart enough this time to procure snacks for the return flight home, something I didn’t plan for when we came home from Florida last month.
I specifically asked my friend, Jim, that lives in ATL for recommendations on dinner. I stressed: dive-y, inexpensive, and some barbecue options because, hello, we’re in the south! I’m awaiting his reply. Locals always know the best spots, and best bang for your buck.
Because we’re staying in a hotel room that doesn’t have a kitchen, we don’t have the option of grocery shopping and making our food back at the place. Dining out on Friday and Saturday is really our only option, but we can still pick a place that is inexpensive and choose conservatively from the menu.
Jim also provided some great ideas of free things to enjoy around the city.
Luckily, S. and I are really good at enjoying ourselves anywhere without spending money. We have no desire to go to anything that involves a ticket or fee on this trip. We plan to play a disc golf course (weather permitting), and roam around downtown, just seeing where the weekend takes us.
Miscellaneous – Other ways I am not spending/ Saving money on this trip
No checked luggage
No, my work did not pay for checked luggage. It’s just a weekend, so I won’t have much to take, and I ensured that our hotel room comes equipped with a hair dryer (which will save me room), and an iron (which means my clothes don’t need to travel in a fancy bag). I’m using the airlines “personal item” option, which is completely free.
No Souvenirs/No shopping
Memories and photographs are all I need!
We’ve made arrangements for my sister to watch Ranger, so no dog boarding fees. We’ll watch their doodle in July when they travel to the beach.
Because the weekend is not something I can control down to the hair, and because I don’t wish to be a miserly scrooge, I’ve decided to save where I can and leave it at that. I’m going to enjoy myself and if that means that I need to spend some money then I will. Sometimes we just can’t change the circumstances we’re put in, we can only make the best of them!
Also, I’m super excited for a weekend getaway, and seeing Atlanta for the first time!