Can you afford your next vacation – I mean the one you really want to take? Far too many of us look at what’s left in our bank account to calculate how much vacation we can afford. Flip that vacation-deprived mindset around! What are you wasting money on that lacks the benefits of a fulfilling vacation?
The VacationCounts way is to prioritize your vacation budget over your life and work expenses. There are countless ways to lower your standard recurring costs without feeling like you are cutting back. However they are only worth doing if you have a good reason. What better reason can there be than to have enough money for the vacation you earned, desire, and deserve.
Before you downsize your dream vacation due to lack of funds, take a look at your standard living budget to find ways to save every week, month, and year. While you may not be able to afford that luxury safari or 5-star cruise right away, you can shift money spent on life to vacation. Here are 16 ways to do just that, but I’m sure you have even more to share with VacationCounts readers below.
How much of your weekly income is spent on liquid refreshment? I’m talking about alcohol as well as coffee, soda (or pop depending on where you’re from), smoothies, and “fancy” water. We all need to eat to survive, but drinking anything other than water can be considered a luxury. Do the math to figure out how much you spend on drinks and beverages each week. Make it your goal to cut that liquid expense in half. Enter that amount into your vacation budget spreadsheet or transfer it to your travel savings bank account to prevent you from spending it elsewhere.
1. Brew a thermos of premium coffee at home to drink on your commute to work and at the office. The daily grande latte to go may be good for the economy, but this expense is eating, I mean drinking up your pocket-money.
2. Skip the pricey wine and cocktails at the bar and order a “pint” of sparkling water instead. Do go out with your friends and co-workers to happy hour, but never feel guilty about skipping the overpriced drinks at least some of the time.
3. When you grab lunch out, drink free tap water instead of paying for pricey bottled water, juice concoctions, and the dubious health-benefit-touting waters and drinks.
How much of your weekly income is spent on the cost of commuting to work and driving around town? If your goal is to save more money for a vacation, it may be necessary to switch to lower-cost transportation options. For those living in a far-off suburb this may be difficult, but do investigate your public transit options. Calculate the cost of gas, tolls, wear & tear, and insurance versus the cost of buses, trains, and car-pooling. While reducing stress doesn’t save actual money, it may be one of the best benefits of driving your car less often.
4. Commute to work by public transportation 2-3 times per week. Use the commute time to start your workday earlier and be more likely to leave work on time to enjoy an hour or two of vacation in the evening.
5. Find a carpool or ride-share in your city to join up with others doing the same commute. Plus when there is a carpool express lane, you’ll arrive to work even faster and less stressed out from traffic.
6. Coordinate with other parents if you have kids to shuttle to school as well as to pick up from activities and back home afterwards. You’re all on the road at the same time going pretty much to the same place, so team up to save for a bigger and better family vacation.
7. Married couples and families can downsize from two cars to one car to save on the tremendous cost of owning and maintaining a second car. Do you really need it or would you rather take one extra vacation each year?
Most of us have too much stuff and while you can’t return it, you can get sell it off to earn more money for travel. Selling your stuff is a fast way to bulk up your travel budget. And for the necessities that you have to buy, shop through the lowest cost channel so your vacation budget can benefit from the little savings that add up over time.
8. Hold a garage sale to sell all those random items you accumulated that you haven’t touched, worn, or even seen in years. If you cannot hold a garage sale where you live, post the list of items for sale at your place of work and to the local community. Of course there’s also Craigslist.
9. See what your potentially valuable stuff is worth on eBay and start the bidding war to get the best price for your collectibles. My wife and I have long given up on the hope that her Beanie Babies collection will go up in value and got what we could for it.
10. Sell old books, CDs, DVDs, and video games to a used shop. If you can receive more value in store credit than cash, use the proceeds to shop for used media instead of buying them brand new.
11. Get a tax deduction (in the U.S. at least) by donating your old clothing, kitchen ware, furniture, toys, and electronics to a trusted charity. Do your best to calculate the future tax savings and transfer that amount to your vacation account now or wait until you file you annual tax return.
12. Never shop without a Groupon, Living Social, or Ebates basket. With so many sites competing for your clicks you can easily save money on eating out, shopping for clothing, buying groceries, and ordering household items with freebies, percent-off, or cash-back every time.
I like to pay all my bills automatically by signing up for paperless statements and direct debit from my checking account. That saves me a ton of time each month, but it is far too easy to set and forget them. Looking for ways to reduce your monthly utility and recurring home bills is something you should do every 6-12 months. Remember that these bills are just another monthly expense that you have the power to reduce to save up for more vacation time off with the family.
13. Call your electric, gas, water, garbage, and household utility service providers to ask how you can reduce your monthly bill. You can often switch to a lower-priced plan based on your past usage. The customer service reps can also offer smart tips to reduce your household usage every month.
14. Ditch the “Unlimited” cell phone plan for one that matches up with your actual usage of minutes, texts, and data. Look at your usage over the past two months then review the lower-priced plans (pre-paid or pay-as-you-go plans may come out cheapest) and call to switch. Even if there is a switching fee you may be better off in the long run.
15. How many cable channels are you paying for and how many do you actually watch? Do you really need all those channels when you have broadband Internet at home and can stream entertainment online? Consider forgoing cable or satellite TV entirely if you are ready to evolve your TV-watching habits to save a bundle for a vacation that will be better than anything you can watch on TV.
16. Reduce your insurance premiums by increasing your deductible and/or reducing your coverage amounts. With a higher deductible on your auto and home (property) insurance policy plus a lower total coverage amount (at a risk level which you feel comfortable), you’ll free up vacation money for years to come.
This list of 16 ways to save money to put towards taking more and better vacations is just a starting point. I’m sure you can offer tons of other ways to reexamine your regular spending habits. How do you lower your own bills so you can save up faster for a vacation that comes with memories to last a lifetime?
When you retire do you want to recall how much you spent on coffee every day? How much you paid to fill up your tank for the drive to work? All the impulse buys that you never had time to enjoy? How many TV channels you never watched? Or will you remember the thrilling, memorable, relaxing, romantic, inspiring, shared vacation experiences you budgeted for every year?
It’s your turn to cut costs to maximize your vacation budget now. Add your household-savings ideas in the comments section below.
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