Budget Travel Tips – Eight Simple Ways to Stretch Your Vacation Budget

Budget travel has become a necessity for most people with the cost of gasoline and other consumer products on the rise. But when we start considering when, where, how and what type of vacation to undertake, we sometimes get caught up in the anticipation and excitement of the upcoming trip and let the more important financial side of things slip a little. After all, for most of us, taking a vacation may only happen once a year and for some, even more infrequently, so we tend to indulge and forget about our pocket book a little.There are many ways to save money, avoid unnecessary cost, ensure you take care of details end up a smart and perceptive traveler. Travel planning is easier that you might think and here are eight great budget travel tips for making your travel dollar go further!1. Cushion your budget – When considering a trip or planning budget travel, it is important to plan for the unexpected and consider the financial side of things early on. This ensures affordability, liquidity and having the resources to enjoy it to the fullest! Plan for the worst-case financial scenario and prepare for things to cost a little more than you expected. Allow up to 20% increase in cost to be on the safe side of things.2. Emergency money: Carrying some spare cash somewhere can also be a lifesaver. The rule of thumb seems to be around $50-$100 in small bills. This can be used for incidentals, ground-transportation like cab fare and/or your return home, tips and more.3. Set your priorities: Set some budget travel spending priorities and criteria in advance, like eating at a special restaurant or attending a concert, even if this means sacrificing a bit on lodgings or visa versa, depending on what is more important to you.4. Keep an eye on your credit cards: It is extremely easy these days to have access to your financial resources through ATM’s and credit cards. Just remember that it is just as easy to overspend because of it being so readily available. A little discipline will go a long way to protect your financial interest and help you stick to your travel budget.5. Maximize gas mileage and efficiency: If you’re planning a road trip, make sure that your car has been serviced at least a week before your trip. A well-maintained vehicle will go a long way to ensure carefree driving. If your budget allows, you may consider renting a vehicle to save wear and tear on your own. Small economy cars are better on gas and are much more comfortable than they used to be. Minivans and sport utility vehicles are practical only if you have to transport a large family with a lot of equipment or luggage.6. Gas fill-ups: For filling up your car en route, avoid pushing to the limit until the gas runs out. Gas will obviously be more expensive when filling up in remote locations. If you miscalculated and the light on the dashboard indicates that you are really in need, opt for filling just half a tank until you reach the next more densely or major populated destination, where gas might be a little cheaper.7. Pack-a-snack: Bring your own refreshments and snacks. Gas station prices on drinks and snack food are high. Avoid these during a pit stop, if you are counting your budget travel dollars. A cooler packed with lots of cool drinks, water and ice and/or a thermos of coffee or hot water for tea, some fruit, granola bars, or a sandwich, goes a long way to still the hunger and save you money by avoiding all high priced stops en route.8. Travel necessities: It is advisable to travel with basic necessities, like a cell phone and a first aid kit, since both can prove to be essential in emergencies. Most people have cell phones at their disposal, but in the event that you are not one of them, a prepaid cell phone may be the answer for your trip. The peace of mind it offers is worth the small investment. Cell phones can also save on hefty surcharges and higher long distance rates that hotels and resorts often charge.Budget travel requires close attention to all things financial before and during your trip. Planning a trip or vacation can be a little time consuming but following these travel tips will hopefully save you a lot of headaches as well as some unnecessary interest charges on your credit card balances later! You will thank yourself for your fiscal restraint and spending discipline, upfront planning, foresight and forward thinking!

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Commercial Real Estate – Valuing The Cash Flow

Many investors don’t understand the power of commercial real estate. I too had reservations until I understood the power and safety commercial real estate can provide. Commercial real estate is similar to trucks. Trucks come in all sizes and all shapes – a Ford Ranger to an 18 wheeler. Commercial properties come in all sizes and shapes – a standalone building that houses a small restaurant to the Empire State Building. People read in the newspapers that commercial property prices are crashing. People notice the strip malls have a lot of vacancies and it scares them away. Let’s take a look at the power of commercial real estate and a quick note about market cycles. Commercial real estate is a business and is priced based on current cash flows. For simplicity sake, commercial property pricing is based on 10 x annual cash flow, not including debt service (loan). So a property that yields $10,000 in cash flow is worth $100,000. Regardless of the type of property, if you increase rents by 1% ($100) the value goes up a $1000. Decrease expenses by $100 and the value goes up $1000. So what? Let’s look at a simple apartment example.A small apartment complex (10 units) has an annual cash flow of $50,000 and is for sale for $500,000. It has a lot of long-term tenants paying below market rents. You put down 20% or $100,000 (there are ways to make it someone else’s money). We’ll assume it is a positive cash flow property even with the debt service (loan payments). First a storage area is made into a laundry facility that provides $5000 on annual basis. You just increased the value $50,000. Next rents are raised the first year to market rents. Raising rents $50 per unit increases cash flow $6000. You just increased the value $60,000. That means you have doubled your original $100,000 in the first year and you get to keep the $11,000 cash flow. There are many more ways to increase the cash flow including: separate utilities and have tenants pay utilities, decrease vacancy, work out a deal with dish network and get paid, reduce maintenance costs, and more. Just by raising the rent $10 a year increases cash flow $1200 a year and increases the value $12,000. In three to five years you’ll have cash flows of $70,000 to $100,000 (less debt service which remains constant) and you can sell the property for $700,000 to $1,000,000. Now you see the power of commercial real estate.Just like single family homes, not every property is a good deal. First you look for commercial properties in areas that have improving rents, increasing employment, and areas where the entire area is going through gentrification. Next you look for properties that have a value proposition – rents too low, poor management, ability to install laundry or some other measure to increase cash flow. You would be surprised how many buildings are poorly managed or have below market rents.I’ve used an apartment as the example; however this same model works for office buildings, mobile home parks, strip malls and more. All types of real estate (all types of investment) go through cycles. When the economy is booming for example, the vacancy in office buildings goes down significantly (prices go up). Of course the opposite is true during an economic downturn. During economic downturns more people move to apartments, mobile homes and need storage facilities. By observing these cycles one can move in and out of various positions to minimize risk and increase portfolio value.
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