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 the family vacation

This was originally published on Monday, May 1, 2017, in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

Question: My family and I have talked about going on a dream summer vacation off island a few years from now before my oldest graduates from high school. Do you have any tips to help me give my family the vacation of a lifetime?

Family vacations, whether on island or off island, are lots of fun and create many wonderful family memories. These family memories will be shared for a lifetime, but you don’t want the trip to put you and the family in a financial bind.

Going off island can be very costly. Just the plane tickets alone are expensive. Of course, with anything that expensive, you need to save. Making the family dream vacation come true is a great feeling, but you certainly want to plan and budget well in advance. Here are a few things to consider when putting your family vacation budget together.

  • Be flexible. Do you know exactly where you want to go? If not, keep your options open. Do some research with your family. You may want to consider traveling internationally, especially if the dollar is strong. Look for destinations that provide you the most for your money. The typical tourist destinations are usually pricier.

The best time to travel is May through early June. Although the kids are still in school, it can save you money. Talk to your child’s school and see if they can arrange a way to let your child out a little earlier. By traveling during the off-peak times, you can save a lot of money. Airfare, 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. Also avoid traveling on three-day weekends.

  • Non-summer travel. Does your vacation have to be during the summer time? Think about spring, Thanksgiving or winter break. Most schools are willing to work with you to extend these breaks a few more days so that you can travel. Schoolwork is a great way to keep kids busy on an airplane.

Use your points or rewards. Many companies now give incentives to use their services. Many airlines, gas stations, car rentals, hotels and credit card companies can save you money by using their customer loyalty programs. Some programs may even partner up with other companies to offer package discounts.

  • Shop around. Travel agents can help you create the dream vacation and are convenient. But they do charge extra for their time. Get quotes from several different agencies before committing. You may also want to consider an online booking agency. Many of them can create package deals with airfare, hotel, rental car and amusement parks. Since they have direct contracts with these companies, they can be less expensive to book.

Whether you use a traditional travel agent or online booking, be sure that you know what you are buying. Spend a little extra money for a refundable option. You may run into some difficulties during travel or even before you start. The last thing you want is to pay for that dream vacation that you never took.

  • Book in advance. Whether it is airfare, hotels or rental cars, booking in advance usually saves you money. Some travel websites recommend anywhere from 45 to 90 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 or flying one route to your vacation and flying back on another. You may have more stops and layovers, but as the saying goes, “It’s not about the destination, but 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

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.

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