Summer time! You’ve been looking forward to your vacation all year, and now you have to figure out how to do it without going broke. You need a budget, even while you’re on vacation. I know it sounds like a drag, but are you really going to be able to relax and refresh yourself while worrying about whether you’re going to run out of money?
I hope you’ve been saving for this vacation, because the very first tip is:
- Don’t go into debt for a vacation. If you’re paying with credit cards, you are, by definition, not staying within your budget. Stay home and take it easy if you can’t afford to travel. If this seems harsh, think about having to pay interest on last year’s worn-out fun. Now that is harsh! Maybe now is a good time to start saving for next year. Most of these tips work just as well for staycations (staying at home and doing locally available activities). Staying home can be a fulfilling, frugal alternative to traditional vacations.
- Do your research. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, you don’t need to wait until you get there to find out how you’ll spend your money. While planning your itinerary, look up the prices of attractions, restaurants, and accommodations. You can be as detailed as you like, or just get a general idea, but know how much you can expect to spend. While you’re at it, look for free things to do. Free fits any budget!
- Be shameless about asking for discounts. There are all kinds of discounts available, if you’re not afraid to ask. Many establishments offer discounts for senior citizens, club members, military, homeschoolers (ask about this at educational attractions, especially), etc. If you’re unsure of what you might qualify for, just ask, “Are there any discounts or coupons available?” Then take your saved money and put it into more fun!
- Budget for the unexpected. Forgotten toothbrushes, torn bathing suits, over-the-counter medicines (who knew the whole family was going to get car sick?), and other unexpected needs can sneak up on you. Make sure you have something set aside for these expenses.
- Budget for the frivolous. OK, so really frugal people would never, ever spend ten bucks to “win” a fifty cent stuffed animal by attempting to knock over unfairly weighted milk bottles with a ping-pong ball. But you are on vacation, and you’re going to do silly things. If you’re heading to a tourist trap, set aside some “stupid” money for carnival games, over-priced rides, and keepsakes. (Or don’t. Maybe you have more will-power than I do.)
- Spend a little more on a room with a kitchenette. The bigger room will more than pay for itself if you’re spending more than a day or two away from home. Eating out should be part of the fun, but eating three meals a day in restaurants is a huge financial burden–not to mention the health concerns. Plan to buy groceries and eat most of your meals in your room, just like you do at home.
Your turn: What tips do you have for budgeting for your summer vacation? Let us know in the comments!