Road trip! Or maybe not.
These days, the familiar vacation battle cry carries quite a cost. According to the Energy Information Administration, Americans plan to cover a lot of ground this summer -- a whopping 8.5 billion miles per day. With average gas prices hovering around $3 a gallon (compared to $2.84 last summer), staying put seems like the best financial move.
You can try to convince the kids and your significant other that setting up a tent in the back yard constitutes a "vacation." Or, you can remain in your kids' good graces by finding other workarounds.
If your summer jaunt requires catching a flight, we've got advice on finding down-to-earth airfares in our Cheap Travel Cheat Sheet. These days, there's a lot more to surfing for savings than Expedia, Priceline, and Travelzoo.
Those planning to gas up the minivan and hit the open road may be able to offset the high price of gas with money hiding in plain sight.
Stop over-paying for car insurance.
There may be hundreds of dollars hiding in the proverbial glove box. A few simple moves can cut your yearly car insurance premium by as much as half. In tangible terms, we're talking $450 of vacation dough, if you pay $900 annually to insure your ride. Here's how to find it:
Up that deductible. If your current deductible is $250 or $500, raise it to $1,000. Simply doing that could save you 15% or more on your premium. And if you're worried about having to foot the bill for claims of less than $1,000, well, read on. You might want to do so anyway.
Pay for that claim with your own dough. The paradox of insurance is that you're paying for a product you hope you never have to use. To add to the absurdity, even when you have reason to make a claim, you're punished for doing so. If your deductible is $500 and you make a claim for $550, you'll get a check for $50 and a ding that'll linger for five years on your C.L.U.E. report (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange), which insurers check to determine premiums. (You can pull your C.L.U.E. report for free once a year at choicetrust.com.)
Start bragging to score some discounts: You may be eligible for a discount based on your age (turning 25 or even 55), your affiliations (federal employees, military members, and members of professional groups often score discounts), your ride (the type of car you drive, or the anti-theft devices it contains), and how much business you do with the company (having multiple policies with a single insurer). Give your insurer a call to determine your eligibility for rate cuts, and ask for a list of things that might score you a price break.
Drive like your grandma. Seriously. Get one or two moving violations, and some insurers will hike your rate (up to 20%) and slap you with a per-ticket surcharge. Even using your coverage's roadside assistance feature -- for a tow, jump-start, or help getting keys you locked in the car -- can drive up your premiums and affect your eligibility for future coverage.
Finally, if you do gas up and go, make sure not to overpay for crude (which can seriously cut into your tchotchke budget). Avoid stations just off the freeway, gassing up on weekends, and pumps in pricey neighborhoods. Check out GasBuddy.com to find filling stations with the lowest per-gallon price.
Dayana Yochim's "atmosphere-friendly power walk" to and from the office each day cuts down on the carbon credits she needs to buy. (She also reuses wrapping paper and recycles.) Each month in Motley Fool Green Light, she and her co-Fools keep emissions in check with down-to-earth financial advice that inspires immediate action and results. Test-drive the service with this free 30-day pass and access to $450 of monthly money-saving/money-making investments. Dayana owns none of the stocks mentioned above. The Fool has a disclosure policy.