In December, I sat down and hashed out last year's vacation. We really want to stay in the same place, so I emailed the owner. Then I wrote down each day of the week and meals, snacks, activities and fuel for the trip. I assigned a cost to each line item. I over budgeted here. I also made one envelope for each family member for spending money.
Roughly, we get paid between 5-8 times per month depending on the month. My husband has a main job and two side jobs. I work part-time and am paid weekly. I won't go over our budget, but his check basically covers our home, vehicles, etc... and my check covers groceries, hair cuts, clothing, medical visits, etc... My check is a big variable based on sick kids, appointments, etc. as I am paid an hourly rate, and I'm the Mama. Amen.
I have arranged that a set amount of my paycheck go into our bank account each week by direct deposit. Anything over this amount comes to me as a paper check that I cash and distribute. It is sorted into areas like: adoption, vacation, school and church trip fees, etc...
Hear this: whereas tithing comes out of your check first, vacation comes out of your check last.
This may mean some weeks you don't add to your envelope, and that's okay!
Having gift cards helps cut down on the amount of cash we have and also helps in the decision making process of "where will we eat".
When I grocery shop at home each week I do so on a budget. I have a set amount that I can spend each week. I cut coupons and shop sales to stay within that amount. If I am under the amount that I could spend, then I divide the amount I saved in half and purchase a gift card with my savings from my grocery bill. The gift cards can serve as quick meals or fuel and also boost my fuel perks at my local grocery store.
Example: My grocery budget is $100.00.
I spent $60.00.
My savings was $40.00.
I divide that in half and purchase a $20.00 gift card.
This still leaves me $20.00 in my grocery budget for the week to return for milk, bread or forgotten items.
If I go over my grocery budget I do not divide my savings nor do I purchase a gift card.
I try and place $1.00 in each family member's spending envelope each week. They will not be millionaires when we arrive on vacation. They don't need to be.
I fill my envelopes in order from the front of organizer to the back. It is organized in daily order, so in my case from Saturday to Saturday. At this point I am working on my last envelope for our first day of vacation. I have three gift cards for quick meals. Each family member has around $8.00 (adults have less) in their spending money. Pie-girl also has a gift card to use at Build-A-Bear which is always a favorite vacation treat.
We don't pay for our lodging this way. We take the cost of lodging from our tax return and one of Barry's checks from a side job. This is also done in increments, but we don't do it as an envelope because it would take forever.
So, why do we do this?
We are credit card free. We pay cash for vacations and we come home with no regrets. There is no question about whether or not we can afford to do something once we get there. If there is an envelope for it, we can do it. If there isn't then we can consider changing out an activity, or we just don't do it at all.
We like simple activities like playing putt-putt and making a visit or two to the arcade. I search for coupons and deals before we leave and once we arrive. Last year we purchased $49 water park tickets for just $10.00 each. It's deals like this that allow us to enjoy special activities like that. Mostly, we like free activities like playing on the beach or visiting a local state park to see the wildlife.