Save Money, Take a Break With 9 Tips to Supercharge a Staycation

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Vacation options budget fun without adding debt, Bills.com says

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Even for a staycation, it is important to keep spending in check

Vacation budgets are tight this year, with many consumers facing lower incomes, savings pressure and increased debt due to the ongoing economic recession, but it is still possible to take a rejuvenating break with tips from free online consumer portal Bills.com.

This year, 30 percent of Americans will save money by taking only one vacation, and 30 percent will spend $1,000 or less total, according to a recent poll. Another 35 percent don't plan to take a vacation at all.

"Last year, when gas prices were sky-high and recession was on the horizon, more people took a 'staycation,' or vacation at home. You can make a staycation memorable and frugal with a few money-saving ideas," said Ethan Ewing, president of Bills.com.

Ewing suggested these ways to supercharge a staycation:

1.    Make a budget. "Even for a staycation, it is important to keep spending in check," said Ewing. Divide the total available funds for vacation by the number of vacation days to establish an approximate daily budget. For the future, make vacation costs part of an annual budget and save a little each month. Even daily pocket change can make a difference, Ewing said.

2.    Be a tourist. Think about desirable activities at a tourist destination: Amusement parks? Historical areas? Thrills, from mountain biking to bungee jumping? "Contact a local visitor center and read brochures or ask questions as if you were new to your area," suggested Ewing. Use savings from not paying for airfare, a rental car and lodging to fund an adventure.

3.    Order in. If part of vacation's appeal is the break from cooking, take a vacation from the kitchen. Ethnic restaurants can offer cheaper eats and introduce new favorites. Hit a hot dog stand for a bargain lunch for the whole family. Or purchase (or make ahead) frozen family-size meals and salad mix for easy meals that keep costs in check.

4.    Unplug. Vow to shun e-mail, just as when on vacation. A true addict might even leave the computer with a friend or relative to make access impossible. Set automatic vacation response messages, and turn off the ringer on the telephone. Even job hunters can benefit from a mental health break to fully relax for a few days.

5.    Camp out at home. For families, camping out in the backyard is a great way to please the kids, save money, avoid the hassle of packing up the car, and enjoy sleeping under the stars with the benefit of indoor plumbing and running water. Pitch a tent, roast marshmallows, and run through the sprinkler if it gets too hot.

6.    Challenge yourself. Make a week -- or a summer -- more exciting with a personal challenge. Try for a personal best score at bowling, tennis, basketball or golf. Learn a new sport, discover a craft (check for video help at the library or online), or master a new gourmet dish.

7.    Entertain. During a staycation, individuals might finally be relaxed enough to enjoy entertaining without the stress. Whether a popsicle party at a local public pool, a casual barbecue or an elaborate dessert buffet to show off baking prowess, entertaining can make a week off more memorable.

8.    Rejuvenate. If budget allows, use some of the funds that would normally be spent on a traditional vacation to splurge. Get a massage, visit a day spa, have a mini-makeover or sign up for personal training sessions at the gym. Or set aside time to complete projects around the house, with the reward of dinner out or a favorite ice cream refresher. Take “before” and “after” photos to see how far the project has come.

9.    Take a "maxi-staycation." If getting away is a must, but an exotic vacation is not in the cards, expand the idea of a staycation to include locations within road-trip distance. "Even with gas prices creeping up again, a family of four can travel within an eight-hour radius for about $120. That's far more affordable than plane tickets, which could cost $1,000 or more for a family of four," Ewing said.

"Wherever a vacation takes you, taking a break from daily routine provides a chance to center yourself and remember the things you love," Ewing said. "This year, commit to finding a way to refresh -- on any budget."

About Bills.com
Based in San Mateo, Calif., Bills.com is a free one-stop portal where consumers can educate themselves about complex personal finance issues and comparison shop for products and services including credit cards, debt consolidation, insurance, mortgages and other loans. Bills.com holds the No. 257 spot on the Inc. 500 list for 2008, and the No. 3 spot on Entrepreneur Magazine's Hot 100 list of the fastest-growing U.S. companies.

Bills.com and its sister companies, Freedom Debt Relief and Freedom Tax Relief, are wholly owned subsidiaries of Freedom Financial Network, LLC. The company has served more than 50,000 customers nationwide since 2002 while managing more than $1 billion in consumer debt. Its RSS feed is available here.

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Aimee Bennett
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