One of the biggest take-aways I got from the classic finance book, “Your Money or Your Life”, was the idea that you can meet your needs differently. In our consumer-driven culture, we instinctively reach for our credit cards to meet our needs and wants. If we want to relax, we book a massage or trip. If we are sad, we buy a gadget or purse. We often forget that those same needs/wants can be met by frugal options.
As I said, the idea of frugal options was eye-opening for me. However, after my intial enthusiasm wore off, I fell back to my usual habits of swiping my credit cards. As soon as we decided on our summer vacation, I booked a hotel and started looking for deals to amusement parks and zoos.
Of course a slew of bills, including dreaded DMV fees and medical bills, made me re-think our vacation plans. I cancelled the beach hotel reservation ($140 per night + $20 daily parking fee). Our planned excursions will be scaled down, too. Instead of the Long Beach Aquarium ($18.95 per adult after a discount), I found a smaller aquarium with a $5 admission fee for the entire family. Plus, the beach is free!
If this change of plans was only about saving money, it would be kind of depressing. What makes a difference is that I know that these cheaper options will meet the same needs. A hotel stay would have meant a change of scenery but the kids get cranky in foreign settings and the sleep battle would probably not be worth it. If I hire the cleaning lady for an extra visit, buy some fresh flowers and change the bed sheets, I’ll be pretty happy. As for the fancy aquarium, all I really wanted was to expose my kids to more things. They probably don’t have the stamina or interest to appreciate a large aquarium. A smaller aquarium combined with a visit to a beach (free) will do the same thing.
I’ve also found a lot of free or lower-cost family-friendly activities to fill out the rest of our summer vacation calendar. Summer can be fun and cheap.
What are your exciting vacation plans, if any?