Budget your bliss: summer fun without spending a ton

 

 

Summer vacations are a family’s honored tradition. But with gas prices, travel costs, job insecurity, etc., they may become reserved for only the rich.

Traveling is so enjoyable and memorable but can be quite expensive and difficult to fit into the budget. There are several economical strategies on the best time to purchase tickets, cost-effective destinations, packing tips to minimize extra fees and hotel/amenity must-haves.

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Change your thinking about vacation. A getaway is a getaway,whether you take a plane, train or automobile.

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The growing popularity of “group travel” offers a huge opportunity to get the more exotic and adventurous expeditions crossed off the bucket list. Group travel allows you to save on your overall trip fare (generally eight people is the magic number).

Nevertheless, with all the tips and tricks to get your destination within arm’s length, you still must have extra money at the end of the month/year to set aside. Motivation can be zapped once life’s uncertainties crash through your front door and precarious economics knock at your back door. In one month, the vacation fund is back to where you started six months ago.

Just as you budget your money, start budgeting your bliss in an un-blissful or blissful economy. The ways of the world should not dictate your desire and need to vacation from the daily grind.

Take the spices of life in small, frequent and inexpensive indulgences rather than large, expensive, infrequent big bangs. Spread out high-valued, bargain-priced activities that bring you joy throughout the entire year. The Big Bang Theory is great as a sitcom but doesn’t offer the blissful endurance that you need to get you through the financial frenzies today.

1. Start by scheduling all of the paid time off (PTO) your employer offers. Generally in most corporations, if you don’t use it by year end, you will lose it. If you’re self-employed, give yourself paid time off each year and schedule it.

2. Change your thinking about vacation. A getaway is a getaway, whether you take a plane, train or automobile. Book a stay-cation somewhere in or near the city or state you reside. Plan an itinerary of things to do. Each year, my family takes a stay-cation in a part of the city where there are a variety of activities.

One year, we stay-cationed downtown and totally acted like tourists: from booking a hotel (with a pool) to walking and taking public transportation to our planned activities. We took lots of pictures, saw many attractions and sites we had taken for granted and had a blast — at a fraction of the cost of leaving town

3. Get your hands on a 2012 city event calendar. Make a list of upcoming shows, events and new restaurants you’d like to attend or patronize. Do not combine high-end dinner with a high priced show — spread it out. Eat at home when attending a show. Let the experience be one.

4. Don’t be afraid of a theme. It makes your planning more fun, memorable because it requires major creativity and out-of-the-box thinking to carry the theme through. It also makes it easier to hunt for deals.

5. Flying on the stand-by list is not as bad as it may sound. Get a part-time job at one of the airlines for the flight benefits and perks.

Everyone needs something to look forward to. An escape from the day-to-day routine and responsibility for a few days is sheer bliss. Do you need to spend an hour of your life in the security line to partake? No. Do you need to sell a kidney to see the world? No. Perhaps it’s even more blissful to return with a few dollars still in your pocket. Remember, anything on a budget requires creativity and patience. Bon voyage!

 

Freelance writer, financial consultant, entrepreneur and mom, Tamela Saulsberry brings a combined 16 years of experience in business, finance, sales and coaching. She is delighted to receive your questions and feedback. She can be contacted at tamela@liveshero.com or 612-269-2341.