I recently got an article called “So You’re Going on a Trip You Can’t Afford” published in the NY Times. For once, I was an expert.
It inspired me to more carefully track my expenses on a 6-day business trip to NYC. (Or, as everything in my life feels like it is, half business, half fun.)
I had a free place to stay, which is huge, and I paid my accommodations way by of cleaning my friend’s apartment for hours. It felt good to give back.
That’s mostly where the frugality ends.
New York makes me feel fancy. And when I feel fancy, look out. Here comes the cocktails. Here comes the oat milk in the latte for the $1.50 up charge. Here comes my Uber, because the subway station is a hot swamp, and I just spent an hour blow drying my hair, and I’d better look my best because I’m about to be around people who I perceive as being inherently better than me. Oops, did I say that out loud?
What I spent
By diligently tracking my expenses, I added up that I spent about $1,600 on the trip, including air fare, which is not too bad.
BUT, then I calculated how much I could have spent, if I were being frugal, and it was about $800.
So, what did I do? Well, I run on the Profit First system, which encourages you to take a quarterly profit each quarter and have fun with it. I was supposed to collect my profit today, and guess how much it was? $812.
It felt perfectly aligned with my business and my values to scoot that right back into my operating expenses. Because I did have a blast in NYC.
The things I could have done to save money, like taking the subway for two hours with a 50 lb bag, NOT splitting coffee, NOT getting sushi, I just really didn’t want to do. But I had to be honest with myself that they were not business investments. So I took them out of my fun fund.
Half fun, half business.
What I got out of the trip
The benefits are harder to quantify, but let me try:
- 5 stories pitched to NY Times editors (with a face-to-face meeting strengthening the relationship).
- 3 offers to be introduced to someone who could positively affect my career
- 7 times meeting an internet contact face-to-face
- 4 meetups with colleagues I admire and love, our relationships really blooming now, seven years after the viral article that introduced me to them
- 1 huge plan for an international retreat co-hosting
- 1 new affiliate relationship
- 2 possible new ghostwriting clients
Going to a major city or a conference affects your career the same way going to a music festival shapes your listening for the next year: You meet new voices, fall more in love with old ones, and become closer with fellow fans.
You’ve got to plant the seeds of networking if you want your career to grow. But that certainly doesn’t mean you’re allowed to go nuts in the name of “business expenses.”