One of the biggest complaints I hear about travel is that it is expensive. While budget travel is designed to save money on the road, the trip does still require money. When you consider a family of four with airfare and hotel, sometimes the trip can be a little pricey. We travel a lot because we’ve made it a priority in our lives. Rather than go to shows or eat out a lot, we save our money for trips. But you don’t always have to sacrifice all the “extras” in life to save a lot of money for a trip. Here are a few ways you can add some extra money to your travel savings account.
Food - One of the biggest money wasters is food. After looking at our spending, I was shocked at how much of it was devoted to eating. In order to get a handle on your food spending, track ALL food expenses for a month and then examine your spending trends. Look for low hanging fruit, like Starbucks or lunch during the week. Rather than spend $5 for coffee, brew your own at home and take it with you to work. Over the course of a year, this will save you more than $1,000. If you don’t already pack your lunch then you really need to start. I know that stopping by the local café or going out to eat with coworkers is easy, but it is also very expensive. If packing your own lunch is too much of a sacrifice, at least try to do it a few times a week. The savings potential here is huge.
Savings can also be found at the grocery store. First, buy generic brands and buy them in bulk whenever possible. A membership to Costco or Sam’s Club will pay for itself after your first visit. Try to shop only a few times a month or once a week at most. Frequent trips to the store ends up costing you more money in the long run. Also, if you aren’t using coupons then you need to start. Keep track of the items you buy on a regular basis and look for specials and coupons in the weekly paper.
After the first month of enacting these household austerity measures, look back at how much you spent on food for the month. Compare this with your baseline you created before embarking on your savings crusade and put the difference, the total amount saved, into your savings account. This is now “found” money for you and it is better served in the travel fund than in the household general fund.
Manage Your Bills - Bills, we all have them and we all hate paying them. But there are a few simple steps you can take to reduce how much you pay. Interest rates are at historic lows, thanks to our friends at the Federal Reserve. This makes it not only a great time to buy a new house or car, but to save money on what you already own. By refinancing, you can save several hundreds of dollars on your house or car loan, depending on how much you owe and your current interest rate. Be careful though, you want to refinance only for the amount of time equal to or less than how much you owe. For example, if you have a 30-year mortgage and have been paying for five years, do not refinance for another 30-year mortgage. This will add five years of payments to your mortgage. Instead, make sure the terms are for 25 years or less. By doing this, you will absolutely save money.
After you’ve refinanced, take a look at your remaining bills. You probably have cable and you might even have one of those triple play deals with phone, internet and cable bundled together. If you’ve had this plan for more than a year, then the package rate probably has increased. Check around and compare prices for other services, then call your current company and let them know you’re thinking of leaving. This almost always results in a rate reduction. Remember though to put any savings directly into your travel account.
Another big expense for most people tends to be their energy bills. Many power companies offer great tracking tools to monitor your usage – use these! Take a look at trends and your personal peak energy use months, then take steps to reduce your energy consumption such as:
- make sure all doors and windows have sufficient weather stripping
- keep your house at a steady temperature, rather than extreme highs or lows
- Unplug appliances you’re not using. Even though they’re not on, they still consume power.
- Be more realistic. I know it’s cold outside, but the house really does not need to be in the 80s. The same goes for the summer, creating a virtual ice box in your home is not necessary and will cost you a fortune.
Be Creative – There are a number of ways in which you can creatively save or even generate money. Go through your storage areas and see if you have enough for a yard sale. Any proceeds should go straight into your travel fund.
Institute a family tax. Once your family has decided on a travel destination, let them all know how much it costs and that they need to contribute. If every member of a family of four each puts $2 into a travel piggy bank every week, that’s $416 a year. Up the ante to $5 per person and you will have more than a $1,000. That’s a great result for not much effort.
These are just a few tips that will help you and your family save money so you can afford to travel more. As with anything, if travel is a priority for you then you will need to take some steps to make it happen. These simple ways to save money are fairly painless and will help as you plan the details of your vacation.