It’s January. You’ve just had a nice holiday, dazzled family and friends with many (many) presents, eaten some delicious things (OK, maybe a lot of delicious things) and now, sadly, it’s time to get back to reality. Ugh. Who wants reality.
What you really want is to get away again. Far away. But one glance at your post-holiday bank account suggests that your big vacation is further off than you’d like.
What’s the solution? Do you simply lock yourself in your room, subsist on bread and water, and remain there until you can afford the ticket?
Before you resort to such drastic measures, we asked some financial experts for their less punishing suggestions. Follow these easy tips and before you know it you will be living your postcard dream instead of just drooling over a picture of it.
1. Divide and Conquer
Keep your spending money totally separate from your savings. (Photo: Alejandro Moreno de Carlos/Stocksy)
Amanda Clayman, a New York City-based financial therapist, says before you do anything else, separate your money. “Get your savings out of your checking account immediately. Even if you know you’ve “saved” $1,000, if it’s just sitting there mixed up with your money for rent and utilities, you might mistakenly spend it. Most banks allow you to create sub-accounts within your checking/savings setup. Create a separate account for your vacation fund. Some banks even have thumbnail images with each sub-account, which might help give you that extra motivational push to meet your goal!”
2. Now start filling up the second account with “found” money
Your friend finally paid you back for those concert tickets you bought months ago? Put that money straight into your savings. (Photo: Amy Covington/Stocksy)
Hoard your “found” money, says Jane Barratt, investment advisor and the founder of GoldBean. What is “found” money, exactly? “Gifts, bonuses, and refunds. That $20 that you forgot your friend owed you? Put it in your savings account. The refund on the sweater that didn’t fit? In the bank. Your bonus check? Yep. In the bank.”
3. Subscribe to unsubscribing
We all love movies in bed, but maybe you don’t need both Hulu AND Netflix. (Photo: Getty Images)
You know all those times you’ve signed up for a monthly service because the low, low price seemed both practical and responsible. Stop. And then go back and unsubscribe. Says Barratt: “Kill all the recurring charges on your credit card unless you (a) use them religiously and (b) there are no good alternatives. Spend some time really going through your statement and imagine that six months of music streaming can buy you an incredible day of snorkeling with stingrays or the first leg of your flight to Ulan Batar.”
4. Say “Yes, but…”
Instead of expensive cocktails or fancy dinners, opt for coffee with your friends instead. (Photo: iStock)
Barratt also advises saying yes, to less. “Become master of “yes, but” when it comes to entertainment. “Yes I’d love to catch up for dinner BUT I’m saving for my trek through the Andes. Let’s meet for coffee instead” Once you’ve got the hang of counter-offering social engagements, it’s easy – and bonus, less calories.”
5. Be all inclusive, even if you aren’t traveling to an all-inclusive
When figuring out how much you need to save for your trip, be sure to consider all expenses, not just flight and hotel. (Photo: Lumina/Stocksy)
Clayman says that when setting your savings goal, make sure to take into account all the things you will be spending money on, not just the big stuff. “Make sure when setting your goal you include incidentals like meals, activities, and any shopping you might do. Sometimes people think about the big-ticket items (flights and lodging), then when they get to their destination they switch to “vacation brain” (aka “shut your eyes and spend”). If you don’t want a post-vacation financial hangover, factor in all of those other things we tend to spend on when we travel.”
6. Haves and have nots
Think about what’s most important and maybe take a longer less-direct flight and trade those savings in for a nicer hotel. (Photo: iStock)
When you are booking, identify high-value and low-value ways to adjust costs, Clayman advises. “Maybe you are willing to take two connecting flights so that you can afford the nicer hotel room. Or maybe you’ll stay in a hostel, if it’s a hostel in Bali. Think about what will make this trip meaningful and restorative to you, and maximize the amount spent in those areas by cutting back on the things you care less about.”
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