Friday, May 10, 2013

Vacation {Budgeting} Planning Mini Sessions: Lesson 4

If you're new on the scene you can read lessons one, two and three by clicking on the links above.

By now you're armed with your notebook containing your list and a organizer full of envelopes. I know that some of you really are because I've seen your pictures on Instagram! Yippee!

Now it's time to fill those babies up! This is the hardest part for me, I'm not going to lie to you. Saving money on our budget is HARD. Especially with three kids and a host of medical bills. BUT, two things are very important to me when it comes to my family: vacations and picnics. They are my favorite and we shall have them both as long as the Lord allows it. Some weeks I am literally only adding a few dollars in (like truly, a few dollars!). Don't get discouraged.

We take in 5-6 paychecks per month. I have my personal paycheck set up to where a designated amount goes into my checking account as direct deposit and any amount over that comes to me in a paper check. Most weeks I get a paper check for any amount from $1.00 to $40.00. Sometimes I don't get one at all. When I do receive a paper check I cash it and divide it between vacation and Riley's God Pocket. When Barry is paid I take a small amount (usually $20.00) and also place that into our vacation envelopes. On the months that he gets an extra check I take a little more and tuck it away.

I start filling my envelopes in order from the first day to the last. There are two exceptions to this: fuel and our family envelopes.

I try to tuck a little into the fuel envelopes each week. There's no point in planning a vacation without saving for the fuel along the way.

For our family envelopes I tuck in $1.00 each week into each family member's envelope. This will be every one's spending money. Since we cover all of their meals, snacks and activities, there isn't a need for them to have a great deal of money. If there is a special activity they want to do like rock climbing or laser tag, they will pay for that from their spending money. They can also buy their own souviners because we don't do that either.

I put a checkmark in my notebook beside each item as the envelopes are filled. This helps me know where to go on payday and keeps track of my progress.

Another way I add to our vacation pack is by purchasing gift cards for some quick meals. We have a set amount for our grocery budget each week. If I am under budget when I am done with my shopping, then I pick up a gift card to make up some of the difference, but still leaving enough for returning to pick up more bread, milk, etc... during the week. At our grocery store we earn double points towards fuel perks by buying gift cards. So this also helps me save on my fuel costs once per month as well.

When I purchase gift cards I buy them for less than I think it will cost instead of more. I can make up the difference from my cash in my meal envelope and avoid be stuck with a low balance on a gift card afterwards.

I also dig through my purse. Gift cards can add some nice perks to your vacation without being an expense to you. Coffee for the parents, food for all and entertainment for the kids and I didn't spend a dime!

Consider requesting gift cards as gifts when people ask for suggestions. Gift cards for meals, activities and snacks will come in handy. During the Christmas holidays many restaurants offer deals where you can earn extra gift cards with the purchase of a gift card. Take advantage of these deals when possible and save yourself a little money down the road.

Don't forget about shopping! We save as many gift cards as possible for shopping on vacation. This really comes in handy if it pours rain during your vacation and cabin fever sets in. Otherwise, it's just fun.

Keep an eye out for free Redbox codes, local coupons and discount cards. I go online before we go and sign up to receive emails about special offers. I also call places we plan to go when we get there to ask if there are any special deals.

This one? It's my fave. We save and save and save our change. It doesn't look like much but when it comes down to counting time it usually serves us up a trip out to ice cream or a round of putt-putt. I leave no pillow unturned.

I also have a yard sale to clean out our junk and fill up a few envelopes a few weeks before we leave. This is a win-win all around if the shoppers are buying.

We have a few weeks left until vacation and I still have about 16 envelopes that are not filled. In all likelihood, they won't all be filled. It's OKAY! I have over budgeted on meals, have some gift cards and plan to have a yard sale in a few weeks. I also will continue to stick a few dollars in each week. At this point my main focus is finishing up my fuel envelopes and one particular activity envelope. Even if they aren't filled completely, it will likely all even out. Filling the envelopes completely is my goal, not a requirement.

Something else I like to do is plan a few simple activities to make some special memories on our vacation. Last year I picked up some glow sticks and necklaces at our local dollar store before we left. We pulled them out one night after dinner on the screened porch at the townhouse. The kids really enjoyed it and it only cost me about $2.00 ahead of time.

Before we leave I collect a few things from around the house and line the bottom of my suitcase with some rainy day activities. We generally take a few board games in our family bag. To my personal bag I add some simple puzzles in Zip-loc bags, coloring books, stickers, a movie, etc.. I only pull these out if we are in desperate need of some entertainment. 

One more post and we'll be done! See ya soon!

God is good, all the time!


  1. IDK if you grocery shop at Bilo for the fuelperks, but one suggestion if you don't already! Buy the gift cards from Bilo with your bonus card, then you get the fuel perks for cheaper gas... :-)(And again- you may know this already!)

  2. Your organization and discipline is amazing! I budget "per day" but never per activity or per person. Awesome tips!

  3. LOL! I'm like a little kid waiting for the updates!! I didn't have one of those expandable files so I went to Target - and found it in THE DOLLAR SPOT! Score!!
    I make it a habit of keeping/saving all my change, too. I save the quarters separately becuse they are REAL $ to me and dump the rest in a can. Every few months I take the can to the CoinStar machine. If you have the money put on a gift card, they don't charge the 10% to count it. I usually have it put on Starbucks or Amazon. That way I NEVER feel guilty about having a pricey coffee or buying a new book for my Kindle. This is especially important because I don't work summers - so I don't get paid!! I have done many if the things you do for many years to ge through summer: I buy gift cards to the grocery store all year long and I pay extra on my utility bills all year so I don't have to pay them over the summer.

    Thanks so much for your tips, Joy. I am REALLY loving them! Keep up the good work, mama!!


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