When our son asked us to consider a family trip to Paris as his graduation gift, I sensed a “NO WAY!” rising to my lips. Since he asked midway through his junior year, though, I decided to take the challenge. Paris for five, a trip that normally costs upward of $12,000. Could we save enough to make it happen? We did! Here’s how.
5 tips to save $ for vacation
1. Cut unnecessary expenses.
You may have heard it before, but it bears repeating. A daily trip to Starbucks averages about $6.36. Get Starbucks twice a week for the 50 weeks each year (2 weeks vacation) and hat works out to be $6.36 X 100 = $636 spent. Skip Starbucks for a year, and voila! Your vacation savings plan is started. Similarly, the average family of four spends almost $3,000 per year on restaurant dining, which works out to about $62.50/week. Eat out only every other week and add $1500 to your vacation savings. See how quickly it adds up?
Get creative! What can your family cut?
Cable. The average cost of cable is $1000/year.
Gas. Consolidate errands and grocery shopping to spend less each week.
Dining out at work. The average employee spends $37.50/week or $1862.00/year.
2. Involve the whole family in saving.
One family I know recently started saving for a dream vacation. Each member of the family has a vacation savings piggy bank. As their vacation draws close, they plan to pool their money to offset some of their vacation expenses. Our family, similarly, has a vacation bank: all our loose change, including the pennies my daughter finds in parking lots, goes into the bank. When it fills, we deposit the money into our vacation savings account. Over the course of a year, the change really adds up. For our Paris trip, those pennies, nickels and dimes totaled over $200.
When my sons were six and nine and we were saving for a trip to China, they added to the piggy bank by walking dogs, pulling weeds in neighbors’ gardens, and washing cars. They invested in the trip and saved more than $600 toward it. Parents can use their tax refund to help, too. In fact, a tax refund estimator can help determine how much of your refund can go toward vacation planning.
3. Adjust the thermostat.
Adjusting the thermostat can save hundreds of dollars each year. Every degree the thermostat is lowered in winter or raised in summer saves 1% on fuel costs. For a heating/cooling bill of $100/month, that’s a dollar saved. Adjust the temperature by two or three degrees and really notice the savings. We installed adjustable thermostats. In the summer, we set our a/c at 73 degrees at night for better sleeping, but raise it to 76 during the day. In the winter, we set the heat at 62 degrees at night and raise it to 68 during the day. Our bill has dropped by more than 20% with these adjustments.
4. Save on groceries.
I’m not talking hard-core couponing, though if you’re up to the challenge, you can really save big! Shop smart, though, and you can still save a bundle. Plan menus according to what stores have on sale and stock up on meats, canned goods, peanut butter and breakfast cereal. If your favorite store matches competitor prices or coupons, be prepared to take those along. Put grocery savings (printed at the bottom of the receipt) into the vacation fund as a reward for savvy shopping!
Saving for a big vacation might mean a couple years without a “real” vacation. Living close to the beach and the mountains, we take advantage of both while saving. Day trips to either location provide a break from the routine without breaking the bank. The money saved in vacation “off” years is set aside for the big trip. The key to staycation success is thinking outside the box! Don’t go places you know well, but discover what else is out there: schedule a tour, take a cooking class, go rock climbing. Make it fun!
Working together toward an exciting vacation goal, the whole family will look forward to vacation and appreciate it more. The kids will learn valuable budgeting skills with an excellent reward. AND, you won’t come home with an enormous credit card bill to pay off. Everyone wins when the family works together to save for vacation!