Sunday, November 10, 2013

Save Money on Your Family Road Trip This Summer

Family Road Trip This Summer
I am assuming you are planning on taking a family vacation this summer. I hope you're planning on doing it with cash, but I suspect there is not much I can do to change your mind if you're not. My ultimate goal is to help you make your summer vacation as cheap as possible.
  1. Set a vacation budget. I know vacations are supposed to be a time of freedom and liberation. No rules and no boundaries, but you do not want this one week to make you miserable for a year (or longer). Far too many people complain that vacation credit card payments follow them home. Here is a simple tool. Break down your vacation budget into five broad categories: transportation, meals, entertainment, lodging, and other. Put the predetermined amount of cash into each envelope and go on vacation. You don't need to keep receipts or anything and there's no book keeping. Just spend money out of the predetermined envelope and then it's done. Another option is to buy gift cards for your dining out. When the gift cards are done, so are you.
  2. Start to save now for the family vacation so you can pay with cash. Here's how my family saves the cash. We first set vacation budget so we have an exact amount we need for vacation. Once the budget has been set we take the budgeted amount and divides that by the number of months remaining before our vacation. The resulting number then becomes our mandatory savings amount until the vacation. If you are not able to save the set amount one month you know you will be removing an activity from the vacation or even, if necessary, cutting a day out of the vacation. For example, if our vacation will cost $1,000 and we plan to go in 8 months we save $125 per month before our vacation ($1,000/8 months).
  3. Save on Gas. When driving for long distances you will be purchasing a lot of fuel. Use the TripleA Fuel Cost Calculator (google that name) to determine approximately how much the fuel will cost. Be sure you have at least that amount in your budget. Before blindly driving off, visit GasBuddy to see where you should get your next tank of gas. If you know how many miles per gallon you get it should be fairly simple to calculate where you will need to get your next tank of gas.
  4. Don't buy food at convenience stores. Stock up at your local grocery store before you go.
  5. Take a cooler. You can probably buy a 2 liter drink at your grocery store for the same price you can buy a canned drink at a convenience store. Fill it with ice and go.
  6. Consider renting a car. TripleA says the average driving cost (not owning and operating) cost is 15.4 cents per mile for a mid size sedan. The maintenance and tire portion plus.23 cents depreciation would cost you 28.7 cents per mile. If you were planning on driving from Denver to Memphis roundtrip you would rack up 2,200 miles. Using the average driving cost you would put $631.40 worth of wear and tear on your vehicle. As an alternative you could rent a mid size car from Hotwire for $196 total for the week. This would save you $435.40 in wear and tear on your vehicle.
  7. Plan to purchase some meals from a grocery store. Eating out can get expensive. You can save 50%-75% by buying premade foods from the grocery store.
  8. Take advantage of current hotel promotions. Hotels are really trying to fill up their rooms right now. Both the Starwood Program and the Priority Clubs group have a stay two nights get one free promotion. Be sure to check them out and read the terms and conditions. Book your hotel ahead of time to be sure you will get a great deal.
  9. Don't forget about cheap and free entertainment options. Check out the National Parks to see if there is one near your destination. Go to Trip Advisor and check out things to see and do in your desired city. Pay attention to free options. If you have young kids just spend an hour at a McDonald's with a play area.
  10. Allocate funds for your kids. Tell your kids beforehand how much you plan to give them for spending money and special snacks (be sure to include that amount in your budget). When little Sally wants an ice cream cone take it out of her allocated funds. It saves you money and teaches the little angel an important lesson about budgeting.