A Note From Your Financial Director
Rebecca Luckhardt, Industry Partner
We have officially entered the summer season, school is out, the Independence Day holiday is looming around the corner, and travel plans are likely in the books. As a frequent traveler (mostly short business trips or weekend getaways) it's important to me to be savvy with my spending.
One of my most useful tricks is simply mentioning that I am a AAA card carrier. This has gotten me discounts at hotels, the occasional Trip Tick (before the days of GPS systems) and even discounts on equipment and clothes before-hand (at select stores). I'm also a big meal planner. Whenever I have the opportunity to pack and bring my own lunch, I do. This helps ensure I'm using the groceries in my fridge that would otherwise go to waste and it prevents me from splurging on that tempting Cinabun at the airport. Food Tripping is an app that I will use to find local organic grocers, restaurants, and farmers markets in a given city. There are even apps for finding the cheapest gas, checking your flight status, or counting down to your big travel day.
Below is an excerpt on quick ways to save for your summer travel plans. Or follow the link for the full article. Let me know your favorite travel apps next time we meet!
Happy trails until then, Rebecca
8 last-minute ways to save for vacation
By Teri Cettina * Bankrate.com
In a perfect world, we'd all have fully funded vacation accounts to pay for our annual family getaways. The reality: Most of us are just now starting to think about this summer's vacation. Here are some fast-track ways to save for your big trip.
1. Start with a spending plan
Decide upfront how much you'll spend on your vacation. Get specific.
Along with plane tickets (or gas, if you're driving) and hotel prices, guesstimate costs for meals, souvenirs, and park or museum admissions. Total it all up. If the number sends you into shock, cut back on costs -- now, on paper -- until you feel comfortable with what you're spending. If money is really tight, consider a couple of long weekend trips instead of one "dream" vacation this summer.
2. Sacrifice now for fun later
Do you belong to a health club or subscribe to a service (such as cable or satellite TV, a cell phone plan, etc.) that you no longer use, or could easily downgrade?
"Drop the service now and stash the money away for your family's summer vacation," says Kim Danger, founder of Mommysavers.com. Also consider cutting back for a few months on nonessentials like kids' dance lessons, your weekly Pilates classes, your husband's trips to the batting cage or your family's monthly movie-rental service.
Remember: You're just trading today's fun for the fun you'll have during your vacation. Move what you normally would have spent on these items into your vacation fund. Ideally, that would be a special savings account or an easy-to-track category within your larger savings account.
3. Build cash with a 'Pantry Week'
For one week each month, from now until your trip, stay out of the grocery store and eat only what you have in your house. Mary Hunt, founder and editor of Debtproofliving.com and author of "Live Your Life for Half the Price," calls this quick money-raising challenge the "Pantry Week."
Make it fun by pretending you're on a deserted island and can only eat what you have in the pantry. What unusual meals can the kids suggest? "Most families have more staples in their cupboards than they realize," says Hunt. And guess what? It's actually OK to eat peanut butter and jelly for dinner one night.
4. Eat out less, save big
A typical family with kids younger than age 6 spends an average of $239 each month on restaurant meals, according to the National Restaurant Association. That's money that could easily be diverted to your vacation fund.
Some ways to cut back without going cold turkey: Check local restaurants for "kids eat free" nights (often Monday or Tuesday nights), watch newspaper coupon inserts for buy one entree, get one free dining deals or buy discounted coupons (usually $25 certificates for $10) at Restaurant.com.
Frozen dinners or ready-made grocery deli items are much cheaper than restaurant food if all you really need is a cooking break. You could also eat dinner inexpensively at home, then treat the family to a modest dessert out.
5. Make a savings wall chart
Kids are more likely to get excited, and you'll stay on track more easily, if you make your savings goal visual. Chart a graph on a large poster board. Track your weekly or monthly progress toward your trip savings with colorful markers and stickers.
Set some milestones along the way: For instance, once you've saved one-quarter of your trip costs, celebrate with a special movie-at-home night or go out for ice cream. Celebrating your success makes the savings process fun.
6. Sell your stuff
A garage sale is a great way to earn vacation cash from your castoffs. To attract a crowd, run an ad in your local newspaper and post easy-to-read signs around your neighborhood. Check local regulations about posting notices, of course, and write signs in crayon if it looks like rain.
Sales tips: Kids' clothes sell well at yard sales, adult clothes don't -- try a consignment shop instead. List kids' clothing sizes and brand names, if you have them, in your ad. Some parents make special trips to garage sales featuring labels like BabyGap and Gymboree, says Danger.
If your kids are old enough to help, let them pick some of their older toys to sell, suggests Dave Ramsey, author of "The Total Money Makeover." A special kids' table with a sign like, "All proceeds go to purchase of our Disneyland souvenirs," is often a big hit -- and it's a great way to teach your kids about money.
7. Use your tax refund -- now
Do you usually get an IRS refund in April? If so, too much tax money is being withheld from your paycheck. Fill out a new W-4 form with your employer right away. Adjust your tax withholding so that it's fairly close to what you will owe in April.
Your next paycheck should be substantially bigger. Start transferring the extra money into your dedicated vacation savings account or category. If you still get a refund this spring, sock it away, too. Heather Larson of Tacoma, Wash., puts her family's refunds into short-term certificates of deposit that expire right before their vacation. That way, they don't spend the money on anything else. You can locate thebest rates in your areaon Bankrate.com.
8. Let credit cards pay you back
In the months prior to your vacation, use a credit card that accumulates "rewards"(points or cash rebates) for everything you can: gas, groceries -- even day-care tuition.
Let rewards pile up, then use them toward plane tickets (if you've been banking points/dollars for a while), hotel or rental car discount, or gift cards for chain restaurants you'll visit on your trip. You can locate and comparerewards cardsat Bankrate.com. The key, of course, is to pay off your balance in full every month.
Vacation debt is not the kind of souvenir you want to collect.
Teri Cettina is a freelance writer in Portland, Ore.
Posted: Feb. 01, 2008