If you are thinking that you have exhausted your ways to afford a vacation this year, think again. While you may not be able to jet off to St. Tropez this season, there are definitely ways to afford a vacation which you will find relaxing and luxurious. Follow these steps and you could be walking in beautiful white sand in no time!
1. Break the Coffee Habit
While it seems like it's only three or four dollars here and there, if you look at the amount you have spent over the last six months, that's real money! Also take into account the little muffin you love to have every once in a while, and the venti instead of the grande that you need on those sleepy days. With that, you can almost double the amount that you usually spend on coffee. Finding ways to afford a vacation does not mean you need to live on an austerity program for the rest of your life. However, if you can cut those coffee breaks down to one or two a week, and put the money that you have saved into a vacation fund, you'll see the dollars add up more quickly than you can say piña colada!
2. Pack That Lunch
In the same vein, packing your lunch will save you potentially hundreds of dollars per month! If you packed a two dollar lunch versus going out for a twelve dollar lunch, that ten dollar a day savings adds up to $200 a month! When you add up the burger, iced tea, tax, and tip, this can be an average amount you would spend. When you pack your own lunch, you will be amazed at how much you can eat for that two dollars. We're not just talking tuna sandwiches or soup. Make a nice couple of crockpot dinners over the weekend, and divvy those up during the week. You could be eating pasta Alfredo with shrimp, pot roast, or chicken Marsala every day. If you preferred to get away from the work environment, head out to a local park or indoor mall to have a lunch with a view.
3. Put the Credit Cards Away
Impulse buying is fueled by credit cards. After all, when you put it on a credit card, it doesn't take any money out of your checking account, does it? However, wouldn't you rather use your credit card to rent a cabana at the beach or a guided horse trail in the mountains while on vacation? In general, credit cards should only be used for emergencies. If you have a good one with a low or no interest rate, consider budgeting for the card's use on your vacation. This is especially great if your credit card gives you cash-back points. However, remember to pay it off before that interest kicks in. In the meantime, while you are saving for your vacation, put those credit cards in your dresser drawer and forget about them!
4. Balance That Checkbook
It is very difficult in this debit card world to balance your checkbook on a regular basis. But when you do, you will be amazed at how much money you spend here and there. Take that check registry book or even a piece of paper with you in your wallet. Whenever you take money out at an ATM, buy something on your debit card, or even use a check, write it down. Then make a date for yourself once a week to put these entries into your check registry. This may be old school, but there is something to be said for going back to these old ways. Not only will you always know how much you have left to spend, you will also know where your money has gone! This is an important part of saving for future goals like vacations.
5. Try an Online Budget Site
There are some phenomenal online sites to help you budget your money, save for future goals, and tweak where you are spending your dough these days. One of them, mint.com, will send you reminders when you have upcoming bill payments due, will tell you when your checking accounts get down to a certain level, when you're credit cards get up to a certain level, and will send you weekly updates on all of your debit and credit accounts, along with how you are progressing on your special savings goals.
6. Wants versus Needs
This is a gray area. Do you need the swimsuit for your new vacation even though the one from last summer still fits and looks great? Could you go to the cut rate grocery store instead of the gourmet place around the corner and still have a satisfying dinner? Could you turn down the heat at your house one or two degrees and put on a pair of fuzzy socks instead? These small ways of determining wants versus needs will not only help you save for your vacation, they will give you a different perspective on what's truly important in your life.
7. Visualization Board
One of the best ways to remember your savings goal is to have it in front of your face! Cut out pictures, sayings, and even do drawings of where your vacation will take you. Is it a European city? An isolated island? A cultural Mecca? Wherever it is, put it on a poster board in a place where you will see it many times a day. Even on a subconscious level, you will be drinking this in.
There are many ways to afford a vacation that you have only dreamed of. If you are willing to tweak your current life, your future goals can be yours. Just keep your eye on the prize, and know that you are worth it! What is the best vacation you have ever taken, and how did you save for it?