Summer is finally here in New York and I’m so excited that I’m not freezing … except on the subways. And in my office. But it’s officially vacation time when we finally use and enjoy our hard-earned time for some relaxation and rejuvenation.
My hope is that you have some great summer plans lined up, fully paid for in advance thanks to your vacation sinking fund. However there is a sneaky form of vacation spending that threatens your budget – souvenirs.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a cute trinket as much as the next gal. But I noticed that the quest to find the perfect gift for myself as well as my dearly beloveds was starting to drive me crazy. How did join Team Anti-Souvenir? Well, once upon a time DH and I were on vacation in Florence. It was a magical time of art, delicious food, and terrible bread. (Seriously, the bread was awful. The wine made up for it, though.) As our time in the city drew to a close we realized that we hadn’t purchased all the gifts for our family and friends on our list. So instead of enjoying our last day sightseeing or just relaxing in Italy, we spent it traveling from shop to shop looking for the perfect gift for the 15 (15!) people on our list.
Now, gift buying is stressful enough when your in your home city, but at least you can always get a gift receipt. Good luck when you’re out of town or abroad. And as you contemplate a purchase you wonder: Will so-and-so like/appreciate/remotely care about this object? Didn’t I buy something similar last trip? Is there room in my suitcase for this along with the other 10 things I bought?
Side note: funny (read: sad) souvenir story: My husband has a work colleague that collects Starbucks city mugs we had a layover in Zurich for a few hours. While getting refreshment in the airport Starbucks we notice they had a ton of city mugs that my husband’s colleague would like. We bought around five (don’t worry, he paid us back). Because of the large purchase the barista offered DH a free drink. He got a bottle of water. Water! This was the moment to get the Venti double frap caramel goodness. But I digress…
To alleviate this stress, I’ve come up with some ground rules for souvenir buying.
1. Think about what you want to buy before you leave home
As I research my destination I think about what the region is known for. Do I want something made from glass from Venice? A fan from Spain? Leather goods from Florence? Wine from… does it matter, the answer to that question is always yes. So when I’m out sightseeing and shopping I can stay focused on the items that the region is known for. And if I really don’t need anything I’m OK with buying a thing. The memories are priceless (and free).
2. Get the same thing from every location.
If you love to collect things like plates, mugs, or dolls, decide to find one to add to your collection while on vacation. This is another way to focus your dollars so you don’t blow your budget. I love Christmas so I recently started collecting ornaments while on a trip. Or I’ll get a bottle of wine or liqueur that the country is known for. Easy peasy.
3. Cut your list and have a hierarchy
Just like Christmas, keep your souvenir short list to only your nearest and dearest. That way you can also get more meaningful gifts rather than a bunch of keychains (unless your people like keychains). You can also create a gift hierarchy. For us, we always give our moms a gift from our travels. If there are funds left over and we see something we think they’d like, we get our dads a gift. Then siblings, finally friends.
What about you? How you do keep souvenirs from destroying your holiday budget?