Every trip we do a “postmortem” travel budget to actual spending to understand where we landed in our planning and how it may impact future trips we have in the pipeline. Typically, Patrick is spot on with estimates, and where we may spend more in one area, we spend less in another. He is also into credit card churning which occasionally gets us free hotel lodging and flights. Below you will find our budget vs actual spending, and a bunch of finance-y cuts of data showing variance, forecast, etc. Did I mention my spouse does finance for work? Clearly.
These are the key takeaways from our Las Vegas budget to actuals:
- Budget more than you think for food and beverages. I talk all about the unexpected expenses that came up for us in Vegas, but do yourself and your budget a favor by planning on every drink you want to consume to be $20 and every dinner to be $50-75 per person. The food is fantastic and worth spending money on the restaurants. The drinks were overpriced for no reason, so it is better to save your money buying your own alcohol instead of drinking it out.
- Plan to lose your money gambling. Every time we gamble, be it in Oklahoma or Vegas, Patrick is under the impression he is going to win. He may be the only person to naively believe he will make money gambling, but as a Public Service Announcement to all gamblers, no you will not make money. Set your budget, stick to it, and plan to never see the money again.
- Hotels and airlines can be severely discounted. We used points, but there are many occasions you can get inexpensive or free hotels in Vegas. Using a site like HotelTonight and planning ahead on airline tickets will save a lot of money in the long run. We overspent at the Mandalay Bay thinking we would really use the pool and beach. Turns out we get exhausted from the desert heat easily, and only spent 3 hours of our entire vacation by the pool. Know what your priorities are and make sure they’re in alignment with how you spend your money.
We anticipated the our long weekend in Vegas would cost us $1900. There was a lot of spousal negotiation to take this trip since it would be over our budgeted amount for the year. We settled on a $750 increase to travel budget (net out of pocket expense), a $750 reduction in our upcoming South Africa trip, and Patrick to self-fund the remaining $400 as part of his bonus from work. To justify the out of pocket expense, we shifted our weekly date night out to be every other week eating a “fancy” meal at home. This saved us around $150 every other week for 6 weeks leading up to the trip. As you can see, lots of negotiation since Las Vegas was not a priority trip for us.
Our budget of $1900 ended up being higher than what we spent! We walked away having spent $1720. A large part of it was that I won ~$80 and Patrick lost ~$100 before we both stopped gambling. We had planned to spend $400 on gambling and our true amount came out to be $20. We did not end up seeing a show either, which was a contributor to the savings. In the future I would want to see a Las Vegas show, however not many were back yet post-COVID. Another time (and another year’s budget) we will see one.
How do you think we did? Have you budgeted more or less?
Did you have a similar experience in your travels to Las Vegas? Surprisingly inexpensive or exactly what you planned?