If this is your first time here, Molly’s Money is a series I do regularly where I talk about, well, MONEY. ALL things money! You can check out some of my past posts here.
Right now it is a SNOWMAGEDDON out there right now and I am dreaming of warmer weather and sandy beaches. And in less than like THREE weeks we are going on a CRUISE! I’m so excited. I’ve never been on a cruise before!
So, if you’re like me and you’re planning your upcoming vacation or maybe you’re a student (or you’re a teacher) and you’re getting ready for spring break, you need to be WISE with your money and you need to plan ahead. Not planning ahead financially when it comes to vacation is a BIG mistake because we can so easily get sucked into the fun and POOF! there goes your money.
The first question I have to ask is: DO YOU CREATE A MONTHLY BUDGET NOW? If you don’t, you need to run, DO NOT WALK, over to this post and learn how to create a monthly budget.
First you need to answer these questions:
The answers to those questions will really best determine how much you’re going to need to plan to spend. Also, if you can, the further in advance you can plan the better. This allows for more time for you to look up deals, etc.
Do as much research as you can with regards to the best way to get to where you want to go.
If the trip is drivable, that can often be the most cost effective way to go. The TRAIN is also a really affordable (and FUN) way to travel! I’ve taken Amtrak on a couple of trips and saved A LOT of money that way. Charter buses also offer really cheap options. For example, I have taken the Chinatown bus to and from New York City to different places in Virginia and DC for around $35 ROUND TRIP! Such a great deal. If you have to fly, use sites like Kayak or Priceline to research the cheapest flight options.
Once you have an estimate of what it’s going to cost you to travel, set that number in stone and then start the process of booking your travel and do your best not to exceed that original number.
It’s best to take a similar approach to lodging and you did to the travel. Allow yourself time, consider all the options, and do some research.
Are you willing to stay in a hostel? That can often be the most affordable (and most adventurous) way to stay. I stayed in a hostel in New York City for over TWO WEEKS one time and only spent $110. TOTAL.
So, like your travel budget, once you set your budget for lodging, stick to it.
Now, once you’ve determined where you’re going and how you’re going to get there and where you’re going to stay… the biggest area that is a money suck is what you’ll be doing once you arrive at your vacation destination.
There are A LOT of different schools of thought on this, and since I’m kind of in the camp of “anti-credit cards” I’m going to give you my suggestion to REALLY reign in your vacation spending:
Give yourself a DAILY cash allowance.
That’s right, Dave Ramsey is a big proponent of cash and so am I. And I mean it.
Do some research on what you’d like to do on your vacation and then calculate a DAILY cash allowance for each day you’re gone. Then, inflate that estimated number by about 10% – this will give you some “breathing room” and a good buffer for unforeseen expenses or circumstances.
Then, get the cash needed and put the cash in envelopes labeled by DAY. You will be SO MUCH LESS LIKELY to go over budget if you stick to this. You can put the cash envelopes in the hotel safe or bring another bag that has a lock and key or something with you… I have a purse that literally has a lock and key closure, so that could be an option for you.
If you really are just NOT that comfortable with carrying that much cash, then ONLY use your debit card and leave your credit card behind in the hotel room. Only allow your credit card to be used in case of emergencies. But, I really recommend going the CASH route.
You’re so much less likely to overspend the cash and you’re more likely to stay within your budget!
If you’re traveling overseas: wait till you arrive IN your destination country and get your cash from the ATM – the ATM has the best exchange rate (typically)… WAY better than the counters at the airport.
Give yourself a “souvenir” budget
Get local recommendations for restaurants
Check Groupon, LivingSocial, etc. before you leave
Research Coupons / Travel Specials etc.
If you’re really looking to track your budget / expenses on the go, here are a few of my favorite budgeting apps:
Now what about you? What tips and tricks do you have for budgeting for a vacation or spring break trip?