It’s about that time of year when we start daydreaming about basking in the sun on the beach or gazing at the tops of the mountains or fishing in the clear blue lake. We highly encourage you to take time with your family for some rest and relaxation. It’s good to get away from the grueling grind of work, school nights with homework, meetings, sports activities and all that other stuff that comes with your regular routine.
Exodus 34:21 says: “Six days you may labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the seasons of plowing and harvesting you must rest.”
However, a vacation is a luxury, which means it’s a “want” not a “need.” And because a vacation is optional, we highly encourage you to pay cash for your vacation. A vacation will be a lot more peaceful if it is paid for ahead of time and you don’t have to stress out about money while on vacation.
Here are some strategies to help you save for your next vacation:
- Open a Dedicated Vacation Bank Account
We are big fans of budgeting every month for ALL your expenses, even those that only come up once a year. The cost of your yearly vacation should be considered as part of your monthly budget, so each month a certain amount of money should be set aside in a dedicated vacation savings account.
Estimate how much the vacation will cost. Divide that number by the number of paychecks between now and vacation and you’ll know how much you need to save from each paycheck to fund your vacation.
If you go with an online bank for your vacation savings, you’ll be less likely to withdraw the money. Once you leave home, that special vacation account controls the amount of money available to spend on your vacation.
- Cut Back on Your Monthly Food Budget
Your mortgage may be the largest bill you pay each month but food is a huge expense for most families, especially if you have teens in the house. By saving a little each time you go to the grocery store, you’ll have extra cash to funnel toward your vacation fund.
To save money on your food budget, buy in bulk, by shop at farmer’s markets, use store brands, take advantage of Bogos, or enroll in your store’s loyalty program.
And don’t buy things you don’t need simply because they are on sale or you’ll get a rebate. Avoid the stuff that is nice to have but not a necessity, like soft drinks, convenience food and sweet treats. You need to keep all those non-essentials out of your grocery cart while you’re saving for your vacation.
- Get the family involved
So many people shield their children from financial realities, which does not teach them anything about wise financial management. While you don’t have to share how much you make with the kids, it is good to expose them to basic financial principles and saving for vacation is one of those.
Have a family conversation about the cost of vacation. Set up a chart on the fridge showing how much the family needs to save in order to reach your vacation goal. (Like one of those thermometers non-profit organizations use for fundraising goals.)
This gets the kids involved in helping reach the goal for vacation and teaches them a lot about delayed gratification, making plans, reaching goals and financial stewardship. They will be much less likely to complain about cutting back if they are involved in the planning process and they can see a visual reminder of why the family is cutting back and how much progress you are making.
- Evaluate Your transportation
Everyone expects to drive to work in their own car. What about joining a carpool or starting a carpool in order to share the cost of tolls, gas, parking, etc. Or ditch the driving and take public transportation to work, walk or ride a bike. Obviously, this depends on where you work and what the situation is in your area.
- Pick Up a Side Job
Look for ways to earn extra money outside your regular job. One of the reasons we encourage people to budget for vacations year round is because side jobs are seasonal.
Around the Christmas holidays, many retailers look for seasonal workers to cope with extra demand. Or can you start your own mini-business by turning a hobby into a money–maker? If you love to make jewelry or you enjoy re-gripping golf clubs you may be able to use those skills to bring in some extra cash.
In the summer, you may be able to offer a lawn or landscaping service. In the fall, try offering leaf-raking services. And there is always someone looking for help in clearing away snow from those blizzards. Working these side jobs may mean sacrificing your weekends or evening hours for a while, but the extra cash will help make your vacation possible.
- Sell Your Unused Stuff
The difference between what we have and what we actually use regularly can be huge. Consider getting rid of some on your unused stuff to fund your vacation. Try Facebook garage sale groups, consignment shops, eBay or an old-fashioned garage sale
- Make Your Credit Card Work for You
We don’t promote using credit cards unless you pay them off each month. BUT if you are going to use a credit card, get one that helps you reach your goals. Consider using a credit card that accumulates airline miles, hotel points or cash back offers for all of your regular expenditures throughout the year. If you are smart about using the right card and you pay off your card each month, your regular purchases can help fund your vacation.
- Spend Less on Your Workout
Consider saving money on the cost of a gym membership with free or cheap workouts, or by following fitness-focused YouTube channels. If you won’t exercise unless you’re at the gym, look for deals on discounted memberships and classes through your employer or sites like Groupon.
- Search for Deals on Vacation Equipment
If your vacation involves costly items like skis, snowboards, kayaks, tents and more, you could be wasting money buying all that stuff, especially if you only use it occasionally. Consider buying used rental equipment by shopping at garage sales, resale stores and thrift stores to cut expenses.
- Eat out less often
Wouldn’t you rather take a vacation than buy something you can actually make at home?
If you eat at a restaurant several time a week, you are definitely wasting money. The average meal at a restaurant is about $12.50. The cost of food is about 32% of the meal, so if 4 people avoid eating out once a week, you’ll save about $16 dollars each meal. In a year, that’s over $800 saved!
If you eat out more than once a week, your savings will be even higher. And the amount saved does not include the cost of drinks, tip, taxes, gas, tolls or the time you waste driving there and back and waiting in line for a table!
If it is too late to save for this year’s vacation, maybe this is the year your vacation simply means staying at home and doing some local activities you don’t normally get to enjoy. Even spending a day at local sites can be a vacation if you don’t typically have the time to do that.
Once you skip this year’s vacation and avoid running up credit card debt because of vacation, you should be able to put aside enough money for next year’s vacation by implementing some of these tips.
We all need time away from our day to day work. Even God rested on the 7th day when he completed the work of creating the world. The key is to plan ahead so that you can enjoy your vacation and be debt free when you return home.
After all, who wants to go on the perfect vacation and come home to a pile of debt?
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