Budgeting When Every Day is an Adventure
When we're preparing to leave on an extended trip, we like to have a plan for how to use our available funds. Since Walden Rigging's business is seasonal, we've grown accustomed to saving money April through October that we then live off of November through March. The old adage "Make hay while the sun shines" applies to us just like it does to farmers.
Here's how we do it: After setting aside funds to pay our regular bills (things like our mortgage, electric, car insurance, phone and internet) and maintain important savings accounts (IRA, healthcare, vehicle, and home) for the number of months we'll be away, what remains is money available for daily things like groceries, fuel, and dockage - our cruising budget. We take the cruising budget and divide it by the remaining days to get an idea of the amount available each day. We re-evaluate this each Friday. Sure, it's book-keeping, but in addition to the weather, this is the kind of stuff to enter in a ship's log. If we find ourselves exceeding our budget daily, or the Friday calculation suggests we have less each day than we did the previous week, it's time to rethink our plans because at this rate, we'll be hitting our reserves. On the other hand, if the Friday day-to-day number goes up, we can bank it, or...we're coming due on a celebration to reward our efforts!
Some years we're able to save more than others. When we sailed south in 2015-2016, we had enough money to have a healthy "cushion" and see and do just about whatever we wanted. We planned it that way, since we hadn't made the trip in eleven years. This year, we're working with less. DON'T PANIC! There's a cruising lifestyle for every budget. One positive aspect of the smaller budget is that the need to be frugal leads to a different perspective. We'll be getting creative on anchorages and dinghy landings. And unlike the last time, when we provisioned for 2-3 weeks at a time, this time we're stocked, with vegetables at least, for more than a month. We decided to make the most of our CSA share at Flying Plow Farm and brought aboard 100+ pounds of winter squash and storage root vegetables plus dehydrated stores and canned goods we preserved over the summer. Also, Suzanne will be baking bread in a Dutch oven on our two-burner propane cooktop. We'll stop at marinas only 1 or 2 days a week (this could be challenging for dog walking in the Carolinas, GA, and FL) and no restaurants, historic tours, or mini-golf unless we get ahead on our finances.
Despite good preparations, unexpected things happen, and that's when knowing your budget is really helpful. You'll know how much you can spend on addressing the situation, and if it requires more than that, you can evaluate whether it's worth pulling from your reserves. Sometimes it is - "Life Points!", and sometimes it's better to change your plans. It's freeing to be flexible about what the future holds and reassuring to know that you'll have the financial resources to support you.