BY MARY HUNT
Dear Mary: We have a large family, and we plan to take a road trip this summer because it’s significantly cheaper than flying. We often are tempted to spend a lot on eating out when we take road trips, as we cannot bring the kitchen with us. What suggestions do you have for families going on short or extended road trips to keep the food budget down? — Robert S., California
Dear Robert: You can’t bring the kitchen, but a nice big cooler will be a must. First, set a budget for how much you will spend on food per day. Then stick to it. Visit groceries along the way to fill the cooler with snacks, beverages and lunch for the day. It won’t be as cheap as eating at home, but it will be cheaper than eating all of your meals out.
Then book your overnight stays in hotels, such as Homewood Suites, where hot breakfast is included in the price of the room every day of the week and a hot dinner is served Monday through Thursday. Other hotels, such as Country Inns & Suites, include kitchenettes, enabling you to prepare meals in your room. This strategy will require planning and a little work. But if everyone pitches in to prepare and eat breakfast and lunch on the cheap, you’ll be able to eat out for one meal a day while sticking to your budget.
Dear Mary: My husband made really good money. Then BAM! He got sick last fall. Since then, he’s brought in only $500. We are almost four months late with our mortgage. We have been in contact with our lender, and I need to write a hardship letter to explain our situation. Do you have any suggestions on how to write a successful letter? — Cathy K., Montana
Dear Cathy: Stick carefully to the facts. Keep your letter to one page. Be to the point and nonemotional. Make sure you have job titles correct and names spelled correctly. Once you’ve written the letter once, rewrite it, removing all unnecessary words. Make sure your grammar and spelling are impeccable. Once you have it perfect, print it, sign it and send it off. Good luck.
Dear Mary: Thank you for your recent column “8 Words That Changed My Life.” I’m a prime example of what not to do with money. A while back, I thought about the sorry state of our finances and tried to analyze what we did wrong. I came up with a question: What’s the difference between ambition and greed? I wanted the best schools for my kids, the bigger house, the better neighborhood, etc. It’s a no-win game because you never are satisfied. I found that I wasn’t ambitious; I was greedy. That ranks as one of the deadly sins! Your eight words, especially the last four, say it all: “Buy what you need; want what you have.” You cleared my mind and made my day. — June R., e-mail
Dear June: Thanks for writing. I am humbled and also proud of you for getting it.
Do you have a question for Mary? E-mail her at email@example.com, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2135, Paramount, CA 90723. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com and author of 18 books, including “Can I Pay My Credit Card Bill With a Credit Card?” To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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