David Bakke is a contributor for the savings blog, Money Crashers Personal Finance. He writes about smart shopping tactics as well as tips for managing money and establishing financial security.
You can trade in your gas-guzzling SUV for a hybrid, quit ordering so much take-out, and even cut back on your cable package. But when you are trimming the fat to balance the budget, make sure to save a little room for the family vacation. You can always make more money, but time is limited and not to be taken for granted, lest you look back with regret years from now having not done more with the precious amount you had.
If you are someone who yearns for quality time with the ones you love away from work and the stresses of everyday day life, here are seven strategies for funding your annual vacation:
1. Use Direct Deposit
The money from your weekly paycheck is going in so many directions already, what’s another couple of bucks diverted along with taxes, social security, and medical insurance? For some, the most effective way to save is to take away the option to spend by making arrangements to have a percentage of your paycheck directly deposited into a savings account earmarked for travel. If you feel like you can get by with $25 or $50 less per week, you could fund your vacation in no time.
2. Earmark Your Bonus Check
Whether it’s a quarterly sales bonus or extra pay around the holidays, bonus pay is an old favorite when it comes to funding travel plans. But be careful if you’re uncertain as to whether you’ll get a bonus check or how much it will be for. In other words, don’t double book your bonus money to pay for essentials and a vacation unless you’re sure it will be enough.
3. Use Your Tax Refund
A lump-sum strategy similar to using your bonus check is to spend your tax refund on a vacation. When you get a refund on your annual return, you’re getting back what’s coming to you – like a savings account that’s been out of reach. As long as you are able to make do throughout the year on your take-home pay, a tax refund check can be your first-class ticket to the Hawaiian islands. File your taxes early to get your refund fast.
4. Keep the Change
One way to save a little each day that can grow to be a lot is with a program like “Keep the Change” from Bank of America. Each time you pay for something with your debit card, the total is rounded up to the nearest dollar and the difference is transferred to a savings account. Bank of America even matches your savings 100%, up to $250 for the first three months. Or, you can just steal the idea and do it yourself: Collect the change from each of your purchases, tuck it away in a piggy bank, and slowly amass the money for your next vacation.
5. Save Meal Money
If you eat out frequently, opt to dine in one night per week – this will easily save you over $100 each month. If you don’t, change up your habits to reduce your expenses. The idea is to find creative ways, whether it’s packing a bag lunch a couple of times per week or buying shrimp instead of lobster, to willfully save a few bucks for a sunny day.
6. Do Odd Jobs
You might have a friend that needs help a few times each month with a painting business, or perhaps you’d enjoy refereeing basketball games for the local league. When your week at Disney World hangs in the balance, sometimes you have to step up and do an odd job or two to make ends meet. Consider what you are good at and how much time you have to determine what odd jobs you can tackle. Plowing snow, tutoring math, and babysitting are a few options.
7. Start a Side Business
If odd jobs here and there won’t do the trick, consider starting a side business to fund your vacation. From printing t-shirts to sell at the flea market to catering cupcakes for birthday parties, working for yourself can be a great way to raise funds and have some fun too. Just think – the fresh herbs and vegetables you grow in your garden could turn a healthy enough profit at the farmers’ market each weekend to make that skiing trip to Aspen a reality.
A family vacation can be one of those priceless things that make life worth living. It’s a week or two away from the grind with the ones you love, and the memories and good vibes it supplies can last the year or endure for generations. If you live on a tight budget, but refuse to give up your family getaway, start by making a commitment to keep it. Put money away, earmark windfall payouts, and look for ways to earn a little on the side in order to rescue your annual retreat.
Is your family vacation in jeopardy? What other ways can you think of to save it?