When it comes vacations, most people cite one major barrier: budget. We’ve all heard it before—I can’t afford the plane ticket; or, I’m putting all my extra income into savings. We encourage smart spending behavior, and if you don’t think you can afford a vacation, look for alternatives (staycations, for example, are becoming increasingly popular). However, don’t simply write off vacations entirely because of potential budgetary issues. There are ways to creatively cut costs for the trip of a lifetime, whether that means something as simple as cooking your own meals—or trying your hand at WWOOFing. Vacationers can also find ways to inventively budget for their trip. That method—saving up in advance—is the focus of this budgeting article. Here are a few places and situations where you are likely to save some money—whether it’s a few dollars on your daily latte or a few thousand dollars on a home sale.
Before getting into some of the more creative ways we’ve heard about paying for a vacation, we wanted to give a shout-out to the “old-fashioned” method, tried and true and enduringly popular, of saving up to go on a vacation. We’ve all heard that we can save by skipping the daily $5 latte, right? While the benefits of this practice are often overblown (“Get yourself out of student loan debt by cutting out one expensive coffee each week!”), maintaining awareness of daily spending is a great way to save some money over time.
Cut Daily Costs: Rather than buying an expensive meat item at dinner, opt for a less expensive vegetable entre. And yes, if you buy a coffee on your way to work every morning, investing in a travel mug and home coffee machine will save you money—you just need to stick with it. Sure, that Spotify subscription may only cost $11/month, but when paired with Netflix, Amazon, and HBO subscriptions, you’re probably spending more than you realize. Take a minute to review your monthly subscriptions, then consolidate. Instead of paying for Spotify and Amazon Music, choose one. Rather than subscribing to both Netflix and HBO, see which one you use more and eliminate the other. Designate or create a bank account to house this extra cash, then review your savings after a few months. You might be surprised.
Cut Monthly Subscriptions: Sure, that Spotify subscription may only cost $11/month, but when paired with Netflix, Amazon, and HBO subscriptions, you’re probably spending more on monthly subscription costs than you realize. Take a minute to review your monthly subscriptions, then consolidate. Instead of paying for Spotify and Amazon Music, choose one. Rather than subscribing to both Netflix and HBO, see which one you use more and eliminate the other. This is a great way to save $20-$30 every month; over time, that can turn into hundreds of dollars.
Engage the Gig Economy: It seems like everybody has a side hustle as a bike messenger for Postmates or as an Uber or Lyft driver. Don’t have a car or bike? Create a profile on Upwork, a freelancing site, and advertise your professional skills. Some people can make a living entirely through the Gig Economy, but you’ll probably at least be surprised by what a few hours of work each week can bring in over the course of a year. Here’s the other thing: Many of the job skills in this new Gig Economy are portable. You can live in a yurt or RV and as long as you have a solid Internet connection, you’re good to go. Maybe you can extend your travel time from one week to two weeks, or maybe you can afford to live in Europe or Japan or Australia for 3-6 months by taking your job with you.
Selling/Buying a Home: Here’s something you might not have thought about—selling your home. No, we’re not telling you to sell your home to extend your vacation budget. We’re asking you to consider the way in which you sell your home. The moving process is expensive and tedious, and most homeowners spend thousands of dollars in home equity to get a property into the right hands. If you’re thinking about selling a home in the midst of vacation planning, consider using an alternative selling method. Here’s one great idea we’ve heard about: Go without a home as part of a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Buy/rent/lease an RV and see the country for 6 months. This could be part of an investment strategy if you think home prices may be peaking in your area. Either way, you can defer the cost of the RV and gas by not having a mortgage.
Promotional Credit Card Offers: This is something you need to be careful with, and we don’t recommend simply plopping down plastic as a way of paying for vacation, an impulse that is sure to backfire on you. But if your savings are coming up just a little short or if you have a solid plan to pay the card off, using a promotional offer can finance your vacation costs while accruing minimal, if any, interest. Learn how credit card promotional rates work before simply plucking the first credit card offer out of the mail. Choose a credit card on your terms. It’s not just the promotional interest rate itself that you want to look at, but the length of the promotional offer. If you have good credit, you might be to get a 0% interest rate for up to 18 months or longer.
I am a lifelong explorer and travel enthusiast. I've never been a certified travel agent, but I have multiple family members who were. I'm not necessarily plugged in to the latest travel vendors and exclusive packages, and I've never cared for the label "life coach," but I do think I have some wisdom to offer about how people can get the most of your their vacation time.