So, how are those summer vacation plans coming?
If things aren't looking so good for you to get away from home this year, it's probably not because you don't have the time. According to a survey by Harris Interactive the American worker left an average of 9.2 days of vacation unused in 2012. That was up from 6.2 unused days in 2011.
More than likely you keep pushing a vacation to the back burner because you just don't have the money. After all, a vacation can be very expensive. These days, you'll spend thousands for a family trip to Disney World, including airfare if you don't live in Orlando.
Of course, there are a number of ways to cut the cost of a vacation, but could you get that cost as low as $150 per adult? You just might be able to pull it off if you change your expectations a bit and adopt a new kind of vacation attitude.
Volunteer vacations are not new, but they've received more attention since Americans are no longer flushed with a lot of discretionary income.
For the cost of getting there and a reasonable amount for your food, like $150 to $300 for a week, you throw your sleeping bag in the car, drive to a nearby park and spend a week in the wilderness rebuilding trails with other nature lovers.
Don't know where to look? Go to the VolunteerMatch website, which has an impressive database of opportunities and groups that have been vetted for compliance with U.S. tax and charity laws.
The site lists not just the well-heeled agencies but also the small organizations that are doing really interesting, innovative work but might not have the funds to advertise.
Doug Cutchins, author of "Volunteer Vacations: Short-Term Adventures That Will Benefit You and Others," notes in an interview with Forbes magazine the changing demographics of those taking volunteer vacations: "The stereotype used to be people right out of college or people who were retired. But we're seeing a lot of mid-career people. ... This is a way for people to go on vacation and also feel really good about it."
Working in a national park is one of the cheapest and most rewarding volunteer vacations you can find, according to Cutchins. He recommends trips organized by the Appalachian Mountain Club, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Colorado Trail Foundation and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation in Montana, among others.
Families see the money-saving and stress-reducing benefits of going on this type of vacation.
If you can't afford a trip this year, save up for next year. Although most trips within the United States are on the cheaper side, those wishing to go abroad may need more time to save, as the trips tend to range anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000 and up.
Volunteer this year. It'll do you and others a lot of good!
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at [email protected], or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.