Skip to Content

Buy The Souvenir (and tips to save on it)

If you’re planning a trip, plan to buy a souvenir that catches your eye. This Buy The Souvenir post explains why and gives you tips to save on those splurges.

If you’re planning a vacation, our other travel posts can help you plan.

Woman looking at kokeshi dolls in a shop in Japan with the words "Buy The Souvenir (and ways to save on it)" digitally written above her.

The first time I went to Japan, someone wise (I think my mom) told me to buy the souvenir if I liked it because I might not be able to find it again. But being there for a month on a limited budget of foreign currency, I didn’t listen when I found a Hello Kitty violin-shaped music box in a store down the block from where we were staying. It was a little more than I wanted to spend on a trinket, and I wasn’t sure that I would love it two weeks later.

Almost as soon as I left it, I couldn’t get it out of my head.

“Didn’t your mom tell you to buy something if you see it?” my aunt asked me. “Yes,” I said, kicking myself.

We were able to get back to the shop, and, thank goodness, the music box was still there. I paid for it and it turned into such a prized possession. Almost two decades later, I still have it displayed.

So my advice: Buy the souvenir.

Not that I always take my advice, though.

A man standing at the Grand Canyon with the words "How To Travel On A Budget" digitally written above him.

For more tips on saving money on trips, check out our How To Travel On A Budget guide.

Buy The Souvenir (and tips to save on it)

We went to Hilton Head Island a few years ago, and I saw a shirt in the resort lobby that I liked. It was a white, long sleeved shirt that said “Hilton Head Island” on the back. You know those, right? They’re very touristy. And priced accordingly. This shirt was $65, and there was no way I was going to pay $65 for a shirt.

Oh, I should have.

It’s years later and I’m still thinking about that shirt. I would have worn it a million times, I bet. But instead, I didn’t buy it.

I’m really frugal. I pinch pennies, squeeze nickels together until they bleed. I don’t shop without coupons, I combine rebates with deals, I save free money to buy stocking stuffers, and I would rather go thirsty than overpay for a bottle of water. So a $65 shirt? Nope. Not for me.

Sometimes, though, it’s okay to splurge. Especially when you’re on vacation. It’s a memory more than a t-shirt.

If you pinch pennies and go to the gas station on the opposite side of the street because that one gives cash back with GetUpside, making your gas cheaper, I applaud you. I do that too.

If you cook at home because it’s cheaper than going out to eat, hats off to you. We save money that way too.

But the truth is: You save on shampoo so you can spend on champagne. Basically, you clip coupons so you have money in case you want to indulge. And souvenirs, they’re an indulgence. But being frugal means you can treat yourself sometimes without feeling bad.

So buy that expensive knickknack, spend money on that $65 shirt. It’s worth it.

Save On Souvenirs

An observation center at the San Antonio Botanical Garden.

Purchase a membership

I know it sounds counterintuitive to say, “purchase a membership to save on souvenirs,” but hear me out.

We had a membership to our local botanical garden and with that came 10% off anything in the gift shop. When we had guests visiting us and we brought them to the gift shop, we could get them a discount as well.

When we visited reciprocal botanical gardens, we were able to get in for free. So we went to the San Antonio Botanical Garden and saved $30 since we didn’t pay to get in. We purchased a drink at the bar inside the garden, but that was less than the entrance fee. So by having a membership, we saved money and could have bought more than a souvenir beverage and still spent less.

Teacher stationery.

Be a teacher

Some National Parks and similar recreation spaces will give discounts to teachers. At Eastern National park stores, you can save 20% off any school purchase order. If it’s for personal use, teachers can still save 15% in park stores or online. You can read more about that program here.

So if you’re a teacher, or if you’re on vacation with a teacher, you should definitely ask about this discount at gift shops within National Parks. You might get lucky.

Look for the coupon books

Many tourist and beach towns have coupon books strategically placed all over the place. Myrtle Beach has The Monster Coupon Book and you can’t go into a restaurant or a shop without bumping into one. In fact, we’re an hour away and we have them in our grocery stores.

There are coupons in the books for attractions, to help you save overall, but also in gift shops. There are ones for free hermit crabs when you buy a cage, $.99 shell necklaces, $.99 salt water taffy, and more. So if you’re looking for touristy trinkets for a token souvenir, these coupon books will help you find cheap ones.

Myrtle Beach boardwalk.

Stick with the boardwalk shops

Many boardwalk shops are designed with tourists in mind. They want your vacation money and they know you’ll spend it if there are cheap items with the destination’s name on them. Did I need the four Las Vegas shot glasses I purchased the first time I was there? No. But they were two for $1, so I bought them.

When you get off of the boardwalk, most souvenir shops will have similar items that are a lot more expensive.

We noticed something similar in Tijuana too. At the bus depot, you could buy souvenirs for what seemed like a good price. But, once you got outside of that tourist magnet, we were getting the same items for one-third of the price. So, be mindful of where you’re shopping and you’ll be able to save.

Tips For A Frugal Vacation

If your goal is to save a little bit of money when you’re on your trip so you have a little extra to spend on things like souvenirs, you’re in luck. We have a few posts about saving money on vacation that can help you:

Do you indulge? Do you buy the souvenir? Let us know in the comments.


Thursday 21st of September 2017

Ugh, I do the same thing!!!! ? It's been 30+ years and I still could kick myself for not buying a particular, specific style ring in Germany!!!