Resolution help: 7 ways to save money for your 2013 vacation
By Aimee Markwardt
The economy is on the rebound, but these aren’t the golden years of excess yet. With medical bills, gas tanks, insurance and bellies to fill, stashing extra money aside for a big vacation later this year can seem impossible.
But it’s not. As the saying goes, where your treasure is, you will also find your heart; if a vacation is an important New Year’s resolution to you, and so is saving money, the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Ultimately, it comes down to priorities — and smart planning.
Here are some tips, apps and resources to guide you to success in saving money for your 2013 dream vacation:
1. Become aware of where you are spending and how you can save. Our favorite app to help with this is Mint. This free app (and website) helps you set up budgets, as well as actively identify areas where you could save more money. It will tell you if you’re spending more than the average person on car insurance (and not in a biased commercial that you don’t know if you can trust), and that may free up enough money alone to transfer into a separate vacation savings account.
2. Save money with a “pantry week” one week each month. For just that one week, skip the grocery store and come up with creative meals using only what you already have in your house (source: Mary Hunt, with Debtproofliving.com). You’ll be surprised by what you find.
3. Eat out less. A typical family with young kids spends more than $230 a month at restaurants, according to the National Restaurant Association. That’s more than $2,670 per year. Guess what? An all-inclusive vacation — hotel plus starting flight costs — to the Occidental Grand hotel in Aruba from Jan. 28 to Feb. 4 is currently listed at $2,366 on Travelocity.com. No fast food — not even smothered in green chile — is more satisfying than a week in an Aruba resort.
4. Use credit cards — wisely — to stack up travel points. Vow right now to pay them off every month, or you negate any savings. Make sure you carefully read about the different credit card options, as well as the tricks and traps, before you begin charging. You will need to be organized and informed. Make sure the annual fees aren’t higher than your rewards, and beware of cash-back limits and blocks on days you can travel.
5. Set up a special vacation savings account, and set up automatic money transfers into that account — even just $1 a day adds up over the year. Can you do $2 a day? How about $20 a week by skipping Starbucks and one lunch out? Suddenly, you’re approaching $1,000 a year saved.
6. Think small, too. Set up a good ol’ change jar. A penny saved is a penny you can spend on margaritas on the beach. You will be surprised how much change you drop over time.
7. Make sure you check travel deals and coupons to save money when booking your vacation. For example, many people don’t realize that Travelocity has a long list of deals and coupons, like save 50 percent on hotels, plus 8 percent cash back.