Friday, June 17, 2011

Have Envelopes, Will Travel

When it comes to funding our family vacations, we typically designate a certain amount of money each month to be set aside for that purpose.  I like to create a budget for each trip ahead of time so we know exactly how much money we need to save. 

In the past, we've used our debit card for most of our purchases while out of town.  However, after coming home from our last few vacations with a wallet full of receipts to post in the checkbook, we decided to take a different approach this time and use cash.

Our biggest expense while traveling is usually food.  I determined how much money we would need for each of the six days we were away last week.  Breakfast was eaten at the rental  house, but most of our other meals were eaten out.  On the outside of six envelopes, I wrote the day of the week, then put the money we would need for food that day inside. 

I also did an envelope for souvenirs and a "miscellaneous" envelope with money to use for activities like go-karts, bumper boats or miniature golf.  We also needed money for parking on two days, so that went in an envelope.  We did decide to use the debit card for gas, since that wasn't a fixed amount each time.

I put all of the envelopes in a folder and each morning I would retrieve that day's envelope and put it in my purse.  If we didn't spend all the money on a particular day, I moved it ahead into the next day's envelope. 

This worked very well for us!!  If we spent a larger amount for lunch, we knew we needed to eat a lighter supper or go to an inexpensive place to eat in order to stay within the designated amount.  It also made us more conscious of how much money we were actually spending each day.  We stayed within our budget and even came home with $10 to spare!!

Do you budget for your vacations?  What's the best way you save money while traveling?


  1. I love to save money by buying snacks ahead of time. The temptation to spend two to three times as much as a gas station to buy unhealthier foods can be fought with preparation. I like buying things like nuts, dried fruit, LARA bars, gum and drinks. I also buy small, individually wrapped candies for the sweet tooth to keep us from buying and eating the full-size options.

    We occasionally use the envelope method for budgeting, too. It is a great visual to see where your money is going.

  2. Momma Mindy,

    I also try to plan ahead and stock up on food items like cereal and healthy snacks before we leave town. When we stay somewhere that has a kitchen, I usually make a quick stop at a local grocery store when we arrive to buy perishable items like milk and fruit.

    I agree with the importance of the visual factor of seeing the cash leave your hand (or envelope!) It has more of an impact than just handing over a piece of plastic.

  3. We have switched to a cash budget for everything, which has really helped to control our spending! It is amazing how holding money we are less likely to spend it than if we used a credit card!

  4. What a brilliant idea!! I must remember that for our next vacation!

    (And thank you for enabling the name/url so I can comment!! :) )


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