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What I Learned from Losing $1,000 in 1 Minute. No, I Wasn’t Gambling.

For those of you following along, you may know our family of 5 just returned from a 2-week cross-country vacation. If you are following on YouTube you will have seen video of Wyoming, California and me starring in Friends…a lifelong dream coming true. What you won’t see on social media is the rough start we had before our trip even began. Keep reading and I will break down for you exactly how we lost $1,000 in 1 minute and why I honestly didn’t care very much…

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Trip planning

By now you probably know that I am a big budgeting fanatic, a debt-free enthusiast and a practicing minimalist. What you might not know is that planning quality but crazy affordable vacations is a nerdy hobby of mine. I even have a printout for it in my Fun Sized Budget Bundle.

I love calculating gas milage and comparing to flight prices.

Scouring the internet for free family fun is a favorite past-time of mine.

When it came to planning our 3rd California family vacation, there were a few things I did differently than I had during our previous trips.

My budget-friendly vacation planning method:

  • We actually had the money saved for vacation!! (GASP)
  • I created a zero based budget with the EveryDollar budget app for all of our trip expenses.
  • I didn’t buy myself an entirely new wardrobe (or 18 new swimsuits) before we left.
  • Instead of finding expensive tourist spots, I researched free sights and National Parks along our route and at our final destination.
  • I shopped for road trip friendly snacks so we weren’t stopping to eat for every meal.

If you have read our journey to debt freedom, you fully understand how drastically different this trip was compared to our previous trips.

Previous vacation method:

  • Used whatever cash I had recently made for vacation (but also just took our trusty credit card.)
  • No budget. Not. at. all.
  • At least 3 new Victoria’s Secret swimsuits were purchased.
  • Planned expensive tourist spots and charged them.
  • Stopped to eat for every meal. Again, credit card.

You can probably see just how far we have come when it comes to managing our finances and how proud I was to plan our trip down to the very last dollar.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, people think budgets are limiting but really, they are the most freeing thing in the world.

We were leaving for vacation with total financial peace of mind. We were debt free and had actually planned and saved for our vacation budget. How could anything go wrong?

Prepping our vehicle

Our trusty SUV has seen us through a lot over the last 9 years. She has taken us on many trips to Michigan, one cross-country trip to California and is starting to push 200,000 miles.

Because of the high miles, Tom and I wanted to take every precaution to make sure our vehicle was trustworthy enough to take on our 2,000 mile journey.

In the previous months we had put around $3,000 into repairs for this car and for good measure, we did an additional $500 just before we left for vacation.

We did all of these car repairs with cash while we paid off our debt.

Thankfully, we always had our $1,000 emergency fund, so there was never any stress when it came to car repairs.

Losing $1,000 in 1 minute

We took off on the road later than planned but we were all happy to finally be on our way. Because we had started on the road much later than we wanted to, Tom and I decided we should book a hotel in South Dakota so we weren’t driving all night long.

About 20 minutes after I booked the hotel, our “trusty” SUV started stalling on us. What do you know, a brand new problem that needed to be fixed.

Trust me, at this point, I’m ready to drive this car off a cliff.

This wasn’t a trip we were about to cancel on account of our car. Tom’s brother is in the Navy in California and it’s a rare chance when he’s on land long enough for us to sneak in a visit. There was no way we weren’t going.

I quickly checked airline prices and compared them to the cost of rental cars. We decided on a minivan rental. With a few clicks and the entry of a credit card number, I was able to book us a minivan and insurance for around $900 total.

After picking up our rental car, we were on the road 3 hours later than our already late start. Hoping to get a hotel closer to us, I attempted to cancel our hotel reservation in South Dakota. No luck. There was a 24-hour cancellation policy and I couldn’t get our money back.

In literally 1 minute we had been set back $1,000 unplanned dollars.

All that hard work, that smart planning, and sacrifice and now I needed to find an extra $1,000 in our budget.

We made our way toward our hotel in South Dakota (arrival time: 4:30am) while I tweaked and twisted our budget as much as possible to help cover the cost of the rental car.

The natural response

Naturally, like most people, Tom reacted with panic and frustration. Not only did we have to scramble at the last minute to re-pack a car and pay for a rental but it also meant that as soon as we got home from vacation we would yet again have to repair our SUV.

He was angry. Stressed. And I totally understood why.

I, however, reacted much differently. I reacted differently than Tom did and I reacted differently than I would have 5 years ago.

Why I didn’t care about losing $1,000 in 1 minute

For too long I let money control my life. I let it dictate my feelings and behaviors. But not this time.

You see, after returning from vacation, we would be repairing our SUV, sure. But, I also would be attending the funeral of my stepdad. The man who raised me. Who through my whole childhood helped me with my homework, instilled morals and faith in me.

When you go through the loss of a person, suddenly all the other problems of the world seem small and insignificant.

What was more important? Visiting family 2,000 miles away or losing $1,000? Here’s a hint: in a battle between money and people, people will win with me every time.

More debt?

Another reason I wasn’t concerned about a major dent in our budget is because I have more faith in us than I used to. We make smart financial decisions now. The fact that we even cared about this loss or made budgeting plans at all tells me how much more we care than we used to.

Yes, we put our rental on a credit card…which I had actually just opened a few weeks before and already paid off — but that’s another story.

We just became debt free and now I have debt again and you know what, I’m not concerned at all. I know we’ll pay it off quickly and continue right on with our saving and budgeting practices.

I control money. Not the other way around.

Do you know how freeing it is to finally feel like money has lost its grip on me? It’s amazing and it’s a daily practice.

Even during our debt payoff, there were times when I allowed myself to be consumed and obsessed with money.

Letting go of money’s grip is not easy and it takes practice through budgeting, discipline and hard work.

We will lose a lot of things in this life in only 1 minute. Things that are irreplaceable. Money is not one of them. Don’t ever forget that.

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