Tag Archives: budget

5 Tips on Saving a Bundle While Traveling

March 31, 2011

1. Take your trip during the off-season
In shopping around for hotels and flights, you’ll usually notice a difference in price between the peak and slow seasons. I usually plan to take a trip within the month immediately before or after peak season.
Pros:
  • It will be cheaper and much less crowded
  • You’ll have an easier time booking arrangements
  • Better opportunity to mingle with locals (while they’re not overwhelmed by your fellow countrymen)
  • Your trip will be groovier. Ever read up on population density studies? Hordes of people do not make for the most relaxing vacation.
Cons:
  • It may be the slow season for a good reason (monsoons? descent of the mosquitos? impassable winter roads?)
  • Businesses may take this as an opportunity to renovate.
  • There may be fewer English speakers around.
2. Use Farecast Technology to know when to buy and travel
Say you and your special lady/gentleman friend want to go to Paris in May. Bing travel (formerly Farecast) has a flexible date search tool that will allow you to find the lowest prices. Being open with your departure date could be the difference between paying $900 vs $1700 per round trip ticket. A bit of planning ahead can save you and your sweetie a (rather shocking) $1600 on airfare.
Another neat Farecast feature is the ‘future ticket cost’ arrows. The color coded arrows let you know what historical trends and number crunching predict regarding future fare changes:
  • Green: Buy right now. Prices will be jumping in the near future.
  • Red: Wait! This price is coming back down.

3. Stay in Somebody’s Sweet Vacation Home.
Check out www.vrbo.com (Vacation Rentals by Owner) for a list of houses, condos and studios to rent by the day or week. Since these properties are managed by a normal person instead of a company, you can often find really great deals. Listings are available worldwide, but are most concentrated in the States. I was shocked to see how many places were available within a few hours drive of Portland, making this a great resource for weekend getaways. Outside of camping, this is probably your cheapest option for accommodating a group of people.

Pros:

  • Many vacation rentals include a full kitchen — take advantage of this! Cook your meals at your homebase instead of dropping a small fortune eating at restaurants every day.
  • I cannot stress enough how cool and affordable some of the listed houses are.

Pro/Con:

  • Many of these properties will be a bit off the beaten path. If you like seclusion & a unique experience while on vacation, this should work out nicely for you. Make sure to get thorough directions from the home-owner and/or current maps before leaving. You may find yourself in a residential neighborhood without streetlights, or maybe in the middle of the woods off a dirt road. Also it’s somebody’s house, so there usually isn’t a sign.

Cons:

  • Be sure to read the rental contract. Know going in what sort of cleaning you’re expected to take care of before departing.
  • VRBO rentals usually need to be planned in advance (shoot for at least two weeks.) Leave enough time to snail-mail payment/contracts/keys.
4. Concerning Cash
This may seem obvious, but plan ahead with a travel budget and three (yes, three) cash acquisition plans. Most places in the world have ATMs for cash, but sometimes things go awry. Maybe the ATM keypad is upside-down and you enter your pin number incorrectly, rendering your bank card useless. Perhaps you forget to call your bank and let them know that you’ll be making charges from outside the country and they freeze your account. Sometimes your hotel doesn’t take credit/debit cards and you have to come up with enough cash to cover your stay. Not that I’m talking from experience or anything. (cough cough.) In America, you can purchase most anything by debit card, not so elsewhere. Depending on your bank and destination, different fees (flat transaction fees, exchange fees, or both) will be attached to getting money. Choose three from the list before you leave the country:
  • ATMs at your destination – consider both withdrawal and exchange fees.
  • Get Visa or American Express travel cards pre-loaded with your destination’s currency.
  • Travelers checks. Dated? Yes. Accepted worldwide? Yes.
  • Get foreign currency at your bank before leaving. Make sure to get one of those geeky under-the-shirt-money-hiding-pouch-things.
  • Airport exchange office – convenient, but often higher exchange rates.
  • Line up a trusted friend or family member as your emergency cash backup. Don’t forget to let them know they’re your last hope in an emergency.
5. Have an Adventure
You’ve made it to your destination, now go have a real experience! Wander. Notice things. Live like a local. Avoid tourist traps – they’re designed specifically to part you from your money. Make a list of ways to have a new, inexpensive experience, such as:
  • Talk to the locals. Go to their favorite cheap restaurants.
  • Consider alternate transportation. Drive instead of fly. Take the bus instead of drive. Rent a moped (Ciao!) Avoid cabs unless it’s an emergency.
  • Go to the grocery store & grab some local fare. Find a nice spot, eat, and enjoy the view.
  • Check out blogs devoted to your destination. Somewhere on the internet, somebody is dying to tell you about all the great things to do there. Listen to them!

 

Dave Ramsey – Entre-Leadership Simulcast

December 30, 2010

Dave-Ramsey-Entre-LeadershipThis past November I had the opportunity to attend a one day simulcast of Dave Ramsey’s Entre-Leadership.  It was inspiring and motivating, and I brought back a number of concepts to share with my team at Cash4Books and MKZbooks.

It occurred to me that this is great material to also share on The Green Frugal, as there are a number of tips on credit, debt, savings, purchasing, and more.

Here are a few of the highlights from the Dave Ramsey Simulcast.  The debt snowball was not covered specifically in the simulcast, but I still wanted to mention it here as it is classic-Ramsey material:

  1. Avoid risk when making large purchases.  Buy USED whenever possible.  Do you really need a brand NEW car?  A brand new refrigerator? Washer/dryer?  Couch? Use craigslist.org to find some great buys on used items.  Or, check your local thrift store.  I was just at the Hillsboro Salvation Army with my brother-in-law Jordan, and they had a special going with 50% off everything in the store! He got a great deal on a couch.
  2. Try the Debt Snowball technique.  Many Americans are in debt… some of us severely in debt.  How do we get out of debt?  One technique is to take an inventory of every debt you have.  List them out on a piece of paper in order of the lowest balance owed to the highest balance owed.  Next make the MINIMUM payment on EVERY debt EXCEPT the one on the top of the list.  For the debt on the top of your list, pay the most that you can reasonably afford.  After you pay off the first one on your list, take your pen and cross it off.  Then attack the next one on your list. Crossing them off will give you quick “wins” and motivation to keep going until they are all paid off.  The money you gradually save on not having to make all the debt payments is snowballed into more money to attack the debt at the top of your list.
  3. Pay CASH. Cut up those credit cards!  Or, you could freeze them in a giant block of ice so that you always have a “cooling off period” if you struggle with impulse purchasing.  Debit cards are too easy to use–so, don’t use them.  My wife, Breanne, and I have found that it works best for us to budget with cash.  She takes cash out of the bank every week and uses it for groceries and other regular expenses such as gas for the car.  Many of our bills are paid through online bill pay, so there is no need to budget cash for those.  We rarely use a debit card and we no longer have personal credit cards (we haven’t for years).
  4. Budget your money. This seems cliche, but it is REALLY important to have a personal budget. I’ve uploaded an Excel spreadsheet to help you get started: Personal budget.xls

If you would like to see my PDF presentation of Dave Ramsey Entre-Leadership highlights and ah-ha moments, I’ve made it available as a link below.  I showed this presentation to my Cash4Books and MKZbooks team members!

Entre-Leadership-Ramsey-Nov-5-2010.pdf