Friday, 29 May 2020

Budgeting for NYC Whilst in Debt


I decided last summer that Connor and I were going to go on holiday for our anniversary in January, because I wanted to work towards something exciting, and to truly celebrate our ten years together. At that moment I was still £2,000 in debt and owed my mum money for buying my car, when my old one was too expensive to fix. I knew I needed to knuckle down and come up with some numbers.

I started investigating holiday prices in the first place for trips in Europe and New York, I was trying to work out the best place to go for that time of the year. I worked out that we could get flights and a hotel for various destinations for around £400-£500 each for four to five nights. When I finally landed on the idea of New York, as it'd be quieter and cute if it snowed. I started to research affordable restaurants. I made a Pinterest board of things to do and places to eat that looked different and appealing, and made a document detailing rough prices of meals.

See, I love doing all of this research and budgeting (when I stick to it), my plan was to get out of my overdraft by January, and pay my mum off by February/March. I knew I couldn't overspend on our holiday if I still wanted to get fully out of debt. I had decided that I was not going to go shopping or get souvenirs (as I had already been to New York a few years ago and bought way too much, I did not want to do that again). I worked out when we were going to arrive, and how many meals we would need to buy each day. I had originally scrapped buying breakfast on day one, however we ended up buying it anyway! I put a budget of $10 per breakfast and lunch, and $30 for dinner. That's a total of $250 for just food for the holiday.

Then from my list of fun things to do I worked out what was free and what would cost me more dollars*:

Weekly unlimited subway card $34
Central Park Zoo $19.95
Pedicab Tour $30 each (if pre-booked through Facebook)
Empire State Building $42
Top of the Rock $38
Roosevelt Island Cable Car $3 each way

Total: $169.95

When we were planning what we wanted to do each day and if there were more things to do in that area, I looked into travel passes and saw that Groupon did a good deal. We got a three attraction pass that you can use at anytime during your holiday for £69 each ($83) and it includes so many attractions it's really worth it. This meant that we automatically saved money through this pass rather than exclusively buying tickets for the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock, and we decided we'd pay the 9/11 Museum a visit as well. The one thing I'd recommend with the Groupon pass is make sure you do it before you go on holiday, as I had a delay in receiving my confirmation email as I booked it at the airport when we were about to leave...luckily, I got it later that day and could finish the confirmation. If you can, try and print the voucher as they will scan it at each attraction or exchange it for one of their tickets. Plus, you don't have to commit to what attraction you want to use the passes for, so it gives you flexibility if you change your mind.

We didn't end up doing all of the attractions on my list, so we saved in some areas and spent more on food in others. Each day I would assess my budget and move over my daily amounts to my Monzo card. I highly recommend Monzo, it's an app only bank of which you get a physical card and it's super easy to transfer money. One of my favourite components is that you can round up your spends to put the extra change into a savings pot, it also works out the exchange rate as soon as you've bought something.

I had about £130/$156 left in my spending account, which was great as that was then left as my savings whilst knowing that I was out of debt. I had about a maximum of $500 I could spend, but I wanted to make sure I came back with plenty leftover.

With regards to my addiction to spending and shopping, we did go into malls and the massive Macys and Bloomingdales just to have a look. To be honest there wasn't really anything I wanted or needed, it was just nice to get a feel of the place. I think I had been so strict on my thought process before we went that it stuck with me and I didn't stray. Except, when I got a little bag of pick and mix from M&M World which I allowed as it was only $7.99 and delicious.

This was the first holiday I'd been on where I had done all of this research and worked out budgets, and honestly it was the best thing I could've done. I really regret my previous trips where I would just flash my contactless card and worry about the amount I'd spent later. Having that daily budget was just great to help me keep me on track, and be smart about where we ate and what we did. Obviously, I didn't want to be in a position where I was worried about money whilst away for our anniversary, but that's why it helped to know that I had room in my budget. I had worked hard to make sure that I wouldn't be anxious about money.

I still can't believe that we actually went away on a holiday together, and I managed to scrape any extra pennies and birthday/Christmas money together to make it happen. I've added helpful links throughout this post, and if you have any other questions about budgeting drop me a comment below!

Other New York content will be coming soon...

*all prices were correct at the original publishing date, prices may vary due to inflation or different deals.
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