5 Pretty Easy Ways to Save Money on a Vacation

Do you have high hopes that there will be traveling your family’s future, but not quite sure how you can afford it?

You’re not alone. While Americans will spend an average of 10% of their household income on vacationing this year, a full 74% take on debt for their trips. Each of these tips offers you both an easy and effective way to save a substantial amount of money off your next vacation trip. Use them wisely, and you might even be able to squeeze in some extra travel this year.

1. Make use of grocery store prepared food sections

Some people think it’s crazy to not eat at restaurants for all of your vacation meals. Mostly, they want the entire week off from cooking any food.

I don’t blame them (or you) for thinking this. So, what if I told you that you can still avoid cooking all week, and not actually eat out for every single meal?

While vacationing, find your local grocery store with a prepared food section. You can find hot meals for your family – complete with salads and desserts – for much less than what it would cost to eat out. Plus, there’s’ no need to pay a tip.

2. Plan activities around discount times and coupons

You can easily save a bundle on your vacation expenses by planning your activities around available discounts. This doesn’t have to be as limiting as it sounds, it just means you have to be smart about it. For example, you could:

  • Buy a local Entertainment book and use the tourist coupons that come with it.
  • Purchase discounted tickets to local attractions and activities on group buying sites (such as Groupon.com, and LivingSocial.com) by entering the zip code of where you’ll be traveling to.
  • Plan your trip dates around free museum days (I did this on a trip to France, and got in to see the Louvre on its free Sunday of the month).

3. Change the season you travel in

One of the easiest ways you can save on almost all the costs of your next vacation is by simply changing the season that you take it. The time of year you choose makes a huge difference in how much you’ll pay – it’s a simple illustration of supply and demand.

During summertime when kids are out of school and families want to get their vacations in, you’ll pay more. But if you decide to leave for a trip to Disney World one week before schools traditionally let out? Then you’ll not only save yourself tons of waiting time in lines but a lot of money.

In fact, that’s what personally happened to me over five years ago when my husband and I decided last minute to drive to Disney World. It was May, and there were virtually no people around. No lines, no waiting, and hardly a kid in sight.

We asked anyone we could find what was going on, and they said that it would be all-out pandemonium just one week later when their peak season begins (when the majority of kids are out of school). We had unknowingly hit the jackpot, and our cheap hotel bill reinforced that!

Get creative by using winter breaks, trips during the school year, and long weekends in the off-season to save a bundle without even trying.

4. Rethink traditional hotel stays 

Next to transportation costs to get to your destination, hotel costs will make the second biggest dent in your budget. With an average cost of $133.34/night to stay in a hotel, you can see how a 5-night ($666.70) or a 7-night vacation ($933.38) can really add up.

One of the easiest ways to save on vacations is by rethinking traditional hotel stays.

Consider options like these, all of which I’ve done myself:

  • Staying with family or friends
  • Share a hotel room with family or friends
  • Book a rental with local homeowners instead of with hotels (using sites like AirBnB or Vrbo)
  • Use hotel deal sites to snatch up unfilled rooms (such as  Secretflying.com, and TheFlightDeal.com)

5.  Consider group travel

Traveling in groups allows you to pool your money for better rates. My husband’s family, for example, likes to go all-in on a beach house for a long weekend in Galveston. We generally get a 5 to 6-bedroom rental right on the beach, and the cost is just $200-$300 per family for 3-4 nights. If we were to travel on our own, we would never be able to afford such a nice place.

Not only that, but if your group travel entails a road trip, you may be able to carpool with someone to save on gas costs. And if you split up meal prep duties between families like we do? You not only have to cook only once or twice per stay, but you don’t have to eat out in restaurants the whole time.

Another way to secure travel savings in groups is by going after group discounts. Whether booking excursions, airfare, or anything else with a travel agent or by yourself, be sure to ask about possible group discounts.

Don’t forget to shop around

Pricing for hotels, airfare, and things to do can vary greatly. Don’t just visit a company’s website and assume that’s the best price. Check a number of sites — including discounters like Priceline — and look for package deals. You should also consider looking for less-traditional sources for booking trip. Warehouse clubs Costco and Sam’s Club, for example, offer deals on travel (sometimes very good ones).

It’s also important to use any discounts you have coming your way. Are you in AAA? Does someone in the family have a trade association membership that offers special deals? Check and you might unlock a special deal. Use these “work smarter, not harder” strategies when it comes to saving money on your next vacation, and you won’t have vacation debt lingering for months after your return.

–By Amanda Grossman

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

The No-Cash Envelope System That Works

I am a strong believer in the cash envelope system. It works great for our family. But I also know that is not the case for everyone.  You may not want to use cash but love the envelope system concept.  Fortunately, there is a program you can use that marries your desire to use plastic with the discipline of a cash envelope budget.

When it comes to managing your money, spending and trying to get out of debt, there are many programs and apps out there. But, not all of them can do everything.  That means one app for your budget, another for trying to get out of debt and then yet another for managing your spending.

ProActive does it all.  You can manage your money, spending, budgeting, and debt payoff – all from one simple to manage app! But, before you jump in and download it, make sure you read this honest review.  That way, you’ll know what to expect!

What is ProActive?

ProActive combines the beauty of shopping with plastic and the discipline of cash envelopes.  The system ensures that you never overspend – ever!  Just like with cash, when the envelope is empty, you are done shopping!

What is the cash envelope budget?

A cash envelope budget is what it sounds like. Rather than using plastic to shop you get cash and place the budgeted amounts into envelopes.  For example, if your budget for food is $200 a paycheck, then you get cash and place $200 in an envelope earmarked for groceries.

When you grocery shop, you use only the cash in the envelope. That is all you have available to spend. It is impossible to overspend.  If there is only $20 left then that means you can’t spend $22.  There is not enough money there.

It is a system that works very well for people who want to better manage and control spending.

How does it work?

Once you sign up and create your account, you will get a ProActive branded debit card.  When you are ready to spend, you use the ProActive card.  But, before you can swipe, you have to let the app know which envelope the money needs to come from.  That way, you always stay on budget and don’t spend more than you should.

Add funds to your account

When you get paid, review your budget.  Pay the bills that are due.  What you have left over is what you have left to spend on everything else on your budget.  It will include items such as clothing, household items, personal care and beauty, groceries, entertainment, dues, etc.

You will go into the app and click the “+” icon.  That starts the transfer from your bank account to your ProActive debit card.

Allocate the money to your virtual envelopes

Once the funds are deposited, you have to assign an amount to each category (a.k.a. envelope).  Review the budget to see what you have available to spend.

Shop as usual (but pay with the ProActive card)

You can’t swipe your card until you have told the card which category (or envelope) the money should come from.  Simply open the app and click the spend category.  Then you can swipe.

If there is not enough money left in the category to cover your purchase, it will be declined.  That makes it impossible to overspend.

The smart way to use ProActive

As parents, we teach our kids.  They need to know how to take care of themselves, cook, clean and do other things around the house.  But, it seems that financial responsibility is one that gets overlooked.

One thing that ProActive allows is for you to add your kids and teach them how to manage their own money.  You can put funds on their account and they too can set up categories.  And, just like mom and dad, they have to select the category before they spend so they are not spending more than they should either.

ProActive not only teaches your kids how to use a debit card, but also the financial responsibilities that go along with it.  And, it is in an environment that both mom and dad can see (and control).

Who is ProActive a fit for?

Just like with every other app or budget system there is never a one-size-fits-all system. That means this may not work for you.  If you love your credit card for the rewards then this will not work for you.  You can’t attach a credit card and use this program.

But, if you struggle to try to manage your money and spending then you really need to get this app. It makes it impossible to overspend and helps you learn how to think about every purchase you make.  You may not need to use it forever as you will become disciplined.

What does it cost?

When you sign up, ProActive will give you a 15-day trial.  They want to make sure it is a fit for you before they make you pay.  Then, if you love it, you continue at $5.75 a month (paid annually, so $69).  You can add a second user for $29 a year and even add your kids for just $24 each.

What happens if I forget my phone?

It happens.  We leave our phones behind. In that case, it is important that you always have an alternative payment method handy, such as your bank debit card, credit card or cash.

If your goal is to get out of debt, you have to first start with your budget and spending. If you don’t do that, you will never achieve your goals.  ProActive is one tool that helps you every step of the way.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

From Bankruptcy to Paying $22,000 Cash for a Car

The post From Bankruptcy to Paying $22,000 Cash for a Car appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

rebounding from bankruptcy

I was recently a guest on the Masters of Money podcast.  One of the statements Phil made was “Wait a minute.  How does one go from declaring bankruptcy to paying $22,000 cash for a car?”

I had never really looked at my journey in that way.  But, when I thought about it, I realized –  “Dang!  That really is pretty awesome.”  And, what is even more interesting is how my bankruptcy was the catalyst for bringing me to the place I am today.


WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

When I was in my 20s, I was in a relationship. To be totally honest, it was destined to fail.  We were just really too different and so it was never going to work out.  However, being young, naive and in love, I was doing all I could to make it work.

For me, that meant buying things to make him happy.  But, truth be told, I was really spending money to make myself happy.  I loved money because it made me feel good.  I adored all it offered to me.

Sadly (and like so many others), it lead me down the path of financial ruin.  Well, not the money itself.  My attitude did.

I had such an adoration of money, and what I thought it was doing for me, that I misused it. I allowed it to take control of my life to try to fill some of the emptiness I was experiencing.

In December 2001, that relationship came to an end.  When it happened, I was devastated. It was a mix of sadness because it was over but honestly, more fear of me being able to support myself alone financially.

I had built up a lot of debt with him. While it was joint debt, we were not married. We both knew that we could not make ends meet alone and that we also needed to find a way to put this all behind us.  So, bankruptcy it was.

That following August, we met in Wichita, Kansas before the bankruptcy judge and it became official. I was bankrupt.

 

REBOUNDING FROM BANKRUPTCY

Fortunately for me, a few months after that relationship ended, I had moved to a new city and met the man I would eventually marry.  In fact, he proposed to me just a week after I declared bankruptcy.  Talk about a keeper!  😉

When I met my husband, I learned a lot about myself and what real love was like. I began to understand that it wasn’t in the things I gave him or he to me, but in the moments we shared. For the first time in my life, I experienced true love and joy.

He was the change I needed.

We married in June 2003 and knew that we wanted to start our family as soon as possible.  One thing we both agreed upon was that we wanted for me to quit my job and stay home with our children.  It was important for both of us that one of us was there to raise them.  We knew it would be a financial challenge, but one we felt we could overcome together.

In September 2004, our first daughter was born.  That was the same day I officially quit my job.

 

HERE COMES THE DEBT (AGAIN)

Once I was staying home with our little girl, our finances changed.  They had to. We could not spend as much money dining out and in other ways as we once did.  We both knew that.   However, we also had purchased a new home and there were things we needed wanted.

A few months before she was born, my husband purchased a pickup.  One month after Emma arrived, we went out and bought a brand new minivan.

Between the vehicles and a home equity loan to buy things for our house, we had accumulated quite a bit of debt.  We just kept juggling the bills and trying to balance it all – and not very successfully.

I started working part-time from home a few hours a week. That meant I was able to be here to take care of my baby, and was also able to bring in a little bit of cash.  It was difficult to do, but I knew we needed the money, so I kept at it.

Our son followed in March 2007.  There was no way I could still try to work the hours they needed for me to, and raise two kids. My kids mattered more.

So, I quit.

We continued getting by.  There were times when we robbed Peter to pay Paul.  We were making it, but not in the way we wanted to.

Then, one evening, my husband told me to go out to dinner with my friends.  Little did I know what would happen next.

 

THE DINNER THAT CHANGED IT ALL

After an evening of dinner and drinks with my girl friends, it was time to pay.  Most of us pulled out a credit or debit card to pay.  However, my son’s Godmother, Kathy, reached into her purse and pulled out an envelope.

I asked her what that was about, as I’d never seen such a thing before.  She explained how they were using cash for everything instead of plastic because they were trying to get out of debt.

That intrigued me, so I asked her more questions.  She told me how she and her husband had recently started to follow Dave Ramsey.  They were able to create a budget and a plan that was helping dig them out of debt.  She filled us in on some of the program and what they were doing.  That left me wanting to learn more.

When I walked through the door that evening, I sat down and started sharing all of this with my husband.  We knew that our friends did not make much more than we did, so we thought “if they can do it – so can we.”

I grabbed my computer and we started researching this Dave Ramsey.  We had no clue who he was or what he taught. The more we read, the more we were inspired to follow his plan.  We pulled out the debit card and made our purchase.  Nope.  We didn’t even sleep on it.

 

HOW WE CREATED OUR DEBT FREE PLAN

Once the Dave Ramsey books and materials arrived in the mail, we were like two kids on Christmas morning. We tore open the box and could not wait until our kids were in bed that night…..so we could read!!!

Within the week, we had started our plan.  Luckily, we had around $2,000 in the bank, so our emergency fund was already taken care of. We created a budget and a debt snowball plan and were ready to attack.

I was looking at the numbers and our plan and it hit me. I was in debt again.  However, this time, I felt as if I had brought my husband along with me.  I felt horrible that I was back in this situation.

Yes, this time around the spending was not for the same reasons as before, but it had happened. Were we going to get out of debt and just do this all over again in a few years? Why would it be different this time? Did I really learn from my past mistakes?

I started giving this a lot of thought and realized that even though the bankruptcy was behind me, my money attitude was still the same.

 

MY (MUCH NEEDED) ATTITUDE CHANGE

When I looked at the money we had spent, I realized that it was because I enjoyed spending it.  It wasn’t because I was trying to replace an emptiness in my life. Heck! I was happier than I had been my entire life.  But yet, here I was, still building debt, buying things I did not really need.

I had to do a lot of self-analysis. It began with me asking myself one simple question:

“What do you feel when you think about money?”

For me, it was simple. I loved it. I loved how I could use it to get things I wanted.  And, not having had much money growing up, I thought I worked hard for this, so I will spend it as see fit.

When I said that out loud to myself, I knew it was not healthy. Money is not here just to get the things I want.  Sure, it is fun to buy items, but those things were never making me happy.  My husband and children were doing that for me.

I took another look at the debt and knew that the money had purchased things.  Those things were replaceable and if I lost them all tomorrow, I’d be OK.  However, my family wasn’t.  There was nothing in this world that could or would ever replace them.  Ever.

In that moment I made the decision that I was no longer going to love money.  I was going to love my family – and myself – more.

For me, it meant changing my entire attitude.  Once that happened, it all started to fall into place.

 

THE PLAN WE USED – THAT WORKED!

As I mentioned above, we read the Dave Ramsey plan.  While we followed most of what he said, we also had to do some of our own research and come up with our own ways to do things.

For my husband, it meant selling some of the guns he owns (he is an avid hunter).  I sold furniture and other items that were taking up space in the basement.  We had garage sales.  Any money we made from these ventures went to our debt.

I started researching and finding ways to save more money at the grocery store.  And, as a result of my findings, some of my on-line friends encouraged me to start a blog.  (And, we all know where that lead now, don’t we.  😉 ).

Through it all, we did it.

On February 10, 2010, we made the final payment on our mini van.  We had done it.  We had become debt free.

 

THE CASH CAR

Once we were out of debt, we were able to start saving money.  It felt amazing to be able to keep more of what we earned and not have to hand it over to everyone else.

My husband and I knew that we would eventually need to replace our mini van. We started paying ourselves monthly payments – instead of a car company.  We built up that savings for many, many years.

When we had enough built up to pay cash for a car, we did not do it.  Even though we had the money to pay for it, we did not really need a new car.  That was a want.

So, we saved even more and researched and waited until the right car came along.  And, it did.  More than 2 years after we had enough money to pay for the car we wanted, we made the purchase.

There is nothing like sitting down at the dealership and writing a check for a vehicle.  There is no worry about how to fit the payment into our budget. The car is ours.  We were able to drive it home and just enjoy it.

The hard work had paid off.

 

YOU CAN TO IT TOO – I PROMISE

During our journey, I found my calling.  It was to help others, just like you, do the same thing we did.  This blog is how I do that.

I have shared many stories, tips and ideas to help you and your family save money over the years. I know some of you have been able to follow my articles and get started on your own debt free journey.

However, reading a few articles here and there can be difficult to follow. My husband and I did that ourselves.  Yes, it worked for us, but we both kept wishing we could follow a plan that would not just give us a few tools on how to do things, but really be there.

Someone who would hold our hand when we were scared. That we would have others to lean for advice.  We wished that we could celebrate our victories with others who really understood and can relate.

That led me to where I am today.  This blog.  This chance to really help others.  And, in those continuing efforts, The Financial Reboot Course was born.

 

CHANGE YOUR ATTITUDE – CHANGE YOUR LIFE

For me, the one change I needed to make was my money attitude.  I did not do that the first time around and I ended up making some of the same mistakes. History was repeating itself.

Once you can do the same thing, and really understand the root of how you feel about money, then – and only then – can you start to overhaul your finances.  If you don’t change the way you handle money, you will be destined to make the same mistakes over and over again.

I want to guide you on your own financial journey. I want you to be successful. I want you to be able to shout it from the rooftops — I’M DEBT FREE!!!!

Let me help you make the change you need at this moment in your life.  Kick start your own Financial Reboot, and leave the past in the past.

 

The post From Bankruptcy to Paying $22,000 Cash for a Car appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

9 Ways to Recover from Overspending During the Holidays

The post 9 Ways to Recover from Overspending During the Holidays appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

The packages have been opened. The kids are loving their new toys.  You are enjoying your coffee one morning and reading your mail when you see them…

THE BILLS! Yikes!

It seems you went a little over your budget. It was fun and the joy you brought to your kids’ faces was worth it.

However, now you need to find a way to recover from overspending during the holidays. It is not fun, but is necessary. Here are nine steps you can take to recover from any spending mistakes you made during the holiday shopping season.

1. Put the credit cards on ice – literally

The first thing you need to do is stop spending.  You need to put the credit cards away. Take them out of your wallet and put them in the safe.

Or, if you want to make sure you really do not use them – freeze them in a block of ice! That way, if you do feel the pull to shop, it will take time to thaw out and the urge to spend my pass by then.

2. Calculate the damage

You can’t bury your head in the sand when it comes to seeing the damage done to your budget. Face it head-on.

Total every receipt and credit card statement to find how much was spent. While it may be painful to see the balance due, it is necessary.

When you see that figure in writing, it helps you know what you are facing and where you may need to cut back.

3. Review the budget

 Once you know the amount you need to pay off you also need to review (or create) your monthly budget.   That means including those new monthly payments to the credit card companies.

Make sure your budget is balanced, in that you are not spending more than you take in each month.

4. Create a repayment plan

Up next, you have to create an exit strategy – which will be to pay off those credit card bills. Grab the statements for each and then list them by including the balance and the interest rate.

You may be tempted to pay the highest balance first (which is what I recommend when it comess to getting out of debt). However, when it comes to this debt you just incurred, I recommend starting with the highest interest rate first.

By eliminating that bill quickly, you are reducing the amount of interest you will pay to the credit card company. There is no need to pay them any more than you need to!

Once the first card is paid in full, roll the monthly payment amount into the payment for the next card. Repeat until they are all paid in full.

You’ll not only pay them off quickly but also minimize the total interest paid as well!

5. Reduce your spending

When you have bills to pay it means you need look at the budget to find areas where you can cut back.

It may mean cutting cable or eliminating dining out. You may need to cancel the subscription to the gym or find frugal date night options.

Be willing to make short-term sacrifices for long-term gains as the sooner you can eliminate these bills, the better.

6. Use your bonuses

If you are fortunate enough to get a holiday bonus don’t blow it on what you want. Use that to pay off your holiday bills.

If you don’t get a bonus then use any of that Christmas cash you received for your bills! Look ahead to see if any other money will be coming your way such as birthday money or a tax refund. Earmark that to pay off your holiday spending.

7. Get a side-hustle

If you need to tackle your balances then a side-hustle may be the solution – even if temporary. Look around the house for items to sell. If you are a teacher, consider tutoring students.

Every penny earned can be money used to put towards that holiday spending.

8. Build your savings

You don’t want to find yourself in this same situation again next year. It is not a fun cycle of rinse and repeat.

The holidays come at the same time each year. It is not a surprise or an unplanned expense.  You need to plan for it.

Review the total spent this year and divide that by 12. Focus on saving that amount each month, all year long, and you’ll be able to pay CASH next year and not even use the credit cards.

9. Save using the coin challenge

One simple way to save money for holiday shopping is to switch to a cash budget. Then, save the change and any “leftover” money each pay period.

For example, if you budget $300 for groceries and spend only $270, don’t blow that left-over $30…put it back for the holidays!

The same premise works with change. If the total is $7.49, hand over $8 and put $0.51 into your savings jar.

Saving doesn’t have to be hard

Simple tricks can help you quickly build your savings!

It is easy to spend too much during the holidays but with some smart strategies, you can get your budget back on track.

The post 9 Ways to Recover from Overspending During the Holidays appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com