Next week my family and I will head to Henderson, Tennessee, for the annual Freed-Hardeman University Bible Lectures. We are planning on leaving early Monday morning and staying until Friday morning.
Being gone that long, and with the type of schedule the lectures have, we will have to eat out quite a bit. Here are some things we do to help this not destroy our budget.
1. We already have the cash set aside. We go to this lectureship each year, so we know about how much we spend on food. So, back in December, we set aside enough money to pay for our meals and our hotel room. That way the only thing coming out of our budget is gasoline.
2. We stay at a hotel with breakfast, but we also buy some items. The "breakfast" at this hotel consists of a few Little Debbie snack cakes and Sunny D. I can't drink anything with that much sugas in it early in the morning. Also, we are very busy until lunch (at around 11:30), so we need something with substance. So, we take our own juice and usually take a few homemade muffins or other items. While this doesn't really save us money at breakfast, it can help save money at lunch; since we are not as hungry.
3. We don't buy snacks throughout the day. During the brief breaks, it can be tempting to go grab a soda or candy bar for a little "pick me up." To be honest, we might do this one time during the week, but we simply avoid doing it daily. We only buy a little snack if we are going to have time to enjoy it.
4. My wife orders water (and I do, too, ... sometimes). We usually eat fast food for lunch, but then we try to have a "sit down" meal for supper. As you know sodas, tea and other drinks greatly add to the total bill. Drinking water can really help keep costs down, especially if you are eating out a lot.
5. We ask about our daughter eating free. She is just 2 and doesn't eat all that much right now. However, we do not want to just assume that she can eat from our plates. We like to ask so that, if another worker sees her doing so, we can say that we asked about it. So far, we have never had a problem with this, and that alone saves a lot of money. Many restaurants charge anywhere from $2-$6 for a child's meal!
6. In connection to that, our daughter drinks water nearly every meal. She likes it, so that helps!
7. We take advantage of discounts or gifts. I am one of the song leaders at the lectureship next week, and, as such, I am entitled to a free meal on campus. That means that one of our meals will be eaten at half-price. The line for this meal is always long, but you can't beat half-price food! (And the food is quite good.)
Whether it is a vacation or a business trip, nearly everyone will face a trip like this one at some point. Using some planning and a little common sense will help you avoid running through your food budget, and will help you have a little extra money at the end of the trip. Maybe you can use that money to buy a souveneir for the kids!