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Monday, October 17, 2011

2012 Planning - Travel, entertainment and eating out

Yikes!  I made a list of the travel I would like to do in 2012 and added up the estimated cost.  It came out about $3000 more than I expected and the same amount more than we will have spent in 2011.  That is for 3 trips to see each of our parents (and one son is also visited at the same time as one parent), 2 trips to see the other son (he comes to us on Thanksgiving for the time being), and one small vacation for the two of us.  A total of 9 trips assuming parents don't get ill and need help.  The largest expense is airfare.  I don't see any way to lower the cost of dog boarding and I already monitor car rental prices and change our reservation if there is a drop in price.

Entertainment including memberships in museums, etc. will be reduced from 2011 I think. It wasn't a large expense in 2011 so we will only save a little money here.   Perhaps we will just plan on a membership in the art museum, movies (my husband loves to go), an occasional play, and most of the rest being free concerts and other free activities.  We have taken advantage of free concerts at the university closest to us and need to look for what is happening at the other colleges near us.  I also scour the newspaper each week to see what we can do for free. 

We really enjoy eating out.  I also enjoy going out for coffee and a snack as it not only gets me out of the house but I also enjoy the environment of our locally owned coffee house.  We have agreed that we get more pleasure out of going out to eat if we do it fewer times and go to nicer places. 

It is hard to find savings in some of these areas, but these categories of spending are really important to us.  It brings us a lot of pleasure to do these things.  Although travel takes priority over the other areas for 2012 as it mostly involves seeing loved ones, we don't want to eliminate the others either. 

Action Steps:

Travel
- I will continue to monitor prices and hope we can use frequent flyer miles late in the year. 

Entertainment
- Time to find more sources for listings of free activities and keep on top of them.   I especially need to find free things I really like to do that get me out of the house in the midst of our very hot, humid summers and during cold weather.
- Use the discounts available by virtue of our public broadcasting membership.

Eating Out 
- The main way to save in this area is to limit the number of times we eat out each month and really make it a treat vs just not having to fix dinner.  We discussed this and think that going out twice a month for a nice dinner feels right.  I'm going to put it on the calendar!
- Look on restaurant.com and other sites for discount coupons.
- Have drinks at home first or just go out for a drink.
- Really limit my trips to the coffee house or trade down to plain coffee and a biscotti vs. a latte and pastry (also good for my waistline).  Again twice a month feels right, but it will be a challenge to stick to that.

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