Cheaper Alternatives To Boarding Pets While You’re Away From Home

Pets are amazing and brighten our lives every day, well most days at least.

Unfortunately, when it comes time to go on a vacation, visit relatives over the holidays or leave your home for an extended period of time, you’re often left with an expensive bill for boarding your pet.

Luckily, Tori and I have been able to avoid boarding our dog, Daphne, when we go on vacations.

We’ve easily saved hundreds of dollars by coming up with alternative arrangements for our pets while we’re away from our home and can’t take our pets with us.

Have Family Watch Your Pets

If you have family that lives near by and loves your pets as much as you do, having your family watch your pets will often be the cheapest and easiest solution.

My parents live nearby and they love Daphne so they don’t mind watching her for a few days. It does, however, add more stress to their daily lives so having them watch our dog shouldn’t only benefit us.

Next time your family member goes out of town you can offer to take care of their pets for them. This way, both parties involved get a benefit out of the arrangement and everyone saves money.

Of course, if they don’t have pets, you may want to slip them some cash for their troubles or buy them a souvenir from your vacation.

Unfortunately, not everyone has family that lives nearby, but there are many other options for cheaper pet care besides your family members.

Arrange For A Pet Watching Swap With Friends

Just because you aren’t related to your friends by blood doesn’t mean that they don’t love your pets, too!

Like with family, you can arrange a pet watching swap with a friend that has pets. After all, they might need someone to watch their pets when they go out of town, too.

If your friends don’t have pets, maybe one of your friends wouldn’t mind getting out of their home for a few days. They could at your place while you’re gone and watch your pets at the same time.

It wouldn’t hurt to bribe them with a little extra spending cash for their troubles.

Employ The Neighborhood Child Entrepreneur

When I was a kid I was quite the little entrepreneur. Pet sitting was one of the many services I offered.

Looking back on it, I’m a little surprised that people trusted me with their animals simply because I left a flyer in their mailbox, but my rates easily beat any boarding options!

Of course, my neighbors were also aware that my parents would be supervising me to make sure I didn’t forget to feed or let the animals out. You may have a neighborhood entrepreneur that is willing to do the same thing.

Just make sure to check with their parents to make sure that they’ll be watching to make sure you’re animals are well cared for.

These three solutions can save you a ton of cash if you have a pet that needs to be taken care of while you’re out of town. I’ve personally been through all three experiences and my pets have been fine every time. Another plus is Daphne didn’t get sick from going to the kennel.

Have you ever boarded your pet and been shocked by the bills? Have you tried one of the cheaper options that I’ve mentioned? Let me know what your experiences were and which option you prefer in the comments!

How Much Do You Spend On Vacations?

Carnival Cruise Trip Cost ReportVacations are one of my favorite times of the year.

I know I’m not the only person that feels that way.

If you’re lucky enough to get paid time off from work you even get a paycheck while you’re relaxing on a beach or riding the roller coasters in your favorite theme park.

The sad part is we all know that vacations aren’t free unless you win a contest or pay for your vacation with credit card sign up bonuses.

Related: Disney World Trip Cost Report

Vacations Aren’t Cheap!

Vacations can be extremely expensive if you’re not careful. Many people easily overspend on vacations to make their families happy or because the particular vacation you are on is a once in a lifetime trip.

It is easy to relax your wallet at the same time that you’re trying to escape your daily life. Trust me, I’ve seen it happen to others many times in the few vacations I’ve been on.

On our last cruise (read the 7 day cruise cost report here) we saw plenty of evidence of people overspending on vacation all within about 5 minutes of each other. We were waiting in the guest services line to ask a question and overheard two people arguing with guest services about their bills.

The Crazy Bar Tab Denial

How Much A 7 Day Carnival Cruise CostsThe first was a group of three girls in expensive clothes arguing about their bar tab. They were certain there was no way they charged $700 of drinks in just 4 days.

The funny part was it wasn’t $700 between the three of them, it was around $700 each! Insane! If I had to guess, they probably did charge the drinks and were just trying to get out of it once they saw the bill.

Maxed Out Credit Card Denial

The second example of overspending on vacation was a lady who was asking why she couldn’t charge any more money on her onboard cruise ship account. The guest services clerk had to explain that she had maxed out her credit card at her limit of $7,000.

The cruise ship representative told the cruiser that they could put cash on the card or give a different credit card to make more charges. The guest argued with the guest service clerk for a while, but eventually left without giving another card or cash for future purchases.

Take On Debt To Go On Vacation? No Thanks!

PHoneymoon Cruise Trip Cost Reportersonally, I don’t think anyone should take on debt to go on vacation. While I will charge my purchases on a credit card when I’m on vacation, I always ensure I have enough cash to pay my credit card bill in full as soon as I get home.

Plus I get rewards for money I would have spent anyway so it is a win-win for me.

So how do you determine how much to spend on vacations? It all depends on your values and how much value you place on getting away versus living your everyday life.

Personally, we put aside a set amount of money every paycheck for any vacation we’d want to take. Once we have enough money in the account we get to go on the vacation, assuming we can get the time off from work together.

I Want To Know! How Much Do You Spend On Vacation?

I am extremely curious when it comes to average vacation spending so I thought who better to ask than you!

How much do you spend on vacation? How much do you spend in dollars or a percentage of your income? What does a typical vacation include for you? Do you use a particular method to save for your vacations such as saving up credit card rewards?

Our 7 day honeymoon Carnival cruise trip cost report, Disney World cost report and 5 day Carnival cruise trip cost report show how much we spend on our vacations.

All photos by Tori.

Would You Give Up Vacations Forever To Retire Earlier?

Love family vacations or a quick beach vacation? What about financial freedom? What if I asked you if you'd give up vacations and travel forever to retire early? Would you do it? Find out my thoughts and how not vacationing can allow you to retire early and reach financial independence faster. Early retirement may be worth it!

Vacations are awesome.

I love spending some time relaxing outside of my normal environment. My wife does, too.

We normally take at least one vacation a year, sometimes two, just to enjoy our lives a little bit.

I can’t imagine living our life without vacations, assuming we can afford them of course.

After all, we’d never take a vacation if we couldn’t pay for it in full in cash or credit card rewards.

Related: How Credit Card Rewards Paid For Our Cruise!

That Could Change

I came across someone on Twitter recently that had a different opinion that I just couldn’t wrap my mind around.

This person stated that you should never take a vacation because it’d delay your financial independence date.

Instead, you should invest all of the money you would spend on your vacations so you can become financially independent sooner.

My mind was blown. How can someone not see the benefit of vacations?!

Related: The Ultimate Financial Goal & Exactly How To Achieve It

Why I Feel Vacations Are Awesome And Much Needed

Vacations are a huge benefit to us. They allow us to recharge our mental batteries which is a necessity after many months without any extra days off.

They allow us time to forget about the day to day worries of life and just relax. We could probably find a way to do the same thing at home, but it wouldn’t be the same. Why?

Vacations allow us to go out and explore new areas and broaden our life experiences. We have already explored most of the parts we’re interested in exploring in our local town, so we wouldn’t be adding much to our experience list by hanging out here.

Vacations also allow us to not have to worry about the daily responsibilities we have to take care of at home. Unfortunately, all of that awesomeness comes with a price.

Related: Are Staycations Really Cool?

Why I Could See The Other Person’s Point

For some people, their jobs are shackles that are so powerful that they’ll do anything to escape them.

Rather than take just a temporary escape (a vacation) that pushes back your permanent escape even further, why not just stay home forever and never vacation in order to retire earlier?

Chances are vacations cost more than a typical week at home, so you’d be delaying your retirement for much more than the week or two you’re off exploring the world.

Of course, vacations aren’t the only frivolous spending in a budget. If you really want to retire as early as possible, you can cut out many other expenses in your life and live a bare minimal lifestyle.

But would it be any fun? For some people it may be, but for others, I think there is a good compromise you can come to in order to both retire earlier and still take vacations.

A Nice Compromise

Instead of spending thousands and going all out for your vacations one or multiple times per year, you can compromise a bit and still enjoy the benefits of vacations for a lower cost.

If going out of town isn’t an option because it is too expensive, you can plan a staycation in your town. Instead of going to an exotic location and staying in a hotel, rent a room on AirBnB or Better yet, go camping and enjoy nature and disconnect from the conveniences of modern life for just a few bucks a night!

I don’t think you need to forgo vacations completely to retire earlier. There are many cheaper options that will give you close to, if not exactly the same benefit that a ritzy expensive vacation would.

So, what do you think? Do you think vacations are necessary or a complete waste of money? Or, do you take the compromise route and still take vacations but just at a cheaper rate? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

4 Easy Ways To Save Money For Your Next Vacation

Want to travel without paying off vacation debt when you get home? I share 4 easy ways to save money for your next family vacation so you don't have to go into debt. You can use these tips to save for a Disney World vacation or a cruise vacation. (#4 is my favorite!)Summer is a great time of year that is often filled with families and friends taking vacations.

Unfortunately, when summer is over many people face the reality that they charged their vacation on their credit card.

Why? Because they didn’t save in advance!

Next year can be different.

If you start following these easy tips to save for your next vacation, you should easily be able to have enough money for a nice family vacation next summer.

Start A Change Or Small Bills Jar

This easy vacation saving tip is for people who still use cash on a regular basis.

There are two great ways to save using this strategy depending on how much you need for your upcoming vacation.

Related: How Much A Cheap Cruise Really Costs

The first method is the change jar. Whenever you get change from breaking a bill, put the change in a jar until your vacation. For most people, this likely won’t be enough to pay for a whole vacation, but the second variation, the small bills jar, might.

The small bills jar is the same concept as a change jar except instead of putting just change in the jar, you put any small bills in the jar as well.

What you define as a small bill is completely up to you as well as how much you’ll need for your vacation. You can opt for just $1’s, $5’s, $10’s, $20’s or any combination of bills you want.

Related: 10 Ways We’re Saving Money On Our Disney World Vacation

Save Miscellaneous Extra Income Or Windfalls

This is a strategy I always used to save money when I was a kid, but it works for adults, too. Whenever I’d come across any unexpected money I’d put it straight in my savings account.

These days I don’t get the same types of miscellaneous income I received as a kid (birthday cards, Christmas cards, etc) but I do end up with other random amounts of money.

Whenever you get a rebate check, a bonus from work, you find money on the ground, you get your tax refund or any other random income you come across, put it in a separate bank account for your next vacation.

Related: How To Take A 7 Day Cruise For Free!

Save Part of Every Paycheck In A Vacation Fund

This is the most reliable and responsible way to save for your next vacation and it is one of the ways we personally save for our vacations.

Every paycheck we put a set amount of money into a targeted savings account at our bank. If you have a set amount you want to spend on your vacations each year, divide that by the number of paychecks in a year to get your per paycheck amount to save.

If you’ve already budgeted for your next vacation and it is less than a year away, take the amount you have budgeted for your next vacation and divide it by the number of paychecks until your next vacation to figure out how much to save each paycheck.

Just remember to plan to have a little extra money in case things don’t go according to plan.

Related: How Much Our Disney World Vacation Cost Us

Save Credit Card Rewards For Vacations

Credit card rewards are one of my favorite ways to save for vacation. I routinely look for the best sign up bonus credit cards to earn large chunks of money toward my next vacation.

Sometimes I find a great deal on an airline credit card and other times I just find a great general cash back offer that will allow me to put money toward my next vacation.

If you’re interested, click here to see the best bonus cards out there today. I update the list every month so you know you’ll be getting the best deals.

Be careful though, some of the vacation type credit cards such as the Carnival Cruise credit card and Disney credit cards don’t really offer the best value.

I’d recommend going for a more generic credit card that isn’t associated with any given vacation brand in most cases. They generally will give you more rewards per dollar spent.

Related: How We Got A Beachfront Hotel Resort Room For Free

Saving for vacation isn’t a difficult concept. You just have to be dedicated to saving the money before you leave for your trip.

The four saving methods above should give you plenty of ideas of ways to save for your next vacation so you don’t end up paying off the credit cards months after you get back.

How do you save for your vacations? Do you follow one of the methods above, or do you save in a different way?

How Much A Cheap Cruise Really Costs

First time cruising? Have you ever wondered how much a 5 day Carnival cruise really costs? I kept track of my expenses to share with you. Check out my trip report detailing our travel expenses and cruise tips on (Hint: It is much higher than the cruise fare you are initially quoted when shopping). Have you ever wondered how much a cruise really costs? I’m going to give you a hint.

It is much more than the list price you see when you’re looking into booking your first cruise.

I still think a cruise is a great value but you need to be prepared for all of the costs.

Here is a breakdown of all of the costs we paid on our first ever cruise.

The Cruise Ticket

The most obvious cost of the cruise is the cruise ticket itself.

Since I went on this cruise with my girlfriend (now wife) we bought two tickets.

Each room requires you to pay for the price of two tickets, at a minimum, so if you’re planning on having a room to yourself expect to pay 150-200% of the listed price per ticket.

We went for the cheapest class of stateroom which is the interior class. We didn’t plan on spending a ton of time in our room so we didn’t feel like we needed to pay money for extra space or a window.

Due to the fact that we booked early there were a few rooms available that were in the interior class but actually had two porthole windows. We definitely took advantage and booked these rooms at no extra cost above the price of a normal interior ticket.

We originally paid $279 for each ticket or $558 total. We managed to get $80 refunded to my credit card and $80 in on board credits due to the Early Saver program, which saved us $160 dollars.

This resulted in a total cost of $478 charged to my credit card for the cruise tickets themselves. After accounting for the $80 in on board credit the ticket price of our cruise was $398.

Taxes and Port Fees

You don’t get away that fast though! You’re also responsible for taxes and port fees which must be paid prior to the pay off date. I’m not sure what taxes are included as this cost wasn’t itemized.

I do know that each port you stop in charges a port fee which the cruise line passes on to their guests. Taxes and port fees totaled $84.60 each or $169.20 total for the two tickets.

Traveling To and From the Port

We saved some money in this area by traveling with my parents who were going on the cruise as well. We split the cost of gas, tolls and the hotel for the night before the cruise.

I ended up paying $60.00 in gas, $6.60 in road tolls and $62.44 for the hotel after splitting these costs with my parents.

While traveling we stopped for breakfast, lunch and dinner on the way to our hotel. We had some bad service at dinner so the general manager gave us our meal free. We still left a tip because the server was good.

We only stopped for lunch on the way home from the cruise. I spent $46.38 on food on the way to and from the cruise for both my girlfriend (now wife) and I. We spent a total of $175.42 on traveling to and from the cruise.

Arrival at the Departure Port

We arrived at the port and dropped our luggage off with the porter. It is customary to tip the porter $1 per bag so we paid him $2 for our two bags.

In addition to porter tips, my parents had to park their car. Parking at the port was $15 a day and totaled $90 for the six days the car was parked at the port.

We could have parked off site and taken a shuttle but my parents have had a bad experience with that in the past. I paid half for the parking making our port arrival costs $47.

Visiting Ports

Even though you’ve paid the port docking fees there isn’t any entertainment included in what you’ve paid for. We went on a history tour and snorkeling trip that included lunch at our first port in the Bahamas.

The excursion cost us $99 each or $198 total for the two of us. We did pay a premium as we organized the trip through Carnival Cruise Line.

The excursion came with guarantees that the ship wouldn’t leave without us if something happened on our excursion along with other nuances. We didn’t want to run into any problems as first time cruisers.

We just walked around the city in our second and third ports. We stopped in all of the various touristy shops near the port and only bought a straw fan for $6 and a souvenir t-shirt for $17 that we had planned on buying before we left on the cruise.

In total we spent $221 on in port activities. Think we’re close to being done on cruise spending? Nope, not yet!

On Board Drinks, Food and Entertainment

Our costs in this area were subsidized by my parents. They had bought us a first cruise gift package which included 4 drink tickets worth $5.75 each and a photo voucher worth $15, along with other gifts.

In addition to the $23 in drink vouchers we spent an additional $12.08 on drinks. We got off lucky compared to many of people on the ship who seemed to be constantly drinking.

Drinks cost about $7 to $11 per drink and there is a mandatory 15% gratuity charged in addition to the advertised drink prices.

On the first day of the cruise my girlfriend (now wife) won an $89 off certificate to the spa on the cruise ship.

She had always wanted a massage so she splurged for a hot stone massage that ended up costing $65 after the discount, which is probably similar to what we’d pay locally for a massage so it wasn’t a horrible deal.

We ordered room service for breakfast a few times and it is customary to tip them as well. We ended up spending $8 on room service tips.

There was a casino on board the cruise ship! I had always wanted to try playing blackjack but it was $6 a hand. I did decide to play three separate times. The first time I won $6 and the second time I won $16. Sadly, I lost the $30 I brought the third time I played.

Overall I lost $8 playing blackjack for a couple hours but I had a lot of fun. That isn’t too bad for entertainment dollars per hour. It could have been a lot worse though.

In total we spent $93.08 on board the ship for drinks, food and entertainment.

Pictures, Gifts and Other On Board Purchases

Every evening there are professional photographers begging you to let them take your picture. We decided to get a few pictures taken both on the casual and formal nights.

We ended up spending $16.99 on pictures after accounting for the $15 voucher from my parents. We figured it was cheaper than getting a professional photo session back at home.

We bought some duty and tax free alcohol at a large discount compared to the prices back home. It set us back $49.98 but saved us money as we would have eventually purchased it at home for a much higher cost. We also purchased a t-shirt for a gift that was only $4.88.

We discovered we weren’t drinking enough water so we bought a reusable water bottle for $6.50 to make sure we had water available to stay hydrated.

In total, we spent $78.35 on miscellaneous on board purchases. We did end up with a $13.96 on board credit for some reason so this brought our total down to $64.39 in this category.

Gratuities – Just When You Thought It Was Over There is More

Carnival adds gratuities on your statement on the last night of the cruise. They charge $11.50 per person per day which totaled $115.00 for us. We did pay this in advance of our cruise so we didn’t have to worry about it while we were cruising.

You don’t have to pay the gratuities if you don’t want to, but the crew do rely on them as a large part of their compensation.

If you had any problems with your service or don’t feel you should have to pay that much you can go to guest services and reduce the gratuity amount on the last day of your cruise. We had outstanding service so we didn’t adjust our gratuity payments at all.

Finally Done

That’s it! Not a short list at all. We ended up spending $1,283.09 which really isn’t that bad for a 5 day cruise. In fact, it is only $256.62 per day or $128.31 per person per day.

Related: Want to Cruise for Free? Here’s How to Use Credit Cards for Free Cruises!

When you consider the fact that you get lodging, all the food you care to eat at three decent meals a day, entertainment and the chance to visit foreign countries the price really isn’t that bad at all.

We could have easily spent double that and I’m going to venture some people spent double that on just their cruise cabin. Hopefully I’ve enlightened you to some of the other expenses on cruises so you can budget for them better for your first cruise.

If you have any questions or comments about the cost or have a cruise experience you’d like to share please leave a comment below!

Photo by: James Willamor Text added by: Lance Cothern