Avoiding Vacation Envy

We’ve all dealt with it. You’re innocently perusing your social media feed and get hit with photos from someone’s amazing vacation. And with the unrelenting updates from family, friends, former friends and friends of friends, somebody always seems to be on vacation. The water’s so blue, that drink’s so tropical and OMG they went zip lining! They look like they’re having the best time, the kind of time you wish you were enjoying right now. And you begin to think, perhaps it’s time to pull the trigger on that dream trip. The one you can’t afford.

It’s called vacation envy. And we’re here to help you deal with it.

First, don’t fall into the trap of trying to “keep up” with anyone. The worst thing you can do is to feel like you should judge yourself against friends’ vacations, clothes, jobs, etc. You can’t win. Whatever short-term gratification you get disappears quickly. Just like your money will if you act on your envy. Next you may find yourself in a financial hole. To feel better? Do it all over again, right? Wrong.

Spending money you don’t have won’t quiet the envy. Attacking the monster is about actively changing your thoughts and resolving to stop the cycle.

Pretty pictures aren’t everything

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Great photos don’t mean happiness. Of course you already know this, but it’s helpful to keep in mind because most people don’t share boring or unhappy moments. In fact, big trips are notorious for causing as much tension for couples and families as relaxation. You may not be missing out on a perfect vacation, after all.

Plan for that vacation

Travel’s a luxury, and of course, luxuries have to go when you’re saving money. But if isolated-vacation-jar_auqvgztravel is something you really value, try to set aside some money each month. Build it into your budget to save for a vacation fund. But remember, once you’ve saved enough, stick to the budget. It’s too easy to say yes to upgrades and extras. Which can eventually tip the scales beyond your budget. Here are a couple of tools to help keep the scales in balance:

If you absolutely must grab your bug-out bag and skip town, at least go about it in a frugal way. Booking trips through the right channels can ultimately save you big bucks. Here are a few of our favorite travel booking sites:

The best vacation is one you can afford

The point is to get away from responsibilities and the everyday humdrum. So what if you can’t afford a trip to Paris or the Bahamas? There are amazing vacation spots everywhere, including close by. Taking a trip you know you can afford is far more relaxing than taking a bigger one you can’t.

  • Wander is a great way to find travel destinations based on your budget.
  • For tips and tools to help you budget for your next road trip, check out Outdoor Blueprint.

So, save up for that dream vacation and post fun pictures, but don’t forget to let everyone know how you planned ahead and made it happen within your budget. Your friends may just envy you for your financial wisdom.

Summer fun in KC for $20 or less

Kansas City’s a great place to visit in the summer. And for visitors on a budget, the best part is that a trip doesn’t need to break the bank, because there are so many free or inexpensive things to do. Here are some favorites.

Commute by streetcar

Travel along the 2.2-mile KC Streetcar line and experience some of KC’s most vibrant neighborhoods. The route includes 16 stops throughout the Crossroads Arts District, Power & Light District and River Market. Best of all, it’s totally free.
Get cultured

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is a world-renowned museum and is home to nearly 35,000 pieces of art, including the famous shuttlecocks on the south and north lawns. Admission is free, as is street parking. Parking in the garage will run you $8.

10-01_Hfest&MiCoSunrise_0003Take a brew tour

Boulevard Brewing Co. has grown from a neighborhood favorite to one of the largest craft brewers in the nation. Take a free 60-minute tour that explores their unique history, brewing process and business approach, and ends in the tasting room where visitors can sample a select variety of Boulevard brews.

Pick up your own bag of money

The Money Museum is part of Kansas City’s Federal Reserve Bank. During free self-guided tours, you can design your own currency, pick up a 27-pound gold bar and see the region’s largest cash vault. Plus, you’ll really love what the museum gives out as a souvenir: a bag of shredded money.

First Fridays

The streets of the Crossroads Arts District swarm with thousands of visitors on the first Friday of each month. They gather for a 40-gallery art crawl with an eclectic variety of sidewalk vendors, live entertainment and food trucks, creating a vibrant street festival vibe. It’s free to the public and food trucks provide cheap options for al fresco dinners.

Get your caffeine onThe-Roasterie

Coffee lovers, this one’s for you. The Roasterie offers free behind-the-scenes tours where you’ll learn all about their cupping, roasting and blending process. Reservations are encouraged.

For the family:

Kaleidoscope at Crown Center is a free creative workshop geared toward kids 12 and younger. The art studio allows kids to express themselves with leftover materials from Hallmark’s manufacturing process – bows, cardboard, melted crayons and more.

It’s free to explore Union Station, a 100-year old art deco treasure. Be warned that some of its attractions cost. One of the most popular is Science City, a science center with loads of interactive learning exhibits. Kids can dig for fossils, ride a bicycle 30 feet off the ground and find their way out of Maze Park. Tickets are $13.25. Costs for other rotating exhibits at Union Station vary.

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Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead is designed to depict a traditional turn-of-the-century Kansas family farm. Kids will find tons of animals, a mining camp, a dairy barn, a fishing pond, play areas, pony rides and more. Admission is $2 and free after 2 p.m. on weekdays.

There are plenty of other free and reasonable options, so check out Visit KC’s site for more ideas and useful information. No matter where you end up, a great time in KC doesn’t have to break the bank.

Don’t overpay to celebrate Independence Day

Are you planning to stay home and host a barbecue, or would you rather visit another city to celebrate the Fourth of July? Either way, you can have a special Independence Day within a reasonable budget. So take these tips to heart while you plan your day.

Eat.         

If you’re going to break out the grill and show off a little, have a strategy in mind before you approach the meat counter. You don’t have to treat everyone to a porterhouse. Go for a skirt or flank steak, and skip the boneless chicken breasts for legs and thighs, which have more flavor.

If you’re sticking with burgers and brats, you can jazz them up by putting some bacon into your hamburger patties and pre-boiling your brats in beer.

Think outside the box for the fixings table, too – put some slices of gouda and Swiss next to the cheddar, and let people make a more interesting hot dog with fruit-based salsas and pickled vegetables as a topping.

stephanie-mccabe-92133As long as you’ve got your grill fired up and your marinade game going, you might as well make enough for leftovers. You’ll be tired from the party, so it just makes sense. And you won’t risk running out of food if you get unexpected guests.

Don’t waste fuel by getting distracted. Once you have your coals or propane going, pay attention, keep the grill surface full and get your protein cooked efficiently.

Drink.       

Don’t make your guests honor our great nation with a lukewarm Natural Light. The Fourth of July should feel like a special occasion, so make a signature cocktail or two. Infused vodkas and other spirits are easy to make ahead of time, and you and your friends can be sipping on a strawberry mojito or a frozen lemonade made with blueberry vodka instead of the same old wine or beer you usually grab without thinking. neha-deshmukh-9593A bold, fruity sangria is always a crowd pleaser, too. All the aggressive fruit flavors mean you don’t have to use top-shelf liquor.

For the kids, a simple lemonade with slices of strawberry and blueberries is close enough to red, white and blue to feel festive without getting too complicated.

Be merry.        

If you’ve just got to get out of town, try the cheap options. Stay within driving distance, and crash with friends or family if possible.

The Midwest has plenty to offer for the fourth, all without the financial commitment of flights. Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago, and Oklahoma City are all short drives away. They also happen to be rip-roaring destinations for patriots on Independence Day.

The Lake of the Ozarks, Table Rock Lake, Grand Lake and dozens of others offer perfect weekend getaways. With five to seven friends you can rent a cabin for under $80 per person. Cozy sleeping quarters will ensure that you get to know each other well – so just consider that a bonus.

Of course, you’re always welcome to join us in Jefferson City for Salute to America. The andrey-larin-29559.jpgweekend includes various family-friendly activities, concerts and great food. The event culminates with a fireworks display set to music on July 4th.

This year’s Fourth of July falls on a Tuesday, which might make for smaller crowds and more muted celebrations whether you stay home or head out. No matter what your budget is, just be sure to grab a few sparklers and gather the people you love, and you’ll have a party worth remembering.

Get your music live. Keep your budget healthy.

Sometimes, you’ve just got to hear your favorite songs played in person. You’ve got to get jakob-owens-109784out of the house and dance. Concerts are where stress is banished, friendships are forged and memories are made. Unfortunately, they’re also where wallets are drained.

It doesn’t have to be that way. If you give yourself permission to let loose a little, that doesn’t mean you have to throw financial caution to the wind. A few simple strategies can keep you from wincing at your account balance while your ears are still ringing.

Set a yearly budget.

Allocating a certain amount every year for shows and other entertainment events can keep you under control. Checking your budget first can keep you from clicking “Buy” too quickly. Do you really need front row seats to an arena show? Or would you rather see three smaller acts for the same price later on in the year? It’s all about priorities.

Be on the lookout for free shows.

Up-and-coming bands, veterans and local acts play at parks, museums, outdoor shopping centers and sports venues on a regular basis. Sign yourself up for alerts and check websites for shows in Columbia, Jefferson City, Kansas City and St. Louis – and your only expense is the gas to get there.

Learn to love smaller venues.

lucas-gallone-105450Places like Kansas City’s RecordBar and St. Louis’ Baha Rock Club, among many others, will rarely charge you more than $20 a ticket – and prices are sometimes as low as $5. Seeing bands in a small venue versus a big arena is a more intimate experience: standing next to the amplifier, chatting with the band after the show and being able to get home without getting trapped in a traffic jam.

 

Shell out for your ticket – and nothing else.

The merchandise table is so alluring, isn’t it? That T-shirt will be a badge of honor! Oh, they have limited-edition vinyl! A poster I can get signed!

Just don’t tempt yourself. Stay away from the merchandise at concerts. In your adrenalized state at a live show, you’re likely to make impulse buys you’ll regret, and you can probably find a shirt or CD cheaper online later.

If you like to have a few drinks with your music, try to have them at home beforehand marvin-meyer-190672and designate a driver. Club tabs can skyrocket quickly, and there’s nothing worse than having one too many in public. You paid for the show, after all – so make sure you remember it. If you usually have a few beers at a show, consider taking Uber or another ride service – way cheaper than a DUI.

Buy tickets in person when you can.

Before buying online, see if you can purchase tickets at the venue or a local grocery store that doubles as a box office. Because hefty service fees add absolutely nothing to your experience. At all.

Get into the festival scene.

If you find the right festival for you, it can be a great deal. Fans of all sorts get an intense dose of sound every year at Buzz Beach Ball in KC. Indie fans will have three stages to pick from at LouFest in September.

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Many festivals are family-friendly, rural events where you can bring your own food and camp out under the stars for a few days. It’s an easy way to combine your entertainment and vacation budgets while bonding with friends. Just make sure you’re going to see more than one or two bands you like, and you’ll get your money’s worth.

Don’t despair when you hear “sold out”

If you have your heart set on seeing your favorite act at the Sprint Center or Memorial Stadium but don’t want to shell out hundreds to a scalper, be patient and check eBay or sites like StubHub closer to the event date. Prices can plummet, even to below face value.

Spending your money the smart way on concerts means staying plugged in to cheaper locales and the local scene. You’ll end up seeing acts way before or after they make it big, and you’ll hear more diverse sounds. Concerts are tied to a lot of nostalgia for music fans, but once you get there, the memories are free.

 

Monthly Subscription Boxes: Affordable fun, or enough already?

If you have a credit card and a mailbox, there’s a monthly goodie bag of stuff designed just for you. Or at least, that’s what the exploding subscription box industry would have you believe.

The movement began in 2010, when Birchbox offered a monthly package of curated products for beauty and makeup enthusiasts. Since then, they’ve been joined by competitors like Ipsy and BeautyFIX, and Sephora recently entered the game with Play. The success of Birchbox and its imitators sparked an explosion of specialty offerings.

You can solve a mystery every month with Hunt A Killer. Curated snacks hit your doorstep with graze and MunchPak. Wine lovers can expand their palates with Winc and Glassful. Obsessed with Japanese candy? There’s a box for that. (Several, actually.) There are more than 600 box services to choose from, for everyone from comic book geeks to chocoholics, starting at about $10 a month. Now retailers like Walmart, Amazon and CVS Pharmacy are joining the movement.

 

Think before you sign up

There’s a downside to those delightful packages: They’re just stuff. They inevitably add clutter to our lives. Even though companies target their products to our individual tastes, some months are hit or miss. After a year, you’re left with a pile of tiny moisturizers, aromatic teabags and Star Wars stickers you didn’t love but don’t want to throw away.

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Another drawback: Services can be hard to cancel because they’re set up on a monthly auto-charge basis to your credit card.

So if you’re going to subscribe, you’ll want to do some research first, to make sure you’ll actually use the stuff. If you’re only kind of into drawing, don’t waste $20 a month on Doodle Crate. (Or find a friend to split the monthly cost.) Sites like Hello Subscription and My Subscription Addiction can help you narrow down the overwhelming number of options.

 

Boxes worth trying

subscription-boxThese are some of the best-reviewed boxes in popular categories, according to Hello Subscription and My Subscription Addiction:

Beauty and makeup: Ipsy, Birchbox, BeautyFIX, Julep Maven, Allure Beauty Box, Yuzen, BOXYCHARM.

Geeky fandom: Loot Crate, Nerd Block, Geek Fuel, Lootaku, Fandom of the Month Club

Wine: VINEBOX, Blue Apron Wine, Bright Cellars, Winc, Plonk.

Food and snacks: Graze, Degustabox, Love With Food, NatureBox, Yummy Bazaar, Universal Yums, Snakku.

Pets: BarkBox, CatLadyBox, Loot Pets, Pet Treater, RescueBox, Purr Packs, PupJoy.
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Men’s lifestyle: Robb Vices, Bespoke Post, Birchbox Man, Gentleman’s Box.

Arts and crafts: Smart Art, Studio Calico Kits, Quilty Box, Darby Smart, New Hobby Box,SketchBox, Yarn Crush.

Most sites let you browse previous months’ offerings before signing up, so do your research and be realistic about what you’ll have time to use. If there’s an option to try a box for just one month, take it. And shop around for discount codes, too; there’s no point in paying more than you have to.

If you do find yourself with a basket of unused dog toys, calligraphy pens or nail polish, don’t despair – monthly box leftovers make great stocking stuffers at Christmastime.

 

 

Planning is the key to moving affordably

Moving your entire existence is stress inducing even for the most organized people. It might not be your favorite thing to do, but it doesn’t have to put a giant dent in your savings, as long as you have a plan.

Start by writing things down. What do you know about the square footage and layout of your new place? How far away is it? Are stairs involved? Once you start figuring out those logistics, you’ll have a better idea of whether you’ll need to borrow Dad’s pickup or rent a larger moving truck – and whether it’s a job for you and a few friends or whether it’s better to hire professional movers. Give yourself plenty of time – at least a month, if possible – to get packed and organized. The farther away you’re moving, the lighter you should pack.

Get quotes and estimates. If you’re renting a truck to move to a new city, get prices from competing chains and take into account gas and mileage costs. It’s important at this point to know exactly how much storage you’ll need. If you’re hiring movers, ask for written estimates and research their reputations before signing a contract.

Whittle down mercilessly as you pack. Moving is a great chance to clear away clutter from your life. If you haven’t played old video games since your last move, should you really move them again? The same goes for your clothes, craft supplies and so on. As you pack, keep boxes marked “Sale,” “Donate” and “Trash” nearby. The less you have to move, the cheaper and easier it will be.

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Space and weight equal money. If you’re a book lover, sell the titles you can do without to a used bookstore. The rest can be shipped by Media Mail through the U.S. Postal Service for around $12 per 20-pound box. Consider throwing out old CD and DVD jewel cases and storing the discs in a binder. Eat with the goal of emptying your pantry and freezer before moving, and don’t move things like old condiments and spices. Buy new when you get there.

Measure your furniture with a critical eye. If your big couch will be a tight fit and it’s seen better days, you’re probably better off putting it on Craigslist or Freecycle now than dealing with it in your new digs. The same goes for your dining room table and chairs, bed and anything else it takes more than one person to lift.

Sell your stuff to cover expenses. Now that you’ve decided what’s not going with you, have a garage or yard sale. Anything that doesn’t sell, donate to Goodwill or other charities that will pick up items.

Don’t pay for supplies you can get for free. Save up newspapers, junk mail and bubble wrap from deliveries in the months before you move, then use them to pack fragile items. Ask new neighbors if they have any moving boxes they want to unload. Liquor stores and supermarkets are great places to score sturdy boxes. When it comes time to pack, you can use bedding and towels to fill in spaces in boxes with heavy dishes or wall hangings.

Pack like a pro. Keep a box on your kitchen table with all your packing supplies, and label every box prominently by contents and the room it should be left in. One box, with your essential toiletries, medicine and whatever else you might need immediately, should be left aside to be packed last and opened first.

New city, new everything? If you’re moving far away, you’ll need to research your new town’s utility hookups. Find out as much as possible about water, trash, electricity, etc. when you’re there shopping for a place to live. (You can wait and ask around about cable and even Internet service for a few weeks.) Plan out your move like it’s a vacation if it’s going to take more than one day. Book a motel ahead of time instead of driving until you’re exhausted with no place to sleep.

Even if you’re just moving a few blocks into a new apartment, you need a plan. A new address can be a liberating experience, but every move comes with unexpected expenses. By making sure you’re not spending on moving services you don’t need, you’ll be able to relax in your new home – and maybe even pick out a new couch for it.

 

Tips for putting together a summer wardrobe on a budget

With warm weather here and hotter temperatures on the way, you may be thinking your summer wardrobe is a little out-of-date and needs refreshing. But building a new wardrobe on a budget can be difficult. Fortunately, a summer wardrobe can be the least expensive of all the seasons (those heavy coats can be so pricey). Here are a few tips to help you keep costs under control.

Shop at home first

First of all, look in your own closet first before you rush out and spend any money. You may be surprised to find exactly what you are looking for hiding among long-forgotten pieces in the back. It’s also a good time to evaluate what would give you the most bang for your buck. Maybe you have an abundance of pieces of a certain color and adding another complementary color will give you multiple new looks.

Don’t forget that you can actually summerize some of your cold weather clothing. You can easily shorten sleeve length. Just use a contrasting thread when hemming the sleeve, or add lace or a cuff. And cutoffs aren’t just for jeans. If you have some trousers that are fraying, turn them into shorts or capris. Or take a blouse and make a sleeveless shirt.

Try alternate shopping options

crew-59380Consignment shops are an excellent option for budget shopping because you can bring in clothes you want to get rid of and get store credit to exchange for newer clothes, accessories and shoes. Don’t forget thrift stores either. You can often find designer clothing in great condition there.

Another great idea is to host a clothing swap with family, friends and neighbors. Everyone brings a bag of clothing they want to offload and takes turns selecting items they want for their wardrobe. You get the benefits of “thrift store” shopping in your own home, while enjoying hanging out with friends and family.

Okay, now hit the shops

i-m-priscilla-228220Remember that when you do hit the retail stores, start at the back. The displays at the front and center are tempting, but they’re also expensive. Head toward the back first where the sales and clearance items are and make your way forward. Fall clothes start appearing in retail shops in July. Between Memorial Day and Independence Day you will see summer styles become discounted. That still leaves quite a bit of time to enjoy your new shorts before the temperatures drop.

And, as always, don’t forget to set a budget and stick to it. But the most important advice is to enjoy your summer, new wardrobe or not.

Have the right financial talks at the right relationship time

If your idea of first date chitchat includes “I’m aggressively paying down $65K in student loans” or “I don’t believe in sharing groceries,” you probably don’t have a lot of second dates.

Nonetheless, once you do click with someone and you can see the possibility of a future together, you’re going to have to talk about money. Because “I have terrible credit but still go to Paris every year” is an even worse conversation to be a part of, especially after you’ve signed a lease together.

When you become “exclusive.”

If you’ve gotten to the point where neither one of you is interested in seeing anyone else, that means a lot of time together. Even if you’re the kind of couple that stays home and watches a lot of Netflix, you’re going to have to decide who pays for the Internet and pizza.

Questions you need to ask each other: Who pays for dinner and a movie on date nights? How often and important are date nights going to be, anyway? What does a great vacation together look like, and who pays if you want to go camping and your partner wants to go to Prague?

Even if you’re in agreement on paying your own way for entertainment, are you comfortable with someone who spends more than $50 a on bar tabs, video games or clothes every week but doesn’t save that much? At this point, not your problem. Until…

When it starts to get “serious.”

If you’re starting to really consider a future together, your partner’s spending and saving habits gradually become your business. So does that person’s debt. And it cuts both ways.

If one or both partners carry a large debt load, it’s reasonable to expect that a plan to pay it off is in place. It’s time to talk about your financial habits. Are you the kind who keeps bills organized and sticks to a budget, or are you a little more freewheeling? If you’re not the same kind of spenders, can you see a way to work together someday?

This is also the time to talk about your future career paths and whether they might cause conflicts of time or geography in the years to come. Does your dream job exist only in Dubai? Or will you be living here but working 70 hours a week? Are you going to take a huge risk by starting your own business?

Before your first shared “life event” together.

For some couples, it means planning a wedding. For others, it’s buying a house or having a baby. Basically, it means you’re all in, with all your financial chips at stake.

Figure out what’s yours, what’s your partner’s, what’s shared and what would happen if you split up. Sit down and figure out how to merge bank accounts, if at all.

Some couples work well with a shared checking account for the household and separate individual accounts. Unless you have identical salaries, you’ll have to agree on an equation to figure out what goes into the joint account, what goes into savings and what is left over for discretionary spending.

Some couples are content to put everything in one bucket, but that doesn’t mean you get to stop talking about money. For example, ask your partner, “How much would you be comfortable spending on impulse without checking with me first?”

If you say $50 and hear $200, you can split the difference. If you say $50 and hear $5,000, you have some serious talking to do.

Most importantly, sit down and agree on lifetime money goals. When do you want to retire? How are you going to get there? What does that mean for your lifestyle in the meantime?

Couples can figure out how to merge even drastically different budgeting styles, even if it takes a few sessions with a financial counselor and a commitment to open communication.

It’s always much easier to figure out these things before you sign a mortgage or say your vows. Money is the leading cause of conflict in relationships and takes down more marriages than cheating. Talking about money can be hard, but you’ll be glad you did.

Get lower prices – on stuff you’ve already bought

For some people, shopping is fun. Finding deals is even better. Even if you’re not a big believer in retail therapy, you feel a certain satisfaction when you finally locate and purchase a pair of pants that actually fits, right?

Until the same pants go on sale the next week. Then those trousers that seemed like a good deal at $40 feel like a rip-off. If only you’d waited! You could have had them for $25! Now your new pants are tainted, and you’ll stew over that $15 every time you wear them.

Don’t fret. You can get that money back. Here’s how.

The direct approach

If you see that the price on a recent purchase has been lowered, go directly to the retailer. Many large retailers – such as Target, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Wal-Mart and Best Buy – will honor price adjustments if you have a printed receipt or online order number. Most stores will match a competitor’s prices before you buy, but only their own afterward. Target is an exception: They’ll match other stores’ prices for two weeks after purchase.

If you booked a hotel room and saw the price go down, call the hotel and ask to have your bill adjusted to the lower rate. Or, if you won’t face fees, you can cancel your reservation and book again.

The plastic approach

Some credit cards – not all – offer another option called price protection. If your card has price protection, you’ll have to do a little legwork to use it. You’ll probably have to register items after you buy them with your card, then fill out a form after any price drop to get the difference back. Discover customers can receive up to $500 back on items, while Citi’s Price Rewind searches online sites for you in search of lowered prices.

Price protection involves a lot of fine print. You usually have to initiate the process within 60 days, but sometimes you get 90. Get ready for exclusions galore, too. To help you navigate the waters, NerdWallet has a handy breakdown of cards and their price protection features.

The app approach

It sure would be nice if you could scour stores for lower prices without wasting a bunch of time and developing carpal tunnel. Luckily, this is 2017 and there’s an app for that.

It’s called Paribus. Here’s how it works.

After you sign up using your email and your established online shopping accounts, Paribus’ clever little e-detectives scan and monitor your incoming receipts looking for any money that was left on the table. Paribus doesn’t just look for lowered prices and sales. It even knows whether you’ve missed a coupon.

For every discrepancy found, Paribus can submit a claim on your behalf. Then, the money you’re owed, minus a 25 percent commission – goes back into your shopping account.

Paribus involves the least amount of hassle, but it only works on online buys. Everything else requires you to pay close attention to sales and fill out some tiresome forms. But when it comes to bigger purchases, you could be looking at real money. So keep your eyes peeled, and never feel ashamed for demanding the best price.

 

 

 

 

7 Ways to Save $2,000 for Your Summer Vacation

The best vacations are debt-free. Here’s how to save for one.

Sometimes, you need a real vacation. Not just a weekend camping at the lake or a road trip to Grandma’s cabin – a real getaway. It can be hard to justify a spendy trip when you have to save for retirement or pay off student loans, but with a nip here and a tuck there, you can remake your budget without too much pain. And at the end, with the worries of home far away, you’ll be glad you did.

Make a budget.

Sit down with everyone who’s going on the trip and figure out everyone’s priorities. Take into account transportation, lodging and food, of course – but don’t stop there. Familiarize everyone with your destination’s main attractions. You don’t want to get all the way there before you find out those aquarium tickets are $75 at the door and it’s the only reason Aunt Sally wanted to go.

Use your tax refund to start a savings account.

Most American families get more than $1,000 back from the federal government every year. Instead of blowing that money, start a separate account devoted to vacation savings. You’ll have fun watching it grow while you get excited for your trip.

Change your direct deposit.

Yeah, it can be a pain, but take the time to fill out a new direct deposit form with your employer. Socking away $50 to $100 from every paycheck into your new vacation savings account will add up fast.

Side note: If your tax refund was huge, you might be able to offset the effect of saving more by just altering your withholding. A giant refund means you’ve been giving the government an interest-free loan.

Make up for that extra savings.

The idea of a vacation fund is that you don’t have to loot it for funds. So you’ll have to make some sacrifices. You might consider a monthlong spending freeze, where you don’t spend on anything except necessities like food and gas. Get tips on weathering a freeze here.

Meal planning is another good way to save. If you look at how much you spend on food every month, you might be shocked. So eliminate those takeout lunches and pizza deliveries for a while. Dust off your cookbooks, examine your pantry, and make a plan every week before grocery shopping. You’ll save a ton, and you might even look better in your swimsuit when it’s time to hit the beach.

Get everyone involved with earning and saving.

If you’re taking kids or teens on your jaunt, tell them their souvenir and shopping budget for the trip is their responsibility. They can mow the lawn, babysit, organize the garage – all the stuff they got paid for before, only now that cash goes into the vacation fund.

Don’t underestimate how much money you could earn by having a garage sale or putting outgrown toys and furniture up for sale online, either. You’ll just be freeing up more space for vacation memories.

Use the right credit card.

If you’re flying to your dream destination, consider a credit card with a rewards program that pays off in airline miles. Use the card to buy gas and grocerrosan-harmens-18418.jpgies, then pay it off every month while the miles rack up. Just make sure you can use those miles when you actually want to – and that the affiliated carriers go where you want to go.

Book in advance.

This vacation is happening, right? So book it. You’ll get better deals on airfare, hotels and tickets to big attractions like museums. Sometimes, getting early passes to theme parks lets you cruise past long lines like a VIP. And forgetting to pre-book tickets to some in-demand attractions means you just won’t get to go.