Everyday Cheapskate: Tips for taking that fantasy vacation for less
DEAR MARY: My husband and I have been saving for the past year to take a long-overdue romantic getaway, and we've narrowed our dream destination down to Aruba. Because staying there can be pricey, our travel agent suggested we consider one of those "all-inclusive" resorts.
She said we'll save money on drinks and meals, and won't have to worry about having cash or credit cards on hand since everything will be paid in advance. But I've heard that you actually lose money with these "deals" because they pad the price of everything in order to make a profit. Now we don't know what to think. — Bonnie, New Jersey
DEAR BONNIE: I don't know that "padding the price" would be the best way to put it, but for sure in an all-inclusive plan you'll pay for lots of things you'll probably never use. You can be sure they've built in generous gratuities, many meals and a big bar allowance.
Personally, I like to decide how much to tip or which meals I want to pay for. I have a suggestion. Now that you have a price for an all-inclusive vacation, get a second opinion from another travel agent. Have the agent put together an "al a carte" version of the same vacation. Do some digging yourself at the major airlines' websites. Many now offer very affordable vacation packages that include airfare and hotel accommodations at resorts throughout the world. Check out Costco, AAA or other travel-related websites.
DEAR MARY: My husband and I are very close with our next-door neighbors. Our children play together all the time, and we frequently spend holidays together. About a month ago, they asked us if we'd be interested in going in together and buying a new, state-of-the-art lawn mower. Neither one of us could afford it on our own, so they figured why not split the cost and share the rewards. My husband is all excited, but I'm a little nervous. What happens if we have a falling out with them, or one of us decides to move? Is this a good idea? — Debi, Texas
DEAR DEBI: I think it's a great idea! And you will avoid all kinds of misunderstandings and problems down the road if you have a written agreement from the start. Who pays for repairs and maintenance? Talk through what each couple defines as normal use. Where will the mower be stored? Who buys the gas? What are your "buy out" terms should one family move or want out of the deal?
It also wouldn't hurt to come up with a plan if another neighbor asks to borrow the mower from time to time, too.
Believe me, it will be much easier to talk about these things now rather than later.