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

How to save a ton of money on food

This was originally published on Monday, May 4, 2015, in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

Some people’s biggest obstacle when it comes to saving money is not how much they have but themselves. Saving is a lifelong strategy that you have to adopt and make it fit your lifestyle. Sometimes savings can be upfront and easy to see. Other times the savings have to be compounded and added up at the end of the year.

Food is one of the biggest expenses outside of utilities and shelter. It is a necessity and we have seen firsthand that the price of food continues to rise. Watch for sales and plan meals around what is on sale. Many people think that this is time consuming when actuality it really is not. Meal planning is a money and time saver. Sit down and plan your meals for a week then create a shopping list. Having your meals planned could actually save you time since you don’t have to make multiple trips to the grocery store.

A popular meal planning idea are freezer meals. Freezer meals are dishes for which the ingredients are prepared, stored in a container usually in spill-proof bags, and frozen until you’re ready to cook them. There are many recipes online that you can find. Many people take a day, usually on the weekend to prepare a week or more worth of food. They label the bags with the meal and date. You could also do this if you prepare a large amount of sauces or soups. Let them cool then place them in spill-proof containers, label them, and freeze.

Once you make your shopping list, stick to it. Impulsive food purchases will add up. Do not go food shopping when you are hungry. Your hunger could add more to your cart than what is on your list.

Coupons are another way to save money. Some products have coupons right on the product themselves. You can go online and find websites that offer printable coupons. Some of the food company websites also have coupons that can be printed directly from the manufacturer. Usually, your grocery receipt will tell you how much you saved on coupons and sales items. Take that savings total and put it aside at the end of the month. Deposit that money into your savings account. You will be amazed how much you will have deposited by the end of the year.

Another great food tip is to shop at farmer’s or night markets. You can get better prices from local farmers because they do not have to add shipping costs to the prices of their fresh fruits and vegetables like grocery stores do. Because the produce goes from farm to table, the produce is usually fresher and more nutritious. It also helps the local community by keeping the money local.

You may remember the old crockpot or slow cooker your mom used to use when you were younger. These nifty appliances are making a comeback. There are many recipes that you can find online ranging from vegetarian to meaty, and in various cuisines. These meals are great for families that are on the go all day. Throw your ingredients together in the morning and start cooking. By the time you get home from a long day, your dinner is ready. Because dinner is waiting, you will avoid the temptation of going through a drive-through and picking up something. These appliances also are money savers in that they consume much less electricity than the oven or stove.

Packing your lunch is also a great way to save. Many of us will spend between $5 and $10 a day on lunch that amounts to $25 to $50 a week. Deposit that money into your account at the beginning of the month. Since you will be shorter on funds, it will hopefully motivate you to pack your lunch. You could deposit an extra $100 to $200 a month. If you have children and they buy lunch at school, imagine how much more you can save.

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.