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How to save and budget for a vacation

Affording a vacation

Saving to cover vacation expenses is a good goal, but if savings fall short, should you: cancel the vacation? Modify the vacation to better match your savings? Or, charge the extra expenses to your credit card? Find out the best ways to save and budget for a vacation.

From a financial management perspective, a vacation should not be considered a reason to overspend, said Carol Young, Kansas State University Research and Extension financial management specialist. Running up vacation bills may shortchange savings for an emergency fund, car repair or retirement savings contribution.

Saying that isn't the same as saying that you don't deserve time off or an occasional treat, said Young, who advised modifying vacation plans to match the money available.

Suppose, for example, that a family of four has set aside $100 each month for a year to pay for a four-to five-day vacation to a metropolitan area in their state to visit museums and an amusement- sports complex.

How to vacation within your budget

With fuel and other costs rising, Young offered cost-saving ideas that should allow the family to vacation, but still stay within their budget:

  • Opt for a four, rather than five, day trip to save on lodging and meal costs.
  • Shop for a hotel-motel package that includes continental breakfasts, pool, free parking, and coupons for savings on attractions or gas.
  • Check attractions and admission costs in the planning process. If a museum offers a reduced price or free admission on a certain day, make that day museum day.
  • Balance free or low-cost activities, such as a picnic in a park, free tour of the state capitol building or entertainment at a local festival with more costly activities for which admission is charged.
  • Trim food costs by planning the larger meal of the day at lunchtime, when restaurant prices often are less costly than similar items on the dinner menu. Choosing a smaller serving, sharing an entrée or ordering family-style, which may offer a lower cost per person, can result in savings. So can skipping extras, such as an individual order of French fries or chips. Opting for water as a beverage with the meal, rather than choosing more costly carbonated beverages or designer coffees, also usually reduces overall costs.
  • Packing non-perishable snacks to take along, rather than purchasing snacks at a convenience store or concession stand also can yield a savings.
  • Vacationing close to home or planning a few day trips can trim travel costs and free up money for special occasion treats, such as dinner out, a movie, community theatre or other family entertainment, Young said. Mixing up your routine or simply slowing the pace at home may provide a much-needed break at little or no cost.
  • More information on managing money is available at county and district K-State Research and Extension offices and on the Web site: http://www.oznet.ksu.edu/financialmanagement

    Also check out: 10 Budget-friendly vacation ideas

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