Yes, you can afford to go on vacation.
You are about to take the first steps to build your vacation fund. With a bit of effort and a few changes, you will be on your way to a fantastic vacation in no time. The first step is to make the decision to do it!
Get your family and friends involved. Vacations are more fun when you are with people you love and enjoy being with. Have a family meeting to get your household on board. Encourage your extended family and friends to join in so that you can all travel together.
Make a vision board. Find pictures of places you want to visit. Include activities that will be fun to do. Share things that you can do together to save money – think about game nights, movies and popcorn at home, kickball at the park, hikes the local park. Throw in a chart that you can fill out to track your progress.
Open a separate bank account. Keep your vacation money separate from your other accounts so that you don’t get tempted to borrow funds for something else. Some banks and credit unions will even give a bonus if you reach certain goals.
Set up direct deposit. You probably already have direct deposit set up through your work. Take a small amount and put it straight into your vacation account. If you don’t see the money you will not miss it. Little bits add up.
Switch to a rewards card. If you pay your credit card bill in full each month, use a rewards card. You can earn free flights, cash back or money to spend with specific travel companies. If you don’t pay your card in full then start now. Stop paying all that interest, use that money for your trip instead.
Cook at home. We love eating out and enjoy having someone else do the work but eating out is expensive. Even if you use a meal subscription service you will save money over going out. Cooking from scratch will save you the most. Cooking can also be a great family bonding activity.
Plan before you grocery shop. See what you already have on hand. Work on a weekly menu and purchase only what you need for those dishes. Don’t go when you are hungry so that you don’t end up with a bunch of snacks. Check sales flyers and clip coupons for items that you normally use. Bring a calculator to compare prices of different size options. Buying in bulk does not always save money.
Drink from a reusable water bottle. Soda, energy drinks and bottled water can add up. Get a water filter and drink your own tap water. Depending on the brand of bottled water you like, a single bottle is about the same price as 500 gallons of tap water. More water and fewer sodas has the added bonus of making you healthier.
Check your recurring memberships and subscriptions. Do you get a newspaper or magazine that you never read? Do you pay for a gym membership but don’ remember that the building looks like? Watch for the automatic renewals such as wholesale club memberships, streaming service, or music services. You may be paying for things that you don’t even realize.
Check your phone, internet, and cable packages. Are you paying for services that you don’t use or are you doubling up on any? Do you have more channels than you watch? Can you use a streaming service instead? Are you paying monthly so that you can upgrade your phone every year or two? Using a phone that is a couple of generations old can save hundreds of dollars and will work fine for most people. Price your services separately and as bundles.
Save your change. If you still use cash, then get a container to save the coins that you get back in change. If you no longer use cash. then look at a service that rounds your credit and debit card purchases and invests the change, think Acorns.com.
Limit your online shopping – It is easy to fill our online shopping cart with things that we don’t need when we are sitting around with nothing to do. Try putting items in your card and waiting 24 hours to see if you still “need” the items.
Avoid temptation stores. We all have a store where we find items that we need anytime we walk in the door.
Assess how you spend your entertainment budget. Are there things that you can cut back on while still having a lot of fun. Switch from going to the movie theater and check out a pop-up drive in. Our local baseball club and some business are hosting free or very inexpensive outdoor movies. Many museums have free or reduced admission days. Get a state park pass and enjoy the outdoors. Look for free concerts in the community. When life gets more normal look for amateur athletics instead of professional sports.
Search the unclaimed property site in the states that you have lived. I just found nearly $500 that I did not know that I have. It only takes a few minutes to search and fill out the required forms.
Avoid splurge items. Who does not love a Carmel Macchiato but is it worth $4.50? One Grande each workday adds up to nearly $90 a month or more than $1000 a year. One of those candles for the specialty store in the mall can be $20.
Stop smoking. In Florida, the average cost of a pack cigarettes is over $6. If you smoke just ½ a pack a day you are spending over $1000 a year without even considering the other health costs.
Track your budget. You might be surprised how much money you are actually spending. Once you know where your money is going you can make informed decisions.
Put the kids to work. Pay the kids to do some chores and have them donate to the vacation fund. They will be going on vacation with the family so let them feel like they contributed. Letting the kids work in the yard can save you money and helps them get exercise and build a stronger work ethic.
Brainstorm. Get creative on how you and your family can save money. Have some fun and turn this into a game or competition.
Make your trip a priority. When making a purchase ask yourself if it is worth more than your vacation. The choice is yours but the more you save the sooner or the bigger your trip can be.
When you’re ready… I would love to help you start planning your vacation. I never charge a booking fee so it doesn’t cost you anything extra to have a travel agent on your team to help you navigate the process.
I can’t wait to hear from you so that we can start charting your vacation memories!