Our frugal (and not so frugal) trip to Washington D.C.

We’re back home now after a wonderful weekend in Washington D.C.

A little getaway was exactly what we needed. We left our laptops at home and spent the weekend just enjoying each other’s company. With two visits from family and friends and a business trip coming up this month, we really needed some time away.

I booked and paid for the hotel room in November ($120). Then I budgeted $200 from our tax refund for food and fun while we were there. It’s a high number, but we get away so rarely so I wanted to really enjoy ourselves and be (just a little) frivolous for once.

Here’s how we did:


  • Our hotel was in a fantastic location right downtown, so we spent the entire weekend on foot. We didn’t use any money for cabs or the Metro. Bonus: I didn’t feel so guilty for missing my daily workout.
  • We visited free museums and sites. We went to the National Portrait Gallery, the National Museum of American History, and Ford’s Theater (which ended up being closed, but we saw the house where Lincoln died, a national historic site).
  • We ate relatively frugal breakfasts and lunches (coffee and pastries for breakfast, Subway for lunch), so we could afford the high price of downtown D.C. restaurants for dinner.
  • We ate at a moderately priced pizza place on Friday night, where we enjoyed delicious wood fired pizza. On Saturday night my brilliant husband found a “certified-green” restaurant owned by a partnership of family farmers. It has a modern, casual, and family-friendly atmosphere; amazing organic food; and the prices were unbelievable considering its downtown D.C. location. Our meal with an appetizer and dessert was only $55 with tip included. Most of the places we considered in that area would have cost twice that at least. It’s called Founding Farmers, and I highly recommend it if you’re in the D.C. area.

Not so frugal

  • It was unseasonably warm in D.C. on Friday evening, so we walked to the Georgetown neighborhood where we stayed on our honeymoon. We stopped at our favorite sidewalk cafe. Since we’d already eaten dinner, we decided to order a bottle of wine. It ended up costing $32. Ouch. But we had a wonderful evening sitting outside drinking wine, and I don’t regret it. The memory is worth $32 to me. But the frugal thing to do would have been to stroll through Georgetown and skip the wine. :)
  • Around lunchtime we were only halfway through the Museum of American History. We were starving, so I broke my own advice and grabbed a snack at the museum cafe. We split a single slice of pizza and a soda, and it ended up costing $10. Doh. Always pack a snack!

So did we stay on budget? Here’s the tally:

Gas: $30
Breakfasts: $15
Lunches (including stops on the road): $40
Dinners: $85
Wine: $32
Boarding for dog: $65 (I budgeted $50 since he was only there two nights, but because we were running late this afternoon we were charged for three.)
Parking: $30 (I wasn’t expecting this because I mistakenly assumed parking would be provided by the hotel, but it cost $15 a night.)
Gift card used to pay for meals: -$50
Total: $247

We overspent by $47. :( Luckily, the overage can be worked into our March budget.

While we technically stayed within budget (the unexpected costs for parking and boarding surcharges weren’t in my original budget), better planning could have helped us include or avoid those extra costs.

While $248 for a weekend trip ($368 if you include the hotel) isn’t frugal, sometimes — sometimes — it’s ok to be a little frivolous. After all, isn’t that why we work so hard to scrimp and save? We spent a fraction of our tax refund to have a fantastic time, and we’re still putting a huge chunk into savings this month. I’d call it a success.

3 thoughts on “Our frugal (and not so frugal) trip to Washington D.C.

  1. Jennifer

    Hello Karen,

    thank you so much for sharing your DC experience, and particularly for your visit to Founding Farmers. We’re glad you came in and had an enjoyable and filling meal, and were able to stay in your budget range. At Founding Farmers we understand that people do have to watch their budgets more closely these days, and if you’re able to sit in a nice restaurant and be satisfied with good food, we’ve hit an important goal for the restaurant – to provide a great value. Yes, we are indeed DC’s Greenest Restaurant, but we’re also walking the talk and sharing the best from our farms to your table – in a way that’s healthy for the environment, for your body and for your budget! thanks again for the shout out and if you visit DC again before the end of October you can enjoy the Founding Farmers experience on the outdoor patio!
    Jennifer for Founding Farmers restaurant

  2. Bobbi

    WOW, even though you went a little over, you got the big bang for your buck. You really did a lot of things and had a wonderful time and that is what counts. Thanks for sharing. :)

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