Shoestring Travel -Costa Rica on a Quarter

Recently some friends of mine, Zack and LeeAnn, celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in Costa Rica. What made this a Shoestring Travel experience was the unique, and I think brilliant, way that they paid for their trip. I asked LeeAnn to write a post so that the rest of us can learn their secret.

Costa Rica on a Quarter

Well, not just one quarter. But one quarter at a time, saved up in a peanut butter jar...
Last year my husband and I spent seven days in Costa Rica, snorkeling, soaking in the tropical sun, exploring the jungle canopy on zip-lines, sitting under hot waterfalls near a volcano, and listening to howler monkeys scream us to sleep. It was the vacation of our dreams, to celebrate our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Now international flights and fancy hotels are not normally in our budget, and we did not go into one penny of debt for this fabulous trip. Here's how we did it.
Our strategy was long-term and two-pronged. The first prong involved repeatedly filling a peanut butter jar with quarters. Long, long ago (or at least a hundred years ago, as net savvy teens say today) we started saving dimes out of our pocket change, toward a tenth anniversary celebration. This worked really well, and we were able to book a nice bed and breakfast and pamper ourselves silly, while a friend watched our small children overnight.
We then decided that we should save quarters toward our twenty-fifth anniversary. Who knew how much bed & breakfasts might go up in fifteen years? We started in, one quarter at a time, every day or two sorting them out from our pockets and purses and piles on the dresser, and plunking them in the jar. Whenever the jar was full, we rolled the coin, and carried it down to the bank, where it went in a special savings account. When the balance was sufficient, we bought savings bonds. Turns out a peanut butter jar holds about $100 in quarters. That adds up significantly faster than dimes!
The second prong of our strategy was plastic. We used our credit card for everything we possibly could, every day. This required strict discipline, of course, and I wouldn't recommend you try it if you haven't sufficient self-control. I kept track of each charge just as I would a check written on our account, and deducted the amount of each charge from the balance in our checking account. This ensured that we didn't overspend, and had the money to pay the bill in full.
We always paid off the balance in full each month, so we were not in debt and paid no interest. We just put groceries, gas, and miscellaneous everyday purchases on the credit card instead of paying cash or writing a check. Many stores don't even accept checks anymore, but every little espresso stand takes credit cards. We also paid our insurance bills, our propane bills, and our medical bills with our card. I even made our regular contributions to charities and missionary organizations in this fashion.
Every transaction added air fare points (or reward points in our case) to our account. By the time we were ready to plan the trip, we had enough reward points to completely pay for our two round trip tickets to Costa Rica. In fact, we picked Costa Rica as a destination, a little more exotic than we might have dared otherwise, in part because we had the points for international tickets!
So, with quarters transformed first into savings, then savings bonds, and then finally into traveler's checks, and our air fare “free”, we headed very far south and enjoyed every minute of our week in the sun (in January!), knowing we were not digging a debt hole with every pina colada and souvenir purchase. Hotels, rental car, meals, excursion fees, all paid for, one quarter at a time.

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1 comment:

Gayle said...

Steve and I celebrated our 25th in a very similar fashion in Honduras. We even found a resort that offered scuba training for a very modest price. It was wonderful. Congrats to Zach and LeeAnn.