Vacations are supposed to be relaxing, but it’s hard to unwind when you’re constantly stressing about how you’re going to pay for it all.
With summer nearly upon us and road trips, cruises and much-needed getaways in the works, now is the time to start saving up for that vacation you’ve been dreaming of all winter. With a little creativity, you can bulk up your bank account and be ready to hit the road or beach in style, without going into debt to do it.
Here are strategies to save for your next vacation.
1. Open a Dedicated Vacation Bank Account
One easy way to save for a special trip is to open a dedicated vacation savings account. You can set up automatic payments into the account, and, with a little restraint, leave that money there until it’s time for your trip. If you choose an interest-bearing account, your money might even grow while you’re looking forward to your trip. Here’s one great example:
You can open a savings account at your local bank, but my suggestion is to go with an online bank. You’ll be less likely to withdraw the money.
Once you’re on your way, a vacation account is also an easy way to track how much you’ve spent on your vacation.
2. Cut Back on Your Monthly Food Budget
Now, to fill that vacation account…
For many households — especially those with little ones or teenagers running around — food can be a huge monthly expense. Shave a little off the top and in no time, you’ll notice you’ve got some extra cash to put toward your getaway.
Save money by buying in bulk, by shopping at farmers markets or by joining a CSA. You could even do what this family did and slash your grocery bill in half by shopping for organic foods. Start a garden in your backyard, or save on produce by regrowing vegetables at home. Earn rebates on your groceries by taking pictures of the receipts with apps like Checkout51 and Ibotta.
Or simply look for a few items you don’t really need, like pop and treats, and keep them out of your grocery cart while you’re saving for your vacation. Wouldn’t that ice cream taste even better if you were eating it on the beach?
3. Use Your Car to Make a Little Cash on the Side
Why not use your car for a little extra income? Some communities will pay you to carpool to work, and you could make additional money as an Uber or Lyft driver. You could also make $3,000 a year by renting out your car.
If you’re flying to your destination and want to park at the airport for free, let FlightCar rent out your car to other travelers while you’re gone, and you could have a check waiting for you when you return.
You could also consider ditching your car completely, like this family did, and save $11,500.
4. Pick Up a Side Job
Sure, you may need to work a little harder now, but think about all that relaxing fun you’ll be having on your stress-free vacation that’s already paid for.
Look for ways to earn extra money outside your regular job, whether they’re more traditional (babysitting, serving) or a bit less orthodox. Clean headstones, alter clothing, stand in line… the sky is the limit for odd, side jobs that help bring you one step closer to affording your dream getaway.
Consider short-term work opportunities related to the season. Around the winter holidays, many retail employers look for seasonal workers to cope with extra demand. During the spring and summer, look for businesses that need extra support, like farms or pools looking for workers and lifeguards. In the fall, try offering leaf-raking services or picking apples in an orchard.
Working these side jobs may mean sacrificing your weekends for a while, but it will help make your vacation possible.
Sarah Kuta is an education reporter in Boulder, Colo., with a penchant for weekend thrifting, furniture refurbishment and good deals.