Saving money for your next vacation is a great goal, but it’s often easier said than done. If you’re like the rest of us, most of your money is spoken for before you even get it. To help you out, we’ve come up with seven relatively painless ways for you to put money away for your next trip.
How to save money for vacation
None of these ideas alone will save you a ton of money for travel, but if you practice them regularly, you’ll be surprised at how fast your vacation savings grow.
1. Sock savings away.
If you use coupons at the grocery store, keep track of how much you saved and sock that amount away. For example, if your coupons saved you $10.25, put that much aside as “found money.” After all, you would have spent that money if you didn’t have the coupons.
I learned this trick from my mother, who used her coupon savings for extras for us kids decades ago. When my kids were young, I did the same to pay for day trips during spring break and extras on family vacations. You don’t have to sweat the numbers while shopping. Just look a the bottom of your store receipt for the amount you saved on coupons and discounts, and send it on its way to your travel fund.
2. Stick with store brands.
Some store brand products are absolutely awful — I can’t stand store brand cola, for example — but in many instances, the store brand is a perfectly good substitute for a brand name product. Experiment with store brands a bit to find those that work for you. If you can use a product in a baked good with no change in taste or texture, then go for the cheaper item. A brand name can of beans might cost 99 cents, and the store brand is 59 cents. It doesn’t seem like much of a savings, but if you eat beans once per week it adds up to $20.80 in savings. Put the difference in price in your travel account.
3. Switch supermarkets to save.
Switching from a upscale supermarket, such as Whole Foods or Wegmans, to a discount store, such as Aldi, can cut your grocery bills, so you can save for travel.
For example, I find that many of Aldi’s prices are significantly lower than you’ll find at other chain supermarkets. I regularly get a three-pound bag of yellow onions for 59 cents. The same onions go for 99 cents or more per pound at the chain supermarket. I also pay 59 cents for an eight-ounce box of mushrooms at Aldi. The price at the supermarket is two boxes for $5 on sale.
Two tips about shopping at Aldi: Don’t forget you need to bring your own bags (although you can purchase some at the store), and you will need a quarter to rent a shopping cart. The quarter is returned to you when you return the cart to the rack. Run a comparison check on store prices, and you will have a handful of cash to put toward that vacation. With the two examples of onions and mushrooms, you will save approximately $2.50. If you bought the two items every week, you rack up a savings of $120 per year.
4. Get stingy on the squeeze.
Cut back on pourable items whether it’s shampoo, conditioner, dishwasher soap or laundry detergent to save money on the household disposables you buy. Chances are you squirt out a big gob of shampoo and conditioner when a little dab will do. I have noticed this; I try to squirt out a dab, and end up with a handful of shampoo. If this happens, try switching the top with a shampoo top that has a smaller hole, so it dispenses less shampoo per squeeze. Experiment with decreasing the amount you use. You can always add more if you don’t get the results you want.
In the case of laundry detergent, remember that modern washing machines don’t require copious amounts of suds to get clothes clean. And a load of gently used items can be washed without any soap at all, ridding the clothing of soap residue and refreshing the fabric. Buy in bulk if you find you go through products quickly and consistently.
5. Eat cheap.
If you eat dinner out, replace one meal a week with a “cheap meal” at home. Soup and sandwiches provide a cheap fill-’er-up that can be put together quickly, but breakfast foods — think omelets — work well for dinner, too. Here are some great ideas to shop for groceries on a $4 per day budget. When you do go out for dinner, ask about discounts. Seniors can save about 10% on meals at many locations. Compare the amount you spend on your cheap at-home meal with your typical restaurant bill and save the difference for your vacation.
6. Switch to water.
When eating out, drink water. When you dine out with the family, you’d be surprised how much those soft drinks, or even milk, add to the bill. As a teen, I worked in a drive-in restaurant — back in the day when there were such things — and I remember how thrilled my boss was when the kids cruised in for “drinks” after school. I remember him saying the straw and the cup cost him a penny each and the syrup cost a couple of cents but the rest was pure profit. Of course, costs are higher these days but the idea is the same.
Switching to water will not only help your bottom line, it’ll help your waistline as well. It’s surprising how easy it is to forego the other beverages. You will soon find that water is the only thing that really quenches your thirst. If you ate out once every day for a year and drank water instead of a $4 glass of soda, you would save a whopping $1460 to apply toward that vacation.
7. Carry a water bottle.
Drinking only water is a great way to save money, but if you start buying bottled water, you’ll eat up those savings in a heartbeat. If you need water on the go, fill a reusable water bottle with tap water. You probably have several bottles lying around at home, so you don’t have to buy anything new. If you don’t, you can easily pick up one from your local Buy Nothing group.
Worried about “stuff” in the tap water? Invest in a water bottle with a filter. Compared to the cost of the ready-to-drink bottled stuff, it will pay for itself in no time. Let’s assume that plastic bottle of water costs $2, and you drink two per day. Subtract the cost of a nice reusable bottle with a filter, and you will save $1400 by the end of the year.
If you used all seven of these tips, you could save more than $2,800 toward a fantastic vacation.
How much should I save for vacation?
How much you should save for vacation really depends on the length and type of vacation you want. We’ve seen reports that the average vacation for one person costs $1,145, but that number can vary widely. A long-weekend camping trip, where you bring all your food from home, will cost far less than a weeklong stay at a resort in the Caribbean. If you’re splitting a vacation home with friends, you’ll need to save less than if you were renting the same property just for your immediate family.
The best thing to do is to decide what type of trip you want to take, and make a list of all the expenses: transportation, lodging, meals, activities, souvenirs. Do a little research to figure out the average costs, add them up, and figure out how much you need to save per month to pay for your travel.
In normal times, a domestic U.S. flight costs on average around $350. The average cost of a hotel room is $200. The average cost of travel meals per person, per day, is roughly $35. However, some destinations are more expensive than others, and your numbers will vary depending on whether you choose a cheap motel or upscale hotel, or a fast food lunch vs. a sit-down fine-dining experience.
How can I save money for an upcoming vacation fast?
What if you don’t have time for a slow-and-steady savings strategy, like the one we’ve discussed here? If you’ve got your heart set on taking a vacation soon, say in six months, you’ll need to make more drastic and larger-scale spending cuts. We do not recommend that you go into debt or skip important payments to take a vacation.
Here are some strategies you can take to save money fast for that vacation:
- Cut out all your entertainment expenses — such as dining out, movies, sports games, etc. — for a limited time and put that money into your vacation fund.
- Cancel or freeze any subscriptions, such as online newspapers or streaming services, that aren’t essential.
- Plan a no-spend month, where you purchase only absolute necessities, and try to eat as much you can from the pantry and freezer staples you’ve already purchased.
- If you can, renegotiate rates for internet, cell phone and cable TV services, or other utilities where you might have a choice in providers or plans.
The alternative is planning a cheaper trip. If you haven’t booked everything, can you switch from a weeklong trip to a long weekend? Look for cheaper plane fares, maybe by choosing the flight with a layover or by flying at an off-peak time, or a more affordable hotel. Research kids-eat-free nights at area restaurants in your destination, or figure out how to eat cheaply, perhaps with supermarket rather than restaurant meals.
Only by being serious about saving will you be able to sock away enough money to enjoy your rapidly approaching vacation. Once you’re back, consider following a more long-term budget plan that allows you to save for annual getaways.
If you liked this article, you might also like:
- How to save money on road trips
- Tips for traveling on a budget
- How to set (and stick to) a vacation budget
- 10 hacks to cut your grocery bill
- Great ways to save money on your vacation
- Less extreme coupon strategies to save money
- Travel discounts for seniors