Saturday, January 19, 2013

Saving Money: Tips for Trips

Saving money can be tedious. It can be a pain in the read. It can be confusing. Over the past 6 years or so, I have learned to channel my energy into saving, instead of random spending. It started out small- saving for a camping trip. That particular year included the added expense of camping gear.

 All of the photos were taken on various small vacations we took in the summer of 2012. Over the course of the summer, I spent $1700 on vacations. All of it came from saving.

 Here are my tips-

1. Know your trip. Plan it out, down to the smallest detail. Why? Because you need to know how much money is needed. If it's a trip that might include cost changes between planning and going, plan for them. For example- if I start planning my Summer 2014 vacation in September 2013, I know that the cost is going to be higher. I try to add in $50/day to account for increased costs. Later on, when it's getting closer, you can adjust your budget to reflect the actual prices. But to get started, you need to know your costs- everything from hotel down to gas money, souvenirs, and food.

2. Set a date. Make sure it's realistic. If you know your trip is going to cost $3,000 to go on, and you know you can save $300 a month, plan it for at least 10 months away. You may be able to save faster, but don't count on going sooner. That's when you get discouraged, and upset if it gets closer and doesn't look like it will happen. Take your time. Big trips take money, and money takes time.

3. Cut the Fat. Are you trying to take your family on a big vacation on a small budget? Trim out extras you don't need- either on the trip, or in your day to day life. The bonus of cutting out $40 in extra's a week in daily life, is that it add's up fast. Skip the morning coffee. When you get gas, pay at the pump- you won't be spending money on extra goodies. Pack a lunch of left overs. Call your cable company- see if you can trim out anything you don't need. Same with your phone- we recently realized we were over paying on our data plan by $20/month. It isn't much, but it adds up.

4. Learn to coupon. Coupons don't always fit every lifestyle, but they are helpful- whether it's saving $10 on your oil change, or getting a $20 gift card for getting a prescription at your grocery store pharmacy. That's $20 in groceries, and $20 you can stash in your trip fund. Check your weekly circulars. Sometimes you can snag free bath & body products. Every little bit saved is a little bit more into your trip fund.

5. Budget your weekly spending. Set a grocery budget, and stick to it. Try and get under it as often as possible. If you have a weekly budget of $100, and you only spend $60, put $40 in the trip fund. Budget your weekly gas- if you know it will cost $45 a week going to and from work, plan on $60 for gas- that $15 will cover the extra's- going to the school, stopping to get groceries. Every time your gas budget is under $60 for the week, stick the extra in the trip fund.

6. Pay yourself. On the last day before payday, we transfer everything in our checking over to our savings account. Sometimes, it's $100. Sometimes it $20. It depends on what all we have going on, but even $2 is $2 more than you had.

7. Work with cash. A card is easy to swipe. It's harder to keep track of each swipe, and before you know it, OOPS! With cash, you have tangible proof in your hand of what's left. Some people will split the money into envelopes for each purpose: Gas, Groceries, Bills, etc. You know immediately exactly what you have, and if you know you only have $5 in spending money left, you are far less likely to spend it on a latte with 6 days left until payday.

8. Stash the cash. On payday, take $20 and put it away. Out of site, out of mind. Don't keep track of how much you have stashed away. If you can afford to stash more than $20, then put away $40, or even $100. Every couple of months, collect the stash, and put it in the trip fund.

9. Cash Jar.  Several years ago, I planned to have a family trip to a big amusement park. Not Disney, but still out of our daily price range. I made a decision to start not just a change jar, but a cash jar. At the end of the day, I emptied my purse of all $1 bills, and all change. Sometimes, I would stash a $5 or a $10. At the end of 4 months, I had deposited over $900.

10. Earning Extra. Sometimes, you live paycheck to paycheck. We certainly have, and many others do as well. Having an extra $20 isn't always the case when you are just hoping to make it to payday this week. This is when it's time to figure out a plan for earning the extra money. Whether it's a yard sale, or baby sitting after school, or even finding a part time job on weekends. Use your resources- you can stash the extra money without hurting your daily budget at all. Personally, I design web graphics from home. Before that, I did advertising for shops on facebook. Before that, I made hair bows and necklaces. Before that, I worked lots of the survey websites for small amounts of money.

11. Remember to budget for fun. You are budgeting to save money for something fun. But that doesn't mean you should never have some fun. Whether it's going to see a movie, or spending a day at the zoo, or even just renting a movie. If you aren't having ANY fun at all, and your money is just sitting there, you are more likely to want to spend it. 

12. You Can Do It. You really can. It may take 5 months. It could take 15 months. But if you keep your eye on the prize, and just keep adding to your trip fund, then you'll find out that you can do it.

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