Far better value to get the AIS.
Mummy's little girl won't be squashed by a ship then
The proviso here is that you are staying WITHIN the Coast Guard VHF range, ie the USA coast to 20 nms. (Op also says its only a few times per year, mainly day sailing etc in sight of shore, some over night era, in sight of lights on shore)
The reason I say this is that all those Coast Guard AIS stations RECORD where you are all the time, of you have AIS.
So if things get bad and you need to call the Coast Guard on VHF they have you on AIS anyway (till you sink
) or by cell phone which appears to be the CGs preferred contact option!
EPIRB is fine. PLB is better for that coastal region on a cost benefit ratio (unlike what someone said they are registered to the boat, not a person. I know, I have one registered in the USA).
But if you only have one $700 present go the AIS, IMHO.
AIS can save your life EVERY time you go out. EPIRB can save your life on fewer occasions in fewer circumstances.
Also with IS if you are close to port Mom can see you on the Internet.