A Busted Tent, Heavy Rain and a Budget Victory

How a stapler rescued our vacation and saved us hundreds ...

“Hand me the stapler, please.”

I handed my husband the stapler.

“Thanks. Now, hold the flashlight up so I can see.”

It was a September evening, and we were halfway through an important mission that had absolutely nothing to do with work, in spite of the required office supplies. In fact, we weren’t anywhere near our home office—we were on vacation at Seawall Campground in Maine’s Acadia National Park. And we were stapling our tent door shut.

I remember the chill in the air as I wondered, “How did we end up here?”

I Blame YNAB

For the answer, you have to go back, five years, to when we first started using YNAB. I had reached my limit—I was done feeling stressed about money. It seemed like we were forever battling credit card debt, and it made no sense! We earned a decent living, and we didn’t spend recklessly, so why was there a problem?

I wanted an answer, and I found it. After analyzing the numbers I realized this simple fact: Everything costs more than you think it does. Ha! (Everything also takes more time than you think it will, but that’s another story.)

… we’d pay our bills each month and expect that we could somehow keep track of the leftover money to cover the rest of our expenses, like groceries, gas or whatever else we needed. Our downfall was assuming that we could track it all in our heads.

YNAB changed that pretty fast. Once we started giving every dollar a job, it was apparent that money management was not a quick, do-it-in-your-head, kind of deal, not if you want to live well, that is. It’s not that budgeting is difficult (it’s actually really liberating!). It’s just too hard to prioritize all of your spending decisions without a roadmap—a budget—that lays out all of the ways that you want and need to spend your money.

So, for the first time, we started making a plan for our money before we spent it. That’s when our true priorities became crystal-clear. My husband and I could finally see exactly where we were willing to cut back (and where we refused!) in order to pay off our debts and finally stop worrying.

In Need of Staples …

Flash forward to September 2018, and there we were, smack in the middle of our vacation with a broken door flap on our 11-year-old tent. A tour of all of the nearby stores had been fruitless. It was late in the camping season, and the only tents left were big enough for eight adults and cost more than an airplane ticket to Europe. Not happening!

Then, on the way back to our campground, empty-handed, we spotted a sign: “For rent. Available tonight. We set up and take down.”

The sign was hanging on a tent trailer, parked in front of a local store. The storekeeper confirmed the information and told us it would cost $270 to cover the last three nights of our trip. I looked at my husband, and he looked at me. We were both thinking it: “That’s the price of a new tent!”

Sure, we had the money, but we’d have to take it out of our “Camping Gear” budget. We could trade those dollars for three nights in a tent, just to get us through this trip, or we could spend it on a new tent that would last us another 11 years. Talk about clarity.

So, we left, sans tent.

Forecast: Heavy Rain

Did I mention, yet, that the weather forecast predicted a 100-percent chance of heavy rain for the next 24 hours of our trip? Yeah, well, it did. We had to figure out something, so we headed to the grocery store to see what we could finagle.

And that’s when a stapler caught our eye. A busted zipper isn’t really a problem if you can staple your door shut, right? Of course, there was the matter of getting back out of the tent, but we had a solution. Our tent had a large, screened window with a zippered flap. We cut out the screen, and voila! We had ourselves a new door.

… a door that required careful entry, and an even more careful exit, but a door nonetheless.

Then came the rain! It was pouring down in sheets, but we were dry and happy. Our vacation was saved, and our money was, too. And, three days after we got home, we bought the perfect, new tent.

Clearly, an in-tents budget victory.