January 5, 2018

How to take a Grad Road Trip on a Budget


You’ve done it: You’ve graduated! Many college graduates mark this great accomplishment by blowing off a semester’s worth (or more) of steam while road tripping to great vacation destinations. For many students, this might be the first time they’ve taken a vacation without parents to help plan (and pay for) it. And for a newbie, it can be quite a challenge.

Worry not, road warrior! Here are a few ways you can save some green on your next four-wheeled adventure:

Budget Ahead

If there’s one rule of financially savvy vacationing, it’s this one: Make a budget before you hit the road. It can be easy to justify an ever-ballooning budget. A few dollars here and there can quickly turn into one big expense, and it’s one you could be paying for long after the semester’s ink is dry on your diploma.

Instead, take control of your spending by giving yourself a realistic goal of how much you’ll spend. If you end up a few dollars over, you can make up the difference much easier than if you were to later find out you massively overspent.

This budget helps keep you on track while you are away on vacation, but it also helps you prepare for it. If you know the costs associated with your vacation well ahead of time, this gives you more time to save for those expenses. Ideally, vacations come from savings, not future debt. And, the more you budget and save, the more that is possible.

Make Road Trip Food Fun – and Affordable

Gas station food might be an attractive option after you’ve spent all day on the road, but it’s not always the best plan. In addition to the extra costs you pay for convenience, such food is generally fried and unhealthy. You probably don’t want to spend the first few days of a great vacation sweating off a pound of fried cheese! Beyond the food, spending money on gas station beverages can do some quick damage to your budget.

As much as possible, prepare your snacks before leaving. Put snack-sized bags of chips together out of a big bag or fill a cooler jug with water. Planning your road trip snacks can be fun! Going to the grocery store and shopping for on-the-road goodies can be a fun way to feel like your splurging while spending less than you would at a gas station along the way. The cost savings are well worth the time.

If you’re feeling more on top of things, consider packing bread and sandwich fixings to save on roadside lunches. If you plan on stopping at restaurants for dinner, consider shopping ahead of time at a gift card exchange site where you can grab other people’s Christmas rejects for a fraction of the price, or check Groupon for good restaurant deals in most cities across the country.

Vet Your Vehicle

Nothing will influence the road trip experience more than your choice of vehicle. This is where you’ll be for several hours a day, so you’ll want to make sure it’s as comfortable as possible. Beyond a thorough cleaning, consider what maintenance tasks you’ve been putting off until later. Get a tire rotation and an oil change before you leave to avoid having to pay for expensive repairs on the road.

Papers Up to Date

Finally, you’ll also want to make sure all legalities are covered. Make sure your insurance is current and you know where your card is located. Call your insurance company to make sure you’re covered if someone else is driving your car. Confirm that your plates are current and that you have all your important car documents. Taking these steps can prevent an expensive and time-consuming ticket.

This article is for educational purposes only. Tulsa FCU makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, or specific suitability of any information presented. Information provided should not be relied on or interpreted as legal, tax or financial advice. Nor does the information directly relate to our products and/or services terms and conditions.