Plan to fund your family vacation

This was originally published on Monday, May 22, 2017, in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

Next week is Memorial Day and that officially kicks off the summer travel season. Planning and budgeting the cost of your vacation can vary wildly depending if you are taking a week-long trip to Saipan or flying to Orlando for the whole month.

Once you know approximately how much you are going to spend, the challenge then becomes funding for all that fun.

Sacrifice today for fun tomorrow. Reduce how often you eat out to once a week or once a month. Pack your lunches to work and school. You will be surprised how much you spend on dining out. Cut back on how often you get your hair cut or instead of going to the movie theater wait till you can rent it and watch it at home.

Get everyone involved. Encouraging the kids to help by babysitting for friends or family, washing cars or cutting lawns for the neighbors is a great way for children to earn some extra money to help toward the family’s vacation goal.

 

Holiday spending. There is one time of year that could potentially harm your vacation budget and that is the upcoming holiday season. Talk to your family and remind them of what you want to do. Create a slimmed down version and agree to stay within a certain amount.

Do the same for birthdays and other occasions. For extended family or friends, be creative and make homemade gifts or offer your talents or services instead of material goods.

Tax refund check. If you received a refund you can use it toward saving for your vacation. You don’t have to save it all for the vacation. You can divide the check up many ways.

Extra income. This is a great way to increase your savings for that dream vacation. Extra income does not have to be a formal second job. It could be selling your talents. If you can bake, sell your baked goods to friends or during the holidays. If you are a good seamstress, offer to alter clothing for your friends. Maybe you’re a skilled mechanic and can help with oil changes.

Let others know. Let your friends and family know what you are planning. You may inform them that this year you would prefer money instead of a gift. There are several websites that you can use to ask friends and family to donate. Your friends and family can make a gift or donation to your cause directly online.

Don’t forget to keep track of who helped. While on your trip you can pick up little thank you gifts or create a thank you collage of all the wonderful places you visited.

Stay motivated. There will be days when you are tired of eating that same sandwich you packed for work three days in a row. But before you go out and regret spending the money you are saving, find ways to motivate yourself to keep on going. Put pictures of your dream vacation on your fridge, on your screen saver or even in your wallet next to your credit cards and money.

Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at moneymattersguam@yahoo.com and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at www.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com

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Tips for saving for your vacation

This was originally published on Monday, May 15, 2017, in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

Another summer is just around the corner. Vacations should be fun and memorable. You wait all year for it to come around.

But going on vacation, especially if you plan to travel to far off locations, can put a good dent on your wallet. You may not be ready to fly off to your dream location this summer, but by saving a little here and there you can start getting closer to it.

Here are some tips on how to save money for that dream vacation.

  • Create a vacation account. This is just for vacation purposes. Just like buying a car or any other high-end purchase, you should always start saving money. The account should be separate from the account that you use regularly. Consider opening the account at a different financial institution from your regular checking account so it isn’t easily accessible or tempting to use.

Read terms carefully. You wouldn’t want to spend vacation money paying fees. If possible, have an allotment or payment directly from your paycheck to the vacation account. That way you aren’t tempted to use that money for anything else. Your vacation account can also be used during your trip as an easy way to track your spending while traveling.

  • Examine your budget. Is there something you can cut out or reduce? Maybe you can reduce your cable bill by removing premium packages, or cut your entertainment expenses. Create a special category in your budget just for your vacation.
  • The spare-change jar. This may sound a little old fashioned, but you will be surprised how much money you can save. How much change do you have around the house? After you purchase something, what do you do with your change? If you put just $2 in change in the jar every day, you will have $730 by the end of the year. Imagine what your total will be if everyone in the family participated.
  • Liquidate. We all have things we no longer need — an old game console, desktop computer or VHS player collecting dust. It can be earning you money instead. Place them on eBay or Craig’s List. There are even websites that will offer you money for your old cellphones. You can have a yard sale or take your stuff to a flea market. Get the kids involved by having them collect their outgrown clothes or toys to sell. Make it a game to see who can sell the most.
  • Pantry meals. One of our biggest expenses is food. How much do you spend on groceries in a week? Most of us never completely empty our pantry of canned or boxed goods. To help save some money, take a week out of the month and use only what is in pantry and fridge. This could save you hundreds of dollars and clean out old cans and food you may have forgotten about.

Tips for travel savings

This was originally published on Monday, May 7, 2017, in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

Relaxing and creating family memories on summer vacation is a lot of fun, but they also can carry a hefty price tag. Your dream vacation is not out of reach if you budget well in advance.

To know how much to budget you must plan your trip. Package deals, reward programs and being flexible are some great ways to start. Here are more budget helping ideas to consider:

  • Travel with a large group. Make it a family vacation or travel with friends. Invite along those you would love to spend time with. Large groups can get discounts and share costs. You can split the cost of food if you buy in bulk and cook. Many attractions, including theme parks, offer group rates. You can even rent out large vacation homes that have many rooms that are comparable to hotel rooms.
  • Lodging. Hotels are expensive, but there are some other options. The most inexpensive option is staying with family or friends. You can satisfy the obligatory visit and save on lodging at the same time.

If you are staying in a location for a while, find an extended trip hotel that offers suites you can rent by the week or month. They are usually cheaper than hotels and offer all the amenities of a home, including a fully functioning kitchen.

You may also look for a hostel, a budget-oriented dorm room, usually with shared amenities. You may also try camping in our nation’s parks like the Grand Canyon or renting a home or condominium. Look for kid friendly hotels that offer free lodging for children under a certain age.

  • Eating. Food is one of the biggest expenses while traveling. If you booked lodging with a microwave and refrigerator or kitchen, prepare your meals in your room. Going to the grocery store can be exciting, trying products that you can’t find on island. I’m always amazed at the freshness, variety and options when I go to grocery stores in the U.S. Look for a farmer’s market and get fresh produce. Some grocery store chains even offer meals at their deli which are usually priced much lower than going out.
  • Alternative transportation. If you are going to the mainland, Europe or any large state or country, why stick to flying from one destination to another? Consider taking a bus or train. What better way to take in the scenery than letting someone else drive? You may also consider renting a motor home. It has all the amenities of a house.
  • Use your privileges. If you belong to an organization such as American Association of Retired Persons or the American Automobile Association, go to their websites and look at what discounts and vacation packages they offer.
  • Military discounts. Many times the discount isn’t advertised, but you will be surprised to see how many companies will thank you for your service. Check local morale and recreation offices for discounted tickets. Some amusement parks even offer discounted tickets. If you plan in advance, you can use military lodging, which is available worldwide. Take a look at www.dodlodging.net/ to view all locations. You may also want to consider flying military space-available flights. It may take a little longer to get there, but it will save you a lot of money.
  • Remember the small stuff. Tips, fees and taxes all add up. Stay away from hotel, airport or amusement park stores, because they cost much more. Know how many bags each person can take and maximum weight to avoid extra fees. International and domestic flights differ on the number of bags and weights. Consult your airline carrier.

If you obtain clothes, toys and more during your travels, consider mailing it all home. Look for areas with free WiFi. Talk to your cellphone company about roaming rates. You may consider leaving your cellphone on airplane mode during your trip. You can also purchase prepaid cell phones from many of the large retail chain stores or cell phone carriers.

Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at moneymattersguam@yahoo.com and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at www.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com

Start saving for your summer vacation

This was originally published on Monday, September 14, 2015, in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

Summer is officially over. You may be dreaming of next summer and can’t wait to get a little vacation time. But reality hits and your wallet says otherwise. Depending on how much you put aside, that vacation may be a little more within your reach than you think.

Budget. Rethink your budget. Is there something you can cut out or reduce? Maybe you reduce your cable bill or utility bills. Create a special category in your budget just for your vacation and streamline your expenses.

Sacrifice today for fun tomorrow. Maybe eat out once a week instead of daily. Pack your lunch to work. You will be surprised how much you spend on dining out. Cut back on how often you get your hair cut or skip a trip to the movie. Remind yourself that it is only temporary and in a few months you could be on the dream vacation you have always wanted.

Have a yard sale. Yard sales are a great way to make money and clean the clutter. Find items that you hardly use or clothes that the kids have outgrown. The money that you make should go directly into the savings account you created for your vacation.

Start a spare change jar. Take all the spare change you collect during the day and deposit it in a jar. You will be amazed how much change you collect. Include the family and watch it grow.

Pantry week. How much do you spend on groceries in a week? If you are like most of us your pantry never really gets empty. One week out of the month use only what is in pantry or the fridge.

This could save you hundreds of dollars and clean out old cans and food that you may have forgotten about. You will also be forced to use those items that are close to expiration. We all waste money by having to throw out expired items.

Holiday spending. There is one time of year that could potentially harm your vacation budget and that is the upcoming holiday season. Talk to your family and remind them of what you want to do. Create a slimmed down version and agree to stay within a certain amount. Do the same for birthdays and other occasions.

For extended family or friends, get creative and make homemade gifts or offer your talents or services instead of material goods. I read an online article recently on various things to do with unused Lego. Yes, Lego. Those blocks worth hundreds of dollars that your children don’t play with anymore. Items were created out of the Lego which could be used as very creative, useful gifts.

Tax refund check. Although it may be tempting to use, you could deposit your tax refund into your vacation savings account.

Second job. A second job does not have to be a formal one. It could be cutting grass or babysitting for others. If you can, sell your baked goods to friends or family during the holidays. If you are a good seamstress, offer to alter clothing for your friends. Maybe you’re a skilled mechanic and can help with oil changes.

Let others know. Let your friends and family know what you are planning. You may inform them that in lieu of gifts, this year you would prefer money which will be used for your family vacation. You’ll be surprised at how your friends and family accept the idea and are very generous when the money is going to a good cause and to the entire family.

There are several websites that you can use to help fund your trips. Your friends and family can make a gift or donation to your cause directly online. Don’t forget to keep track of who helped. While on your trip you can pick up little thank you gifts or create a thank you collage of all the wonderful places you visited. Send those that helped postcards to show them how their gift helped fulfill your dream.

Stay motivated. There will be days when you are tired of eating that same sandwich you packed for work three days in a row, or see a pair of shoes you just have to buy.

But before you go out and regret spending the money you are saving, find ways to motivate yourself to keep going. Put pictures of your dream vacation in your fridge, on your computer screen saver, home screen on your phone, or even in your wallet next to your credit cards and money.

Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at moneymattersguam@yahoo.com and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at moneymattersguam.wordpress.com.

Tips to avoid a costly vacation

This was originally published on Monday, August 31, 2015, in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

Question: My family and I want to go on vacation next summer, we want to take the kids off-island, but it is so costly. Do you have any tips on how we can bring the costs down?

Answer: Another summer has past and kids are back in school. Vacations should be fun and memorable. You wait all year for another time to go on vacation. Going on vacation, especially if you plan to travel to distant locations, can also put a good dent on your wallet. Although next summer may be a whole year away, today is the perfect time to start planning for your next summer vacation.

Start a vacation savings account. Just like buying a car, or any other high end purchase, you should always start saving money for an upcoming event. Create an account that is separate from the account that you use regularly. This account should be dedicated to just the vacation. If possible, have an allotment go directly to this account so you don’t become tempted to use it.

Be flexible. Unless you know specifically where you want to vacation, keep your options open. Do some research. Find a vacation destination that fulfills your idea of fun and gives you the most bang for your buck. This could include international travel that is closer, reducing your travel cost. Guam is so close to the orient and there are similar entertainment destinations such as Tokyo Disney and Universal Studios in Osaka. The Dollar has been quite strong against the yen so it may not be as expensive as you think going to those destinations. Destinations that cater to tourists usually are pricier. If you can, travel outside the high travel times. Usually the best times to travel is May through early June. Airfares, rental cars and hotels have some of their best deals outside the peak summer travel months. Weekday travel is usually cheaper than traveling on a weekend. Avoid traveling on three-day weekends, especially those during the summer.

Use your points or rewards. From airlines, to gas stations, and even your credit cards can save you money by using their customer loyalty programs. Some programs may even partner up with other companies to offer package discounts. There are two banks on Guam that offer points for use on their credit cards or debit cards that can be redeemed for travel and/or lodging. The key is to pay those cards off monthly.

Think outside the hotel. One of the larger costs is lodging, especially if you have a large family. Staying in hotel rooms for several weeks can add up. There are many different options than staying in a hotel room. You can rent homes or apartments through a vacation rental company. By thinking outside the hotel you can maximize your money by cooking meals and being close to many attractions. You may also check to see if you have family or friends in the area with whom you could stay.

Find package deals. Travel agents and even online booking sites offer package deals that can save you money. Package deals could include airfare, transportation, lodging and food.

Travel with a large group. Make it a true family vacation or travel with friends. Large groups can get discounts and share costs. You can split the cost of food if you buy in bulk and cook. You may even rent a house and share the lodging costs. Many attractions including theme parks offer group rates.

Book in advance. Book your airfare, hotels or rental cars well in advance. This usually saves you money. Some travel websites recommend anywhere from forty-five to ninety days in advance. Check fares early and often. You can sign up for airfare alerts through certain programs online. Once again, be flexible. Usually the most direct route is the most expensive. If you have time consider alternate routes. Flying one route to your vacation and flying back on another may save money. You may have more stops and layovers but as the saying goes, “It’s not about the destination it’s about the journey.”

Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at moneymattersguam@yahoo.com and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at www.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com.

Planning helps you get the most savings out of vacation

This was originally published on Monday, September 9, 2013, in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

Family vacations are a great way to relax and create lasting memories.

They can carry a hefty price tag, but that dream vacation is not out of reach, even if you are on a tight budget. Once you have saved money, you want to make sure you get the most bang for your buck.

• Sooner the better. Book airlines, hotels, car rentals and amusement parks in advance, play around online with different dates to see how much you can save.

• Off-peak traveling. Most of us feel that summer is the time to travel, but you can pay much more during these busy travel months. Think about the week of spring break, the four days of Thanksgiving, or a few weeks before or after summer break. Talk to your children’s school. Schools are willing to work with you by giving your children’s schoolwork in advance or staying connected via emails. Schoolwork is a great way to keep kids busy on an airplane. The day of the week that you travel or stay also can affect your budget. Be flexible.

• Use your privileges. Use the discounts offered to you through your credit cards, airline or hotel memberships. Many vacation services and destinations partner up and offer discounts. If you belong to an organization such as American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), make sure you contact them for vacation offers and discounts.

If you are a military member or retiree, ask for discounts while you are traveling. You may be surprised how many locations offer military discounts to thank you for your service. Check with your recreation services on discounted tickets to amusement parks or museums. Many services offer lodging worldwide (http://www.dodlodging.net), and some even offer great destinations such as Kauai or Naples. If you are really flexible and would like an adventure, try flying space available (MAC Flights). You earn these privileges, so take advantage of them.

• Lodging. Hotels are expensive, but there are some other options. The most inexpensive option is staying with family or friends. You can satisfy the obligatory visit and save on lodging.

If you are staying in a location for a while, find an extended trip hotel that offers suites you can rent by the week or month. They are usually cheaper than hotels and offer all the amenities of a home, including a fully functioning kitchen.

You also could look for a hostel, a budget-oriented dorm room usually with shared amenities.

You also may try camping in our nation’s parks like the Grand Canyon or renting a home or condominium. Also, look for kid-friendly hotels that offer free lodging for children under a certain age.

• Eating. Food is one of the biggest expenses while traveling. If you booked lodging with a microwave and refrigerator or kitchen, prepare your meals in your room. Going to the grocery store can be just as exciting as trying products that you can’t find on island. I am always amazed at the availability and choices of fresh fruit and vegetables when I shop in the US. Some grocery stores even offer a deli with full meal choices. Look for a farmers’ market and get fresh produce.

• Remember the small stuff. Tips, fees and taxes all add up. Bring your children’s entertainment with you.

Don’t use the small stores in hotels or amusement destinations as they cost much more.

Travel light as baggage fees can be very costly.

You will gain clothes, toys and much more during your travels. It can be much less costly to mail them home.

Look for areas with free WiFi.

Also remember that if you take your cellphone, you may incur some hefty roaming charges. If you want to take your phone, have your data services suspended before you leave.

You also may want to consider purchasing a prepaid phone that you can purchase at any large chain retail store. Using the phone in a hotel can create a much larger bill.

Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at moneymattersguam@yahoo.com and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at http://www.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com/
 

To save for vacation, get the family involved

This was originally published on Monday, September 2, 2013, in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

Question: My family and I would love to go on a vacation next year. Do you have any tips that could help us save money for and during our vacation?

Answer: Going on vacation can be very expensive, especially if you are going off island. Like any large purchase, you need to plan and save. We recognize how important it is to take some time off from our hectic lives and relax with our family, but it should not be at the expense of putting us in a financial bind.

Starting early and creating a budget is the best plan. If you can plan well in advance, you can save more money. Give yourself about a year to start saving. Here are a few tips on how to save for a vacation:

• Create a vacation account. Create a special savings account just for vacation purposes. Your vacation account also can be used during your trip as an easy way to track your spending while you are traveling. If possible have an allotment or direct payment come directly from your paycheck to the vacation account. That way, you are not tempted to use that money for anything else. Consider opening the account at a different financial institution from your regular checking account.

• The spare change jar. Sounds old-fashioned, but it works. Did you know that you can save $500 in a year if you dump $1.37 in spare change into your spare change jar every day? If you have two adults adding to the jar or even getting the whole family involved, that total could be much higher. You can even make it a game to see who saves the most spare change at the end of the year.

• Liquidate. In other words, look around your house and sell things that you no longer need. Get rid of the old desktop computer or VHS player that is sitting around the house collecting dust. Place them on eBay or Craigslist. There are even websites that will offer you money for your old cell phones. Have a garage sale. There may be a gold mine of outgrown clothes or toys!

• Get everyone involved. Babysitting, washing cars or cutting lawns for the neighbors or family members is a great way for children to earn some extra money to help toward that vacation goal. Ask grandparents and family members to contribute to the vacation fund instead of a gift for holidays or birthdays. Make a special thank you gift of photos taken from the trip.

• A savings thermometer. This is a great way for all to see your progress and continue to be excited about saving for your vacation. Don’t forget to save a little more for emergencies.

Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at moneymattersguam@yahoo.com and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at www.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com