I was reading through the posts at the Festival of Frugality, a blog carnival hosted this week at Being Frugal, and I clicked on a post from I’ve Paid for This Twice Already, entitled “Do Vacations Spoil You for ‘Normal’?” Paid Twice is one of many personal finance bloggers that gives advice for getting out of debt while sharing her own struggle with paying off credit cards and student loans.
The author was concerned that the exceptions we make about spending and behavior when we go on vacation might make it difficult to continue with strict budget-saving measures at home. And the answer is: no, of course it doesn’t. In large part, I believe, because of the following fact: our values travel with us when we travel.
If you spend much time reading personal finance blogs or considering your own saving and spending patterns, you know that planning for the future — be it retirement in 20 years or a vacation in the spring — means changing your priorities now (and spending less) to allow that future vision to be financed satisfactorily. If you have accepted this and practice it at home, there is no reason why you can’t follow the same while on vacation.
Paid Twice followed many of Less Than a Shoestring’s tips for no-budget travel, which come out of an ethos of frugality she has cultivated in her pursuit of debt reduction. We will continue to use her as an illustration, as she thoughtfully bared her budget from the trip (apparently I’m not the only one crazy enough to do this).
+ First, she set her budget for the low end of the generous gas and mileage reimbursement they expected from her husband’s company. In this way, they were having the trip for the entire family financed for them! Why *wouldn’t* you take such a vacation if handed to you? The budgeting behavior isn’t really so different from everyday life, however; had she been at home, she would have also followed a modest budget which allowed for some savings or for unexpected expenses.
+ Second, she took advantage of freebies: her husband was covered by the company, breakfast and lunch were provided for everyone on conference days, and a friend treated the children to a trip to the zoo. The fact that meals were paid meant that they were in fact saving money over being at home.
+ Third, before setting out on the road, they improved the car’s gas mileage by properly inflating the tires. I cover this tip and others in my post on Road Trip Savings: Fuel Costs.
Yet, there are ways that with a bit more planning she could have saved even more money on this vacation, some of which she acknowledges in her analysis of the trip.
+ First, choice of accommodation. Since the company was paying anyway, it might have been a good idea to consider an aparthotel or extended-stay hotel for the trip, as those cater to business travelers, yet allow the option to cook. This would have allowed them to save money on dinners.
+ Second, she could have packed snacks and lunches for herself and the kids on the days she made outings and for everyone on both the travel days. Instead, she was stuck purchasing food where they happened to be. (Also related to the first point: it’s easier to pack lunches and keep groceries cold if your accommodation has a kitchen.) Both the first and second points can be found in the post Budget Eats.
+ Third, she could have saved even more money on gas by being aware of gas prices along their travel route. You can find out more about this in the aforementioned post on Fuel Costs.
Three more tips that might have been useful:
+ Check out what’s on in the city you’re visiting before you head there by looking at the tourism website or the local paper online. There may have been free activities for children that could have replaced a paid visit to the zoo or museum.
+ If you’re set on a certain destination (like a zoo or museum), check online for discounts, coupons or free days that could save you money. Check the brochure stands at the hotel when you arrive for the same thing.
+ Did they have more than one car? If the other car gets better gas mileage, it is a money-saver to take the other vehicle.
Paid Twice shows us that the budgeting skills we hone at home follow us when we hit the road. She also shows how frugal travelers are able to get more bang (a trip for the whole family) for the same buck (as her husband traveling alone). In my analysis of her spending, I’ve tried to show how a little planning can squeeze out *even more bang,* allowing the most hardened budgeter more trip at even greater savings.