The Easiest Way to Save Money on Vacation
You are enjoying a sunny vacation on the beaches of Mexico. Some of the locals are wearing native garb, or at least peddling it. Vendors walk up and down the beaches selling their wares, from coconut shell jewelry, to crocheted sundresses, to key chains.
You want something to remember this moment with. The smells of pina coladas and sun tan lotion, the feeling of the soft white sand, and the sound of gentle ocean waves splashing on the beach. Those crocheted sundresses are beautiful, and you’d look stunning in one. You could use it as a cover up at the beach, and you could also accessorize it up nicely for dressy-casual dinners. It’s perfect.
You swear up and down that you’ll wear it at home too. That’s the reason you’re getting it of course – there are people everywhere down here wearing these beautiful garments – why wouldn’t you wow people at home with it too?
So after shelling out your precious pennies for the beautiful (read: tacky) sundress, getting gitchy key chains as souvenirs for people at home, wacky t-shirts, and coconut shell necklaces, you have just blown your vacation budget.
What’s worse: you get the beautiful (read: tacky) sundress home, and it in turn finds a home in the back corner of your closet, only to be rediscovered months or even years later. You try it on, hopeful that it won’t look as bad as you think it will. It really does look that bad. So it gets disposed of or given away to a poor unsuspecting victim.
The key chains are accepted by friends with a genuinely appreciative smile, only to be tossed into their overflowing bowl of key chains that they’ll never use.
The t-shirts were cool and reflected a uniquely cultural flair when you saw them in Mexico, but they seem a little too out of place at home. They become very expensive cleaning rags.
And the coconut shell necklace went nicely with the sundress, but it is horribly tacky up close, not to mention falling apart; it is a marginal step above macaroni and white glue. The necklace your kid made in grade two beats this one you paid money for.
What’s the best way to save money on vacation, and not sacrifice the experience?
Leave the souvenirs in the store.
The best intentions of stimulating the local economy by purchasing souvenirs are more often than not misguided. Many “authentic” crafts and souvenirs are mass-produced in another country entirely. The local girl selling them isn’t seeing nearly the profit margins you may think – in fact she could even be getting a meager hourly wage from a foreigner who is the actual “boss”.
The items you think you’ll use at home rarely get used. They collect dust, either in your cupboards, or in the cupboards of the poor folks you bestow these gifts upon. The local fashion looked great while you were visiting, but just doesn’t seem to work when you try to wear it at home.
Impulse shopping, especially while on vacation, is an easy trap to fall into; that’s why heavily touristy areas are littered with concession stands. But rarely will it produce the overall satisfaction that you expect when you shell out your sheckles for that "must-have" souvenir. You won’t use that purse. Wallet. T-shirt. Key chain. 150th mug. Lampshade. Chances are you really won’t.
But having a souvenir to remember your trip with is a legitimate desire, and can be satisfied without breaking the budget.
As suggested in another recent article, instead of leaving yourself to impulse, try to select an item that you want to remember the trip by – just one. One that you can either use regularly (like a hand-carved kitchen tool), or that has a spot on a blank wall that will compliment your current décor and bring fond memories every time you look at it.
If you can, select this item before you even leave home. Then instead of being sidetracked in souvenir shops and concession stands, you can instead be on a mission to find the perfect kind of item you are specifically looking for. It actually becomes part of the adventure of your trip, and depending on the availability of your chosen souvenir, you may meet some interesting folks searching for it.
You will start to see the difference between the mass-produced souvenir shop fakes, and the real deal. And yes – in some cases you may spend a little extra money on it; but since you’re only buying one thing, you can afford it. It’s in the budget.
Trust me – this is the voice of experience here, with a drawer full of “who can I possibly give this to” items – both your wallet and your wardrobe will appreciate it.