(originally published March 2010)
Are you planning a family vacation this summer? April is National Financial Literacy Month, and a great opportunity to review your family’s vacation budget. Financial literacy includes concepts like saving, budgeting, investing and retirement planning. Many people forget that vacations, like any other expense, should be part of the family budget.
When planning your family vacation, take a moment to determine how much you are able to spend. If you have already saved money for this vacation, you are on the right track. If not, determine how much you can start saving each month to build your vacation budget. Keep in mind that money saved for a vacation should not be allocated from money saved for emergencies or retirement. If you are saving $500 per month for retirement, consider adding $100 per month to a separate savings account for vacations.
If you have children, use your vacation as a chance to teach them about the cost of going on a trip and the importance of saving for a goal. Create a “vacation jar” where they can contribute loose change or a portion of their allowance toward your family vacation budget. Keep track of your progress as a family by using a chart your children can fill in as you get closer to your goal.
Once you have determined how much you can spend on your vacation, decide how you will allocate your money for vacation expenses. Start by creating a budget for anticipated expenses like plane tickets, car rentals, gas, hotel/lodging, food, admission costs, travel insurance, etc. Several useful web sites are available to comparison shop for the lowest prices on flights and hotels, including http://www.expedia.com/ or http://www.kayak.com/. If you plan on driving, web sites like http://www.gaspricewatch.com/ or http://www.gasbuddy.com/ can be helpful to estimate gas prices along your route.
If your dream vacation isn’t a financial reality, resist the urge to charge everything to a credit card. Although it may seem convenient in that you don’t have to pay the bill right away, charging your vacation may give you a false sense of security and cause you to spend more than you can really afford. Also, you may end up paying more in the long run because of interest rates and credit card fees. A dream vacation that doesn’t fit into your family budget can quickly turn into financial nightmare.
Keep in mind that summer vacations don’t have to take you out of the state. There are a lot of great things to do right here in Indiana. You can save money by planning a day trip or weekend stay. Go to http://www.visitindiana.com/ to plan your in-state getaway.
If you aren’t financially fit for a vacation this year, get in shape for next summer by using the tools at our web site, http://www.indianainvestmentwatch.com/. There you can find tips and tools for improving your money management behavior. In the “Personal Finance 101” section, you’ll find advice on budgeting, credit and debit cards, retirement planning, buying a home, financing a car and more. In “Investing 101,” you can learn about the basics of investing as well as how to avoid falling victim to fraud. Finally, check out the “What’s What in the Financial Services Industry” to better understand the types of firms, individual representatives and products in the industry, including a definition, a list of exams required for any licenses and the regulatory body that oversees activities.
For more money management tips and tools, and to see a list of Financial Literacy Month events taking place in Indiana, visit http://www.indianainvestmentwatch.com/.