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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

12 Ways to Save For Your Travels

We all like to travel. It's fun, but the planning and saving can be not so much fun. I'm terrible at saving, and the only way for me to do it is if I never see the money. That's difficult though, unless I have a separate account that I use for it and never look at what's in it, like I do regularly with my regular checking account. Then I'm all "Oh yeah! That account exists. Woo! Look at all the money!" But where does the money come from? As a budget traveler, we all have limited finances, otherwise we probably wouldn't be on a budget. 

ways to save for travel

If you're already coming up with excuses why you can't ever come up with enough money to travel, Here's some motivation: My best friend has five kids and a stay-at-home husband (because it's impractical to spend money on daycare for all of them) and they go on at least one week-long trip each year and several weekend trips as well. She makes about the same as my husband makes, so she isn't drowning in money either. Their three school age children all do sports and other activities, which are not really all that cheap, but they still find the money to travel as a family. 

What's your next excuse? You don't have enough time? Of course you do! The majority of Americans leave approximately one fourth of their travel days on the table. Is work really more important than your family and/or health? Someone will do your work while you're gone or you will work twice as hard to do it before you leave and really earn that time, but stop giving your vacation days away. You're basically giving your boss free working days when you do.

Okay, now let's talk about real problems: Figuring out where the money comes from so you can travel the world:
Pay yourself first
You know how when you invest in something like a 401-K and it gets taken out of your paycheck before you even see it? And you never miss it? Do this with your vacation fund. You know when you get paid, so set up an automatic deposit, either through work or on your own online, to go to that separate account. Even just $50 per paycheck can quickly add up and it's not so much that you'll notice it's gone. If you can afford more, change the dollar amount that goes, even if this is a one-time occurrence or permanent. A few dollars more is better than no dollars more.
Open a high-yield checking or savings account
Just like I say above, make sure it's separate from your everyday account. While your money is just sitting there, you could be earning more each month for doing nothing more but keeping it in the bank. Free money is good! 
Make a list and stick to it
When I go grocery shopping, I make a list. I try to plan my meals around the same ingredients with some variety. Chicken, noodles, potatoes, carrots, beef and beans are all great staples, because you can make a ton of things with them. Buy enough to make twice as much as you plan to eat and freeze so you have dinners for future nights and can save money in the coming weeks, or have easy food to make when you return from vacation. 

Don't forget coupons and store rewards programs. Use those apps and coupons to guide your shopping for the week or month to save even more. Tally up how much you saved and put that money in your vacation fund!
Have a yard sale
It's not really yard sale season yet, but it will be before you know it. I'm sure you have a ton of crap stuff around your house that you don't want anymore. Slap a price on it and put it in a pile for spring or summer and then get rid of it. Have bigger pieces? Use Craigslist to sell it for more money sooner. You can easily make an extra $75-100, even on a slow sale weekend. (click on the photo credit link above for tips on throwing a profitable sale.)
Put your clothes up for consignment
This is less straightforward than having a yard sale, but you can also earn more if you're lucky. Gather all those fancy clothes you have in your closet (like those designer jeans you can't fit into anymore or those cocktail dresses you've worn a grand total of one time) and take them to a consignment shop. It's likely they will sell them for you for a small fee, or straight-up buy them off of you on the spot. What have you got to lose? If you'd rather do it yourself, take a load of pictures and do it on ebay. 

Keep the change
If you're like everyone, you have a ton of change just sitting in your car or the bottom of your purse. Make a jar or container at home to throw all that change in at the end of each day. You wouldn't know it, but all those cents can add up over the months and you might find you have a spare $100 or so that you can use as spending money!

Fill your free time
Do you find yourself sitting in front of the TV for an hour or two? Earn points through Swagbucks. You can use these points to earn money and gift cards. It's easy to accrue a lot of points in an hour or so and you can trade them in for travel cards, Amazon gift codes and even Paypal cash. Download the app on your phone to earn even more. It's super easy and totally mindless. 

Get cash back
You're going to buy stuff. You just are. Ebates lets you save money on your online purchases by offering you a set amount of cash back on participating retailers, including a lot of travel sites. If you're going to spend money, you might as well save as much as possible. Ebates sends you cash back payments four times a year, either by check or deposited to your Paypal account. It's super easy, and those payments can be used as spending money on your trips. Want to know more about how it works? I wrote a whole post on it!

Groupon Getaways

Scour daily deals
Not only can this help you out at home, but also on your trips to save even more. I get emails from my favorites (Groupon, LivingSocial, GetMyPerks) and purchase deals throughout the year to save on entertainment and dining. You can save 50-90% off local deals (or destinations around the world). This way you can do more on vacation, but also not feel like you're missing out at home just because you want to travel. 
Ask for gift cards
When the holidays and your birthday rolls around, ask for gift cards that can be used towards your trip. This could include cards for theme parks, airfare on your chosen airline, restaurants or grocery stores where you can shop for snacks and meal staples (you know how I like to buy breakfast stuff and eat before I head out into the world. Now you've gotten free money you can use on vacation and have to save even less than you thought. 

On the other hand, you can buy your own gift cards at a discount through Target. If you have a Red Card, you can save 5% on their gift cards, including Disney, Starbucks, Chili's and Rainforest Cafe. If you don't have a Red Card, you can get one that links to your checking account for free and without a credit check. Bring a voided check with you on your next Target run and sign up quickly and easily. Your Red Card works just like a debit card and you get free shipping when using it to make purchases online.

Another great idea for your wish list is to ask for city cards. CityPASS and SmartDestinations offer a bundle of popular attractions in a specific destination for much less than paying separately (around 40%) and they allow you to skip the ticket queues, too.

Take on extra work
This can take on a few different forms. Can you take on some extra shifts at work? Do overtime once in a while? Maybe help out a friend with something they can't do themselves? Another thing you can do is help strangers out. Check out TaskRabbit for odd jobs that people need help with. This could range anywhere from helping out at a party, running random errands or mowing their lawn. You choose the jobs that sound good, respond to the inquiry and get paid. 

Drive past the coffee shop
Getting your morning coffee can set you back $3-5, which easily adds up to $60-100 over the course of a month. I love a professionally-made cup of Joe as much as the next person, but I know they can really be expensive. If you want a fancy cup of coffee, think about investing in an espresso maker or French press and frothing whisk. You'll work the cost off by the end of the year and might even find you like your own coffee better. You'll defiinitely save calories. Don't worry, I think it's perfectly acceptable to break out once in a while and splurge on a grande triple macchiato with whip. 

You don't have to totally turn your whole life upside down to save money for your travels. Once you do a few of these things, you'll find it easier to incorporate other ways to save without feeling like you're missing out on anything or being too restrictive. Maybe instead of going to the movies one night, you pick up a Redbox or find something old that's streamable on Netflix. Skip weekend brunch and whip up something at home that's just as fun. Or enjoy the game at home by getting a bunch of friends to come over with a potluck dish instead of splurging on expensive tickets. The line for the bathroom will be considerably shorter!

What are you favorite ways to save for your vacation?

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