Putting away money for your summer vacation sounds good but that’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. But we’ve come up with seven relatively painless ways for you to put a little bread away for your next trip — or whichever way you want to spend it.
None of these ideas will save you a ton of money alone, but if you practice them regularly, you’ll be surprised at how fast the kitty grows
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. And 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.
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 mush 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.
Switch to save. If you have an Aldi in your town — the chain is now in 32 states — check it out. You may not want to do all of your shopping there, although the one at which I shop has a full line of products including fresh meat, fruit and vegetables, canned goods and baked goods. Some of Aldi’s prices are significantly lower than you’ll find at other chain supermarkets. For example, 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 of a savings of $120 per year.
Get stingy on the squeeze. Cut back on pourable items whether it’s shampoo, conditioner, dishwasher soap or laundry detergent. 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.
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. Pancakes, anyone?
Switch to H2O. 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. And 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.
Carry a water bottle. Here’s an easy way to save money: Fill a reusable water bottle with tap water. A true cheapskate doesn’t buy bottled water. Some reports warn that disposable water bottles are made for one-time use only and should not be refilled because “bad stuff” from the plastic can leach into the water, so you may want to purchase a water bottle meant for reuse. 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, you will save $1400 by the end of the year.
If you used all seven of these tips, you could save more than $2800 toward a fantastic vacation. Start planning!