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We are currently in the heart of wintertime. January and February are the coldest months in the United States. While many people despise cold weather, many can agree that the snow which comes with it can be a nice compliment. Although summertime seems to be the time when most families vacation, a ski trip during winter allows some families to break the mold. Saving for a vacation is only half the battle. While having the available funds to do something enjoyable is important, finding a good deal is also just as important. I recently planned a ski vacation and will share my six tips on how I saved and budgeted for the vacation.
Saving for a Vacation Tip 1:
If you are like me and enjoy traveling with family and friends, then it is important to have a “Travel” category in your budget. Setting aside $100 or $200 every month for travel allows the funds to add up and allows you to have a couple of enjoyable vacations every year.
Saving for a Vacation Tip 2:
Vacationing for many people means eating out every meal, which can get very expensive. Packing snacks ahead of time and a quick trip to the grocery store when you arrive can help limit your food costs.
Saving for a Vacation Tip 3:
Plan for transportation ahead of time. Booking a rental car before you arrive at the airport is often cheaper than waiting until you arrive at the destination to get one. Kayak.com is a great place to search for the best rental car rates.
Saving for a Vacation Tip 4:
If flying to a destination, use Google Flights to search for the best rates. Google Flights allows you to search many airlines at once and see the cheapest rates for the best dates.
Saving for a Vacation Tip 5:
When booking a ski vacation, book your lift tickets and ski or snowboard rentals online. Keystone Resort in Colorado offers online reservations to early bookers for a 20% discount. Additionally, you can rent your equipment cheaper online ahead of time as well. By booking my equipment through Christy Sports I was able to save an additional 20% versus the walk-in rate.
Saving for a Vacation Tip 6:
Lodging tends to be one of the more expensive parts of any vacation. Last year when I traveled to Hawaii, a night at a resort was close to $600 per night; however, a couple of friends and myself split a three bedroom Airbnb for less than $150 per night. Exploring your lodging options can help greatly reduce the cost of any vacation.
As you can see, saving for a vacation is a two-fold strategy. You first want to make sure you have the available funds. This is done by creating money in your budget. Secondly, you want to make sure you find the best deals out there. I have found that planning for a vacation ahead of time is one of the easiest ways to save on your trip. Meshing both of these aspects together can help create an enjoyable, budget-friendly trip for all.
I recently spoke with an individual who was excited to begin his budget. He downloaded the spreadsheet available on my site and asked me to look over it. Everything looked good except for one thing I noted. This individual had a category as follows:
Credit Card Payment (minimum)
This shocked me for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the minimum part that was included. Secondly, paying off your credit cards is not an expense. For example, if you go to the grocery store and spend $50.00 on groceries but apply the charge to your credit card, then your budget should reflect a $50.00 purchase on groceries. The credit card is simply a means to pay for it. Finally, I recognized that this individual had credit card debt, and he assumed paying off in minimum installments would eliminate it. Yes, theoretically, as long as no further debt was incurred, but it would take a while.
This ultimately led me to the following conclusion. This individual had a significant amount of money remaining in their budget every month. I advised him that if I was in his situation I would do the following:
- Make sure I am able to cover all of my necessary expenses in the budget. This would include rent, gas, food, student loans, etc.
- See where some expenses can be cut. Bringing his lunch to work versus going out to eat might be the smartest financial decision until he gets his credit card debt under control.
- Use any extra money at the end of the month to pay off the remaining balance on the credit card. Credit cards are notorious for having extremely high-interest rates. The quicker you tackle this type of debt, the more you save.
- Set a goal for paying off the credit card debt. We agreed by the end of the calendar year. Once the debt is paid off we could redo the budget and include categories for savings, retirement, and other financial goals.
Credit card debt can be a nasty thing, but a budgeting approach to handling it can make your financial life much better. Use a budget to pay off your debt if you have any, then you will be able to create additional space to begin planning for your financial future more aggressively.
Budget Smart, Invest Wise
Personal finance is a neglected topic of study for college students. Universities are great about requiring English, Humanities and Science classes; however, they neglect to teach you about simple habits that will ultimately determine your financial well-being.
When you graduate from college, you might have debt in the form of student loans. Do you know how much you have? Are you aware of when your payments are due? Do you know what a deferment period is? There isn’t an exit interview in college that teaches you how to tackle all of the debt you will come into upon graduation. Considering that the average student loan debt by recent graduates is at an all-time high of over $30,000 it seems like it should be a focus topic.
If you are lucky enough to get a good job after college do you know where your paycheck is going? Every single dollar should be accounted for. It’s easy to neglect this aspect. After all, you just spent thousands of dollars and now it is finally paying off in your first bit of earned income. Spending the first paycheck just seems like a rite of passage, new clothes, drinks with friends, etc.
Business Insider recently released an article of 11 poor money habits that people in their 20’s might have. Are you a victim of some of these? If so, what can you do to correct your faults. Maybe it is creating a budget or finding out the best way to tackle student loan debt. See what traps you have fallen into and how you can correct your mismanaged money ways.
Budget Smart, Invest Wise