Want to save up for a memorable vacation? It's easier than you might think. Some strategies take a little more effort, but others involve small adjustments in your day-to-day that quickly add up. Below, twenty suggestions for growing your travel budget without selling your belongings, sacrificing your quality of life, or asking for donations from strangers.
1. Set up a savings account dedicated to travel. Using the other tips below, add up how much you can funnel into an an account each month. Remember, you can't touch it until your trip.
2. Set a weekly budget and don’t exceed it. For some, the budget may be $100 and others $5000. Know exactly how much you intend to spend on your trip and manipulate your budget accordingly. Web sites like mint.com help you easily track your progress and expenditures.
3. Invest in a travel rewards card. Why? These cards help you travel more quickly by allowing you to instantly accrue airline miles before you book a single thing.
Adjust Your Food and Drink Habits
4. Cut the Starbucks run. Use your office machine instead. By cutting that $4 pre-work cup of Joe, you can save nearly $80 each month.
5. Cut the booze. “You can’t put a price on revelry,” as the saying goes. But actually, you can, and it’s $100-$200 per month if you have one drink per night. Of course, you don’t need to eliminate a weekly happy hour or occasional girls' nights out, but know that one drink can quickly turn into four. To help keep track, use cash rather than swiping a card.
6. Bring your lunch to work. Try to buy a lunch for under $5. Hard, right? A study calculated the cost of an average brown-bag lunch at $2.45, and eating out at $8.80. That’s savings of more than $120 per month.
7. Plan your meals and cook in bulk. By proportioning your meals in this manner, you save money by taking advantage of bulk supermarket sales, and you save time by devoting only a few days per month to cooking. Here’s a web site filled with cheap eats that also calculates the cost per serving of each meal.
8. Stop eating out on weekends. If you refrain from a $25 dinner on Fridays and Saturdays, by month’s end, you can save nearly $200. That's the cost of a night in a nice hotel, a day of skiing, or a flight to Las Vegas from the West Coast.
9. Coupons, coupons, coupons. Even if you save $5 per shopping trip using coupons, that’s $5 saved towards a day on the beach in Bangkok. Most people shop on a weekly basis, so that makes for a quick $20 or more each grocery trip. Oh, and $5 equals about 160 Thai Baht, enough for a delicious dinner.
10. Buy food in bulk and go generic. This is more challenging if you don’t have the cupboard space, but bulk foods amount to massive savings — 20 pounds of rice for $10, for instance. Other bulk-friendly staples include beans and noodles.
11. If you need new clothes, head to the thrift shop. Designer shirt: $50. Thrift shop shirt: $5. The point here is obvious. If you’re a fashionista, consider clothing exchanges at locales like Buffalo Exchange.
12. Go energy efficient. Energy-efficient lightbulbs now cost only slightly more than their burnout brothers, but they last nearly five times as long. If you’re really into saving money, unplug all electrical devices when they’re not in use, to prevent the constant (though small) charges going to them.
Rethink Necessity vs. Luxury
13. Do you really need cable, a land line, and the highest-speed Internet available? Cable companies are notorious for reeling customers into packages they don't need. Cell phones have rendered landlines useless. And what’s the point of cable if you can stream nearly every show online? With the advent of Apple TV, Google Chromecast, or a simple HTMI cable, seamless streaming from computer to television has never been easier. (Also: You probably don't need that premium Internet speed — we suggest dialing down.)
14. Cancel your memberships. Club memberships cripple budgets. Think about it: A $60 per month gym membership plus a $20 per month newspaper subscription costs you $100 per month alone. Toss in a Jelly of the Month club, and that’s what we call nuclear bombing your budget.
15. Use a fan. On average, central air conditioning costs nearly $130 per month to operate. A window unit is slightly cheaper at $50. But a fan keeps you cool for $1.20 per month — that's a potential difference of $128.
16. Do you really need an iPhone? Eliminating your cell phone is challenging. While an iPhone plan alone can cost close to $100 per month, not to mention the cost of the phone itself, innumerable other smartphones with almost identical capabilities go for much less.
17. Look around your house. What’s collecting dust? Sell it. Depending on how much you own, it’s possible to make a quick couple hundred dollars for items you never use.
18. Find free things to do. Ditch those tickets to the Thursday matinee. Lower the financial bar for socializing. Instead, take advantage of the free activities around you. For example, many dance studios and martial arts gyms offer free trial classes to first-time visitors. Enjoy a walk in the park. Sit on a bench and spend a day reading.
19. Stop driving. Switch to a bike, use public transportation, carpool, or, if possible, walk. Especially in the warmer seasons, you can save on gas, maintenance, insurance, and every other cash-guzzling aspect of cars. Walking’s free. Biking costs as much as the price of a Schwinn. And public transit can easily be subsidized for less than $100 per month in total transportation costs.