Taking a vacation is supposed to help alleviate stress, not add to it. But for those of us who do not have unlimited funds to work with, it can do just that. Planning fun for the whole family and providing for transportation, meals and accommodations can be tricky, and paying for it all can be even trickier.
We all know how important it is to have a household budget. But we tend to forget about budgeting when it comes to vacations. If we can create a vacation budget and follow it closely, it can help us enjoy our getaway without worrying about money.
How Much Can You Afford to Spend?
In order for a vacation budget to work, we must first determine how much we can afford to spend. If you have money set aside in a vacation fund, this might be the easy part. But if you’re working with money from general savings or a tax refund, it will require some thought.
Spending every penny you have that isn’t required for bills on a vacation is not a good idea. Having an emergency fund is important for any family. If you already have plenty of money put away for emergencies and the bills are paid, using your tax refund for a trip isn’t such a bad thing. Otherwise, take care of the more important stuff before you allocate funds for vacationing.
If you just have a savings account but haven’t decided how you will use the money, resist the urge to spend it all on a vacation. Setting some money aside for a rainy day will do you a lot more good than hitting all of the hottest spots on your trip. The general rule is to have at least enough money put back to pay all of your expenses for at least three months. If you’re nowhere near that point, try to keep enough to at least have a good start toward that.
What to Include in Your Budget
Vacation expenses have a way of sneaking up on us. And that’s exactly why a budget is so important. It forces us to consider all possible expenses and account for them so that there are no surprises. Here are the basic expenses you’ll need to account for:
* Transportation – This could be airfare, bus, or train fare, or gas for a road trip. If you’re not taking your own vehicle, you’ll probably also need to rent a car when you reach your destination. And then there’s the gas you’ll use while you’re there.
* Accommodations – Unless you’re doing an at-home vacation or staying with a friend or relative, you’ll have to pay for a place to stay.
* Food – You have to eat while you’re on vacation. Some packages include a meal plan, but if yours doesn’t, you’ll need to budget for your meals. You can save money by taking your own food to prepare if you rent a place with a kitchen.
* Entertainment – This is a biggie. You have to pay to get in to the beach, amusement park, or whatever other attraction you’re visiting. But there may be times when you or other family members want to do something else, so be sure to account for that as well.
* Shopping – When most people go on vacation, they come home with souvenirs. So it’s important to set aside some money for them.
Money should not be a constant worry when you’re on vacation. If you set a budget and stick to it, it doesn’t have to be.
Save with Freecycle
Do you have things sitting around that you’re not using? Most of us do. There are a few ways we can get rid of these items. We could have a garage sale, but pricing and organizing things takes up a lot of time. We could take it to the landfill, but that’s wasteful if someone else could use it. Or we could freecycle it.
Freecycling is a movement that encourages people to give the items they don’t need to those who can use them. It’s a great way to get rid of clutter, and for the recipient, it’s a great way to save money. But how can those with things to give away connect with people who need them? Through a local Freecycle group!
Freecycle is a non-profit organization that utilizes email groups to facilitate giving. Founded in 2003, Freecycle originally consisted of a few dozen team members who drove around the Tucson, Arizona area trying to find homes for unwanted items. Organizers realized that email would be a much more efficient means, so they set up the first mailing list. The concept spread like wildfire, and today there are Freecycle groups all over the United States and in over 85 other countries.
There are Freecycle groups in most cities, as well as many rural areas. If there is no group in your area, you can apply to start one. All group organizers work as volunteers, with the support of the organization.
How Freecycle Works
In order to use Freecycle, you must join your local group. Links to groups in your area may be found on the official Freecycle website (Freecycle.org). Most groups are run through Yahoo Groups, which makes it easy for any member to post messages to all other members. Some groups allow anyone to join, while others require moderator approval. Just follow the instructions provided to sign up.
Once you’ve joined, you can post offers. This is generally done by sending a message with the word “Offer” in the subject line, followed by the item name and location. Provide any pertinent details, and let members know if you wish to be contacted in any way other than email. Those who are interested can email you through the group. Once the item is given away, the giver is asked to post a message stating that the item has been taken.
Anyone in the group may respond to an offer, but it is up to the giver to decide who gets it. There is no rule stating that items must be given on a first-come, first-serve basis. The only requirement in most groups is that all items be completely free, and that nothing illegal or adult-themed is given away.
Members may also ask for items they need. If another member has the item, he can contact the requester and arrange for pickup or delivery. While there is no requirement to give items away, members are encouraged to both give and receive gifts.
Joining Freecycle provides opportunities to both get rid of our “junk” and receive things we need for free. Membership is also free, so there’s no risk in joining. Go ahead, give it a try!
What Can a Licensed Insurance Agent Do For Me?
A licensed insurance agent can be a valuable resource. You would visit a travel agent to discuss destinations, rates, and obtain the latest updates only a travel agent could provide; a licensed insurance agent works in a similar way.
Let’s assume you need a specific type of insurance. An insurance agent can search for those policies that meet your needs. He can answer many questions you may have, can apprise you of discounts offered through his company, can help you with filing claims in an expeditious manner, and can review your existing policies to ensure you are fully covered.
On the other hand, before speaking to an insurance agent, it is recommended that you engage in some research on your own. While it may take a little more time, you can certainly find the most affordable insurance rates on your own either by checking companies online or by calling them directly.
However, if you do not have the time or the inclination to do so, finding a really good licensed insurance agent can make all the difference. The only caveat is that some agents may try to talk you into purchasing insurance you neither need nor can afford.
Just like travel agents, most insurance agents work on commission. And just like travel agents, if the trip and/or the arrangements made are unsatisfactory, an agent will lose a valuable customer.
Ultimately, using the services of a licensed insurance agent can benefit you in a variety of ways, including:
* Finding the best deal
* Offering information not readily available to you
* Help you to make the right choices
* Explain the different types of insurance and if they are beneficial to you
Therefore, it’s a good idea to find an agent whom you feel comfortable with, who listens to your concerns, and doesn’t seem overly zealous when it comes to your insurance needs.