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Mr. FAF and I have been planning one of the most important trips of our life for the past few months.
We have been talking about it with joy, excitement, and pride.
The trip will be important for a couple of reasons.
First, it will be the first time we’ve taken Mr. FAF’s mom on a long trip so that she can see more of America.
Second, Baby FAF will be able to see where his parents (Mr. FAF and me) first met and practiced driving together.
Third, it will mark an important milestone in Mr. FAF’s pursuit of the American dream and a step up in his career.
As you might have already guessed, we will be traveling to where Mr. FAF got his doctoral degree, which is about an 11-hour drive from DC, to attend his graduation ceremony in December.
(Mr. FAF graduated in August of this year, so he couldn’t attend the ceremony in May and had to wait until December.)
The travel hype
Our family doesn’t travel in the US often. When we do travel, it’s usually a 20-hour flight all the way to Asia which is both costly and time-consuming.
Mr. FAF’s family is in China, and mine is in Vietnam. When we travel internationally, it means a trip from the US to Asia and another trip within Asia.
We need to save up all of our annual leave (3-4 weeks) for such a big trip. An average plane ticket to China or Vietnam is roughly $1,500. When you multiply that by 3 for our family, the total cost can add up to $4,500.
Having a legitimate reason to take a few days off work to travel domestically got me really excited. I started to picture all of us sitting together on an airplane for 2 hours, then dropping off our belongings at an AirBnB or a hotel, and going sightseeing in the city.
Mr. FAF has been driving back and forth from that city to DC almost every month for the past 4 years, a trip that usually takes him about 20 hours both ways. I was relieved that he can eventually say good-bye to the long and exhausting trip.
Now that we got a jump in our income thanks to Mr. FAF’s new job, we can take a 2-hour flight to go somewhere instead of sitting in the car for hours. I didn’t tell Mr. FAF, but I was estimating a budget of $1,000 for the travel.
Mr. FAF would be in charge of buying the plane tickets. I would look up a nice AirBnB where all of us can stay comfortably and maybe cook together to save money.
Mr. FAF wouldn’t be tired from the driving. All of us would happily drive around so that Grandma FAF can check out all the tourist attractions in the city.
The new money-saving plan
I was blogging away one night when Mr. FAF said he wanted to have a family meeting to plan the trip. I was excited to say the least.
He started showing me Spirit return tickets for $81. It’s a total of $324 for our family of four. It sounded perfect to me until I realized that Spirit is an airline notorious for delays. What if we miss the flight and thus Mr. FAF’s graduation ceremony?
I suggested we buy a ticket from a reliable airline like Delta which would be around $125 ($500 in total). However, Mr. FAF said it was too expensive. He insisted on Spirit, saying that it’d be ok to miss the graduation ceremony if we had a long flight delay.
I eventually agreed. After all, it is his graduation ceremony, so I let him decide.
When looking more closely at the tickets, however, Mr. FAF realized that we would have to pay extra for baggage. He then proposed what seemed to be a brilliant solution: He would drive our whole family to the city for 11 hours and then drive back to DC after 3 days.
To him, it was the most economical solution of all. We would depart at 6 PM after Mr. FAF and I come back from work on Wednesday and come back to DC on Sunday (a 4-day trip). We would stay overnight at a hotel on Wednesday night and resume driving on Thursday.
The dissipating excitement
Once I heard Mr. FAF’s new travel plan, my interest level plummeted.
In my mind, the nice and relaxing trip on the plane is now replaced by a long exhausting drive with a crying baby who refuses to sit still in the car seat. I then would worry about his safety while feeling frustrated that he wouldn’t let me buckle him up.
After we arrive at the destination, we would probably be too tired to go sightseeing and would just want to relax at the hotel. Mr. FAF would be exhausted from the drive and in no mood to drive us around the city.
I could drive, but every time I do, people would honk at me for reasons that I don’t really understand. I don’t feel confident about ensuring safety for our whole family.
By the time all of us recover from the long drive, it’d be time for our family to sit in the car for another 11 hours to go back to DC. It didn’t sound like a vacation to me at all. To me, it was just a trip we needed to get done while trying to save money.
I asked Mr. FAF, “Why don’t we just live a little and take the plane? We can pay for it with cash. You have a job now. We can afford it.” Mr. FAF insisted that we need to save up for more important things such as our mortgage and Baby FAF’s daycare tuition.
I asked him when we could finally have a relaxing vacation without worrying about money. He said in a year, but I really doubt if it would never happen. Mr. FAF is a frugal man.
I’m not promoting spending thousands of money on an expensive trip at a resort. But I wonder if we can just have a relaxing family vacation after being frugal for years.
Mr. FAF’s decision got me thinking about lifestyle inflation and our frugality. Before Mr. FAF started working, I would be the one worrying about money and trying to cut costs wherever possible.
Now that we are a two-income family, I feel a huge burden taken off my shoulder as the breadwinner. I still try to save money, but I also no longer stress as much about Mr. FAF’s spending. I know he is not a spender in any way.
I am glad that Mr. FAF is budget conscious and doesn’t give in to the temptation of lifestyle inflation. He wants to get his financial priorities straight for the family.
However, part of me is not perfectly happy that he doesn’t want to spend a bit of money on a nice trip for everybody. We have no consumer debt. Our car is paid off. We have an emergency fund in place. Is Mr. FAF being too frugal?
I’m not sure what the answer is. At least, Mr. FAF is not dropping thousands of dollars mindlessly on an expensive trip.
I will also look on the bright side that we will get spend time together as a family whether it’s in the car or on the plane. After all, having a car is better than being carless. And having a frugal trip is better than not having any vacation at all.
What do you think about Mr. FAF’s plan? Do you think he’s too frugal (or cheap) by choosing to drive more than 20 hours in a span of 4 days to save a couple of hundreds of dollars?