a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Budgets Are Difficult Things

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Budgets Are Difficult Things

This is the week for True Personal Confessions, I guess.
At the beginning of 2005, I sat down and calculated to the dollar the budget that I needed to follow to avoid going bankrupt, or at least to avoid deep debt. One assumption at the time was that Jake was retired and would no longer be competing. Another assumption was that I would restrict myself to an average of one trial a month for the year, or at least go to several fewer trials than I did last year. And the last assumption was that, since Jake was retired, he wouldn't need to go to class any more.

So: Jake remained retired for exactly 3 trials, and he was so annoyed about it that I went back to entering him in (usually) one run each day for every trial we attended. I never did pull him out of class because he seemed to enjoy going, and just the two of us could spend time together without Merle Girl interruptions. And as the year wraps up, I DID indeed attend fewer trials this year than last; last year we did 21. By the time the Thanksgiving trial is over, this year we'll have attended...20.

I did earn or win several free trial entries or one-day free entries, either by working at all times when I wasn't running or by getting lucky in the worker-reward raffles at various trials. But I don't think it's equivalent to 8 trials (to get down to the 1/month average). And of course it's not just the entry fees; it's hotel or camping fees, gasoline, and the occasional meal out. And what's driving me nuts is it's also time away from the rest of my life and goals and interests.

Meal costs at trials aren't bad. I usually take breakfast bars and fruit, but most clubs offer free muffins, fruit, (and coffee and juice, which I don't usually have) and sometimes hardboiled eggs for competitors, so if I wanted their free breakfasts, I could have them. Most clubs provide free lunches for people who work at least part of the day, and since I'm usually antsy if I'm not doing something at a trial, I can always avail myself of that. It's usually only Saturday dinner that I need to shell out for, and if I'm too tired to go out to a sit-down meal with friends, I just pick up a taco at Taco Bell and maybe a tiny carton of milk at the grocery store (and maybe more fruit if I'm really hungry), so the expense isn't too bad.

But anyway. I'm over budget. (Agility isn't the only reason, but it's a large part.) So I need to decide NOW which trials I'm going to next year to stay in budget. This is challenging because Tika loves doing agility and I love doing it with her and she'll be 5 at the beginning of next year, so probably in the prime of her agility career. And budgeting will still be tough because, although Jake is having off days, I'm still not sure whether he'll be wanting to quit entirely. And, schedule and determination willing, Boost would be able to start competing along about August.

I'll try to pick only 12 trials for the year. I'll start with those where I don't have to stay overnight somewhere. I'll add CPE Nationals, since I'm sure we've qualified or will qualify and they're in Elk Grove (near Sacramento) this year, so we can attend. I doubt that USDAA Nationals will be west coast again next year, so even though we're qualified, unless we start qualifying much more regularly and placing regularly at regular trials, I can't see taking off nearly 2 weeks to make a drive like that.

Then we'll see how it goes... If you want to see why it's hard for me to decide on only 12 weekends, look at my weekends calendar.

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