As our anniversary date approached this year, my husband and I started discussing ways to celebrate. Our initial idea would cost several hundred dollars before even getting to what we’d likely spend on meals, souvenirs, and miscellaneous expenses. Although we had some savings set aside, we decided we didn’t feel comfortable spending that much on something non-essential right now. To keep on track with our financial goals, we came up with a day trip that will only cost us fuel, a few meals, and a few minor admission fees. Will it be just as fun as our first plan? I expect so!
We want special occasions to be, well, special. Sometimes that means spending a little extra money than we would normally, but it’s not always necessary either. If you’re on a tight budget right now or just feel like hoarding your savings for other goals, here are a few tips for planning an affordable but memorable getaway.
1. Don’t view the decision (or need) to opt for Plan B as a sign of financial failure; see it as setting yourself up for greater financial freedom in the future.
It can be disappointing to pass up your first idea for the perfect getaway, but try to see the positive side: by using wisdom and self-control in the present, you’re positioning your finances to be in the place where you can spend money on the things you enjoy without guilt or debt.
Our initial anniversary plan is still something we can see ourselves doing in the future because we know we’re making decisions that will only continue to improve our financial freedom to do these kinds of things.
2. Look for frugal travel advice to maximize Plan B and to keep it under budget.
Sure, you’ll save money by not splurging on your first plan, but don’t fall into the mental money trap of anchor price comparison. Even if Plan B looks much cheaper than Plan A, you might end up going over-budget because you think you’re saving money.
One of the things I did to keep our low-budget plan truly low-budget was to browse through Pinterest articles written by people who had visited the destination. Travel websites and blogs are another great resource. Reading through some of these materials helped me eliminate a few overly-touristy (and expensive) venues in favor of less expensive, more genuine experiences so we could maximize our budget.
This also helped me see how I could maximize my time, since we decided to skip the hotel and do a day trip.
3. Take a road trip and skip the hotel.
Hotels can be a waste of money unless it’s absolutely necessary to stay overnight. Since you hardly spend any time in the room if you’re sightseeing, you probably won’t be taking advantage of all the amenities you paid for if you book at a nicer hotel. One possible exception is when the hotel is your destination. If that’s your main expenditure, then by all means, enjoy your luxury!
I can understand how you might not want to stay at a cheap (and maybe questionable) place to sleep though, so why not plan a trip you can tackle in one day? It might mean getting up a little earlier, driving home a little later, and drinking a few extra espressos, but you’ll save money and be more motivated to fit in the most meaningful experiences you can.
Don’t think there’s anything interesting enough within a day’s journey of where you live? Check out your state’s tourism website and see if there’s something you might have missed.
4. Take to nature — it’s free.
Minus the fees you might need to pay for admission to a state or national park, nature is free and much more personal than a cookie-cutter tourist experience. Part of our plan includes a few interesting parks in our destination city that will provide us with exercise, visual stimulation, and quality time – all for the low, low price of nothing.
Planning a budget-friendly getaway means getting a little creative and doing a little research, but these very things could ultimately lead to an experience of a lifetime. In the end, it’s not how much we spend on a vacation that makes it’s great – it’s the memories we make.