When my mother-in-law called last Christmas Eve, she asked me to put Kris on the other line. “I have something I want to tell both of you,” she said. I was worried. Was something wrong?

“What’s the matter?” Kris asked.

“Hold onto your seats,” her mother said. “Your dad and I have a surprise for you. We’re going to take the family on a vacation to Europe this summer. That is, if you want to go.”

We’re not crazy. Pass up an opportunity to visit England, Ireland, and New York on somebody else’s dime? No way. “Count us in,” we said.

Almost immediately, though, we realized we needed to alter some of our spending habits. A free vacation is never free. Because the exchange rate is so poor, we each decided to save $2,000 for meals and spending cash. This is a lot of money to me, and at first I thought the goal was impossible. But I began to find new ways to save, including (but not limited to):

  • I reduced the cable bill by $50/month.
  • We ate out less often.
  • I renewed my acquaintance with the public library.
  • I cut my comic book spending. (This one hurt.)
  • I sold some stuff on eBay and at our garage sale.

Through planning and hard work, I was able to meet my goal. I have a little over $2,000 saved for our trip. Will it be enough to last three weeks? I think so. In fact, I’m hoping to come home with money left over. I’m not going to scrimp, though — I’m willing to pay for experiences that I may never have a chance to try again.

Time and again I’m amazed how the techniques I recommend here actually work for me. I’m a skeptic by nature, and sometimes when I write about “how to save money by giving up cable TV”, I’m thinking, “Right — cutting cable TV sounds nice, but can it really make a difference?” Well, yeah it can. And when you combine several cost-cutting measures, the savings add up quickly.

I’ll be checking in every now-and-then while I’m away, but for the most part, JerichoHill will be running things behind the scenes. I plan to post an update every weekend to describe the financial aspects of our trip. I won’t be posting any regular articles, though.

Instead, I’ve gathered a great lineup of guest stories from other personal finance writers and from your fellow GRS readers. Leo Babauta describes how to eliminate debt, Liz Weston reveals how a personal finance guru really lives, and Penelope Trunk writes about saving money by moving to a smaller city. Penny Nickel discusses community investing options, Free Money Finance talks about money and religion, and Lisa Lessley Briscoe describes how she uses eBay to find bargains.

There are so many great guest posts line up that I’m afraid you’ll be spoiled when I return! I have plans to woo you back, however. This fall I hope to produce the first of a series of Get Rich Slowly podcasts, to host a group writing project, and more.

I’m off for the airport now. Take care, my friends — I’ll see you in August!

This article is about Administration, Budgeting