Remember how I said my son’s ER bill was just shy of $1,000? Whelp, I was wrong. Turns out, the first bill was from the doctor. A second bill arrived in the mail from the hospital. Apparently, they don’t bill together. That would just be silly.
The second bill was for $2,000. $2,000!! Holy moly! The total cost for stitches on my son’s chin was $3,000! I called the hospital to negotiate a lower rate. Dave Ramsey swears this is possible. It’s not. The hospital refused to budge. They offered to let me make payments for 6 months.
Here’s the deal. I have $2,000 in my HSA but it’s invested and doing well. I know I’ll have bigger health or dental expenses in the future so I really don’t want to touch that if I can avoid it. I have $2,000 in my emergency fund and yes, I consider this an emergency, but that’s invested as well. Easy to pull out if needed but same reasoning here, I don’t want to touch that money if I can avoid it. So that leaves me here…staring at debt??
I can afford the monthly payment and the hospital charges no interest to spread this bill out over 6 months. Financially, that makes the most sense but I’m reluctant to take this option because I consider it debt. Owing someone. Making payments. Sounds a lot like debt. My husband disagrees and wants to make the payments.
This is a good time to stretch my brain and think of other ideas. There’s got to be something I can do that doesn’t involve pulling money from my emergency fund or my HSA. I looked at my categories for places I could ‘rob Peter to pay Paul’ and I focused on the car replacement fund. It’s not invested and I don’t plan to use it in the next 6 months. I can pull it from there and make 6 months of payments back to the car replacement fund. Not optimal but if I really get into a bind, I can make a claim to the HSA to get that $2,000 and put it into the car fund.
I’m curious though, if I didn’t have the car fund to borrow from and made payment instead, would you consider that debt?
This past year has been tough on all of us. The pandemic has completely changed how we live and spend time together. Unfortunately, it also meant that all travel and summer vacation plans were postponed as well. However, now there is a light at the end of the tunnel. So, my family will be taking our first vacation in nearly two years. I think we are all desperately in need of some fun and time away from home. Therefore, I went to extra lengths to ensure this trip will be one to remember.
The Itinerary for Our Summer Vacation Plans
In addition to this being our first family getaway since I’ve returned home, our summer vacation plans will also include my birthday celebration. Since this one is a bit of a milestone, I wanted to do something memorable. So, to mark my 35th successful trip around the sun, I wanted to cross an item off my bucket list and go skydiving. When I shared my idea with everyone, it turns out I wasn’t the only person who wanted to go. While most people think it’s crazy to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, my cousin, boyfriend, and mom all want to join me on this little adventure.
I called around to local operators and received estimates ranging from $300-$500 per person. However, I decided that if I was going to spend this much money for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, I didn’t want to look at cornfields and farmland while I did it. So, I expanded my range and started looking around at nearby states.
After doing a little research, I found a skydiving operator located outside Colorado Springs that ticked all my boxes. Not only is it within driving distance and nestled amid beautiful scenery, but Colorado Mountain Skydive also beat all their competitors’ prices. For $200 each, we will receive safety training and a tandem jump with a certified instructor. Of course, I did my due diligence and checked both their safety credentials and customer reviews. After a long conversation with the owner, I felt like they were the right choice. With over 25 years of experiences and instructors that have thousands of jumps under their belt, I made the reservation for this coming weekend.
Finding Ways to Trim the Budget
However, anyone can see that a skydiving excursion isn’t cheap. While I found the best price around, we also have to include the cost of gas to get there. So, I’ve been saving up for this trip for the last six months.
My savings goal was $500 to cover my portion of the trip. Every week, I saved money here and there in order to put $25 into my savings account towards our summer vacation plans. I felt like this was a manageable goal. Yet, I would still be able to stay on track if I was unable to meet my goal every time.
At first, it was hard giving up my favorite coffee stops and taking time for meal prep every day. But, after a few weeks it became easy to hit my target. In fact, it almost became a game to see how much I could exceed it. Within only two months I had reached my goal, but I decided to continue riding the momentum of these good habits. Now that our departure date is fast approaching, I have managed to save $800. Not only can I afford the travel expenses, but now I will also have some extra spending cash.
Other Summer Vacation Savings Ideas
Although skydiving will be the largest expense of the trip, there are also several other costs to consider. Thanks to my years of travel experience, working for hotels, and suggestions from the group, we found a few discounts that saved us hundreds of dollars without sacrificing quality or comfort.
Although driving is still cheaper than flying, prices at the pump are much higher than last summer. However, we have found a few ways to reduce the cost of gas and transportation. First, we are carpooling with fewer cars than originally planned. Having one less vehicle saved us approximately $350.
Another cost saving idea came from my mom. She suggested we use her fuel saver discount to fill up before we leave. She is a loyal customer at our local grocery store, so I was pleasantly surprised when we checked how much she had saved up. Thanks to her membership, we will save an additional $.20 a gallon on the first two tanks of gas.
The next major discount we scored was for hotels. Since we know people that work in the hospitality industry, we were able to receive the friends and family discount. Although we are traveling during one of the busiest weekends of the summer, we were still able to save 10% on two family suites. When you apply the discount, we saved an additional $120 by having the right connections.
Coupons and Cash Discounts
This last tip isn’t specific to summer vacation plans, but asking for cash discounts and using coupons can save you some extra money. Couponing is an honored family tradition, and one that we practice even when travelling. Before any major trip, I like to scope out local eateries and check for coupons and discounts online. This time round, I was able to find a few online promotions that included free appetizers and entrees.
Additionally, I was able to find another unexpected way to save. Thanks to the customer reviews, I found out that the skydiving operator offered an additional $10 discount for paying in cash. While it isn’t an astronomical amount, we saved an extra $40 to put towards other expenses.
The Bottom Line
While saving money is important, I didn’t want it to become the focal point of our summer vacation plans. As you can see, it is possible to find great deals and discounts without sacrificing everything. Thanks to our group’s frugal mindset we have already saved more than $500. By taking advantage of discount memberships, connections through family and friends, and looking for online discounts, you could also reduce the bottom line of your family’s next getaway.