Diana Clement

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Diana Clement: Enjoy Kiwi carnival but watch your cash

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Pace yourself so the money lasts. There are weeks and weeks of RWC fun still to go. Picture / Sarah Ivey
Pace yourself so the money lasts. There are weeks and weeks of RWC fun still to go. Picture / Sarah Ivey

Having a plan is key to surviving the RWC or a holiday with wallet intact.

Hello party, goodbye budget. In case you hadn't noticed, much of the populace of our country is in holiday mode. We're out partying, buying all manner of cheap junk to adorn our houses and cars, and spending like there is no tomorrow in bars and restaurants.

According to Paymark, as a nation we gave our plastic cards an extra 10.9 per cent worth of exercise in the first week of the Rugby World Cup. That excludes spending on fuel. These are averages. The jump in spending is even higher when you look at some sectors, such as hospitality.

My own spending was curtailed on opening night thanks to Fullers ferries. I couldn't even get off Devonport wharf and was forced to drive to Eden Park, which incidentally costs less in petrol than ferry fares for two.

That translated into no drinking at the match, which was probably good because you'd need a small mortgage to pay for the cans of Heineken on sale to the lucky few who managed to get to the front of the queue and actually spend their money.

Seriously, though, I noticed that the Tongan fans in the audience were very thin on the ground indeed. That suggested to me that they either couldn't afford the blood-sucking prices of the tickets, or were more sensible with their money than the rest of us.

The RWC revelry has led the people at Sorted.org.nz to publish a blog which has some really good tips for RWC party-goers like me. "Six weeks of partying could take a toll on your finances," warn the good folk at Sorted. Its RWC Tip No1, which makes a lot of sense, is review your budget.

"Think about any extra costs that may be coming up over the tournament. You may be dining out more and going to parties. And if you're attending games, there will be costs other than the ticket price to consider."

Whether it's the RWC or simply going on an annual holiday, it's very easy to let go of the financial reins. It's not unusual in this country to put a holiday on plastic, or even extend the mortgage to pay for it. That can leave people with a mighty big debt hangover lasting into 2012.

My tramping buddy is an expert at budgeting for holidays. They are not something she puts on credit - ever.

"I can't look forward to my next goal if I come back from holiday and I'm paying for something that is already over," she says.

"I know how long it has taken to save up for the holiday and I have my next goal in mind. [Debt] leaves a bitter taste in your mouth from the holiday."

She took a recent holiday around East Cape with her boyfriend. The accommodation and petrol costs were calculated in advance and the remaining holiday money was divvied up into a daily spending allowance for food, entertainment and incidentals. "I will stick to the plan and won't be tempted to spend [more] money."

The corresponding Sorted tip is to pace yourself so the money lasts. There are weeks and weeks of RWC fun still to go.

"That way, when it's finals time, you've still got the finances to enjoy the festivities."

Travel budgets don't have to mean being harsh on yourself on holiday. Instead, view them as a way of making your spending go further by concentrating on what's important. My tramping chum is planning "the last family holiday" to Rotorua, which will be largely pre-paid. Trips to the Zorb, luge, white-water rafting and a day spa will be built into the budget and, again, the remaining money divvied up on a daily basis.

If the daily allowance doesn't work or you prefer a written holiday budget, there are a number of free templates available for Excel as well as iPhone and android phones. A Google search for "travel budget" or "vacation budget" will locate them.

Sorted's next tip is: avoid spending on your credit card. "Slapping the extra meal out or last-minute ticket purchase on your credit card seems like an easy way to have a great time now, and deal with the costs later." Give yourself a sum of cash to spend instead.

Having a plan is the key to surviving the RWC or a holiday with your wallet intact. Do your research in advance. Know where you want to visit and what activities you want to include.

If you can set an overall dollar figure for the holiday and work back, you're more likely to spend less than if you start adding up everything you'd want to do in an ideal world.

The next step is to look at what you can pare down. Ease up on the expectations. Can you stay in accommodation with a kitchen? Take water and snacks with you for days out. Ask yourself if you really need to catch a taxi from the airport. Choose a destination you can drive to instead of flying. Take daily deal vouchers with you for discounted nights out.

Thinking "I deserve it" is a common trap we fall into when faced with something-to-die-for at the till. It's especially easy to fall into on holiday. You've worked hard all year and why shouldn't you have X, Y or Z?

I started ruminating on this and did question whether wealthy people "deserve" the nice things on holiday more than poor people. Before dwelling on this too much I called Raewyn Fox, chief executive of the New Zealand Federation of Family Budgeting Services.

It's a difficult one, she says. Plenty of cash-strapped families come into budgeting services wanting to give their children a nice holiday. "We see a lot of people coming in who are deserving of a family holiday but can't afford it," Fox says. "Everybody needs something to look forward to motivate themselves. That is what 'deserving' is about."

But it's not an excuse to simply shell out on what you can't pay for. The answer is to bury the old habits and find other goals to look forward to.

If there isn't enough money to pay day-to-day bills, "deserving" doesn't really come into the question, even if it does feel warranted. Spending on a holiday when you can't afford the repayments can make life even more stressful in the long run.

When families in this situation approach a budgeting service, says Fox, the advice they're given is to focus on free forms of entertainment, such as taking picnics.

The benefit to the children of free family events can be just as great as paid-for activities.

This is where Sorted's Tip No5 comes in: make the most of free events. Wherever you holiday, there are free things to do. That might simply be walking along the beach, visiting a gallery, or watching a local sports fixture - whatever takes your fancy, really.

If you're in Auckland for the duration of the RWC, there are many free events. The Cloud on Auckland's waterfront is free to get into and has enormous screens to watch the rugby on. Providing you don't partake in too many of the aforementioned beers or other beverages (you can't bring your own drink), it's a cheap and fun night out.

The Auckland Heritage Festival is in full swing at the moment, with over 100 events scheduled, and of the 194 REAL NZ Festival events on in Auckland, 97 are free. See http://tinyurl.com/5wbujpy

Finally, if you are out and about spending during the RWC, shop around, Sorted advises, to avoid the businesses that have jacked their prices up for the event. Support those that haven't.

- NZ Herald

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