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20 Tips for the Best and Cheapest Vacations

20 Tips for the Best and Cheapest Vacations

Going on vacation isn’t cheap. Between the road trip or the plane tickets, the food, the fun, the activities, the hotels it can end up costing you a pretty penny. Don’t despair. Everyone deserves a vacation and even if you need to conserve your cash to do it, you can still have a fun time! Here are 20 of our cheapest vacation ideas:

1. Go short

Sometimes, the best idea for a vacation is to go ahead and take one, but don’t go for as long as you normally would. Instead of going for a week or two, go for a long weekend.

2. Road trip

Don’t fly — drive. Even with the cost of gas, often the best option to save money is to drive to your destination. Make it fun. Stop and see attractions along the way to your destination, like Mount Rushmore or the world’s largest ball of string. Do a web search ahead of time and find small, inexpensive attractions in towns along the way — you’ll be amazed at how much you’ll see and learn.

3. Travel with friends

You can often save a lot of money when you buddy up and travel with a group or with friends. Group rates are available for hotels, rental cars (you could rent a large van), even tours of museums and other attractions.

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4. Day trip it

You don’t need to travel far to have fun. Instead of going far during your vacation and staying somewhere else, stay home and take a different trip each day. Look at destinations about two or three hours away from where you live and look for different things you can do there. Enjoy the drive, bring a lunch and spend the day doing something completely different than you normally would.

5. Cook in

Wherever you stay, eat at home, just as you would normally. Go to a local grocery store and purchase a week’s worth of groceries and make most of your meals in. Save a little money for a special dinner while you’re on vacation or for that fun day on the boardwalk. Otherwise, make the meals you like. You’ll probably eat healthier too.

6. Mind your perks

Do you get perks from your store cards? Your credit cards? For staying in hotels for work? Go look over all of your perk plans before your vacation. You might have a free night or two in a hotel, some miles for a flight or even a free meal or two while you’re out.

7. Rent it

You’d be amazed at the money you can save when you rent items instead of buying them. You can rent an RV and save yourself money on hotels and flights. You can rent a luggage carrier for the top of your truck instead of buying a fancy new one. You can rent bikes when you get there instead of paying to put them on the plane.

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8. Volunteer

Instead of doing the regular vacation thing, try volunteering instead. You’ll be surprised at the number of deals and perks available for those who choose to volunteer at a location instead of just be a tourist. Going to Alaska? Try volunteering for the Iditarod. You’ll get to see some of the most amazing scenery, get free bush flights out to a checkpoint and even meet and talk with famous dog mushers. Heading to South America or another country, look up JustGive.org and find other locations that need people to help build homes, teach classes or do other things in exchange for your time.

9. Room ideas

Decide on just what you need when you select a hotel or motel. Do you intend to do a lot of sightseeing or outdoor activities? Maybe you don’t need a huge, all-inclusive resort and can save yourself some money by getting a small, plain motel with basic amenities. On the other hand, if you want a big resort style vacation with a spa and water park, maybe you can save yourself the money by not flying to somewhere far away, but instead choosing a large, all-inclusive resort to which you can drive.

10. Geocache

This is a great way to explore local areas without the expense of leaving home or staying somewhere else. According to Geocaching.com: “Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.”

11. Check out a National Park

You’ll be amazed at how many National Parks are close to where you’re staying — or where you live. National Parks are a great resource and you can visit the Ranger Station and learn about different features of the park, take a hike or a picnic and explore. Most parks have nominal day use fees, some allow camping and there are a number of free days throughout the year.

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12. See a game

Most of cities and towns have minor or major league teams for soccer, baseball, football or basketball. Take a day and head to a game. Even if that sport isn’t your “thing,” most major league or professional sporting events are a big deal and the experience itself is a lot of fun.

13. Camp

Camping is a fun and exciting way to see parts of the country you’ve never been to before. You can either rent a small cabin or bring a tent or an RV. However you choose to camp, make sure you select a location that allows you to explore and gives you plenty of opportunities to do the types of activities you like.

14. Book a last-minute cruise

Search online at sites like Expedia for last-minute cruise deals. Cruises are usually expensive, but if you can wait until the last minute to pack and make your plans — and you aren’t picky about where the cruise is going — you could pick up a sweet deal.

15. Visit local tourist spots

Stay home and visit all of the local touristy stuff you never do because you live there. Take a tour of the local microbrewery, go to a vineyard or even a local amusement park. You could make your staycation really awesome and hire a house cleaner for the week as well.

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16. Go somewhere completely different

Thinking of Paris? How about Budapest instead? Want to go to Brazil? Try Belize. Just by picking somewhere a little less popular, you could save big bucks. And in Europe, you can travel easily to the places you want to see without having to stay there.

17. Do something new

Staying home over vacation? Take the opportunity to try out something you’ve never done before. Take sailing lessons, learn how to throw pots (clay, on a wheel, not the pasta pot through the window). Sing Karaoke at the local bar.

18. Go to local festivals

Head to the state fair, the local Bluegrass festival or the Garlic Festival (or whatever plant or item your state is known for). Do it big — try everything and have a great time.

19. Be quiet

You could lay low, too. You could really do nothing for a whole week. Sleep. Eat junk food. Watch TV. If you’re a go, go, go type of person, a few days to be quiet and do nothing might be all you need to feel refreshed. And you’ll save a ton of money not entertaining yourself.

20. Housesit

Want to go somewhere new and not pay for it? Find a housesitting gig. Whether for a week or three months, you can find some great places to go and not pay a dime for staying there.

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Last Updated on January 2, 2019

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

Do you know what mental health experts point to as the biggest cause of stress in the United States today? If you said “money,” then ding, ding, we have a winner!

Three out of four adults today report feeling stressed out about money at least part of the time. People are either worried about not having enough money or whether they’re putting the money they do have to use in the best possible way.

Your money is either in charge of you or you’re in charge of it, there’s no middle ground. Using some type of personal finance software can help alleviate some of that money stress and better allow you to manage your money effectively. Without it, you may just be setting yourself up for constant financial worry. Life is already tough enough and there’s no need to make it more difficult by simply hoping your money issues will all work out in your favor. Hint: they won’t.

This guide will help you to understand how personal finance software can better assist with both accomplishing long term financial goals and managing day-to-day aspects of life.

Whether it’s tracking the savings plan for your child’s college fund or making sure you won’t be in the red with the month’s grocery budget, personal finance software keeps all this information in one convenient place.

What Exactly is Personal Finance Software?

Think of it like the dashboard in your car. You have a speedometer to tell you how fast you’re going, an odometer to tell you how far you’ve traveled, and then other gauges to tell you things like how much gas is in the tank and your engine temperature. Personal finance software is essentially the same thing for your money.

When you install this software on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, it helps to track your money — how much is going in, how much is going out, and its growth. Most personal finance software programs will display your budget, spending, investments, bills, savings accounts, and even retirement plans, levels of debt, and credit score.

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How It Leads to Financial Improvement

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but people who regularly monitor their finances end up wealthier than those who don’t. When you were a kid, keeping track of all of your money in a porcelain piggy bank was pretty easy. As we get older, though, our money becomes spread out across things like car payments, mortgages, retirement funds, taxes, and other investments and debts. All of these things make keeping track of our money a lot more complicated.

Some types of personal finance software can help make things a little less complicated, setting you up to meet financial goals and taking away some of the stress associated with money.

Even if you already have a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) some type of personal finance software can be of great benefit. Whereas CFPs focus on the big picture of your money, they don’t handle the day-to-day aspects that determine your overall financial health.

It’s also not nearly as complicated as you might think and can take out a lot of the tedium that comes with doing everything on an Excel spreadsheet or with a pad and pencil.

Types of Personal Finance Software

When it comes to personal finance software, it generally fits into two categories: tax preparation and money management.

Tax preparation software such as Turbo Tax and H&R Block’s software can help with everything from filing income taxes to IRS rules and regulations and even estate plans. Plus, there’s the benefit of filing online and getting your refund check a lot faster than if you were to mail off your forms after waiting in line at the post office.

For the purpose of this article, however, will be focusing more on the personal finance software that aids with money management.

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Money management personal finance software will help you to see the health of your cash flow, pay down debt, forecast for expenses and savings, track investments, pay bills, and do a host of other things that 30 years ago would have practically required a team of accountants.

When to Use Personal Finance Software

So far we’ve gone over what exactly personal finance software is and how it can be a benefit to your money. The next logical step in this whole equation is determining when it should be used and how is the best way to go about getting started using it.

Below are four of the most common and practical ways to use personal finance software. If all or any of these apply to you and your money, then downloading some type of personal finance software is going to be a smart move.

1. You Have Multiple Accounts

There’s a good chance that when it comes to your money, it’s in more than one place. Sure, you probably have a checking account, but you may also have a savings account, money market account, and retirement accounts such as an IRA or 401k.

If you’re like the average American, you probably have two to three credit cards as well. Fifty percent of Americans also don’t have loyalty to just one bank and spread their money across multiple banks.

Rather than spending hours typing in every detail of every account you have into a spreadsheet, many programs allow you to easily import your account information. This will help to eliminate any mistakes and give you a bird’s eye view of everything at once.

2. You Want to Automate Some or All of Your Payments

Please don’t say that you’re still writing out paper checks and dropping each bill in the mailbox. While it’s noble that you’re doing your part to keep postal workers employed, we’re 18 years into the 21st century and you can literally pay every bill online now.

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There’s no need to log into every account you have and type in your routing number either.

With personal finance software you can schedule automatic payments and transfers between all of your imported accounts. Automatic transfers will help to make sure you have the necessary funds in the right account to ensure all bills are paid on the appropriate date. Late fees are annoying and do nothing but cost you money. It’s time that you said goodbye to them once and for all.

3. You Need to Streamline Your Budget

Perhaps the best feature of personal finance software is that it allows you track everything going in and out of your virtual wallet.

Nearly every brand of personal finance software out there has easy-to-read graphs and charts that allow you track every cent you spend or earn, should you choose. You might be pretty amazed when you see just how much you spent on eating out last month or if you splurged a little more than you should have on Christmas gifts last year.

Every successful business on the planet has a budget and using personal finance software can help you trim the fat on your spending in ways that affect your everyday life.

4. You Have Specific Goals to Meet

Maybe it’s paying off debt or saving for up something like a European vacation. Whatever your financial goal is, whether it’s long-term or short-term, personal finance software programs are one of the savviest ways to go about reaching those goals.

You can do everything from set spending alerts to notify you when you’re over budget to automating what percentage of your paycheck goes to things like retirement investments. The personal finance software that you choose should show you exactly how close you are to hitting those goals at any given time.

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How to Get Started

From AceMoney to Mint and Quicken, there ’s no shortage of personal finance software apps out there. Many of these programs are free to download and will allow you to pay bills, invest, monitor your net worth and credit profile, and even get a loan with the swipe of a finger.

Other programs may only offer you limited services and will require a one-time fee or subscription to unlock all that they offer. These fees can often vary from as little as two dollars to 50 bucks a month.

It’s best to start off with the free version and then gauge whether you’re able to accomplish everything you’d like or if it’s worth exploring one of the paid options. Often times the subscription programs come with assistance from financial planning and investment experts — so that can be a real benefit.

When deciding which personal finance software program to use, it’s also important to look at how many accounts you wish to monitor. Certain programs limit the number of accounts you can add. Be sure that if you have checking, credit card, and investment accounts to monitor, that you choose a service that can monitor them all.

Finally, when looking around for the right personal finance software that meets your needs, make sure that you’re comfortable with the program’s interface. It shouldn’t be expected that you recognize every single feature instantly, but if the features don’t seem readable and manageable to you, then you’re not as likely to use it and get the full benefits.

Final Thoughts

Personal finance software can go a long way in helping you to take control of your money and meeting your financial goals. It’s important to note, however, that some focus more on budgeting and expense tracking while others prioritize investing portfolios and income taxes. Explore several different programs and read reviews to find the one that’s right for you.

In this day and age, managing one’s personal finances in a secure manner that allows the user to have a real-time visual representation of their money is easier than ever before. With the numerous applications that are out there — both free and subscription-based — there’s no reason that every person can’t take control of their money and ensure they’re making smart money moves.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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