Managing Vacation Expenses

After a couple of weekend excursions earlier this year, I was really nervous about our week long engagement trip in the beginning of August. I tend to treat vacations as a get away, and don't worry about money management during my time off.

I normally shop around for a hotel or airfare before the trip, but once we were on the vacation, I put aside my money management hat and focus on having a good time. After all, my thinking has been the big savings would be on the hotel and transportation costs. The other main expense is food and I want to enjoy the local cuisine while I am on vacation.

On our last weekend getaway I was shocked to learn after the fact that I averaged spending over $250/day (not including what my fiancee paid for). I don't regret the trip, however I quickly recognized that if I average anywhere close to $250/day on our 8 day trip then I would be spend way more than I could afford (especially since I was in the process of buying the engagement ring).

I began to think about how I could contain the vacation expenses while keeping them reasonable, not seem like a cheap ass, and not worry about money while on vacation. I figured my goal was to spend less than $500 of my money on this vacation which seemed almost unrealistic. I also had about enough reward points for 3 hotel nights and an airline travel voucher to fly round trip my now fiancee up to join me on the vacation.

After thinking about it long and hard I that I should declare what I could spend to my fiancee and work with her to put together a plan on how to make it work. My fiancee offered up $200 to the "vacation fund" so we had $700 to cover 8 days of vacation.

Amazingly enough we were able to pull it off. Here are some of the techniques we used:
  • We pulled the $700 out of our bank accounts and used the "all cash envelope method" to make sure we didn't overspend our money. We estimated the miles on the trip and set aside $160 for gas, $48 for the camp sites, and the remainder was for food, souvenirs, admission costs, etc.
  • We brought camping gear and spent 2 nights camping on our trip for a total cost of $48 for the 2 nights
  • We used hotel points to stay 3 nights at hotels on our trip
  • We visited/stayed with friends for 2 nights
  • We enjoy sampling local cuisine on vacation so we made lunch our "main meal" taking advantage of more affordable menus at nicer restaurants at lunch time and eating dinners at less expensive places
  • We packed our lunch and dinner for the 1st day of the trip to avoid some dining expenses
  • We packed a cooler of drinks for the trip so we didn't need to purchase excessive beverages throughout the vacation
  • We took advantage of the free cocktail hour at one of the hotels for drinks and hor dourves so we didn't need a big meal
  • We used a travel voucher to pay for my fiancee's flight to meet me

In the end it was amazing how good of a time both us had with such a limited budget. I think both of us enjoyed the vacation that much more because it was so affordable. We did so well for the 1st 7 days we still had over $100 left on the last day so we were able to live it up at the end of our trip and still had some money left over. I look forward to using more of these techniques on our next vacation!

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Comments (2)

DATE: 11:13 PM
Don't you think charging things is better though because of the cash back you can get? EmigrantDirect card gives 1.4% cash back. The Sharebuilder Visa gives 1% directly deposited into your sharebuilder

DATE: 10:39 AM
I normally would agree with you 100%. I rarely carry cash and charge almost everything to ean the rewards/rebates.However, I realized that was part of my problem on our last couple of vacations. I felt that actually having my fiancee handle the cash would help manage the expenses from her point of view and I feel it was critical for containing costs over the vacation.If we hadn't done it I would guarentee that we would have spent more than our very tight budget, more than the 1-2% rebate we could have earned. This made her vey conciencous of the rate of money being spent and allowed me to have a very happy vacation.That being said there were several times were I took the equivalent amount of cash fom the envelope and charged the purchase to get some extra rebates :-).

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