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I want to be clear on something I feel is important. If you can be responsible with your money there is no reason you can’t enjoy it now and enjoy it later. Responsibility is, and always has been, the key to this equation. When you get a job you are asked to be a responsible steward of your company. When you are asked to babysit you must be responsible for the care of someone else. The same thing goes for how you manage your money.  It is possible to both live well and responsibly.

If you are up to your eyeballs in debt then you need to keep your spending in check and focus on the task at hand. But so many finance writers focus on saving, retiring, and debt elimination. When is the last time someone told you it is OK to spend your money? I want you to know that it is OK when you plan it out and pay in cash.

It doesn’t do you any good to collect a lot of money and sit on it like Scrooge McDuck. If I had a tower of money I could swim in it, it wouldn’t be as much fun as some of the things you can do with it though. I don’t advocate being irresponsible with your money but I want you to enjoy it and your life now and in the future.

The reason I  bring the subject up is a vacation we are planning on taking later this year. It is to one of those all inclusive deals in the Caribbean. I could certainly find cheaper places to go but this is one of our dream vacations. We aren’t talking about chump change either. In all for me, my wife, and two kids we are looking at around $7,500.00 for one week vacation at an all inclusive resort. That includes the food, drinks, activities, and airfare.

A lot of people would balk pretty quickly at a $7,500 vacation. I mean hell most people in the finance community  wouldn’t pay that much for a car let alone a vacation. I am sure there will be some interesting comments about my choice but to me it is worth it. We are going to pay cash for the vacation without affecting our current savings, retirement, or other obligations. Having eliminated the last of our consumer debt it is a great way to reward ourselves for the last several years of sacrifice.

So you tell me would you be willing to pay $7,500.00 to go on vacation and enjoy the now or would you sock it away for the hope of something you might be able to do later?

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Coming off an exhausting vacation of chasing down overstuffed characters at the “Happiest Place on Earth” I thought it prudent to cover a few of the things you can do to cut down on your costs, and time in line, at theme parks. My own personal experience was with Disney World but the same concepts apply for any theme park.

  1. Cinderellas_Castle_NightBring your own Water – When we first got to Disney it was pushing 100 degrees, water wasn’t an option it was a necessity. Thankfully we had the foresight to stop by a grocery store before checking in and picked up some bottles of water. We would fill the bottles at night and keep them in the fridge (if you have a freezer even better). We would pack them up in our backpack and then throughout the day we could drink for “free” at the parks. Bottled water would cost you a fortune and the water fountains have been handled by half of the world.
  2. Eat Breakfast Before you go – We picked up granola bars and fruit to keep in the hotel room, this allowed us to eat breakfast before we went to the parks eliminating the need to eat at a quick service spot for at least one of the three daily meals. You could even extend this to include sandwiches brought in to the park for lunch.
  3. Bring Snacks – Let’s face it you are going to get hungry as you walk around for 12 hours chasing down Winnie the Pooh, or waiting in line for the Dumbo ride. Why pay $6 for a turkey leg when you could have brought bags of chips, trail mix, or beef jerkey in your back pack.
  4. Get on the Wagon – One of the largest expenses you are likely to incur on your trip is the cost of beer or other alcohol. Your resort, and the parks, are going to charge you an arm and leg for a beer. I was paying, and yes I did pay it, $5.25 or more PER beer. I can buy a 12 pack of Yuengling for $10, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to do the math on that one. Either don’t drink at all or wait till you get back to your room to hit the stash you brought with you.
  5. Time Your Trip Right – My wife and I are in a pretty good position right now, we don’t have any school age children so we can hit the road anytime we have enough vacation stored up at work. The biggest advantage is avoiding peak travel times to places like Disney World. Not only are the crowds lighter but they will most likely be offering specials to entice you to come during that time. Disney is running a special now where if you stay on property for a certain number of nights they will give you the dining plan for free.
  6. Be Prepared – Check the weather and be prepared ahead of time. If the weather calls for rain make sure you are prepared for it and purchase your umbrella and some poncho’s before you leave town.  It is going to cost you about half as much if you purchase these items at the store instead of at the park and if you are prepared you can still be getting around while everyone else is ducking for cover.
  7. Make a Friend on the Inside – OK so this one may not be as easy to do but it will save you the most money. If you have a friend or relative who works for the company you can save big dollars. Free admissions to the park as well as possible discounts on hotel rooms and other park amenities. I can assure you it is a pretty nice perk.

Let us know of anything I missed by leaving a comment with your own tips.

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This is a guest post from My Life ROI. If you like this post, check out his website or subscribe to his feed. He writes a personal finance blog that focuses on what he calls “sensible” personal finance. Right now he is giving away a gift card to Global Giving, so go check his site out and try to snag it!

With Kyle going on vacation, I thought it would be a great idea to write a post about alternate vacation ideas. Flying is very expensive if you don’t research it thoroughly and hotels aren’t cheap, either.

So, have you thought about a “staycation?” Whether you dislike traveling or just can’t afford to take a trip, staycations can offer a very relaxing week!

Guidelines to Follow

Before reading on, I will give you some guidelines you must agree to abide by:

  • Do not think about “chores,” you wouldn’t have them on vacation so you don’t have them on staycation. Plan accordingly!
  • Would you spend 5 hours a day watching Opera, Dr. Phil, and Law and Order re-runs on vacation? My assumption is no, so don’t do it on staycation, either.
  • Unless you are the President of the United States or someone else important, do not log into your work email or turn your work phone on.
  • Building on the above… detach yourself from your blackberry and computer as much as possible. Put up an “out-of-office” and vacation voicemail.
  • Make any arrangements you need to for the week of your staycation OR the following week prior to your staycation week.

Sign here x________________________ Date _____________

6 Things To Do On Your Staycation

Alright, now that we have that taken care of, what are some things you can do on this staycation of yours? Every location is different and thus my suggestions may need to be adapted, but hopefully they will give you a good framework.

  1. Invite all of your friends over for a fancy dinner party. Either order really good food or, if you are up for the challenge, make a delicious homemade meal. Spend the day chopping up spices, tenderizing meat, listening to the radio, and having a few drinks. Get some nice bottles of wine for when the guests arrive. Play Pictionary, Scene It, Scrabble, Quizzo, or whatever game you all want to play as a group! This will provide a great time to catch up with friends that you were too busy to hang out with before.
  2. You saved a lot of money on airfare, hotels, theme parks, etc. Treat yourself to a day of relaxation. This isn’t something you do all of the time, so try not and think frugally and just let go. Go to a day spa with your hunny. Get whatever you want… massage, pedicure, etc.
  3. If you are like me, you probably know your city inside and out. You have lived there for years, right? Well, you may be surprised at how much you don’t know! Try and see your city as a tourist. You can do this by going on a bus tour, a tour of a museum, and miscellaneous other activities. If you already know all of that information, you can still walk around and find new shops and restaurants that have opened while you were sleeping. I have personally done this multiple times in Washington DC, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, and have learned quite a bit.
  4. Go to a local market. Whether it is a farmer’s market, organic market, flea market, or any other assortment of markets, you may find some cool stuff you didn’t know about. If your local grocery store has food that doesn’t quite interest you, perhaps you will find a new avenue to get good food. Or if you want to look for some oddball items, a flea market may be perfect for you. Markets become real busy over the weekends and during the summer, so try and find some! After all of the walking around you may be hungry, so grab some food at a nice local restaurant!
  5. My favorite activity when I visited England, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary… etc… was having a picnic in the park. I would go with friends, bring a blanket, take a good book, pack a Frisbee, and grab an assortment of different foods. Depending on your area, you might be able to bring some wine or beer, too. You can do this solo, with you and your significant other, or invite a lot of people and make a party out of it.
  6. On your last day before returning back to work, make it a little more casual. Do some cleanup work you have been meaning to do around the house, paint a room, redecorate your living room, or whatever you want to do.

Your Thoughts?

This may not sound as fun as going to the Caribbean, but it is a lot better than taking a week of vacation and then living life normally. I get sad when my co-workers tell me that they took a vacation but didn’t go anywhere. I ask what they did instead and they just lived their lives. Your vacation may not be a plane ride away but it should still be memorable.

If you do decide to go on a traditional vacation, make sure to decipher the vacation reviews to save money.

Hope you enjoyed this post. Let me know if you have any other suggestions!

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