Still trying to get the beach body ready in time for the summer vacation? Some diet and exercise tips can work wonders for your waist line and your travels, as well as your wallet.
In Pictures: Vacation Savings Tips
- Get on the Ball with Stability
If you are searching for financial balance, then start with your debit card. The use of debit cards has drastically reduced the number of transactions paid by cash or check. A haphazard debit card spending spree could throw off your budget and overdraw your account; the latter will lead to hefty overdraft fees. Plastic is a more convenient form of payment than a check; however, purchases by way of plastic should be tracked as if they were checks.
- Routinely Stretch Your Dollars
Ever looked at a bank statement and wondered where your money went? Instead of spending now and figuring it out later, give yourself a cash allowance at the beginning of each month. With a plan, your dollars can go a lot further. Using cash can also help decrease impulse spending and help you save on ATM surcharges. Muscles need stretching, so do dollars. (Learn more budgeting tips in Get Your Budget In Fighting Shape.)
- Avoid a Wipeout
Summer is a popular season for weddings, reunions, vacations and graduations. Unless you have a sudden rise in income to accompany the rising temperatures, you will have to make room for special occasions or risk missing them. Neglecting to account for such events may force you to use debt, dip into savings or miss the events altogether.
- Step Up Your Payments
Many credit card companies use different formulas to calculate the minimum payment due; however, the minimum payment typically amounts to between 2-4% of the card's outstanding balance. A penalty may prevent you from paying less than the minimum payment, but there is nothing to stop you from paying more. By paying an extra $10 each month, a $1,000 balance with a minimum payment of $40 per month could be paid off in 23 months, as opposed to 29 months. Just like in the gym, it will take you longer to see results if you only do the bare minimum each period.
- Be Prepared for a Rainy Day
Rain or shine, an umbrella can protect you and your valuables in the case of undesirable weather. When away from the beach, it may be worthwhile to consider just one insurer to cover several of your insurance needs. Many insurance companies offer substantial discounts to policyholders who hold multiple forms of coverage such as auto, homeowners and boat. In addition to discounted premiums, you will have fewer companies to pay each month and to deal with in the event of a loss.
- Leave Room for Extra Baggage
On many trips to the beach, you may spend and bring back more than you initially intended to. If you are planning to make any large purchases this summer, be sure to leave yourself some room for associated costs. For example, suppose you can fit $350 into your budget for a car payment. But the car payment is not the only cost that accompanies the car. At the very least, you should also factor in the cost of insurance, gas and routine maintenance. Estimating these figures upfront can help you narrow your search and avoid financial discomfort later. (Find out more about the costs of car ownership, read Car Shopping: New Or Used?)
The Bottom Line
Getting ready for the beach involves hard work and commitment. The steps listed here can serve as a starting point, but the final step with any exercise is to repeat it. We have all heard the saying "practice makes perfect." The process of perfecting a budget is similar to that of mastering a physical exercise - the benefits are best realized after repetition. Build your budget early and revisit it often to enjoy the benefits of a healthier, leaner monetary lifestyle.
Catch up on the latest financial news in Water Cooler Finance: The iPhone Launch, Buffett's Lunch And BP's Lashing.