The calendar says it’s only March, yet there you are, sitting in your office, daydreaming about summer vacation possibilities. Will it be the beach, the mountains, maybe a national parks tour, a kids-oriented resort, or perhaps even someplace exotic overseas?
Then the daydream dissolves into financial reality: Whatever vacation you’re planning is going to cost money. And since you may not currently have the cash on hand to make that vacation daydream come true, the time to start saving is now. Here are seven smart savings tips to make this summer’s vacation great, without the financial strain:
- Get a plan, set a budget. Once you’ve decided on a vacation destination, devise a budget, so you know roughly how much you need to save. Research what it’s likely to cost for travel (airfare, etc.), housing (hotel, rental home, etc.), meals, transportation (rental vehicle) and activities. Add those costs up to get a savings target.
- Establish a bank account dedicated to vacation savings — preferably a low- or no-fee interest-bearing account that won’t limit your access to cash. Visit your local bank branch or check www.bankrate.com to see what’s available.
- Figure out how much you need to save to reach your target budget, then commit to a plan to regularly deposit funds into the vacation account so you’re on track to hit the target. Use an automatic savings plans or direct deposits so saving isn’t a matter of choice, suggests FPA member Amy Hoffman, CFP®, at Advisors Financial, Inc., in Falls Church, Va.
- Determine if you need to book certain parts of the vacation soon. Things like housing (such as a deposit on a vacation home) and air travel often require reservations and payment well in advance. Do you have adequate cash on hand now to cover those expenses? If you need to use a credit card to cover them, plan to pay off the vacation expenses you put on the card with monthly payments from your dedicated vacation account.
- Give your savings a boost by depositing unexpected cash inflows into your vacation account. Tax refunds, work bonuses or commissions, cash gifts, garage sale proceeds — every little bit helps!
- Hunt for deals to cut costs. Renting a vacation home (via sites such as www.joeoptions.com and www.vrbo.com) may be less expensive than staying in hotels, for example. If you’ve accumulated enough miles in an airline frequent flyer program, use them for air travel.
- Consult with a financial planner for creative savings ideas and help implementing a vacation savings plan.