To be able to travel and still pay the mortgage, most people have to find creative ways to save money. I am one of those people. Living on two teachers’ salaries–soon to be one teacher’s salary–saving money becomes an art form. Many of my friends may have noticed that I don’t look as well-put-together this year. I’ve not been shopping. Those same friends may also notice that I never go out anymore, and when I do I don’t stay for nearly as long. Two hours less at happy hour equals $40 more for the year-off-to-travel-and-write fund. But last night I hit a new low.
My husband worked late; I needed to have dinner without him. In a past life, I would have gone to one of my favorite restaurants. I really like White Orchid, an upscale Thai place in a local preppy-outdoor-lifestyle mall. But last night I attempted to save money–by making hamburger helper ($1.79).
I ate this in college a lot, but back then I didn’t eat meat, so I often made carrot-and-onion helper. Trust me, it is better than it sounds. I’ve been out of college for eight years now, so it has been a while since I’ve experienced ‘Helper’ of any kind. As I’m no longer a vegetarian, yesterday’s Helper was made with 99% lean ground turkey breast ($5.99). I didn’t notice the box until after I got home. If you didn’t look closely the first time, scroll up and look at it again now.
Hamburger Helper is currently featuring a 4-box collector’s set, featuring a Nascar panorama. That’s right. I said Hamburger Helper, collector’s set, and Nascar all in that same sentence.
I almost didn’t make it after I noticed that freakish feature. But that would have been a waste of money.
And in case anyone was wondering–it was not good. Next time my husband has to work late–tomorrow, actually–I shall go to the take away Indian restaurant down the street. For the same amount of money, I can get a meal I’ll actually enjoy in a package that causes less shame.
How much does the average American spend each year on travel? This is not a rhetorical question that I’m about to answer in my own post–it is an actual question that I have that I cannot answer. Even Google can’t help me. Why are there no studies or statistics done on this?
I have my own selfish reasons for wanting to know this–basically I want to justify my own travel expenses. But I also want to understand the importance our culture places on vacations–and travel in general. The amount one spends on any given item or experience indicates how much that person values that particular item or experience–according to our recent credit card statement, I REALLY value travel. And wine.
According to the overstretched years-old sweater I’m wearing, and the hand-me-down winter coat I’ve adopted this winter (it originally belonged to my husband’s college roommate whom I’ve never even met), I don’t really value what I look like. I also don’t really value safe or reliable transportation, as my six-year-old Scion has been flashing all kinds of warning lights lately. But I’m still planning on at least one major summer trip this year in addition to the double-feature Spring trip in May. I also discovered several different conferences of the writing variety that I’d like to check out–both of which require minor travel (and somewhat major expense–don’t these people know that writers are poor?)
I can’t help but wonder if this is normal. Are there other people out there like me, driving old cars and wearing pilly sweaters to save money for yet another trip? And if so, can we form some sort of club? Obviously there would have to be no dues involved….
EDIT: A very helpful commenter (is that a word?) gave me the link to The Bureau of Labor Statistics page that answers my question–yay! Thanks helpful commenter! The answer? In 2008, the average amount spent per household was $1,415, with almost half of that money going toward transportation.