Spring break and summer vacation is coming up and will be here before you know it. Where will you and your family be going? Bahamas? Belize? Canada? Mexico? Or will you be doing another staycation?
I have had my share of staycations, but one of the reasons why I became a travel agent was to educate my children through the world of travel. I am here to tell you that travel is possible and in many cases affordable. You just may have to make a few little adjustments in the way you live. So in this blog, I am going to give you some of the top tips on saving up for a great vacation this year. You don’t have to employ them all, just pick a few to put into practice and see how you’re going to save for your next big trip. Trust the process. These tips work! At the end of the day life is about experiences, not stuff.
1. Set up a Budget: This has to be the first step because you need to know what you’re working with. And this may dictate where you can comfortably afford to go, for how long, and what to do when you get there. Once you set up a budget, then figure out ways you can cut back.
2. Cut Back on Monthly Bills: Admittedly, this is not easy to do because it seems like all of your monthly expenses are an absolute must. But I guarantee, if you look back over your budget, you will find unnecessary expenses. For example, do you really need to buy movies On Demand? Do you really need Netflix (I know how much y’all like watching Stranger Things and Riverdale…but nixing Netflix can save you $10 a month, which may not sound like a lot, but that’s $120 per year, enough to pay for a wi-fi package and a drink package on a cruise)!
Then there’s Redbox. Why spend $1.99 on a movie every weekend (and risk getting charged more by not turning it in on time), when all you have to do is go to your local library and check out a movie for FREE! Also consider newspaper delivery, Spotify, and itunes.
Is it possible to cut back a bit on how many manis and pedis you get? I’m not saying cutting them out all together, but perhaps just limit your visits to once a month. Same thing goes for the barber/beautician. Just cut back a little and use that extra money directly for your vacation fund.
What about your cell phone plan? Do you need all the bells and whistles? You can save goo-gobs of money just by getting rid of unnecessary features. Same thing goes with your internet service. Do you really need the absolute fastest internet known to man? (I do…but surely there’s a way for some to cut back!) And remember, this is just temporarily…until you take your big trip. Can you revisit your car insurance policy and see if things can be switched up to save you money? Do you qualify for any new discounts?
Also, some things you can do to keep your electric bill at a reasonable rate is unplug unused electronics. Why pay for something you’re not even using? Also consider switching to LEDs or at the very least CFLs. These types of bulbs are four times more energy efficient than the regular incandescent bulbs. Replace expensive 60-watt bulbs with 14-watt LEDs or CFLs. This can potentially save $0.66 on each bulb per month. That really adds up quickly, and the extra savings can go directly into your vacation fund.
3. Use Public Transportation: Using public transportation can save you tons of money over time. Especially when you consider how costly it is to own and maintain a vehicle. You have your monthly auto payment, car insurance, gas, oil changes, tires, and batteries to maintain (not even going to get into the expensive, more serious car repairs). So every time you leave that hunk of metal behind, consider that money in your pocket. Ride-share services, like Uber, Lyft, and Zipcar, make getting around town a breeze. Also consider public transportation like the bus or subway. And if you want to be more adventurous, walk more, ride your bike (or bike-share), moped, motorized scooter or skateboard. Carpooling is another great option.
4. Use Coupons: Look at every penny you spend and figure out a way to stretch the money you have. Whether you use a coupon for immediate discount or send in a rebate, don’t ever pay full price. Ebates is a great way to find coupon codes to earn cash back on every purchase. Also sites like RetailMeNot offer free coupon codes for practically any product you need. Order your contact lenses online from DiscountContactLenses.com and get your glasses from Zenni.com. These are some of the best prices around and great quality too.You can save on your monthly gas expenses by taking advantage of your grocery store bonus cards offering free gas points for selected purchases. (Tip: use the GasBuddy app, which will tell you where to get the cheapest price in town on gas). The point is, NEVER pay full price for anything. EVERYTHING goes on sale!
5. Cut Back on Food Budget: There are a number of things you can do to stretch your food budget besides the obvious of using coupons. You can also buy at farmer’s markets. (To find a farmer’s market near you, visit localharvest.org and enter your zip code). Or grow your own produce in your backyard. And in some cases, it is better to buy non-perishable items (rice, flour, sugar, salt, etc) in bulk at Costco, Sam’s, or BJs.When possible, buy the generic version. Of course, some things absolutely must be name brand, but when it really doesn’t matter, swap the high-priced name brand version for a cost effective generic version. At the end of the day, who would even notice?Do you have any vices, such as smoking or drinking? Well, besides the obvious health benefits, strongly consider giving up smoking cigarettes. If you have a pack-a-day habit, that could end up c$2,190.00 a year.
Oh and two more pieces of advice…1. Don't go grocery shopping with your kids. They have a way of begging for junk food and other food items that they really don't need. 2. Don’t go to the grocery store hungry. We’ve heard that a million times or more, but if you’re like me, you still do it. But you are guaranteed to come out of the store with 20 items you don’t need! Stick to your well thought out grocery list.
(Tip: Cut out sodas and junk food and put this extra savings in your vacation savings jar mentioned in #6)
6. Cut Back on Eating Out: This is a no-brainer. Eating out can be a colossal waste of money. This money saved can be added to your vacation fund. That daily Starbucks habit can cost you big bucks in the end, so make your own coffee at home. Take a brown bag lunch to work, and skip the pizza on the weekends. If you cannot live without this creature comfort, then maybe give mystery shopping a try. There are companies that will actually pay YOU to eat at nice restaurants. (Do you like Texas Roadhouse restaurant? Here’s the link to mystery shop for them: Reality Based Group). Or go to restaurants where kids eat free. Or buy discounted coupons from restaurant.com. There are some airline programs that offer points for dining within a network of restaurants. You just sign up online and link your card to the program.
7. A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned: My dad used to have a water cooler bottle in the bottom of his closet, and he would come home every evening and empty all the change from his pockets into the jug. We took our first of many trips to Disney World with this jug filled with money. So I’m a big believer in this method because it works and doesn’t feel like it’s taking money from your budget.
(Tip: When cashing in your coins DO NOT use the change machines at the grocery stores because these keep a chunk of your money. Instead, wrap the coins yourself and carry it right up to your bank).
8. Let Your Kids Participate: Since the vacation is for everyone in the family, why not have everyone in the family add money to the jar at the end of the day. Or better yet, get each kid their own savings jar. You can also have the children contribute to the vacation fund with their allowance…say at least 10%. That helps them feel more like a part of the vacation and teaches them how to save for their future vacations when they’re out on their own.
9. Open Dedicated Vacation Bank Account: Don’t use your savings or checking account for your vacation fund. That would just be too easy to dip into. Best to use a separate account that is not easy to dip into, such as an online only bank. It could even be an interest-bearing account. But whatever you decide, always include savings in your monthly budget, even if it’s only 5% or 10%.
10. Automatic Deduction: If you automatically have a certain amount withdrawn from each check, that means less work for you and more of a chance that money goes where it’s supposed to go.
11. Raises & Bonuses: Will you be getting a raise this year? Or how about an end-of-the-year bonus? (I hope you do!) If so, act as if you haven’t even received it. Put the extra money directly into your travel fund.
12. Tax Refund: This should go without saying, but when you get your tax refund, this should go into some sort of savings and also you can put a portion of that toward your vacation fund. And to really maximize your refund, take out a short-term certificate of deposit to earn extra interest on your money.
13. Repool Your Money: Once you get a bill paid off, instead of putting that money back in the pool to pay another bill off, put it in your vacation fund.
14. Avoid ATM Fees: Don’t you hate it when banks charge you money for withdrawing YOUR. OWN. MONEY! Well, with a little pre-planning, you should never have to pay another ATM fee again. Some of these can be up to $4.00. Over time, that’s a big chunk of money…YOUR MONEY!
15. Use Credit Cards Wisely: There are some credit cards that you can use that will offer you points and/or frequent flyer miles. Start using these cards to pay for your regular bills that you normally would to rack up points. Also transfer balances if you have credit card debt with a high interest rate. Some cards offer perks like 0% APR for up to 18 months. Some of these cards offer rewards programs, which will help you pay off your debt and at the same time save money. (Just be sure to pay off the full balance before the introductory period is over!)
16. Sell Your Stuff: You know the drill, eBay, craigslist, etsy, etc. or better yet, have a garage sale or sell old clothes to consignment shops.
17. Cancel That Gym Membership: I’m all for working out and staying fit, but do you really need to do so at the gym? There are so many workout programs on YouTube and all kinds of apps that will help you achieve your fitness goals. Don’t waste your money!
18. Home Improvements: You can save quite a bit by making a few small adjustments in your home to save energy. For example, install a smart thermostat or google products to turn your lights on when you walk into the room and off as soon as you exit. This is especially helpful if you have young ones that forget to turn off the lights.
19. Odds & Ins Jobs: I’m not a big proponent of getting an additional job to afford travel, because that just means you’ll be spending that much more time away from your family, and in my book that kind of defeats the purpose. However, there are a few jobs worth looking into that could bring in a little extra money. For example, being an Uber or Lyft driver. You could deliver food with UberEats or DoorDash. Or you could take on a few little jobs with pay starting at $5 on a site called fiverr. And of course mystery shopping as mentioned above, or maybe teach English to non-English speaking people. Get paid to give your opinion about stuff you’re using anyway. Check out Harris Poll and Ipsos, (some pay up to $100.00)
20. Get Yourself A Travel Agent: Sign up with travel companies that always offer last minute deals or flash sales, etc. (pick me! pick me!)
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Kimberly is the owner of Travel Kimestry. Her areas of expertise include The Bahamas, The Caribbean, Hawaii, Mexico, Europe and ALL THINGS DISNEY. She’s passionate about working with families who enjoy traveling the world. She looks forward to working with YOU soon!