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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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Published on September 17, 2018

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

Achieving financial success is not something that just happens. Maybe if you win the lottery or something, but for the average person like you or me, it comes from a series of small steps you take over a long period of time.

With each step, you form a new smart money habit. And with each smart money habit, you build towards financial independence.

So what sort of habits can you form to get on that path? Let’s take a look at smart money habits you can start today to get you closer to a financially independent future.

1. Avoid being “penny wise but pound foolish”

It’s tempting to try saving a couple cents here and there when buying small items. However, that’s not where the real money is saved. You’re putting in extra effort for something that doesn’t move the needle.

You get the most bang when you’re able to cut down on your bigger bills. For example, finding a lower interest rate for your mortgage could save you $50+ per month. And cutting your transportation bill by purchasing a cheaper car or taking public transportation can provide large gains as well.

So, look at your recurring expenses such as housing, transportation, and insurance, and see where there’s wiggle room. It’s a much better use of your time than trying to pinch pennies here and there on smaller purchases.

2. When you want something big, wait

Impulsivity can get you in trouble in most aspects of life. Finances are no different.

It’s human nature to see something and want it right then and there. It starts as a kid in the checkout line at the grocery store, and it continues on through adulthood.

We get an idea in our head of something we want, and it’s hard not to go out and get it right then.

A good example is wanting a new car. Perhaps you’ve had your car for several years. It’s crossed the 100k mile mark. Maybe maintenance is due, and you’re annoyed that you need to replace the timing belt or purchase new tires.

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So, you get the itch.

You start digging around online, and you realize you could trade in your current car for something newer and more exciting… all for a few hundred bucks a month. Then you get obsessed.

Here’s where you have to take a step back.

Your newfound obsession is clouding your judgement. Rather than giving into the impulse, wait it out.

Set a timeframe for yourself. Maybe you come back to the decision three months down the road. See if the obsession lasts.

It might, but often, a funny thing happens. Often, you forget about it. And often, you find that the new car wasn’t a need at all.

The impulse faded. And you just saved yourself a ton of money.

3. Live smaller than you can afford

You finally get that big raise. And you want to celebrate – and why not?

You’ve been looking forward to this forever. And after all, it was all due to your hard work.

That’s fine, splurge a little. However, make it a one-time deal and be done.

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Don’t get caught in the trap that just because you’re now making more money, you should spend more.

Too often, people get more money and feel like they that gives them the means to buy a bigger house, a bigger car… you know the drill. Resist.

The fact is that living smaller than what you can afford is one of the fastest ways to build savings.

But if you constantly upgrade as you begin to make more, then you’ll never get ahead. You’ll just build up more debt along the way and have just as little wiggle room as before.

4. Practice smart grocery shopping

Food… it’s one of the biggest portions of any budget. And if you’re not careful, it can be one of the biggest drains on your wallet.

But luckily, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you stay smart with your money when buying groceries.

Create a grocery budget

Set a strict weekly grocery budget. When you know how much you can spend on groceries, you can then plan your weekly menu around it.

Once you know what all you need, you can go shopping and keep a running tally as you shop to ensure you’re on track.

I tend to do this in my head, rounding for each item. However, writing it down as you go would probably work best for most people.

Make a list… and never deviate

Never go to the grocery store without a list. If you go to the store with a ballpark idea in mind, you don’t have a true ide of what you need.

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You’re not well-researched. You don’t know what the sales are. As a result, you’re going to make decisions on the fly.

These impulse decisions will lead to overspending, which will derail your grocery budget.

Eat before going grocery shopping

It’s also important to eat prior to going to the grocery store. Hunger is a powerful force.

If you’re shopping on an empty stomach, everything is going to look good. In particular, you may find a lot of ready-made, processed snacks will look enticing.

After all, you’re hungry now and that food is easily available. So subconsciously, you may lean towards those items.

Unfortunately, not only are those items typically less healthy, but they’re likely more expensive. You pay for convenience.

However, when you eat prior to shopping, then you’ll shop with a clear mind. Your hunger won’t cloud your judgement, influencing you to make poor decisions like a cartoon devil resting on your shoulder whispering in your ear.

This makes it much easier to stick to your grocery plan.

5. Cancel your gym membership

Now that you’re all set on your food, it’s time to get smart about managing your budget in terms of physical fitness. And let’s begin by avoiding the gym. The gym bill, that is.

The average gym membership costs around $60 per month. That’s $720 a year.

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Yet, two out of three gym memberships go unused. That means two-thirds of people who have a gym membership are literally giving away almost a thousand bucks a year. It’s crazy!

I recommend seeking an alternative. One good alternative is to look into fitness streaming services.

Streaming services allow you to stream hundreds of workouts like Insanity and p90x, right in your own home for around $10-20 a month. That’s $40-50 less a month than the average gym membership.

Of course, then there’s the free option. The internet is full of free workouts that you can do on your own with minimal or no equipment.

For example, there’s the Couch to 5K program, that I personally used a decade ago to ease myself from couch potato to running my first 5K race. If I could do it, anyone could.

Then there are free resources like reddit that have limitless information on workouts. The Fitness subreddit has done all the research for you, populating workout tips and detailed workout routines for anyone to use in their wiki.

There are several routines that require no equipment. And you can join in on the subreddit to become part of the community, making it easier for those seeking comraderie and encouragement in their fitness goals. All for free.

It’s baby steps… And baby steps can start now!

I’ve never met anyone that can’t stand to be a bit smarter with their money. And on the flip side, anyone can get smarter with their money. But remember, it doesn’t happen all at once.

Begin by fighting your impulses. Prepare for the week and be smart at the store. And cut monthly expenses like gym memberships that are overpriced and you probably aren’t getting your money’s worth out of anyway.

The devil is in the details. And the details can change your lifestyle and prep you for a financially independent future.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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