Cutter Family Finances: Five Tips To Avoid Vacation Debt

Jeffrey CutterRichard Maclone Photography - Jeffrey Cutter

Thankfully, summer is finally here. Kids got out of school on Tuesday, the warm weather is here, and the days are long. Of course, with summer brings vacation, and who does not love a vacation? We can all agree they are well-deserved. But if we start throwing around the b-word, budget, oftentimes we feel like we are ruining the fun.

According to an American Express survey I was reading, two-thirds of Americans plan to travel this summer, spending on average $1,200. And while many people do a great job saving for their travels, they don’t do such a good job in creating a budget for their vacation. In fact, only one in five travelers (20 percent) plan to stick to one while they are on vacation!

Do not think this way, the budget does not kill the fun, it merely lessens stress and headaches when you come home. A little pre-planning now helps prevent staggering credit card bills later. So figure out what you can really afford to spend on vacation and then make sure you stick to that limit. A great way to do that is to only use cash. Each day, carry only the amount allotted in your budget and use credit cards for emergencies only.

As I tell my kids, it is the little things in life that make the big difference. The big things, like airfare and accommodations, are easy to plan and budget for a vacation, but it is the little things that can really throw off a budget. In this case you must sweat the small stuff.

So, Cutter Family Finance readers, here are five tips that can save you big!


Tip #1: Avoid Costly Cab Rides

A little pre-planning here can save you a lot—taxis are pricey! I flew to Chicago last week for the day for work. A 15-minute cab ride from the airport cost me almost 50 bucks. Most cities have subways or buses between downtown and the airport. Ask the concierge at the hotel for the best and cheapest way to get around town. When was the last time you took the subway? When is the last time you took the kids on the subway? Make it an adventure with the kids, creating new experiences that will last a lifetime.

Tip #2: Don’t Travel Hungry

For the same reasons that you shouldn’t grocery shop when you are hungry, you should not travel on an empty stomach. Nothing sinks a travel budget like dining expenses, especially with kids. You can save quite a bit by packing small meals and snacks, even carrying a water bottle that you can refill at water fountains. Not only will you save money, you will eat better and stay healthier.

Tip #3: Eat Smart

This is a big one. You can save hundreds of dollars if you make smart choices about where and when you eat on vacation. When traveling, take advantage of continental breakfasts, or use the kitchenette in your room. How many times during the year do you actually get to eat together as a family with no outside distractions? By taking advantage of those kitchenettes, you can save on expensive restaurants, and have the chance to eat together as a family. If you really want to go out to eat, go out to lunch. I find plate sizes are about the same as they are at dinner, but prices are less. And, you can take leftovers back to your room. Also, if you are like me, I take full advantage of those happy hours—great deals on drinks and food!

Tip #4: Sight See for Free

Just about every city has free museums or parks to visit (even some of the big attractions are free—the Liberty Bell, the Smithsonian museums, some national parks). Certain museums will be free on specific days, like the first Sunday of each month. And although some charge admission fees, there are several websites that offer discounts to bring down the high cost of aquariums, zoos, and other attractions. Check out for links to some of those sites.

Tip #5: Skip the Souvenirs

Swiss chocolates, Statue of Liberty playing cards, an Eiffel Tower key chain . . . many of us feel the need to bring home little souvenirs for all of our loved ones and co-workers. Talk about an easy way to blow your budget! If you really need to get someone a trinket from your trip, check online. You can probably find similar items, but cheaper. Try to only spend money on those truly unique, locally made items.

Vacations are fun, and just like anything else in life, the more you plan, the smoother the ride. This year, try to stick to your plan and your budget. Not only will you enjoy your time away, you will come home with a lot less financial stress.

Be vigilant and stay alert, because you deserve more.

Jeffrey Cutter, CPA, PFS, is the managing partner from Cutter Financial Group, LLC (, which provides private wealth and investment management through low risk, low volatility successful strategies. He can be reached at

Investment advice is offered by Horter Investment Management, LLC, a Registered Investment Adviser. Insurance and annuity products are sold separately through Cutter Financial Group, LLC. Securities transactions for Horter Investment Management clients are placed through Pershing Advisor Solutions, Trust Company of America, Jefferson National Monument Advisor, Fidelity, Security Benefit Life, FC Stone, and Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.

This column sponsored by:

Cutter Financial Group, LLC, a family owned and operated company, was founded by retirement and investment specialists. We engage high quality, independent wealth managers who specialize in significantly reducing risk during times of volatility, while capturing a large majority of the gains of the upside. This strategy allows our clients to secure a better, and worry-free, retirement.

Learn for about Cutter Financial Group on their website


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