If you happen to be reading this beachside, lakeside, or mountainside, bravo — I’m a big fan of relaxing and recharging. But R&R should never come at the expense of your financial health. My quick quiz will help you make sure your vacation stays on track.
1) Melissa is enjoying a getaway with her besties. She couldn’t afford the $1,800 trip out of pocket, so she’s putting it all (airfare, hotel, margaritas…) on her credit card, which charges the national average interest rate. If she makes the minimum payment each month (1 percent plus interest), what’s the true cost of the trip?
2) Every August, you rent a small cabin with your family. Nothing extravagant—and you save money by cooking all your meals. If the monthly grocery tab is $330 today, what will it be in 25 years if inflation follows its historical average?
C. $6913) Rachel has had a great time vacationing in Cabo the past four years — so great, she’s decided it’s her go-to spot forever. Rather than shell out $2,000 each year for a hotel, she’s considering buying a time-share. If the price is $21,000, what is Rachel’s best move?
A. Keep staying in a hotel.
B. Buy the time-share if she’s 100 percent sure she’ll still love Cabo in ten years.
C. Buy the time-share, but only if she can negotiate the price down to $16,000.
4) Kelly and Ron are planning a romantic week in Paris, but they aren’t sure of the best way to pay for daily expenses while they’re abroad. What’s the smartest plan?
A. Wait until they get to the airport in France and then exchange dollars for euros.
B. Wait until they get to Paris and head to a post office or a bank to exchange.
C. Convert just a small amount of money for getting around and mostly rely on a credit card.
5) For five years, Jessica and Sam have vacationed at a fabulous beach condo on the Gulf Coast, and now they’re in a position to buy it. They’ll need to add the condo to their existing insurance policies. What’s the best deductible for them to choose?
C. $1,500 or higher
1) B. At 15 percent interest — roughly the national average — this trip will actually cost nearly twice the sticker price. To make sure you can pay as you go: Set your budget for next year’s vacation now and divide by 12. Open a new savings account and have that sum auto-deposited each month — and include enough to send me a postcard.
2) C. An average 3 percent annual inflation rate means that over 25 years, the cost of goods will more than double. Playing it supersafe with investments (i.e., sticking to cash accounts and bonds) means you likely won’t keep pace with inflation over the long haul. If you hope to be taking your grandchildren to the cabin someday, consider keeping some of your investments in stocks.
3.) A. Time-shares are often a lousy investment. No matter how low the buying price, they can be very hard to sell at any price — so hard that they’re a hotbed for scammers. (Businesses say they’ll handle a resale, then collect up-front fees and deliver nothing.) Even if the price tag is tempting, the annual maintenance fee—which can run hundreds of dollars or more a year — cuts into the “deal.” And remember: As your life evolves — you marry, you have kids, the kids grow up — your ideal vacation spot may, too.
4.) C. If — and only if! — you’re prudent enough to spend no more than you’ll be able to pay back when the bill arrives, a credit card is the way to go. It’s safer than walking around with cash and reduces the need to pay commissions or embedded fees to exchange large sums of dollars for local currency. Just be sure your card doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee. That can add 2 to 4 percent to every purchase, according to CardHub.com, where you can search for fee-free cards. For a bit of cash to cover incidentals, skip the airport exchange kiosks; you’ll likely find better deals in town.
5.) C. Always choose the highest deductible you can comfortably afford to pay out of your emergency fund. Making small claims will likely lead to higher premiums — plus, a pattern of small claims can lead an insurer to cancel your policy outright. Insurers share information, by the way, so your claims history will impact any deal other insurers may offer. Insurance is meant to cover big stuff, not small, so don’t tempt yourself with a low deductible. A silver lining: The higher your deductible, the lower your annual premium — and the more money for your vacation fund!