Quick Ways to save for Vacation!
By Jen Campbell of Escape Destinations Travel
In a perfect world, we'd all have fully funded vacation accounts full of lots of money to pay for our annual family getaways. The reality is that most of us are just now starting to think about this holiday season and next summer's vacation. Here are some fast-track ways to save for your big trip.
1. Start with a spending plan
Decide upfront how much you'll spend on your vacation. Get specific.
Along with plane tickets (or gas, if you're driving) and hotel prices, guess what your costs for meals, souvenirs, and park or museum admissions. Total it all up. If the number sends you into shock, cut back on costs -- now, on paper -- until you feel comfortable with what you're spending. If money is super tight, consider a couple of long weekend trips instead of one "dream" vacation this summer. Staycations are always good ideas, take some day trips to areas locally you’ve been wanting to check out, without breaking the bank.
When we started deciding that family memories were essential to our family, I decided what amount we could set aside for our “travel budget” and every paycheck, determined to set this money aside into a savings account. It didn’t break our budget, was hardly missed, and it slowly but surely compounded.
Another idea is to sit down with your family and determine how much you can spend on your trip, then get with your travel agent to actually budget your plans out. Most vacations can be held with a small deposit, and then payments made as often as you like. It’s like a built in savings plan, you have a tangible goal to work towards, and you can then COUNT DOWN to vacation time! The anticipation of the trip is just as fun!
2. Sacrifice now for lots of fun later
Do you belong to a health club or subscribe to a service (such as cable or satellite TV, a cell phone plan, etc.) that you no longer use, or could easily downgrade?
Consider dropping the service now and stash the money away for your family's summer vacation. Also consider cutting back for a few months on nonessentials like kids' dance lessons, your weekly Pilates classes, your husband's trips to the batting cage, lunch/dinner or coffee out, or your family's monthly movie-rental service. When I made a decision a few years ago to make memories with my family and cut costs wherever it was, I was able to set aside some money every 2 weeks to make it happen. So, I cut lunch out with co-workers, and rather than deny them completely, I tried to do 1 a week instead of nearly daily.
Remember: You're just trading today's fun for the fantastic fun you'll have during your vacation. Move what you normally would have spent on these items into your vacation fund. Ideally, that would be a special savings account or an easy-to-track category within your larger savings account.
3. Build cash with a 'Pantry Week'
For one week each month, from now until your trip, stay out of the grocery store and eat only what you have in your house.
You could make it fun by pretending you're on a deserted island and can only eat what you have in the pantry. What unusual meals can the kids suggest? Many families have more staples in their cupboards than they realize. And hey! It really is actually OK to eat peanut butter and jelly for dinner one night.
4. Eat out less, save big
A typical family with kids younger than age 6 spends an average of $239 each month on restaurant meals, according to the National Restaurant Association. That's money that could easily be diverted to your vacation fund.
Some ways to cut back without going cold turkey: Check local restaurants for "kids eat free" nights (often Monday or Tuesday nights), watch newspaper coupon inserts for buy one entree, get one free dining deals or buy discounted coupons (usually $25 certificates for $10) at Restaurant.com.
Frozen dinners or ready-made grocery deli items are much cheaper than restaurant food if all you really need is a cooking break. You could also eat dinner inexpensively at home, then treat the family to a modest dessert out.
5. Make a visual savings wall chart
Kids are more likely to get excited, and you'll stay on track easily, if you make your savings goal visual. Chart a graph on a large poster board. Track your weekly or monthly progress toward your trip savings with colorful markers and stickers.
Set some great milestones along the way: For instance, once you've saved one-quarter of your trip costs, celebrate with a special movie-at-home night or go out for ice cream. Celebrating your success makes the savings process fun and less tedious!
6. Sell your stuff
A garage sale is a great way to earn vacation cash from your castoffs. To attract a crowd, run an ad in your local newspaper, online like craigslist and face book and post easy-to-read signs around your own neighborhood. Check local regulations about posting notices, of course, and write signs in crayon if it looks like rain.
Sales tips: Kids' clothes sell well at yard sales, adult clothes don't -- try a consignment shop instead. List kids' clothing sizes and brand names, if you have them, in your ad. Some parents make special trips to garage sales featuring labels like Baby Gap and Gymboree.
If your kids are old enough to help, let them pick some of their older toys to sell. A cute special kids' table with a sign like, "All proceeds go to purchase of our Disneyland souvenirs," is often a big hit -- and it's a great way to teach your kids about saving money.
7. Use your tax refund -- now
Do you usually get an IRS refund in April? If so, too much tax money is being withheld from your paycheck. Fill out a new W-4 form with your employer right away. Adjust your tax withholding so that it's fairly close to what you will owe in April.
Your next paycheck should be substantially bigger. Start transferring the extra money into your dedicated vacation savings account or category. Or, if you still get a refund this spring, sock it away, too. Put the money into a dedicated vacation account, so you don't spend the money on anything else.
8. Let credit cards pay you back
In the months prior to your vacation consider using a credit card that accumulates "rewards"(points or cash rebates) for everything you can: gas, groceries -- even day-care tuition.
Let these rewards pile up, then use them toward plane tickets (if you've been banking points/dollars for a while), hotel or rental car discount, or gift cards for chain restaurants you'll visit on your trip. The key, of course, is to pay off your balance in full every month. Vacation debt is not the kind of souvenir you would want to collect.
9. Pay for All of your Trip Up Front
We like to head on vacation with NO Debt owed for the trip. We pay for our tips/gratuities, any extra trips, etc. in advance. I like to go on vacation knowing that everything has been covered, and I can truly relax with no worries about finances! That’s truly a relaxing, worry-free vacation for me.
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