I was speaking to a middle school class last week about saving money and developing good financial habits, and one thing we talked about was the need to balance saving and spending.
Focusing on saving -- reducing debt, saving for the future and getting the best deals possible -- is a necessary condition for most of us. But I think it's important to be willing to spend money to create memories with friends and family.
For example, I'm taking my son skiing in Colorado to celebrate his upcoming 13th birthday, and I'm sure it will be a trip that we'll long remember. I consider that money well-spent.
Now, skiing's expensive, and air travel's not cheap, but I was able to use some of the tips I've been writing about to make the trip financially bearable:
Travel off-season: For starters, we're going skiing during the last week of the season, which meant there were great deals to be had.
The Winter Park Resort is scheduled to close the day after we return to South Carolina. We'll be staying there for $97.50 a night, including an adult lift ticket. That's less than you typically would pay for a hotel and lift ticket at one of those tiny ski areas in North Carolina.
Off-season travel, anywhere, is always a trade-off. You can fly to England in the fall for less than half the price of going in the summer because, well, it's cold and rainy there in the fall. It looks like we'll get lucky as far as late-season ski conditions.
Discounts for kids: I did some serious shopping for kids deals because different ski areas have different ideas about what a child is. At Winter Park, my son gets $30 lift tickets and free equipment rentals because he's not yet 13. Some ski areas consider a 12-year-old an adult, which would more than triple the cost.
If you have children, lots of places offer deals and discounts, but the rules can vary greatly, so it's worth checking around. In North Carolina, Sugar Mountain Resort charges adult rates starting at age 12, while the diminutive Cataloochee Ski Area offers a kids-ski-free deal for up to age 17.
Frequent-flier tickets: Readers of this column know I'm a big fan of airline credit card offers. Last year, I signed up for a US Airways Premier World MasterCard, which came with 25,500 frequent-flier miles and a 5,000-mile discount on award tickets. That meant I could get a free plane ticket for 20,000 frequent-flier miles.
Combined with some miles I already had, the credit card incentive gave me enough for two free tickets to Denver. We have to fly an inconvenient time on our return trip and pay the taxes and fees, but that's just part of the deal with some frequent-flier tickets.
The credit card came with an $89 annual fee, which more than paid for itself when earlier this year I used the two certificates for $99 companion plane tickets -- another incentive for signing up. I pay my credit cards on time and in full, so I don't pay interest.
Between the nearly free plane tickets, off-season rates and kids discounts, we're looking at flying to Denver, three days of skiing, four nights in hotels and a rental car for around $650 plus meals.
It's a chunk of money, but if there's any way to do something like that for less, I haven't found it, and I think we'll create some great memories.
How do you hit the right balance between spending and saving? If you'd like to tell me, I'd like to know, so send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reach David Slade at 937-5552. For more money-saving tips, go to postandcourier.com/personal_finance.