The best things in life are free – but your dream vacation isn’t.
And saving money for your dream trip requires discipline, restraint and, yes, a few nights spent at home instead of hitting the town.
The good news is that this can be the year you turn your dream vacation into a reality if you use clever and effective ways to save. Here are 15 tips to get you started.
Bank money from every paycheck. You’re not going to achieve your goal without a plan. Ballpark how much your vacation will cost and how much money you need to save. It may be a painstaking process but itemize your expenses and calculate how much you can afford to save each week. Stick to the plan and use cash if you don’t trust yourself with credit cards.
Cut out wasteful spending. While money experts frequently cite daily coffee shop stops as a money pit to cut out of your life, you may find a handful of expenses you don’t need when you put your budget under a microscope. Have a subscription you rarely use? Ready to cut the cable cord? Evaluate what you can eliminate from your life without sacrificing your happiness.
Download a budgeting app. In 2019, there’s an app for almost anything and dozens for managing your money. Most are free so do some experimenting and find one that works for you. Of course, while these apps have cool features, like the capability to set financial goals or save toward a single event – like your vacation – it’s still up to you to make it happen.
Use credit card points. While using credit cards can be a dangerous game for someone on a tight budget, some credit cards offer lucrative travel benefits. On some of these cards, points can be redeemed to save money on airfare, hotels, dining and more. However, don’t just open a credit card for the rewards; make sure you’re getting a competitive interest rate and that you can afford the payments.
No-spend days. Choose certain days throughout the month when you won’t spend any money – no coffee, no snacks, nada. Once again, making this happen requires restraint and the ability to tell your friends or family “no.” If they give you a hard time, explain that what they want to do does not align with your financial goal – and that you really need this vacation.
Prepare meals in advance. Remember the part about creating a budget and sticking to it? Well, prepping your meals is a microcosm of that strategy. Planning what you eat in advance will help you buy only what you need and keep you from dropping $10 to $15 on a random Wednesday lunch. If you can’t live without that slice of pizza on Fridays or something midweek to get you out of that slump, factor it into your budget.
Plan nights in. Nights out are fun, but they can also be an area where you cut back. Plan a movie night at home with homemade snacks or tell your special someone you will cook dinner just for him or her. Make it special without the big spend!
Hit happy hour and matinees. Cutting back doesn’t necessarily mean cutting out. Look for bargain prices on the things you love to do – like meeting friends for drinks or going to the movies.
Shop the sales. Let grocery store prices dictate which foods you buy during your weekly shopping trip. Just be careful not to buy foods you don’t need.
Get a part-time job. Beyond cutting spending, you may want to find another way to bring in money. This could be something as simple as restaurant work in your off hours or you could look for a way to turn your hobby or skills into a side hustle that nets you some extra cash. Writing, dog walking, accounting, arts and crafts and personal training come to mind.
Earmark bonuses. File this one under responsible spending: When you benefit from windfalls like bonus checks or a tax refund, make sure you save at least a chunk of it for your vacation.
Right tickets, right time. According to an annual survey from CheapAir.com, the best time to buy airline tickets is between 3 weeks and 3 ½ months in advance of your flight. Of course, this is an inexact science and the same survey indicated ticket prices change on average every 4.5 days. Just don’t wait until the last minute – data show tickets bought in the days leading up to the flight can be hundreds of dollars more expensive than the lowest fare.
Invest in a travel fund. To grow your modest travel fund, you may also want to open an investment account, or bankroll a financial product known as a certificate of deposit. These products will allow you to grow your savings at a higher rate than the snail’s pace of a traditional savings account. Of course, the latter has less risk than the former, and if you’re not sure how these products work, consult a financial advisor who can give advice on stocks and bonds and establishing a stable portfolio.
Travel during the off-season. Another way to save on the overall cost of your trip is to travel when tourism is down, and costs are lower than the peak seasons. Of course, it’s your dream vacation, so don’t miss out on the seasonal attractions that make your destination special but do some research to see if you can save some money by traveling a little later or earlier.
Borrow clothes instead of buying them. Lastly, you don’t always need to empty your piggy bank on clothes for your trip or accessories you’ll only use once. Ask friends to borrow clothes, luggage, battery packs or an international charger if you need them. It’s not the only way to save money, but rather a piece of the puzzle that helps when every penny counts.
The AAA deposit program provided by Discover Bank, Member FDIC, can help you save. As a AAA member, you have four high-yield savings products to choose from, all of which can help to maximize your savings account and speed up its development.