Last week I received comments from Rachel and Kristin (no urls for either) about how to throw a tea party on a very strict budget. In a future post, I plan to address this question specifically. This post, however, is to share about an experience of mine from the last twenty-four hours where I needed to throw my budget boundary away.

Yesterday, I visited a nail salon I had never been to. I planned to purchase the two pedicure gift certificates, as a gift from all the guests, for the birthday girls who will be honored this weekend at the Sea-Spa Birthday Tea. Now, this particular place had been voted “Best Nail Salon” by our small town paper. Now, to clarify, I live in a small Sierra foothills town in rural California where standards can be a little low. I knew I needed to check it out first, which I did.

When I walked in, I immediately knew this is not what I wanted for my friends. In a cinder block strip-mall store, the vinyl pedicure chairs were lined up in a row, while the canned semi-rock music played too loud. There was nothing soft, pretty, or transporting about the place. And when it comes to services like pedicures, I want to know the hygiene standard is scrupulous and I wasn’t so sure. But their pedicures were only twenty-eight dollars.

Would my friends know the difference? I don’t think either of them have ever had a professional pedicure. Despite the intense chemical smell filling my nostrils, all this went through my head as I pulled out my credit card. The receptionist had already written out one of the certificates when I looked at her and said, “I’m sorry, I can’t do this. Thanks, anyway.” And I turned around and walked out.

Like I said, I live in a small town, and I worried I wouldn’t find anything better. But I came home, pulled out the phone book, and called the two listed day spas (vs. nail salons) in the yellow pages. One did pedicures, one did not.

This morning I visited my only option. Before I entered the door, I knew I was headed in the right direction. Bright clean cushions on the wicker furniture graced the porch of the restored Victorian.

I walked into soothing lighting and colors of mint-green and lavender. I can’t remember if music was playing, which is a good thing. A well-groomed woman greeted me warmly and proceeded to give me a tour and banter with my dragged-along nine-year old boy. Their pedicure services take place in a room separate from the other salon services. It was exactly the kind of first experience I wanted for my friends.

“How much are your pedicures?”

“Forty-five dollars”


That’s a thirty-four dollar difference.

However. The thirty-four dollar difference would buy my friends a truly, transporting, relaxing, refreshing gift. I could make up half the difference immediately by dropping my plan to add a pair of flip-flops to the gifts.

“And would you like them gift-wrapped?”

“Oh yes, please!”

Five minutes later, I walked out with two beautifully wrapped gift bags with the certificates tucked away. I am so excited for my friends. I would have dreaded sending them to the other place. That dread would not be worth saving seventeen dollars.

In my life, seventeen dollars means a little less money for grocery extravagances. It means not taking the kids and I out-to-lunch on a busy day. And over the years, I have been on the receiving end many times over of friends’ and family’s generosity. I cannot afford to worry about seventeen dollars based on what my friends will receive in return.

Yes, I tend to be more of a spender in personality. And yes, my heart goes out to others who are in seasons, as I once was, where every dollar counted.

But if you can, and as you plan, prepare for a little wiggle room. Did I tell you about the $1.60 per scone order I canceled last week? Wiggle room. Have I shared about cutting my menu in half? Wiggle room. Remember the shells glued to dollar-store scrunchies for napkin rings? Less vanity equals more wiggle room.

It was a day to throw the budget boundary away.

How do you stay in budget when you plan events? What do you do when you need wiggle room? When does price become a lesser priority for you?