Creative Cunning: Tips for a Budget Friendly Vacation

Vacations and getting away from everyday life should relax people. The idea of being distanced from daily responsibilities and feeling free from everyday worries takes a lot of planning. However, for a lot of people, this desire to be out of the normal routine also comes with the added stress of being able to afford time away to recharge. While a staycation may seem like the answer, frugality does not mean just making the best of the situation. With a little creativity and cunning, a budget friendly vacation is just one planning session away.

Cheap Lodging

One of the best ways to save money on a vacation is to find affordable places to sleep. If you are an outdoor person, pitching a tent is one of the best choices since it is flexible and frugal. If you want a longer term investment, use an RV. Campground rentals are reasonably priced for anyone trying to find cheap lodging. Tenting is excellent for outdoor lovers. For those who trend more towards the city folk side of things, the RV rental can save on expenses and feel like a home away from home. If being budget conscious, keep in mind that you want to factor in gas prices so traveling cross country may not be in the cards, but staying still in one beautiful outdoor location would be perfect.

Cheap Food

Eating on a vacation is the second cost deterrent to an affordable vacation. Assuming the need to eat out means assuming a larger cost than necessary. Finding local grocery stores and storing up on things you can make easily on the road is a good way to keep down costs. Whether camping, using an RV, or staying in an inexpensive hotel, food is a top priority. Treating yourself to a nice dinner out over the course of the trip can be a great way to relax. However, some meals simply aren’t worth the high cost. Instead of eating breakfast in a restaurant or eating fast food to keep it cheap, try buying boxes of cereal or breakfast bars. Even fi traveling long distances, having multiple coolers can also help if you need to keep things cool. When looking for a way to add the extra space, attaching a trailer using Westcott Towbars’ gear selection can also help.

Coupons

Frugality means deals. Deals come with coupons. With coupons abounding online and in local newspapers, it’s a good idea to do some research before you go. Going into the local grocery stores to get food means that you can probably also see what the coupons are for the week there. Take a look at apps for those big box stores that are in the places you’re traveling. If you download the apps for them, you can pick up necessities on the go for a lot less. Take a look at local libraries, also, to see if they have some options for rental of tickets with a valid library card.

Additional Income

Sometimes, the best solutions are the simplest. If you’ve always been a fan of the open road and have an RV you use for your own adventures, don’t let it languish in your driveway between trips. Rent it out to help pay for future trips.

The reality is that travel feels more expensive than it has to be. The ability to get a mental break from the daily grind doesn’t need to create the kind of stress that a vacation is meant to alleviate.

Catching Some Rays: Top Tips for Saving for Your Next Holiday

You work hard for most of the year so those few weeks of holiday are a welcome break and an excellent opportunity to catch some rays, but the bank balance doesn’t always match your destination aspirations.

Making up the shortfall in your finances so that you can take a well-earned trip with some short-term funding from someone like Captain Cash online, is one option. There are also a number of tips and ideas you can follow in order to save some money for when the holiday date comes around.

Start with the basics

You need the grown-up equivalent of a savings jar if you are going to be able to successfully put aside some money towards your holidays.

Exercising financial prudence on a regular basis is going to help keep your bank balance in a better state over time, but the discipline of separating the money and putting it one step away from temptation, by opening a savings account , is the basic route to achieving your goals.

Think of your savings account as a savings jar and then start transferring whatever spare money that you have over to this account. Having a dedicated savings account that is there for a specific purpose like a holiday, allows you to see exactly where you are with your savings target and can often encourage you to save regularly, when you see an end product for your efforts.

Work out a household budget and see how much spare money you could afford to put aside each month, then set up a regular transfer, in just the same way as you would when paying a bill.

Get real with your finances        

Even the most financially prudent and astute people would probably be surprised at the disparity between what they think they are spending each month and what they are actually spending.

The only way that you get a true financial picture and see what you are spending and where savings can be made, is to do a comprehensive household budget.

It is amazing how many small purchases like a daily coffee on the way to work, can soon add up to a sizeable chunk of money each month. Once you have an accurate picture of your financial expenditure and have worked out how much you need for your holiday plans, you can then set about seeing how far away you are from reality and what steps you need to take to meet your goal.

Family effort

If you are planning a family holiday and will be traveling with kids, you already know just how expensive it can get, as you have to find the money for more plane tickets, hotel rooms and everything else that gets multiplied in that situation.

It is not a bad idea to try and get your children to see the importance of putting money away towards a family goal like a holiday, even if their contribution is going to be understandably small.

If they get a weekly allowance, encourage them to put away a part of that towards the holiday. Even if you don’t intend to use any of their money towards the holiday itself, kids always like the idea of having a bit of their own money to spend on vacation, plus it gives them a good lesson in the importance of saving.

Cash is king

Although technology is doing its best to turn us into a cashless society, the trouble with paying for things with your phone or waving a card at a terminal, is that it is not always that easy to keep track of your spending.

Drawing out the cash that you need for the week and then heading to the grocery store and other places, will almost certainly ensure that you don’t spend as much as you would if you were paying with a card or using your smartphone.

Those special offers and extra items don’t seem so tempting when you have to part with real cash for them rather than charge your card. Try drawing out cash for a few weeks and when it runs out for the week, so does your spending.

You will probably find that you end up spending less when you use cash, which means that if you keep that up for a few months, you will be able to put some extra towards your savings target.

If you start employing some money-saving tactics and become more disciplined with your spending, it could make all the difference to your holiday plans.

Rosie Hart is a personal finance consultant who readily hands out her top tips for saving money around the web in her articles and in online discussions.

And I was all like ‘Merica!!!!

It’s about time. I finally was able to get our Europe pictures uploaded to my computer, which means you will be taking a walk down memory lane with me today. I’m no Rick Steve’s (look him up if you don’t know who he is), but I’ll do my best to give you my honest thoughts on each city we visited. Kick back, relax, and enjoy the ride….

The  Black Forest (Germany)…

I have no idea why the Black Forest is called the Black Forest. I was secretly hoping all of the trees would be black and the people would be emo/goth or something. Turns out, it’s just a popular tourist destination for other European’s to visit for the weekend. We stayed in a tiny Lodge on one of the lakes in the forest. German food isn’t my favorite, but we seemed to have alright luck finding good dishes. Worth spending a day or two in the Black Forest, but not much more. Oh, and we did get to see a freakin’ huge Cuckoo Clock which was pretty rad…


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Innsbruck, Austria…

Definitely a contender for my favorite city. The city center sits in the middle of the Austrian Alps and has an awesome skyline just about any way you look. We took the funicular up to the top of a mountain peak and had a sweet bird’s-eye view of the city. We had incredible gelato, a great meal, and walked the main drag. The locals were helpful and it didn’t feel too touristy….

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Venice, Italy…

I was totally underwhelmed by Venice. You always see the city in the movies and in picture and it looks stinking cute. While the canals were definitely charming, I was distracted by the pungent smell of garbage, the narrow alleys, the extreme humidity, and the pushy restaurant staff that basically beg you to come eat at their restaurant. I felt like I was walking the streets of Vegas. In fact, I probably like walking the canals inside the Venetian hotel in Vegas, more than walking the actual canals of Venice. I know August probably is like the worst month to be a tourist there, but I was a tourist in August in all of the other cities we visited. Venice was definitely my least favorite pit stop…

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Rome, Italy…

A big city for sure. Definitely my least favorite city to drive in (did I mention I learned how to drive stick during this vacation…haha). The lane lines aren’t so much guidelines as much as they are loose suggestions. It was insane being at a stop light of a three lane road, with five or six lanes of cars at it. Anywhere a car (or moped) can fit, someone will be driving there. Highlight of Rome was probably meandering the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain, eating incredible pastas and pizzas, and a ton of shopping and markets. Least favorite things; Vatican City group tour (was totally bored and it felt rushed), lack of solid air conditioning in most stores/restaurants, and some of the locals were kind of rude and/or standoffish….

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Barcelona, Spain…

Totally felt like I was in Miami the whole time. It’s definitely a city to visit for the younger party crowd. If I was a college kid who liked to drink until 5am, then this would be my city. Las Ramblas is the main drag and it’s a fun street to walk down. We experienced “Spain Time” which was really odd at first. The locals eat a big lunch at around 1 or 2pm, and then virtually everything closes until about 8pm. We spent most of our afternoons at the beach relaxing. We were bothered by the occasional beach vendor offering henna tattoos, hair braiding, cans of beer, etc, but it wasn’t too bad. We ate dinner at around 9:30pm each night, which was surprisingly a bit earlier than the locals. It wasn’t until about midnight that the city really came to life. The clubs stay open till 5am and when we caught an early morning shuttle at 4:30 one morning, you would have thought it was 6pm with how packed the streets were.

We visited La Sagrada Familia which is by far the coolest church I’ve ever been in. It was awesome. Loved the architectural detail and the open/airy feeling. I hated the Sistine Chapel because the art work was too busy for me with bright paintings and artwork taking up every square inch. La Sagrada Familia is the exact opposite. There is plenty of detail, but it isn’t so busy that it is hard to focus. It was arguably my favorite “tourist attraction” of our entire trip….

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Granada, Spain…

Loved Granada. We stayed in a super modern hotel really close to the city center. We spent a whole day at La Alhambra, which was probably my second favorite tourist attraction of the trip. It’s a huge moorish palace with all sorts of cool history. We had a Rick Steve’s travel book and gave ourselves a self guided tour. I think we were at the palace for a total of about 5 hours and easily could have stayed another 2 or 3. We also took part in an Arab Bath and Massage which was quite possibly the best decision I’ve ever made. For an hour and a half, Girl Ninja and I rotated between a really hot pool, a really cold pool, and a warm pool. It was incredible relaxing, and at about the half way point, we each got a 15 minute back and leg massage…

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Seville, Spain…

Our last stop of our two week journey. We spent two days in Seville and walked pretty much the whole city center. We visited a few of the major churches, drank some Starbucks (I know we’re terrible), visited the second oldest bull fighting ring in the world, and took pictures of lots of cute doors (haha). Seville had a ton of charm and a great ambiance. I even stepped out of my comfort zone and tried Ox Tail, which tasted kind of like braised beef…

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We were totally blessed to have spent two weeks seeing so many places. We were exhausted by the end of the trip, especially knowing we had a big move ahead of us, but we had the time of our life. I’m super pumped to be heading back to Germany and The Netherlands for six weeks this fall, for what will probably be my last Europe trip for the foreseeable future.

What countries have you visited? Anyone else that’s been to Venice agree it has a slight “Tijuana” feel to it?

Goosebumps pick your own path

If you are my generation, I’m sure you’ve read a Goosebumps book or two in your day. Perhaps you recall the special editions that allowed you to pick your own path as you read through the book. It made reading interactive and definitely kept me engaged. Goosebumps was freakin’ awesome.

Anyways, I just got back from my three-week vacation (one week in Canada and two weeks in Europe) and have ton I could write about. But for now, my internal clock is still off and I need to get some rest. That’s why I’m going to give you, the reader, and opportunity to pick the path for PDITF’s next blog post (coming tomorrow). It could be about…

…The $10,000 budget we have for fixes/upgrades to our new house

…More detailed information on the closing process

….Finding out the previous owners of our home left a ton of garbage and crap in the house when we took possession and we had to fight to get them to take care of it

…A post about our two weeks in Europe and including thoughts on why Venice is overrated

…The dog (Vizsla) we will be getting mid December

…A reflection on being three years married

Let me know what sounds the most appealing (or least miserable) and I’ll write something up tomorrow. Thanks for being patient with me these last couple weeks. Hopefully by tomorrow my body will be off Spain time 😉

p.s. I found out yesterday I will be going to Germany and The Netherlands from early November to Mid December for work. What an interesting and fun season of life GN and I are in. 

bAHston is wicked awesome

Boston Bark Bahk

I’ve been missing in action lately because I spent a long weekend in Boston with Girl Ninja. On our flight back to Seattle last night, I opted to watch Pitch Perfect with GN over write you all a new blog post. Maybe one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  While I might not have a new blog post for ya, I do have a list of things I liked and didn’t like about Boston…

Likes:

  • Everything is WICKED old (see what I did there). We don’t have three hundred year old buildings in Seattle so that was cool.
  • Public Transit that makes sense. Taking the “T” around couldn’t have been more straightforward.
  • The diversity. Every square mile feels like an entirely different city.
  • BoLoCo. Boston’s version of Chipotle, only WAAAAAAAAY better.
  • The free Selena Gomez concert that was going on in front of City Hall

Dislikes: 

  • Everything is WICKED old. This made some things/places feel pretty dirty and run down.
  • Why do my glasses fog up when I walk outside? The humidity is brutal, us Left Coasters aint use to it.
  • Walkers don’t wait for cars, and cars don’t wait for walkers. This makes crossing the street quite the experience.
  • The number of stops the train makes. Felt like every 100 feet we were at a new stop.
  • A lot of the historical sites have become nothing more than lame gift shops.

 

Overall, I’d give Boston a B…pun intended. 

 

I’m trying to get Girl Ninja to quit her job!

Girl Ninja is in her second year of teaching private school. She loves it. The parents are more involved. The administration is uber-supportive. And she has 22 kids in her class instead of 30. There are really only two downsides to her teaching at a private school.

1. The benefits are worse. She only gets two personal days for the whole school year. She obviously gets a ton of time off in the summer and around Xmas break, but only having two vacation days to use from September to June is annoying. What’s more, her school breaks are always during the most expensive times to travel (Thanksgiving, Spring Break, Xmas).

2. She took a huge pay cut. A $12,000 pay cut to be exact. Fortunately we are in a position that we don’t need that extra money, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say it sure would be nice. Think of how many california burritos I could buy with that! The correct answer is 2,400 burritos!

Each year, around March, current teachers are given the option to renew their contract with the school. I begged her last year to quit. As expected, she completely ignored my advice and signed on for her second year.

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In about a month, her school will ask her if she wants to come back for a third year. This time I’m determined to get her to say “No thanks.”

I know what you all are thinking. You assume I want Girl Ninja to quit her private school job so she can go back to public school and make a boat-load more money. You’re wrong. I actually want GN to quit and become a substitute teacher… which pays even less than her private school gig.

We’re two and a half years in to this thing called marriage, and I suspect within the next 12 months GN is going to get baby fever. With the very real possibility of only being baby-free for another year or two, I want to take advantage of the time we have together, just the two of us.

My job has some pretty awesome perks. One of them is being able to travel all around the world. Only downside to this international travel is that it requires a minimum 6 week trip. We already lived apart for 4 months during our first year of marriage, and I spent another two months away from her last year. That’s too much long distance marriage-ing for my liking.

I usually have an opportunity to go abroad once each quarter. With the way things currently are, I can only volunteer for stuff in the summer since that is when she is off.

Come on Girl Ninja!!!!

I have to win the award for “Best Husband To Have Ever Existed, Ever” for begging my wife to quit her job so we can travel the world together, right?! Crazy thing is, she loves her job so much she isn’t sold on the idea. She’s considering going back for round three!!!!

Any of you ever loved your job so much you passed up some pretty sweet opportunities? How can I trick/bribe/convince her to quit?!

Oh, and I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you part of me wants her to quit so she will make the bed each morning. She leaves before me so I have to make it every day. I hate doing it. A lot. So if she was a stay-at-home-wife she would have no excuse not to make the bed. I mean, look at how many pillows I have to put on and take off the bed each day…

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