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Ready to Get Away?

Everyone needs something to look forward to, and what’s better than a vacation? But as valuable as travel is, it’s no excuse for going into debt or devouring your emergency fund.

Article
Lindsay Morris
Photos
Courtesy
Posted
December 28, 2018

The holidays have come to an end, and you might be tapped out financially from all that money you spent on Christmas gifts. But perhaps you are mapping out your next vacation, and you realize you need to start saving now.

Time away can mean different things to different people, of course. For some, it’s sun and sand. For others, train tickets and backpacks. For more still, canoes and tents.

Whatever your idea of a fabulous vacation, it never hurts to start saving. The more pennies you can tuck away, the more dates on your calendar you can star and circle.

There are two ways financially to do a vacation: a) save for it now and pay for it in advance (or as it’s happening), or b) put it on credit cards and pay for it later, but you’ll likely end up paying far more in interest than what the trip originally cost.

Unless you want to pay $10,000 for a $5,000 trip, it’s time to start putting aside some cash.

Keep in mind that discipline is key, but extreme asceticism can backfire. Be realistic. Overestimating the amount you can save is ultimately counterproductive, because if you keep restricting yourself too much and failing, you will become disheartened and eventually abandon the project.

Even if you don’t have a ton of income, there are some little things you can do that will add up over the next few months. That summer vacation of your dreams can become a reality if you’ll be diligent to follow these vacation-saving tips.

Reassess your monthly bills
The start of the year is a great time to kick things into motion. Try to identify areas of redundancy that you can just cut back. Really pore over your monthly bank statements. Not only is it a great way to figure out what spending areas you should be trimming, it’s also an opportunity to flag any subscription-based services that you no longer need. One no-brainer step you should already be doing is paying all your bills online. It’s a lot more convenient, and you’ll be saving on postage.

Open a dedicated vacation savings account
This is going to be your best bet to making sure you set aside the funds needed to go to a sunny beach this year. How much is your trip going to cost? Determine that first, and be sure to include money for all the little things you usually forget, such as airport parking, tips, and souvenirs.

If you go this route, make sure you do not face any minimum balance penalties when you actually start to spend the money you’ve saved. It ‘may also be useful to have ATM and online access to the account, which will let you draw money directly from the account when booking and while you travel.

Be diligent about setting aside money each paycheck
Just opening that vacation savings account won’t do any good until you put money in it. Do the math and determine how much you’ll need to set aside each paycheck. Naturally, there may be times you’ll have to pay for a car repair instead of putting money into the vacation fund. When you happen to get a nice birthday check from grandma, consider putting that toward the vacation too.

Stash your cash
Pick one day each week to look in your wallet. If there’s green in there, thin it out and stash some away. It can be all of your $1 bills, a $20 each time, half of whatever you find, or any other amount you’d like. Put it in an envelope and pretend you never had it. Once your vacation plans take shape, dive into your secret cash stash and see where you stand. The total might not be enough for airfare, but it could buy a few dinners out of town.

Make a little money on the side
Maybe you’ve calculated how much you need to save, and you’ve come to the sobering realization that you won’t be able to save that amount without selling a kidney. Well, why not get a side hustle? Something legal, of course. Consider becoming an Uber or Lyft driver, delivering pizzas, baby-sitting or working at a retail store outside of your regular work hours.

Cut back on your food budget
Unless you’re a college student who is already surviving on ramen noodles, chances are, there are a few food items you could cut out or spend less on. Consider cutting back on eating out. Plan out your meals carefully and buy only items you’ll need for that week. Buy food in bulk to cut costs, and consider using a grocery app like Ibotta to get refunds on your grocery bill.

Save money on housing
Is there anything you can do to spend less on your monthly rent or mortgage? Sure, moving is always an option. Maybe you can get a roommate. Perhaps you could Airbnb your place or a room. Some simple home repairs such as better insulation can even help you save on monthly bills.

Sell stuff
We live in an era where your trash is another man’s treasure, all thanks to a simple internet search. Consider posting big items on Craigslist, Amazon, eBay, or Facebook Marketplace. Take smaller items, such as clothes, shoes and jewelry to a consignment store. Or throw it all on your front lawn (in an organized fashion) and host a garage sale.

Get airline miles
A little homework could pay off big. Credit card companies are competitive, which is a good thing for consumers. Apply for a card that offers airline miles or hotel, cruise or resort points. If you’re disciplined enough to pay the balance, pay a few bills with the card each month. You’ll earn points for things you already buy — that’s called free money. Definitely read the fine print, though. Many cards with good perks have annual fees and/or high interest rates, so it’s important to know what you’re signing up for.

Skip the gym membership
Yes, it’s January and everyone is getting a gym membership. But these days, it is possible to get in shape without paying a monthly fee. You can find thousands of amazing workout videos on YouTube. If you must have a gym membership, consider a gym with a low monthly fee. Naturally, you’ll want to get or stay in shape for your vacation, but it doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg.

Clear the pantry
When’s the last time you saw the bottom of your freezer or the back of your kitchen cabinet? Do your best to eat what you have for a week or two. Sure, you’ll have to head to the grocery store for basic staples and produce, but you’d be amazed at how long you can eat on what you already have. Mashup meals can save you as much as $100 every few months by minimizing big trips to the grocery store. And who knows? Maybe you’ll stumble on a new favorite recipe.

Get everyone involved
Parents know that travel costs multiply dramatically when kids are added to the mix (more plane tickets, bigger rental cars, more beds, etc.). If your kids get allowances, or if you give them a weekly spending budget, they should help save for the trip as well, whether in cash from their allowance or from their spending limits. Explain that vacations cost extra, and that while you are still paying bills at home during the trip and will cover most of the travel expenses, they will need to save up for any little extra stuff they want to buy.

Make a trade
Look at your weekly budget to see how you’re spending your money. Can you make a trade? Brew your own coffee instead of buying designer lattes. Visit Redbox or sign up for Netflix instead of seeing new movies. Pack your lunch more often to save eating-out cash. Then, set aside the money you saved each week for your vacation fund. You’re used to spending it anyway, so you won’t miss it. Just picture beaches while you’re eating your PB&J.

Make plans to vacation on the cheap
Instead of a pricy hotel room, look for an affordable Airbnb in the area you’ll be visiting. Consider staying somewhere with a fridge and cooking appliances so you can save money by preparing most meals. Make a daily budget for your trip and stick with it.

Get paid to take a vacation
Some companies look for adventurers who are willing to go on a trip and blog/film/photograph their adventures. If you’d be up for sharing your travels publicly, why not do an internet search for these opportunities? If you can’t find a company to pay for your trip, you can at least look at LivingSocial or Groupon for deals in the area where you’ll be traveling.

March 2019 Cover