How To Save Money to Travel
As the owner of my own Tour Companies, TourDCwithUs and VaFeltre Tours, it is my job to sell and lead tours. When I talk about my tours with others, the most common responses are, “Oh how I wish I could”, or, “Someday”, or, “Oh, but it’s so expensive”, or variations on these themes. You know what? They are right. Travel outside of your early twenties IS expensive, especially considering that things don’t cost what they did in our early twenties. When you purchase a tour package, you are not always saving a ton of money over booking each component separately yourself. You are paying someone to save you time and aggravation, and ideally, you are paying to have memorable and stress-free experiences, often at special locations that only local experts know about. I can’t tell you how many people over the years have commented about how much easier their vacation was when they decided to take a guided tour whether for a few hours or a few days. The planning is all done for you, so you get to sit back and enjoy whatever it is you’re trying to see. It costs money.
I know that this isn’t easy for everyone, and I’m not trying to say that it is. For many people, the largest purchases they’ve used their credit or debit cards for range in the hundreds of dollars, not thousands, so telling somebody that they need to fork over several thousand dollars is daunting.
With cost in mind, the question becomes, “How am I going to afford this trip”? The answer lies in how important the trip is to you. What are you doing in your daily life that can be changed just a little bit to make this dream come true? There are 52 weeks in a year. For easier math, let’s say that you saved $50 per week. You would have $2,500 put aside to be able to pay for next year’s vacation. Can you afford $100 per week? Bam! You have a $5,000 vacation bought and paid for. If you could do that for an entire year, then this becomes extra money that you didn’t need for your bills, and annual or semi-annual travel goes from being a pipe dream to becoming a reality.
What are some of the changes you could make? Financial experts always start with looking at how much you eat out, coffee shops, going to the movies, etc. Of course this is sound advice, and it doesn’t have to mean drastic changes to your lifestyle. Do you use Groupon for all it’s worth? Have you checked out Restaurant.com? What about buying discount gift cards at Costco or online? Nobody says you can’t gift yourself! Could you eat at home or pack a meal once a week more than you do? Are you eating those leftovers you brought home, or just throwing them away? Without going crazy and brewing all of your coffee at home or reusing your teabags, does your favorite retailer have a rewards program? Do you actually finish (or need) a beverage the size of a small pitcher? Pay for what you’re actually consuming instead of paying to throw it away. If you’re into makeup or jewelry or clothes or accessories, how much and how often are you purchasing? If you’re going to make this vacation a reality, you need to be honest here. Again, we are talking $50 a week. If you’re spending that much in these areas, maybe you could invest some time in searching for better deals, or find those tricks to stretch your makeup, or take a serious look at your closet and reuse instead of always replacing. Look for a surplus merchandise store near you for groceries, home goods, and more. Compare the savings to your regular grocery store, and put that cash you just saved aside for your trip. Look at subscription services for movie theaters. Some now offer unlimited visits to the theater for the price of 1-2 movies per month. As long as you don’t blow it all on the concession stand, this can add up quickly. The same is true for cable TV. Some phone companies are now linked with Direct TV, so you can stream from your phone to your TV and cancel your cable bill.
One of the biggest costs for most vacations is airfare. Have you looked into a mileage credit card? Sure, it seems a little counterproductive to tell you to open a line of credit while asking you to save money, but stay with me here for a bit. Several programs offer a hefty mileage bonus for signing up, and another if you spend a certain amount within a set timeframe. Find out if any of your home utilities can be paid for with the card, and only use it for that, and maybe gas and groceries. Don’t use it for any purchases you don’t already make on a regular basis; your extra money is supposed to be going for the vacation, remember? Once you have a mileage account, you can usually buy miles that you may be missing, which can come out cheaper than purchasing your ticket in cash. This is a great way to save a significant amount of money on your vacation, but it does require discipline.
Do you need help with discipline once you’ve committed to saving? Talk to your bank or credit union about a “Christmas account”, which won’t let you access the account until November each year. The amount you choose can be automatically deducted from your checking account according to your schedule. There are tons of online savings accounts, as well, which can also be set up to withdraw from your checking account at regularly selected intervals, or you can make a payment if you happen to find some money lying around. Both of these are good options, because you won’t see the money every time you check your everyday account balances, so you shouldn’t be tempted to try to spend them.