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How to Travel on a Budget.. With a Baby!

How to Travel on a Budget.. Lots of families out there want to get out and see stuff.  They want to leave their troubles behind and spread their wings!  Even if that means heading just 100 miles away to go camping.    Vacation season is in full swing and American families are hitting the road with excitement. According to AAA’s annual vacation cost survey, the combined lodging and restaurant costs for vacations have jumped up 3.7% since last year, making this year’s vacation price higher than ever before. That’s why you have to put your frugal travel hat on and get creative.

Biggest Money Wasters on Travel..

  • Purchasing tickets at the last minute.  Rates are always higher when you book it late.
  • Buying too many travel supplies and accessories than needed.
  • Stopping to buy $30 worth of snacks at every truck stop.
  • Paying for parking at the airport when you could have someone drop you off.  If you have a family, consider having a friend or family member drive your family car to the airport to drop you off and then pick you up.  This one little thing could save you hundreds!
  • Over indulging in spa services – vacationing above your means.
  • Impulse purchases – lame souvenirs that are likely to end up at Goodwill.  Souvenirs are fun and help the economy of the place you’re visiting, but be conscious of how much you’re buying and make your purchases count.
  • Dining Out – If you’re traveling alone, this is definitely a cheaper way to go if you know how to order  smart.  But when you’re traveling with kids and several family members, this can be a challenge.  Dining out with 2, 3, or even 4 kids can be fun and interesting, but it can also cost you a fortune.  Talk to your kids about the family budget and let them know that you would appreciate them doing their part.  This way, when it comes to dining out at restaurants, your kids have a good understanding that they don’t need to order everything on the menu.  If you’re traveling with infants, that’s simple.  Most of the time they’re sleeping.  But with toddlers, you want to bring something with you that you know for sure they will eat.  Typically restaurants won’t care if you bring something in for the kids.  They want them happy too.  Another dining out money saver is ordering a larger meal and splitting it between two people.  You could also try to find a “buy one entree, get one free,” coupon if you know where you’re going ahead of time.  If your hotel has a business center, you could use the internet there to find the restaurants website and do a local search.
  • Credit Cards – If you’re vacationing on credit, you’re tossing money out the window.  Unless you’re using a credit card with 0% interest, your vacation is going to cost you far more than you think!  If you must use your credit card to pay for things like airline ticket, charge only the amount that you’re sure you can pay off quickly.  You don’t want to get stuck with months of high interest payments.

Now that we’ve covered “what not to spend money on,” lets talk about what TO do to save money on travel.

The average cost of food and lodging for two adults and two children is $269 per day. It’s the lodging rates that hit the hardest, going up 7.9% since last year. Meals, on the other hand, have slid down 1.3%, making eating on the road a bit less expensive, but not enough to counteract the spike in lodging.

According to AAA, the most expensive vacation spot is Honolulu, Hawaii with an average food and lodging cost of $584 per day. New York City and Miami Beach rank second and third, costing $524 and $409 per day respectively for a family of four.  However, there is hope for U.S. travelers who wish to go out west. According to the AAA survey, Albuquerque, New Mexico averages only $165 a day and Arizona costs $180 a day for the four person family making these three cities the least costly travel spots in the U.S.  If you’re just looking for some sun and warmer weather, Arizona with sight seeing, horseback riding, and a swimming pool, might be perfect for everybody.

An unpleasant truth is that food and lodging are not the only costs involved in a vacation. Hidden costs such as tolls and parking must also be considered as well. Every dollar you spend, matters. Watch what you need to spend money on, vs. what you just want.  Entertainment is yet another cost that may go under the radar as well as souvenirs, maps and travel guides, even gum!  It all adds up.

With gas prices on the rise, the fuel it will take to get to your summer hotspot will also add to the vacation expenses. It is important to plan ahead and budget for this cost by utilizing a fuel calculator – a variety of which may be found online at Mapquest and other travel calculator websites. Simply knowing how much you will spend on gas may affect your other vacation expenses.

Ever thought about traveling with an RV?  RV traveling is not the only way to save on your vacation, but is one of many tactics to keep your vacation inexpensive while still keeping the fun. Many families take trips in two or three days, staying at a hotel half-way to their destination. A great way to avoid such mid-way lodging costs all together is, if possible, to wake up early and drive through the day. Although you may not enjoy hitting the road at 5am, thinking of the money saved on lodging will help.  This is also the perfect time to come together as a family.  You can play games, listen to music, and even make some food while dad is driving.  It’s a smart way to kick of a summer vacation.

Also, bringing food and drink along for the ride cuts food costs. Once you arrive at your destination, locate a grocery store and prepare most of your food at your home away from home. Dining out for all vacation meals will incur a large cost that can easily be avoided.  Dining out is actually one of the biggest travel expenses you will have.  You can master how to enjoy your food while traveling and keeping it cheap.  You definitely don’t have to spend a lot to eat great and have fun.

Regarding the entertainment, when traveling with children, bring your own entertainment such as movies and board games. Consider lodging where entertainment is “built-in,” such as a beach (or within walking distance to a beach), mountain or lake.  Many lodges and lakeside hotels keep complimentary paddle boats and kayaks.

Finally, seek out discount rates for airlines and hotels. Many hotels and airlines offer discounted rates when large vacancies exist.  It’s best to travel in mid week and off seasons for the best deals.  And there are great deals out there!  However, keep your guard up as there may be some deals that really are too good to be true.  Beware of offers that are non-refundable or do not disclose enough information about your travel options.  It’s best to book trips and tickets online with a reputable and established company.

Here’s a little airline tip:  If you book your flight through an online company like Travelocity, and you ever need to make changes to your flight dates, don’t call Travelocity to make the change.  Avoid the change fees that can be upwards of $220.  Instead, call the airline directly and request your new travel dates.  Airlines will sometimes have change fees too, but they are much, much less.  You may end up paying $35 instead of over $200.

These budget tips will ease vacation expenses, making you more relaxed and focussed on your family.  After all, vacations can be even more fun when you know you paid less and everybody’s happy.

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Budgeting For Your Baby – Top Tips..

Budgeting For Your Baby – Top Tips.. Everyone knows that organizing and budgeting your family  finances can be stressful and exhausting, but for expectant parents getting control of family finances before the baby is born, is even more important.  There’s definitely a lot to think about.  The cost of a baby can sometimes surprise new parents, so creating a budget beforehand is an ideal way of making sure you are prepared.  This will also help each parent feel in control and like you’ve covered your bases.  Once you have created your budget, you’ll be less stressed about money.  You may find that sticking to it and keeping on top of your family finances is easier than you thought.  You may even end up teaching your kids new positive budgeting habits.

Before it comes to calculator crunch time, take a look at your current financial situation and how you spend your money.  Are you happy with the way you spend your money or are there things that you could work on?  Are both parents on the same page when it comes to money?  Does one parent spend more than the other?  Who keeps track of the money now and is that working or does there need to be a change in command?  There’s nothing wrong to admitting if something isn’t working.  It’ actually quite honorable to let your spouse know if you would rather or rather not be in charge of the finances.  And there’s certainly nothing wrong with admitting that maybe you’re not doing the best job.  Asking for help with the family budget is a good thing.  You want everybody involved.  If someone under your roof is spending money, then you want them at the budget table.

Try keeping a spending diary for a month (if you can’t do a month, try it for a week), write down all purchases, bills and outgoings and refer to bank accounts to check for direct debits and standing orders you may have forgotten about. Be aware that your spending habits will be different while working compared to how you will spend when you go on maternity leave for example.  Most will spend less on maternity leave as you won’t have to pay for commuting travel costs, expensive lunches out, and even the small things like coffee and drinks.

Think your fancy coffees don’t really cost that much.  Here’s a fun fact. The average adult spends approx.

If it is your first child you may be surprised what you will need to buy for your baby. There could be expensive equipment such as cots, highchairs buggies and car seats and then the everyday costs such as nappies, wipes and formula. A great money saving tip is to ask around friends and relatives to see if anyone has any clothes and equipment they’re no longer using. Or look in shops, online or your local NCT sale for second hand equipment and clothes that can be bought for a fraction of the original price.

Once you have thought about the things you will need to buy for your baby and have a good idea of your current monthly spending you need to form your budget. You can create your own or you could use this handy online budget calculator for expectant mums that will do the adding up for you. The budget calculator will break down your finances into sections so you don’t forget to include anything.

Hopefully your new budget will help you keep track of your finances and make sure you have enough money to leave you stress free to enjoy your time with your new baby.

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Top Money Wasters

Top Money Wasters… All those little coffee purchases add up! Ever think about how much money you’re throwing away?  When times start to get tough, people start to cut back on discretionary spending. But rather than deny themselves some of those simple pleasures, they tend to look for cheaper alternatives. Today I’d like you to take a moment and think about how much money you’re dropping on coffee in the course of a work day. If you are spending $5 a day on coffee at work, then that’s $100 a month. Over the course of a year, that’s $1200. For many people, that’s a week on a beach in Aruba.

You can make your own delicious cup of coffee quite cheaply. For example, a can of Hills Brothers medium roast coffee is under $5 at any local grocery store.  You can splurge on the really good stuff if you have a coupon (remember we’re trying to live more frugal).  But Hills Bros. is pretty good for the cost.  Use 18% cream (not 10% coffee cream) and you can have a cup that will be at least as good as the big expensive place on the corner if not better.

What else do you waste money on?  Besides your Cafe-Mocha-Frappa-Whatever coffee, what else do you buy that you really don’t need?  For lots of women out there, it’s beauty care.  To some extent, those trips to the salon and spa are necessary, but admittedly, we can over-indulge and over spend in this area.  Is this a problem area for you as well.  I bring it up because I used to have a friend who had a hard time paying her rent every single month.  When I finally sat down with her to look at her budget and spending habits, we learned that she was prioritizing getting her hair highlighted over paying her rent.  At $300 a pop, my friend had to come to terms that she would have to find another way to treat her hair with fake sun streaks.  Now, I’m not saying the ocassional trip to the salon isn’t o.k. but spend within your means.  If you can’t afford a $300 hair session, then now is just not the time ..and move on.  If it’s come down to you not being able to pay your rent or get your hair done, it’s definitely beyond time to re-prioritize your spending!   I know, to some women, the hair and nails are everything.  Well, consider some alternatives to help you save some money and still look good.  Have a hair party.  Buy some “tint it yourself” packages and do your own hair at home.  You can also save a little here and there by returning to the salon less.  For example, set an appointment every 2-3 months instead of every month.

If you need to get your nails done, instead of spending a fortune for the fake acrylic nails that have to be re-based every 2 weeks, opt in for the more frugal and easy to manage, all natural nails.  There’s nothing wrong with the finger nails you were born with.  Why waste your money on something that you already have.   There are definitely cheaper alternatives when it comes to your manicure.  You can even go a step further and start doing your own nails at home.  Have fun with it.  Invite a few close friends over and have a nail and hair party.  As you learn to create your new family budget as you go, this is a great solution to watching your spending.
Are you a sucker for fast food?  Surveys and market research shows that young adults, and especially men, have a spendy weakness when it comes to splurging on fast food.  When they’re out working or running around, they get hungry, they drive up to Burger King or Taco Bell, and they spend!  The average person spends about $180 per month eating fast food.  And that’s per person.  Market research shows that Americans spend more on fast food each year than books, eduaction, cars, REAL FOOD, video games, and pets – combined! I don’t know about you, but that’s a little motivation for me.  I love Taco Bell, but I’m not willing to give them $200 a month for those burritos.  I’ll hold back and limit myself to those cheesy treats just to save some money.

Think of all the little things that you may be wasting money on.  What’s your weakness?  Do you waste a lot of money on alcohol?  Cigarettes?  Are you a smoker?  If you live in New York City, those cigarettes are now costing you about $8.00 per pack since the new tax hike.  Health officials hail the tax increase as a success. Cigarette taxes will raise a total of $1.3 billion for the state in one year alone.  Are you paying?  How much of your money is going towards habits like these?  How much do you think it’s already cost you and how much more will you spend?

“Isn’t that something — to say that I’m excited about a tax increase? But I am,” said Dr. Richard Daines, the New York health commissioner. “This is a public health victory. We know one of the really effective tools to get people off of their nicotine addiction is to the raise the price.”

Smokers will be paying $2.75 per pack in state taxes, a jump from the previous tax of $1.50. Before the new tax, the average price of a pack of cigarettes was $5.82 statewide, and about $8 a pack in New York City, which levies its own taxes, Daines said. The new retail price for a pack of cigarettes in New York City could now soar past $10. ..Ouch!

What are you wasting your money on?  When it comes to living more frugal, you have to be honest.  You have to be honest with yourself, your family, and your finances.  It doesn’t take much to pull you off your money game.  Don’t let the little things keep you from your full financial potential.

Top Money Wasters:
fancy $5 coffees
fast food
alcoholic drinks
beauty care
dining out
buying retail/brand names
impulse purchases
excessive shopping

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Money Saving Tips For a Family Holiday

Money Saving Tips For a Summer Family Holiday. If you’re planning on taking your family for a holiday this summer you’re probably interested in how you can do that and still save some money. There are all types of options for you, and one of the best ones is to stay closer to home. There are so many rich and beautiful areas that can be explored right in your own country that there’s no need to go to an exotic location this summer.  How much of the United States have you seen?  Have you considered exploring things within 300 miles of your house?  Sometimes there might even be something across town from you that you haven’t been to yet.  Its nice to find family events and shows right in your own neighborhood.  Who knows, you might even have fun!

The fun of a holiday is mostly about being together, anyway, so why not have a ‘staycation’ in your own country? You can be gone longer, see more things, and buy more souvenirs because you didn’t spend hundreds of dollars on a fancy hotel and a lot of airfare.  Not to mention the cost of getting a baby’s passport early.  These things have to be considered if you’re trying to be more frugal with the family budget.

Another thing you can do is go when the summer is just beginning or just ending, because places aren’t as busy then, and some of them will have better rates for things like hotel rooms and car rentals. If it’s not the peak of the tourist season you always have a chance to get something for less especially when you go online.

You don’t have to spend a lot on a hotel room, though, no matter when you go. You can stay in a self-catering cottage instead, or you can even camp. Camping is becoming one of the best ways for families to take great holidays without needing to spend a lot of money. It can be just you and a tent and a campfire, or you can stay in a campground setting that offers running water, an electrical hook-up, and bathrooms, as well as a club house, a pool, and restaurants.  This is not highly recommended if you’re planning a long trip with a new baby.  You have to take steps to be prepared when traveling or camping with a baby.  It’s nice to have the luxuries of home sometimes with a new baby.  There’s nothing wrong with enjoying your own sofa and your own porch for a while.  The new baby is probably entertainment enough.  Enjoy a relaxing and frugal summer.

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