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7 Tips for Keeping Vacation Spending Under Control

Some people are disciplined and smart with their money all year long—except when it comes to vacation. It’s like they believe making wise decisions and living within their means doesn’t apply during that week or two. The truth is, you have to play defense with your money and protect yourself from five minutes of stupid, even while you’re on vacation. Here are some tips and tools to arm yourself against bad decisions:

1. Make a Budget

Yes, you need to budget while you’re on vacation, too. Decide how much you’ll spend overall, then decide where you can go based on that budget. A $2,000 budget won’t get you to Hawaii, but it may be enough for a nice road trip. Set amounts you will spend on transportation, food, entertainment and even souvenirs. Put money in separate envelopes by category. When the money’s gone, you’re done!

2. Use Technology to Your Favor

There’s an app for that—vacation spending, that is. There are several apps (Trick Wallet; Travel Bug) that will help you keep your spending on track. Some can organize your spending by category, show you how much you’ve spent and subtract spending from your overall budget. Apps like these will work nicely with your envelope system!

3. Don’t Forget the Hidden Costs

When you’re budgeting, remember extra expenses like airline baggage fees and carry-on fees, tips, Wi-Fi fees, and resort fees. Read the fine print before you book so you’re not caught off guard when you get to the airport or hotel. That sweet deal on airline tickets may not be so awesome when you add in all the extra costs.

4. Dine In

Stay at hotels and condos with a kitchen and make a grocery run on the first day of vacation. You can eat meals at home for a fraction of the cost of eating out. Be sure to make up your menu for the week before you go. Deciding on the fly when you get to the store is a recipe for disaster.

5. Go Local

If you want to eat some meals out, skip the chain restaurants. They’re typically more expensive. Instead ask locals about their favorite restaurants. Usually, the food is better—and cheaper. And if you eat out, go at lunch and make it the biggest meal of the day. Lots of places offer the same menu at a lower price.

6. Don’t Play the Game

As in the comparison game. Forget the pictures on Facebook and Instagram. Yes, we all know that the Joneses went to Hawaii on vacation. But what they didn’t post about was the credit card bill that they’ll be paying off for years. What make vacations memorable are the people and the time you spend together, not the amount of money you spend.

7. Check Your Entitlement at the Door

Some people go nuts with their spending while on vacation because they think, I’ve worked hard all year long. I deserve to kick back and enjoy myself. That mentality will lead to that five minutes of stupid that could derail your finances and your retirement. Remember, enjoying time off does not have to equate with spending a lot of money.

Picture your retirement days as a long vacation during which you can do whatever you want with the money you’ve worked so hard to save. You don’t want to blow all of your money on a weeklong vacation and not have enough money for retirement later.

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