July 2018: my biggest impulse purchase ever (and a $150 hiking weekend)

July was shaping up to be a fantastic reversal of my not-so-hot savings rates of the last few months. I was this close with a hefty petsitting paycheck, my COL adjustment kicking in for a very slightly bigger paycheck, a lower month for groceries thanks to gift cards, and not a whole lot else other than gas to get to the beach.

And then last weekend struck.

A pre-storm beach photo to set the scene since most of July was the calm before the spending storm

That time I paid $150 to go hiking

I mean, I was only half-kidding about the clickbait title!

I’d known for months that there would be a few weeks where my second job was closed thanks to construction, but the timeline on that was always “at some point in the next few months” and never very firm. After taking two weeks off from my second job to go to the beach, I heard the news that the long-awaited closure was happening for the two weeks immediately following that. Because of course it would be, instead of overlapping with my vacation at all. And then I’m out of town again the week we reopen, so it’ll be about a month and a half by the time I show up at work again. ?‍♀️

What’s a girl to do with two suddenly completely clear weekends (omg what is this having free time thing? What am I supposed to do with myself??) but go hiking?

I’ll be hiking with other people this weekend, but everyone was out of town last weekend, so I decided I’d make it a weekend of solo hiking and did two different eight-mile trails. Hiking’s the perfect frugal activity, so I should’ve had a cheap weekend, right?

Hahaha not so last weekend.

Betrayal by Google

Y’all better believe I keep my Google Maps setting to “avoid tolls” at all times. But last Saturday I found out that option had somehow been turned off when Google routed me onto the Dulles toll road.

I paid $2.50 in cash at the toll booth (surprise toll roads are the ONLY reason I ever keep cash around). I’d heard things about that being an expensive road but didn’t know what I was getting into. And I didn’t want to get off at any of the exits and try for a different route, because I’d have to pay another $1 as I was exiting. Who wants to pay another toll as they’re exiting? $2.50 isn’t horrible, after all.

And then 20 miles later I got hit with the $5.65 toll at the end of that road (they take credit cards for that one, how convenient of them). Don’t worry, I saved a whole $1.50 because it wasn’t rush hour! ?

So thank goodness I wasn’t hiking somewhere where I’d need to pay an entrance fee. Because that would’ve been insult on top of injury.

Free hiking. Sorta, depending on your route to get here

The making of a good hike: a functioning car battery

Sunday morning dawned and I was up early, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (jk I was hurting from Saturday’s hike and super tired) to hop in the car and hike another eight-mile trail. And my car wouldn’t start. There was power to turn on the radio, dashboard lights, and fan, but not enough power to actually turn over the engine.

After running around waving at cars stopped at red lights like a crazy person for a while (pro tip from my father after this happened: run around waving at cars with your jumper cables because you will look way less like a crazy person #themoreyouknow), I managed to find someone willing to jump my car for the 30 seconds required to give it enough juice to start. And then I drove myself to the nearest Auto Zone, which was luckily open early. Because let’s be real, I wanted to start this hike early, but while it’s possible my car would’ve started on its own the next time, I didn’t want to risk driving to the park, hiking, and then finding myself in the parking lot of the park with a dead battery.

I’m extremely thankful this didn’t happen on Saturday, since the place where I hiked was far less popular and I would’ve been waiting in the parking lot for quite a while until I found someone to help me out. Actually, I probably would’ve called AAA and waited the 45-60 minutes for them, but that’s assuming I wouldn’t have been too hangry for that idea to occur to me (and that’s not ever a great assumption with me).

A “dead battery” diagnosis and $142 later, I walked out with a new battery and a functioning car again. I was obviously going to have to pay this at some point very soon anyway, so it’s perhaps a bit disingenuous to jokingly call this a hiking expense. I’m just glad this happened on a morning where I was hiking by myself and not with other people who were waiting for me to pick them up. Because I was also then an hour and a half later than planned.

I’d had breakfast at home that morning like a good frugal person! Did I stop at McDonald’s on the way to my hike to grab a coffee and a breakfast sandwich anyway since 90 minutes later breakfast was long since gone? Yep.

Just gonna brag for a second here

Can we talk about how I went hiking by myself for 16 miles this weekend, even though I was sore and tired on Sunday and didn’t want to do the full hike?

Hell yeah I did.

Holy impulse purchase, Batman!

Perhaps it was the ~excitement~ of the morning that made me do uncharacteristic things, but when I got home from my hike on Sunday, hungry and sweaty and tired, I saw the news on Twitter that there were a few openings for CampFI Midwest at the end of August.

This is the same CampFI that I’ve wanted to go to since I heard about it months ago (I mean, look at that lineup of guests!), but it’s always been sold out, so there was no way I was going to get to go. Remember, I’m reading this as I’m hungry and sweaty and tired. If you think you know where this is headed, you are absolutely right.

Wow, I thought, that would be so awesome if I could go. But that’s a lot of money. And I don’t really have the vacation time.

But instead of leaving it there, I decided to see how much flights would cost. For funsies. And that, dear readers, was my fatal mistake.

Hmmm, $228 for a direct flight less than a month in advance? That doesn’t seem too bad at all!

And then, well what if I just buy the plane ticket because it’s refundable for 24 hours? That’ll give me time to think about it.

And then, oh shit. There’s literally only one ticket left to camp. That’s not refundable. But I doubt it would be that hard to find someone else who wants it if I decide this is a Very Bad Idea. So…what if I just buy this ticket?…

…oh my god I just bought the last ticket.

I’m going to CampFI Midwest in a few weeks! Maybe? Yeah, I’ve got 24 hours to decide if I’m doing this or not.

Well, I’m doing this! I felt a bit nauseous casually dropping $630 on a whim, but I am also seriously excited that I get to go to this event.

A silver lining here

It wasn’t until I was adding up my numbers for the month (after writing the above section) that I remembered that I’d gotten refunded for my FinCon ticket because I won a new blogger scholarship! So that $398 essentially cancelled out my CampFI ticket and means I feel a lot less bad about my incredibly expensive impulse purchase.

Of course that $400 (plus the $228 for the plane tickets) would’ve been better actually, y’know, saved, but too late now for that.

Spreadsheet time!



My half of rent
Internet and utilities


My half of internet and utilities


Yes, I bought gift cards last month, but that’s only for my preferred specific grocery store. This is Costco and Whole Foods spending, as well as the grocery store near where I was petsitting early in the month


A higher-than-normal month thanks to petsitting, which meant driving to work (thank goodness everyone decided to take off work during the week of the 4th because I cannot imagine driving to work with normal rush hour volume), and hiking. And the beach, but I decided to break that out into vacation spending, otherwise this would’ve been $100!
Barre membership




Dammit, car. At least it was a dead battery, not a faulty starter or something way more expensive (omg fingers crossed I didn’t just inadvertently jinx myself)


Happy hour with FI bloggers, breakfast from hiking weekend, and THIS BEAUTIFUL THING, which definitely was aligned with my values/priorities
Misc household goods


Charitable giving




Wine and cheese and crackers while hanging out with Owning the Stars and StarDog!
Misc dues/subscriptions


Patreon dues


I got a free week at the beach for the price of gas and some fast food on my drive each direction. A steal!


Ahem. Stupid tolls


If you’re wondering how I got my ticket refunded/won a scholarship since you couldn’t apply for the scholarship if you were already registered, I asked months ago if I could apply/get refunded if I won a scholarship. And they said yes, forgetting that to apply you couldn’t be registered. But they honored what they’d told me, which was awesome
CampFI Midwest




So technically I broke my shopping ban. But it was for a pair of cheap flip flops to wear to the beach. So that doesn’t really count


Total spending:


Paychecks and other income


My COL increase went into effect so things are slightly higher
Side hustle income


I hardly worked at my second job this month, but petsitting for a week boosted this substantially
Retirement contributions


For anyone who’s new here, I’m contributing 25% and get a 9% employer match (which is included in this number because hooray, free money!)
Total income:




Savings rate:


Honestly, color me surprised, because until I filled out this spreadsheet I was dreading the result. This is what happens when you add in your retirement contributions, hooray (my other spreadsheet says my post-tax savings rate is only 25% so I like this one way better)!

Getting that FinCon ticket purchase back was a lifesaver and essentially zeroed out the price of my CampFI Midwest ticket itself. So I feel a lot better about that purchase. And let me be clear that I am not at all advocating casually dropping hundreds of dollars like that, even if you have refunds coming to help even that out. DO AS I SAY, NOT AS I DO.

Despite this absolutely awesome surprise, am I going to run the numbers anyway sans the CampFI purchase to see how even more awesome this month would’ve been without that? Nah.

…okay, probably.

(It would’ve been 64% for anyone who’s curious. Oh well.)

16 Replies to “July 2018: my biggest impulse purchase ever (and a $150 hiking weekend)”

  1. Okay, looking at the full breakdown for your month, I can now say you absolutely made the right choice paying for Camp. That’s an impressive savings rate when you factor in that big purchase. Reasons why you don’t spend a lot on a car/food/etc is so you can spend on the things you really want.

    1. Coming off of having just dropped $140 on a new car battery a few hours earlier, at the time that purchase felt like the most irresponsible thing ever. I’m glad to see that wasn’t actually the case when I took the rest of the month into account ?

      Because yeah, I really wanted to go!

  2. 16 miles of solo hiking is awesome, especially in a landscape like that. I love weekends like that (but always complete my hikes with beers and burgers). Nice job. And fortunately it was only the battery.

    Have fun at all the conferences.

    1. Burgers and beers are an awesome post-hike treat! I usually go for fries and Frosties at Wendy’s myself, but I was trying to restrain myself, especially since I bought breakfast beforehand both days and had a bunch of fast food earlier in the month thanks to the long drive to the beach.

      Thank you!

  3. As someone who enjoys hiking but haven’t done more than like a 3 mile hike, that’s awesome, and perhaps motivating for me to get out for a longer one when the hot weather cools down a bit 🙂

    Perhaps CampFI is an ‘impulse’ purchase, but in reality it is an investment in yourself, as there is a good chance networking or content will give you great ideas or opportunities in the future!

  4. The 16 miles was definitely partially training for the fact that I’m going to Glacier National Park next weekend and have an ambitious plan for something like 30 miles in three days. We’ll see if that happens!

    I was definitely thinking about those opportunities when I was thinking about the ticket, and I am legit excited to be meeting some awesome people there.

    Thanks for reading, Scott!

    1. Yeah this would’ve been a scary month without that well-timed refund ?

      I mean it was already an expensive month for you anyway, so why not…keep spending? That’s how it works, right?? ? It does mean you get to go to a FI group meetup this year though!

  5. I’m impressed by the solo hiking!

    We had a similarly hiking car disaster a couple of years ago when our car started smoking on the highway on the way home. And of course, we had our two dogs in the back seat which made hitching a ride an impossibility. I ended up having to call CAA to tow the car back into town and then call my parents to make the hour and a half drive to the middle of nowhere and pick us all up. Good times!

    I’m sure you’ll get a ton of value out of CampFI, it’s a business expense 😉

    1. Yikes, that sounds awful, especially with the dogs along for the ride too!

      Hahaha yes, exactly, it’s a business expense! Perhaps I should actually make my business a real thing so I can write off all these expenses ??

  6. First off, nice job on pushing yourself on the hike! Whenever I push myself to work out when I’m already sore and tired, I feel so accomplished! That adrenaline may have inspired you to make the purchase 🙂

    You are gonna have a blast at CampFI! I will look forward to pictures with emojis over them…

  7. That’s a cool impulse purchase Erin – you’ll really enjoy it so a perfect value aligned purchase.

    And well done on the solo hiking – we need more ladies to take to the trials alone – it’s an awesome experience.

    And toll roads suck – I’m so lucky we don’t really have many around here.

    1. Usually I can avoid them easily, but not that time, sigh…

      There’s always a bit of fear when I head off on a hike alone, but afterwards I’m always glad I’ve done it!

  8. $140 seems high for a car battery, I hope they didn’t take advantage of your situation there. I think I only paid 100 for my last one, but perhaps that was the extra fee because they installed it for you?

    And huge congrats on the free fincon ticket, and the 16-mile hike!

    1. Yeah my dad said it should only be like $100, but I asked AAA what it would cost if I bought it from them and they said $138 before tax so it would’ve been about the same ?‍♀️

      Thank you! Can’t wait to see you at FinCon next week!

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