We’re going on Vacation! (On a budget, of course!)

Tales from the not-so frugal trenches.

Our Vacation on a Budget

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We still have a few more weeks until school starts after Labor Day, so it’s time to plan our vacation.
I say this as if this is a yearly occurrence which it is most definitely not. This is actually the first time since my oldest was born that we are in the financial position to actually GO SOMEWHERE on vacation. We have visited family throughout the years for holidays and family celebrations like weddings but I don’t count that as vacation!

Even though I am tempted to go all out for this vacation, alas, financially we are a bit constrained. So a budget vacation it is!


The most important thing for me at this point is going somewhere where my kids can run around, go swimming, and just chill outdoors. Living in an apartment building in a urban area there is not much chance for us to do that and we are all feeling a bit cooped up.
The two biggest expenses for us are the lodging and the rental car. We don’t have a car so in order to easily (or at all) get to a destination is to rent one which usually ends up being quite pricey. We have a local place where we rent from that usually ends up being the cheapest and we put the rental car on a credit car that gives CDW coverage so we save on insurance.

Everything else we do as cheap as possible. We go on cheap or free hikes, swim in the pool, and bring our small portable grill to BBQ. No fancy trips or eating out for us! I find that if the place we stay is nice and pretty, we don’t need to spend money on entertainment or food. We do try to factor in a small amount for ice cream or other small treats along the way.

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Do you have your holiday list done?

I don’t mean the gifts you are going to buy for people. I mean the amounts that you are willing/able to spend. Money is tight in our household these days so we are setting pretty strict limits on what we are going to spend this holiday season. Thank goodness my kids are young and don’t expect much! What I do is figure out the amount that I can spend this year. I look at what I have in my “Holiday” account and figure out approximately what will be added from now until then.

Then I take the following things into account:

  1. Gifts- who I am I buying for this year?
  2. Tips- who expects them? Who do I want to show appreciation for? What is the standard for teacher’s gifts?
  3. Parties- I am throwing any this year? How much will that run me?
  4. Extras- doughnuts, hot cocoa, peppermint bark… the list goes on. Which seasonal items do we think we are going to purchase?

Then I allocate the amount that I have by all the “obligations” I have. Maybe this year I won’t make a party. Maybe I will but on a really tight budget. Maybe our “extras” will be pretty skimpy this year. Is there anything I can DIY?

I set a dollar price on gifts. As all the stores come out with their sales and catalogs I look at each one and see what fits into my price range. if I find a great deal, then I either have more to spend on that person or more for another person. For example, my budget for my son is $10 this year (I told you money is tight!). He really wants playmobile. I check all the deal sites and set up an Amazon price alert. As soon as the price drops under $10- I will purchase it and hide it! If I spend less- great! If the price never drops- I will have to see if I saved money elsewhere to buy him what he wants. If I don’t have that extra money he will have to do with something else. (It better go down in price!)

We are trying to raise our kids to enjoy and appreciate the holidays BESIDES for the gifts they receive. Gifts are MOST ASSUREDLY NOT the center of our holiday season. Of course, they are getting a gift- I am not going to deprive them of that totally. But the gift that they will receive will be within our budget- as modest as it may be. I would not be doing them any favors to raise them to focus overly on gifts or to put our (and therefore their) financial future in jeopardy to go into debt to buy them a present!