Decisions We Are Wrestling With


Over the past few weeks we have had a few financial opportunities and decisions crop up and we’re taking our time trying to decide what to do in each situation.  I’d like to take this post to share with you what’s been going on with us.




We were invited to a wedding in Chicago (black tie!) at the end of June and we’ve been going back and forth about whether to attend.  The wedding itself should be really nice and fun – the bride and groom are friends from Durham and several other friends are traveling there.  We also have never been to Chicago so it would be an opportunity to take a long weekend to see the city.  One of our very good friends from college lives there now so I think we would have a nice visit with her as well.


This is what we’ve been thinking for the major expenses of attending any out-of-town wedding:

  • travel to event – flights are about $300 each, so we are planning to drive (at 13.5 hrs this is stretching our limit)
  • travel at event – we’ll probably have our car, but even without it I think we’ll rely on public transport, which shouldn’t be too expensive
  • lodging – unfortunately we can’t stay with our friend for most of the time, so we need to find another place to crash or a cheap motel
  • food – this might be a big one as we probably will have to eat out a lot
  • attire – Kyle needs to buy a tux and I have a dress
  • gift – normal spending
  • entertainment – we’ll have to create an itinerary/budget, but this shouldn’t be too major


We need to RSVP this week.  I was leaning toward going because attending weddings is such a priority for us, plus the trip can have multiple purposes and we’re only taking one other small vacation this summer.  However, when I estimated our cost for the trip I came up with $1500, which is way too much, but Kyle’s lowball estimate was $750, which is maybe doable.




Two weeks ago, our friend emailed us to let us know he and his wife are selling their gently used DSLR and they wanted to know if we would like to buy it.  They were asking $600 for a $750 (new) camera.  After going back and forth for a week, I decided to decline their offer.  I really, really want a camera but I felt like I hadn’t earned it yet.  I hadn’t sweated through the research to determine what would meet our needs and I hadn’t yet sacrificed to save up the money.  We would have had to take the $600 from our nest egg, and we’re already in the red in that account (more on that next).  I thought by the time we had saved up enough money the next round of models would be out so we would end up with something newer than if we bought now and paid ourselves back.




Kyle and I received a very, very generous anniversary gift just days after I turned down the camera.  Last year when we received a comparable amount of money for our anniversary and our birthdays we put the money toward new laptops that we had planned to buy in August.  It was an easy decision because we already had the goal to save up for the laptops and all our found money was going there anyway.  This year we don’t have a similar plan in place, so we weren’t prepared to have to decide what to do with this kind of gift.


The most boring and responsible option: We owe $972.16 to ourselves for money we borrowed from our nest egg (about 25% from earlier this year and the rest from our first year of marriage).  So we could put the money there and rid ourselves of that stress!


The reasonable option: Put it toward a camera.  We had planned to buy one in the next couple years anyway so this would just accelerate the schedule.  We wouldn’t do it right away because we would need to research our options and continue saving but it could happen sooner than planned.


Other possibilities:


1)  Upgrade my phone.  We have already picked out a company and a data plan, but we need $200 to buy the phone itself up front.  Even though I would be upgrading from a dumbphone to a smartphone, the plan itself costs half of what I’m paying now, so over two years we’ll save money.


2)  We could use part of the money to pay for our Chicago trip for flights or a hotel upgrade.  Or we could just generally add it to our travel fund to use for our vacation later this summer or flights to a wedding in the fall.


3)  We are $800 from maxing out our IRAs this year.  It would feel good to get to that level.


New ideas that popped up with the gift:


  • Well Heeled recommended to me on Twitter that I consider taking a photography class in lieu of upgrading our camera.  After all, if you don’t know how to use it, upgrading is pretty useless!  I found a 6-week class at our local arts council later in the summer that would cost $142.
  • Kyle’s laundry list of electronics: iPad or Kindle, mic and audio interface.


We are so pleased to receive this wonderful gift.  It is a good reminder that we should have a plan in place for found money year-round.  Well, my plan is always to shove it into our nest egg – that’s what I’ve been doing with our tax refunds, credit card rewards, and money left at the end of the month when I zero out.  So maybe I should go with my first instinct and get the weight of our self-loans off our shoulders!


Have you had to make a difficult decision regarding attending an event or purchase recently?  What is your current plan for found money?


Written by

Filed under: choices, spending, travel · Tags: , ,

14 Responses to "Decisions We Are Wrestling With"

  1. Jessica says:

    I’m on the same boat trying to figure out exactly what to do with the cash we received from our wedding and the tax credit that my husband got.

    Chicago is a great city to visit so I think you should go. There’s plenty of free things to do so your entertainment budget doesn’t need to be too high. Also, do you and Kyle anticipate on being invited to a lot of black tie weddings? If not he could rent a tux instead of purchasing one. I guess it’ll come down to cost per use.
    Jessica recently posted..Blog Sale–Wedding Addition

    1. Emily says:

      The cash we received for our wedding is still nebulous to us. It’s sitting in a savings account waiting to be used for something big, like a car or down payment (or camera?). And it’s our not-quite-emergency slush fund, too – hence owing ourselves almost $1000 there! So I have no advice if you don’t see a way to immediately fit it into your other savings goals.

      We don’t think we’ll be invited to many black tie events, but you never know! The cost of renting is nearly the same as the cost to buy a formerly-rented tux, which is what we’re planning to do if we attend the wedding. There is a shop that sells used formalwear at an outlet mall reasonably near Durham so we’ll probably visit there next weekend or so.

  2. Leigh says:

    I’ve never been to Chicago either! I’m starting to see why your travel budget is so high, with so many friends getting married. I’ve been spending so much on travel lately that I took the “extra” money in my checking account and applied it to June’s travel budget, taking it off of December’s, to put the travel line item less in the negative.

    I agree with you that it’s super important to have a year-round plan for found money. My current plan is that it goes to my down payment savings fund.

    If the self-loan is bothering you a lot, I would pay that back. Paying self-loans back quickly always makes me feel way better 🙂 I’m curious to see what you guys end up doing with the gift!
    Leigh recently posted..May 2012 net worth update (+1.0%)

    1. Emily says:

      Yeah marriage is apparently really popular! And as a married couple, we have somewhere between 1 and 2 x the invitations that an uncoupled person would. We have a nice leftover balance in our checking from May so I think we are going to put that into the travel fund to help with this trip and our next wedding trip in September.

      The self-loan bothers me a lot but not Kyle so much. It’s not debt, after all, just less money than we used to have in a savings account. But I don’t like the idea that we couldn’t make it on our paychecks at one time or another and had to depend on that account.

      It’s already been like 1.5 weeks and we haven’t even deposited the check! It will probably go into our aforementioned nest egg savings account until we decide it should be used for something else. And possibly it will just stay there if we are indecisive. 🙂

  3. Julia says:

    All of my “found” money has been going into my slush fund. I would ideally have one full month of expenses in there just so when things pop up that can’t be covered by my regular paycheck I don’t have to dip into my emergency fund. It sounds like you’re using the wedding money account in a similar way!

    I’ve been debating about attending a family event over the summer partly due to the cost and mostly due to taking the time away from research! If you can both take the time off (and can afford it) I see no reason not to go to the wedding since it’s a high priority for you. Connecting with friends and family is something that I don’t think you can put a price on.
    Julia recently posted..Do you share laundry duty?

    1. Emily says:

      Haha I think the question “can we afford it” is always hard to answer when we have that slush fund. We always can afford to do things but it’s many times not wise. We don’t like taking time away from school either, but we very rarely take vacation so I think we’re due a few days. The Chicago trip would require 3 days off from work and we’re planning to take 3 days in August to go to the beach. I don’t think that’s too bad for the summer. 🙂

  4. I say go to the wedding. Research the camera, wait on the phone, and go to the art museum when you’re in Chicago or do walking tours with the architecture society!
    Kathleen @ Frugal Portland recently posted..Weekend link love

    1. Emily says:

      Thanks for your suggestions! We definitely want to check out some museums while we’re in Chicago – I love museums! The walking tour is a great idea, too. Apparently the wedding reception is in a famous architectury-building so we could make that a little theme of the trip.

  5. […] received a very generous gift for our second wedding anniversary, but it didn’t go into the general […]

  6. […] We all have questions, like those at Evolving Personal Finance. […]

  7. […] Humble linked to Decisions We Are Wrestling With in his week in […]

  8. […] and I committed to attend the black tie wedding in Chicago that I’ve mentioned a few times.  In addition to attending the wedding itself, we are going to […]

  9. […] RSVP date, we decided that we would drive there, trading time for money.  I took the first stab at estimating the costs and came up with $1476, which was way too high.  Kyle said that the only way we could afford the […]

  10. […] and I received a large gift for our second wedding anniversary in May, and this month we received/are expecting a similar amount of money in celebration of our […]

Leave a Reply


CommentLuv badge