Travel budget list

So, you are thinking about taking a vacation.  You want to do it with a budget and no credit card headache when you return.  How will you do it?  Well, keep reading for tips on how to make your budget and stick to it!  The first thing you need to do is figure out where you want to go and how much it will cost to get there.  Let’s say you want to drive about 4 hours away, and stay at a hotel for 5 nights.  First you need to figure out how much it will cost to drive round trip 4 hours.  I drive a huge gas guzzler, so that would cost me roughly $120.  Hopefully your cost on gas will be much cheaper!  Then you need to find a hotel and price that.  Don’t book it yet, just figure out how much it will cost.  Vacations are much cheaper in the off seasons (i.e. when kids are in school!) but even if you travel during the summer/holidays, you can still do it as long as you plan for the expenses.  Ok, back to the hotel.  I like to use http://www.tripadvisor.com to find hotel ratings and prices.  I have never gone wrong using a recommendation from trip advisor!  They also have ratings for attractions and restaurants.  I wish they paid me for this tip, but sadly, this is just me telling you what works! 😉 So, lets say you find a hotel for $100/night, but then you go to the hotel website and enter your AAA number and you can get it even cheaper.  If you are military, you usually can get the best rate! And deservedly so!  Thanks for your service!!  Alright, so this $100/night hotel can be reserved for $80/night with some searching around. Either at the hotel website or even travel sites like expedia.com or travelocity.com.  Check around, but make sure your site is reliable and not a scam.  I have booked using both of those sites and they are legit!

So, now we have $120 in gas and $400 for the hotel ($80×5 nights).  $520 doesn’t seem too bad for a vacation…but we are not done yet!  We need to budget food.  That will depend on your family and your taste in food.  For our family of 6 (5 that eat off of their own plates!) I usually budget $120/day for food.  Then you need to add in parking if your hotel has paid for parking.  You also need to research sightseeing/amusement parks or state parks and add those admission/parking fees to the list.  This can vary widely based on your desires and budget.  We also budget for spending money.  Depending on where we go, we usually budget $50-$100 per person.  Don’t forget to budget for passports if needed.  And if you already have one, check the expiration date.  They actually expire 6 months before that date, so if you are nearing it, make sure you renew before you leave home!  If you fly, you also need to include airport parking/flight/rental car/taxi.  But you get the idea.  Every little thing is put into the budget before you even book your trip.  Then when you are finally done with adding everything up, throw in an extra 10% for issues that may come up.  You may break your sunglasses and need to buy new ones.  Your plane may be delayed and you may need to pay for an extra meal you didn’t count on.  Having a little cushion is a huge stress reliever.  If you don’t use the extra money, that is just more you can throw to your emergency or savings account! I also added a line for things you may need before you travel.  For instance, our upcoming cruise stateroom has a shower only, so I have to buy an inflatable tub for the little guy before we leave, but I am budgeting it into our trip fund.

For quick reference, here is a list of expenses you may incur.  Then, when you have it all saved up, you can book that mini-vacation, dream vacation, family reunion, or relaxing cruise!

Flight:

Airport parking:

Rental car/gas or taxi:

OR

Gas to drive there, back, and around town:

Hotel/hotel parking:

Food:

Spending money:

Attractions/parking:

Tips for services:

Passports:

Little things before you leave: Sunblock, snacks for the road, bottled water, new walking shoes, etc.

10% overage:

TOTAL:

Now, add that up and divide by the number of months you have (or need) until you have all the money for your trip saved up! That gives you a timeline of when to book things, and when you are planning on leaving.  It will show you how much you need to save each month to meet your goal!

*Most, not all, flights are the cheapest about 6 weeks before you plan to leave, and book it on a Tuesday!  This, of course, does not hold true to holidays or high season.  Book those asap, especially if you have a set date that you have to take to ensure you get a flight!  I like to use Kayak.com or my skyscanner app to check out cheapest prices, then I go to that airline page to book.*

**Don’t forget to make sure all your bills at home are paid before you leave, so you don’t have to deal with that while you are gone!**

I hope you have a wonderful/stress-free vacation!

Setbacks

It seems like whenever I get my budget in order, something always comes along to mess it up.  It doesn’t matter how much money I try to put aside, something comes along to try and pull it out.  It would be very easy to say, “forget it” and use a credit card when things happen. But personally, I take it as a challenge to see how I can stay on task, no matter what bumps we encounter along the way.  How do you feel when something happens that takes up your hard earned money that you scrimped to save? How do you feel when you get set with a budget only for it to be turned upside down unexpectedly.  This past year, we have been saving to buy a house.  We planned on only renting for one year, which has already turned into two years, and may even linger on into becoming three years of renting.  I have changed my budget a number of times in this year alone!  Since January, we have had a baby, needed braces (yes, needed, definitely not wanted!), my baby had to have surgery unexpectedly, the a/c went out in our car, and a number of other unexpected things have found there way into our savings account.  It would be really easy to just forget saving and pay for everything all at once.  However, that isn’t what we did.  We decided to tighten our belts: my husband worked a lot of overtime, I began cooking more meals at home and finding ways to save money in our budget.  We have a savings goal we are trying to meet by May.  We have been hit hard this year, however, I am still determined to do whatever we can to reach our goal by May.  What seemed like such an easy task has turned into something that has us on our knees in prayer. It has us leaning more on God, and working together to make it happen.  We still have money set aside for fun and for family activities, we wouldn’t have gone on vacation if we were REALLY hurting for money.  That would not have been wise!  This is more of a personal goal, not something that HAS to be done in a certain timeframe. I like setting a yearly goal, because it pushes me to try harder.  To learn something new, and to stretch myself and see how much I can grow.  My husband and I, every year, sit down on our anniversary, and plan our goals for 1 yr, 2 yrs and 5 yrs.  We also go over our goals from the previous year and see how well we did.  It is amazing that every year we have setbacks, but we also most often have met the important goals.  Some we cut very close, and some took a little longer to achieve, but we have tried to stay on task and God has been faithful to hear our prayers and answer as He sees fit.  So, the next time you have a set back, don’t throw up your hands in frustration.  Take a step back and see how you can use this to grow you and change you.  A challenge can be a hard thing, but can really be worth it in the end.  I am praying we can say we met our goal when May 2015 rolls around.  However, if we haven’t, we will keep plugging away and keep striving to reach that goal!  You can do it too!  Make a list of important goals, and then do what you can to obtain them.  You will find peace and satisfaction when they are completed.  It is even more amazing to complete a goal after having a setback.  We really have seen God work miracles in our lives!  What a blessing! 🙂

Saving money easily

Well, my list making last week was very successful.  My house stayed a lot cleaner this past week and hopefully will continue to do so!

 

This week, I am going to tell you an easy way to save money.  Are you ready for it?  Eat the food that you already have!  See, I told you it was easy.  In America, we waste so much food from having it spoil.  How much food do you throw away that has gone bad?  That got pushed to the back of the fridge and forgotten?  I realized a long time ago, that I can save money, and also keep my pantry and fridge clean by doing one simple thing.  Eating the food I already have!  The last few days before pay day, my kids are complaining that there is nothing to eat, even though there are still plenty of things in the fridge and pantry.  When it is shopping day (A.K.A. pay day), we buy enough food for 2 weeks, except for bread/milk.  Everything else has to last us two weeks.  We save money by staying out of the stores (you can’t spend when you aren’t shopping!) and by eating everything we have before it spoils.  It has been a very long time since I had to clean out a moldy Tupperware container!  We can cut our budget significantly by not buying snack foods, and only buying food for meals, drinking water and not soda/juice, but mostly because we eat what we already bought!  It also is a very easy way to clean the fridge when it is nearly empty.  The shelves can be quickly cleaned before you put the new groceries in there.  I challenge you to try to eat what you have before it spoils, and see how much you can save by being creative making new meals with the food already in your pantry and fridge.  Here is a picture of my fridge two days before payday.  Try holding off buying more food until payday and see how much money you can save by not eating out, but by getting creative.  And BONUS, an easy to clean fridge and pantry 🙂

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Let’s Talk About Money

Money is always a touchy subject.  A lot of people don’t like to talk about it.  Parents don’t teach their kids to be wise with money, and kids don’t go to their parents for advice about money.  It seems like it’s a don’t ask, don’t tell subject.  So, of course, I am bringing it up here 😉

For those of you that have not read Dave Ramsey’s My Total Money Makeover needs to stop what they are doing and go and get this book.  If you don’t have any money, your local library will have it in stock.  It is an amazing book and will change your life!  Simple things, like pay off your debt (the borrower is slave to the lender), and to save for a rainy day (you WILL have problems, you NEED to prepare for them).  Having an emergency fund is not hording money.  It is being wise and preparing for WHEN you will have a problem.  No if, only when.  Your roof will leak, your car will blow a tire, you will have medical bills.  No matter what happens, you will not have the stress if you have money saved up.  If you are married, having no debt and a 6 months expenses savings account will take the financial burden off you both.  We all know financial problems are a leading cause of divorce and marriage fights.  How would you feel not having any debt (no car loans either), and having a bunch of money in savings?  That would really lighten the load.  You may have a small shovel and can only save $50 a month.  But you know what?  $50 a month is so much better than nothing a month, and it will grow over time.  The older you get, the more money you will be making and the more money you can sock away.  This book that Dave Ramsey wrote changed my life.  It changed my husband’s life.  It taught us to be in control of where our money goes.  We don’t drive fancy cars, or eat out every week, but we have peace.  The peace that comes from having freedom.  Start today and pay off your debts, build up a savings cushion, and taste the freedom that comes with it.

Making your house a home on a budget

Since my husband and I refuse to use credit cards and rack up debt, we have to find creative ways to make our new house into a home.  One cheap and fun idea I had was to take a kids table/chairs we got a couple years ago from a yard sale, and repaint it to make it look nice and new.  I went to Lowe’s (they sometimes have rejected paints for only $5) and I found a nice pale blue color I thought would look nice.  The kids and I spent the day painting the table and chairs.  Now they look nice and new and it only took a few hours and a little elbow grease!  (The little grooves were a pain to paint and kept dripping!) It might take some time, but if you are willing to do the work, you can have a nice home at an inexpensive price.

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Search the web and get free money?!

It sounds too good to be true, but it’s not!  For the past couple months I have been using “Swagbucks” to do web searches instead of google or yahoo.  I have already made $45 in Amazon gift cards!  If you want to get gift cards for amazon, target or other places, just click on the link, and sign up (for free!).  When I buy stuff online at walmart.com or kohls.com, I go to those sites through swag bucks, and I get bonus points.  450 points=$5 amazon gift card. It’s totally legit, and I have used the money to buy gifts for the kids, or other family members!  Let me know if you need help with it, but I wanted to share this with you, so you could get money for your web searches! Just click on the link, or cut and paste it:
swagbucks.com/refer/precious2200

Budgeting

Budgeting is very important to everyone.  Whether you live pay check to pay check or have more money than you can count, budgeting should be top priority.  You not only want to know where your money is going to every month, but if you plan carefully, you will have a good chunk for retirement, not to mention leaving an inheritance for your children.  If you have not already taken a finance class, I strongly recommend you doing it.  Crown Financial and Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace are my 2 favorite classes to take.  You can check with a local church to see if they offer these classes.  It’s well worth the expense!  Basically, you need to budget every penny you spend, and live below your means.  You need to build up an emergency fund, because we KNOW emergencies WILL happen!  You need to put money away for retirement, again, we know one day we will all retire-why not be prepared?!  I even have my savings broken down into categories.  So, let’s say I have $5,000 in just a simple savings account.  $1,000 will be ear marked for homeschool supplies, $2,000 for vacation, $1,000 towards a new car (paid in cash) and $1,000 for Dr bills.  That is just a rough example of what I am talking about.  We all know we will need a newer car one day.  Why not save up and pay cash for one.  You also will eventually need money for college, or weddings for your kids, or whatever.  Just a few dollars a month can add up fast over time.  Now, if you live paycheck to paycheck, I know this sounds impossible.  My husband and I lived for years with an uncomfortably small paycheck, but we were determined that I would stay home and homeschool our kids.  We were able to live fairly comfortably and also build up savings.  Yes, it takes longer, but it can be done.  You just have to be determined to not owe money and to save up for big purchases.  Also, bargain hunting really helps stretch your dollars.  Thrift stores, yard sales and craigslist are great places to find good quality products at a fraction of the price.  Try not to purchase something when you need it right away, you are less likely to get a good deal if you are desperate.  If you know your car will only last 2 more years, you definitely need to start saving now for the purchase, and not wait until the last minute.  Budget where your money goes, plan for big expenses, and live on less than you make.  It will change your life to have extra money in the bank, everything paid for in cash, and less stress on your marriage!