At the turn of the year, I was in the fortunate position to enjoy the sights and sounds of one of the world’s most fascinating cities: Tokyo.
While the vacation was in the pipeline for about two years, I agonised over the extravagance of the trip for quite some time. Would I have to postpone my retirement from 88 to 90? Is a self-proclaimed miser even allowed to take a vacation that doesn’t involve camping in your own backyard?
I believe frugal habits underpin sound financial planning. It’s about truly grasping the difference between the ability to afford something and the “need” to buy it.
Yet, this does not mean that I believe people should hoard as much money as they can and deprive themselves and others of anything that could be considered unnecessary or expensive. Rather, it is about finding a disciplined, balanced approach to saving, spending and investing.
So yes, I think even cheapskates are allowed an overseas holiday or two-ply toilet paper once in a while.
• Draw up a budget during the planning phase. This makes it easier to narrow down your flight, accommodation and food options and to manage expectations if you go as a group.
• Decide on a foreign currency amount that you can spend each day (without using it as a target). This helps to stay within budget and relieves some of the pain when converting foreign currency to rand.
• Book in advance, especially if you are a bunch of people going during peak season. Also make use of flight specials and discounts offered.
• Share. We stayed in a small, self-catering Airbnb apartment and it made a significant difference to the overall cost of the vacation.
• Choose your companions wisely. If you don’t want to break the bank, but your friends and family don’t have the imaginative capacity to convince themselves that takeaway miso soup tastes like Michelin-star restaurant food, swipe left.
• I find the best way to explore a city is on foot. Cost saving aside, you get a better sense of the scenery and vibe and often stumble across interesting things not mentioned in a travel book.
• Don’t assume a seven-day train pass is cheaper than individual tickets. A companion has perfected the comparison calculation to a science and it worked out much cheaper to buy individual tickets on this trip.
• Sightseeing need not be expensive. We visited the Ueno Zoological Gardens and the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden for about R60 and R20 respectively.
Ultimately however, this vacation highlighted something that is easy to forget: It is the experience of enjoying a foreign country (or even just my own backyard) with truly amazing people that I will remember for the rest of my life. The shared experience, the banter and the memories are some things money can’t buy.
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