It's hard enough to manage a budget during the year while you're on a schedule and in a routine. But you do it because it's the only way to save for things you want to do, like, I don't know, say, going on vacation. When you hop in the car or on the plane or train or boat, leave reality for the woods or the beach or Vegas or whatever it is you're into, the rules that have dictated your personal finance since forever disappear into the rearview mirror. It's easy to get lost on vacation - lost in the fantasy and money-sucking drain that is time away from reality. But when you get back to reality, the landlord will still come knocking. Follow this guide to staying on budget while on vacation.
Managing your money while on vacation is easy with the right software and a plan.
Save Yourself with Software
There is great, free software, such as Mint.com, that can take the headache out of vacation spending and let you just enjoy your vacation without having to manage a budget. By linking one - or two or three or 10 - credit or debit cards to Mint, using only those cards for all your purchases and categorizing them specifically in the time frame of your vacation, Mint will keep track of all expenditures on a weekly, daily or hourly basis. Keep your ATM receipts and your all set. Mint's mobile app goes wherever your smartphone goes, and it's vacation-budgeting tool has been lauded by reputable travel publications.
Don't Waste Money on Souvenirs
Knick knacks and tchotchkes and shot glasses and T-shirts and license plates emblazoned with your cousin's name are cheap in value but expensive in price. People rarely keep them, rarely use them and appreciate them for a very short time. If someone expresses genuine interest in an item that can only come from the place you're going, fine. If there are people who are dear to you who you want to get something for, make it unique, sentimental and free or close to it. One of the best ways to manage a budget while on vacation is to stay out of the gift shop.
Comps, Discounts and Included Stuff
Many vacations, including cruises and most resorts, come with free drinks, free meals and free entry to "exclusive" places at certain times on certain days. One of the best ways to manage a budget while on vacation is to squeeze every dime out of package deals. If you bought a deal that includes free breakfast, eat some and there and bring some back to your mini-fridge. They give comps for the same reason that electronics stores give mail-in rebates - because they know that a lot of people will never go through the trouble of taking advantage of them.
Resist the Mini-Bar!
It's late. You'd love a nightcap, but in order to go to the hotel bar, you'd have to get dressed, comb your hair and go downstairs. Why do that when there's a ton of booze right there? Because it's for suckers. Every mini-bar in every hotel is there for one purpose -- to jack up your bill. You might think, "Why not? I'm on vacation and anyway, it's just one drink." No, it's not. It never is.
Avoid the scam that is the hotel mini-bar!
Vacation is supposed to be fun. The constant stress of having to manage a budget defeats the entire purpose of getting away from it all. The right software - combined with some common-sense choices - can make your vacation the beautiful exile it was supposed to be and not just another week of crunching dollars and cents.
Mint.com is designed with the vacationer in mind. Free, simple and incredibly personalized. Sign up today and fully enjoy your next vacation!