A Financial Education Event
 

Sharing and Saving on Hotels

Spring break is here, and summer will be upon us before we know it. If you want to get away from the day-to-day, it can be difficult to work it into your budget. Since the recession, the idea of a “Staycation” has become popular, where a family camps out in the backyard, or does something special to make their time at home feel more like time away. While these are great ideas to save money for people on a budget, I believe there are other ways to get away from home and have an affordable vacation away. Here are some ways to get away for less:

Volunteer Your Way to a Cheaper Vacation: Steve and Debby Trigg first discovered their favorite family vacation spot when they had an ample budget for family fun. They went to a Christian campground in Colorado and fell in love with the staff, landscape, and activities. They also caught the vision of how combining ministry with vacation can help teach their kids the concept of servant missions.

When Steve had his hours cut back at work, they found their vacation budget reduced during those belt-tightening years. They opted to go back to the campground as staff for a week. While their workload was increased, they still had plenty of family time with a ministry emphasis. Steve said, “We decided to volunteer to teach our children the benefits of servant missions and NOT for the benefit of a low-cost vacation—that is a serendipitous blessing.”

Instead of paying $1000 for the week (which is still a bargain for those who are paid guests) they had a working vacation for free. Not all campgrounds offer this kind of a trade-off, but if your family enjoys this kind of environment, it would be worth your time to contact a local retreat center or campground. Go to Acacamps.org for the American Camping Association or try www.google.com and enter your state and “Christian Campground” to find a location near you.

Not all vacation packages are faith-based; some are education-based as well. At Family Hostel, HostelWorld.com, there are trips offered that match families with learning vacations around the world. There are even Elder Hostels, which offer those 55 and older up to 10,000 options starting at as little as $556 for a six day photography workshop in Massachusetts.

WildernessVolunteers.org is a nonprofit organization created in 1997, which offers people of any age a chance to help and maintain national parks, forests, and wilderness areas across the United States. Everything from trail maintenance to vegetation projects may be on the agenda. Participants provide their own camping gear and share campsite chores. Most Wilderness Volunteer trips last about a week and cost around $219.

Great Deals on Hotels: If you have a certain destination in mind, sometimes all you need is a hotel. Check out these sites that can help your vacation be just that much sweeter:

TravelZoo: If you are thinking of visiting a certain place, look under the Hotels tab on TravelZoo.com and pick your destination. It will show you the current deals. It will also give you the option to search prices on several sites. Just make sure you have your check in and out dates.

priceline.com: I love this site. I have used it to get amazing deals at unimaginable prices. The “Name Your Price” tool is a wonder. Start off low and work your way up! This also has International options.

hotels.com: Another great site for finding hotel deals and steals. A unique feature for hotels.com is their rewards program that can help you build up stays and earn a free night. It is never too late to save big with their “Last Minute Deals” tab for all the quick getaway trips.

kayak.com: This is another great site for hotels, as well as flights. It will search hundreds of travel sites to find you the best deals on the web. Through Kayak, you are able to save at least 25%, sometimes even more. You can even scan the popular cities on the home page in order to see what hotels are going for in the area.

No matter what your vacation budget is, it’s important to take time off from the real world to create and develop a meaningful time to foster friendship, marriage and family. In years to come, you may not recall the price of the condominium or quality of the room service, but you will remember those forever memories with the people you love—because they are priceless.

Recession Proof Retirement

Last month, the National Institute on Retirement Security unveiled the findings of a new research report, The Retirement Savings Crisis: Is it Worse Than We Think? Of note, the report found that

  • The average working household has virtually no retirement savings.
  • When all households are included— not just households with retirement accounts—the median retirement account balance is $3,000 for all working-age households and $12,000 for near-retirement households.
  • Two-thirds of working households age 55-64 with at least one earner have retirement savings less than one times their annual income, which is far below what they will need to maintain their standard of living in retirement.

There are a few things you can do to recession proof your retirement. I have been working with the Indexed Annuity Leadership Council, a not for profit group that helps educate consumers. I’ve been working as a spokesperson to help consumers plan for retirement. For my full blog on recession proof retirement, click here and enjoy!

What are some of the ways YOU are planning for retirement?

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

 

Is the Recovery for Real?


One of my favorite musicals is The Phantom of the Opera. I’ve seen it on Broadway, in Spokane and in Los Angeles and it’s always a powerful reminder of the phantoms we struggle with in life. This recession has been a formidable foe for many Americans as they wonder when (and how) it will end.
Recently, Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernake, announced that he believes the recession is over. How do we know if this is the real deal or just a phantom? Here are some signs that the recession is really over:

  • Retail Sales – With the holidays right around the corner, retailers are forever watching to overall gains and losses. Any signs that retail sales are on a sustainable upward trend (3 or more quarters of growth) are good signs for a recovery.
  • Corporate Profits — We will need to see genuine revenue growth from US Companies in order for us to say this area is picking up. We can’t just look at profits that result from cost and job cuts or stimulus incentives. Real growth means real revenue.
  • The Market – When investors move away from safe havens such as low yielding CDs and money market funds and they instead go back to investing in stocks–then we can be sure that confidence in the stock market has been restored.
  • Jobs — Just try to tell the guy who is unemployed, “hey good news! The recession is over!” He’s still without a job–it doesn’t feel like it’s over for him. We’ve lost almost 7 million jobs since the beginning of 2008. Signs that companies are creating jobs, done firing and even looking to hire mean that their cash flow is improving and so is our economy. When there’s a drop in the number of jobless claims (getting below 500,000), then we can believe we’re in recovery.

Whether the recovery is real or we’re still in a recession, it’s important to practice the basics of good financial management: get on a budget, live a more frugal lifestyle, pay down debt, and follow the seven steps to thrive and survive during a recession. If you allow this recession to be a wake up call as to how you manage your money, then your personal recovery will last a lifetime!

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

http://www.elliekay.com/