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Sunday, June 12, 2011

How Much Is Too Much?

Oh, that question! Once you get beyond subsistence living, life is full of choices. The most recent query comes from Miss Em, blissing out in Florence.

I have a monetary question. Frugal goddess, please answer my queries.

How much is too much?

At first glance, it seems like the answer to that question here in
Italy is: EVERYTHING. Everything is too much. Coffee is too much.
Gelato is too much. Everything is expensive.But then again, one can't think like that. I spent a lot of money toget the plane ticket over here; what's the use of scrimping and saving and wasting energy thinking about how much things cost? That would only waste my valuable time here.


Summary follows of what other kids are doing: lots of bar-hopping, pub crawls (yuk?!!), side trips to Pompeii and even Switzerland, lots of souvenir shopping. Miss Em was horrified by the girl buying a daily 4-6 euro coca-cola!

Miss Em is nosing around Florence, exploring museums and neighborhoods. It should be noted that she will be traveling around Europe with her friend Maggie for SIX WEEKS after her program ends.

Ughhhh I guess that what I'm trying to say is, I see pretty things I
want, and some pretty things I've already bought! My purchases are WONDERFUL (will give account of them later) but they seem like such anexpense. How much should I budget for these material things for myself?

But the question remains: how much is too much? Or, how much should I budget for this month for food, so I can take the difference and buy myself something?


We did not give her a budget at all, relying on her good sense to know when to say yes and when to say no. It's easier to have a flat amount, of course: you can't spend more than xxx euros. OR, which may be true for some students, no budget because we have tons of money.

How we crave boundaries. Any ideas of a basic budget for students in Florence? Her lodging, a few meals, and several side trips are all v=covered. So far, even one gelato was covered!

5 comments:

une femme said...

Italy seemed quite expensive to us too. My favorite "bargain," go to a "bar" instead of a cafe for an espresso and slug it standing up for 1€.

Duchesse said...

I'd say that a student should be able to live on the same budget as her nearest US big city plus 30%-40% for being in developed country's top tourist locales in high season.

She should be able to afford a good meal (lunch is often cheaper than dinner) a couple of times a week. When she is a little old Ms. Em, she will have the memory of a very good meal (and gelato) and yes, even pub crawls can be memorable, Mama Frugal, one doesn't have to get wasted.

I've seen a lot of people doing certain routes on the extreme cheap but the big European tourist destinations are grim that way. (Why do you think so many kids go to Thailand, etc.?)

Miss Em, I too have seen girls blast though Euros, and somehow it's more galling when the spender is young. (Our NA ethic is that you 'earn' the right to being a spendthrift.) But if we can step away from moralistic judgments and just make an observation: there will always be people with seemingly limitless money. Don't go into comparison, it's pointless.

If you feel gouged by the price of something, don't buy it... and don't buy souvenirs that are only souvenirs. Leave that for the girls who don't have your eye and your style.

(Sorry, long response but I'm into this!)

Shelley said...

My best souvenirs have been digital photos, clothes and jewellery (it's fun to say I bought that in.... when I get a compliment) and pictures that fit with the decor in my house. Everything else has ended up in the bin and of course clothes eventually date and wear out, but they were super fun for the years that I used them. I've never spent six weeks on a holiday and so can't help with the budgeting. One must eat, of course, and eat sensibly or feel ill with junk food. After that, if it seems like too much to pay it probably is. 'Things' don't really make the experience last for a lifetime, the experience (with the help of photos, sure) does that by itself.

Frugal Scholar said...

@unefemme--My daughter has learned that trick also. Sometimes you do need to sit though!

@Duchesse--She's having plenty of fun. The issue is more complex: her fellow students do things she doesn't really want to do: go to bars frequented by other American students, eat at restaurants frequented by tourists (expensive, with mediocre food). She has found a kindred spirit or two. I think she also wants to splurge on some material items, but is not sure of how much to bring back--esp when she has 6 more weeks traveling around with a friend.

@Shelley--I agree with it all, but at 20 my daughter is a material girl still and wants stuff!

Duchesse said...

I see; then it's a matter of finding more kindred spirits, striking off on her own and having the occasional coffee with the tourista girls.