I’m going to let you in on a little secret. You can afford to go on vacation every year. You totally can! I realize finding and saving enough money to take a vacation each year can be very stressful. Which is ironic, because you’re trying to go on vacation to lower your stress and take a break! And certainly, everyone has a different tolerance in their budget for vacation spending. But I’m here for you. Not only am I going to help you plan your budget for a vacation,
Vacation Logistics: Details Needed
Let’s get the details of when, where and how you want to vacation into clear focus. We’ll get to the money part later!
#1 – How often do you go on vacation?
Some people prefer to go on vacation every year and take a more budget friendly approach. Others prefer to save up and go every other year and really have a nice luxury vacation. Some folks want two vacations a year, one adventurous and one relaxing. Whatever your preferred combination may be, I’ve got plenty of ideas on how to cover the expenses.
#2 – How much money is ok to spend on a vacation?
It depends! There’s the super clear, definitive and helpful answer you are searching for!
Truthfully, it depends on what you can afford. And you’ll be surprised, I think you can probably afford most any vacation you want to take. If it’s a real luxury vacation, you may have to save for a year or two, but you can make it happen for sure. A lot of vacations aren’t as out of reach as you might think! Especially if you get creative with your budget and plan ahead.
#3 What kind of trip is it?
The type of vacation is an important distinction too. Sometimes you can go a more frugal and budget route and sometimes, it’s really time to splurge on something special.
For example, is it your simple beach summer vacation you take every year? Where you’ll spend most of your time on the beach? Then you probably don’t need a five-star resort. A simple hotel or condo rental will do just fine!
Or is it a special 25
#4 – Are there any job or work considerations to keep in mind?
Do you have paid vacation or comp time? Or are you going on vacation for a week and also not being paid? Either way is totally fine, we just need to make sure we account for any possible lost wages in our vacation budget and savings.
The great thing is YOU get to decide what your budget is and what you are willing to spend on your vacations. There is no set rule on what is or isn’t acceptable. It’s totally your choice!
#5 – Are you willing to split the vacation with others?
Do you only want to go on vacation with your small family unit? Or are you willing to include other family and friends? There isn’t a right or wrong answer to the question, it’s simply another factor to consider.
Often splitting a larger vacation rental with family or friends will significantly lower the cost of everyone’s trip. Traveling with groups can be a bit more tricky though. Read this post about Thriving on a Family Vacation for ideas to make traveling with a large group easy for everyone.
Our Family Vacation – As An Example:
We aren’t going to be budget travelers while we travel with little kids. For us, when we take our family vacation to the beach, we are traveling with our five-year-old and three-year-old sons along with several extended family members. The kids are too small (and WAY too pale like their mommy) to tolerate the heat and sun of the beach all day long.
So, that means we won’t be staying in a simple hotel room; we’d all be on the way to a mental institution by the end of the week we’d be so crazy! The kids need room to play AND nap and the grown-ups need room to spread out too. Our solution to all those considerations is to splurge for a larger condo for a week to keep everyone happy and have a nice experience. That’s how we decide to roll on our vacation.
Financial Advice vs. Life Advice
A small word of financial warning…
It’s probably not a great idea to go into debt to go on a simple summer vacation. Personally, I find it much more satisfying to be able to pay for the trip out of money we have saved and know it’s totally taken care of before we even arrive at our destination.
I’m also not one to shout at the rooftops that you can’t take a vacation if you are in debt. I really think sometimes you have to make people a priority.
It’s REALLY important to take a break and spend time with your family. And to celebrate big events. I’ll leave that to you to decide what you are comfy spending on your trips. I’m not here to judge. Sometimes you have to decide what your priorities are and throw caution to the wind and take that trip, even though you may not be able to pay for it on the front end.
Any financial planner person would really want to punch me in the face right now and tell me not to promote going into debt to travel. And I did say it’s probably NOT a good idea to go into debt… I covered my bases!
I’m NOT a financial planner. And I’m definitely not saying you should be entirely irresponsible with your money. I’m just saying sometimes, there’s a time and a place where you need to splurge.
In all seriousness, you can always earn more money to make a trip happen. You can sell stuff, grab extra hours at work, work a little part time job – there are a lot of options.
What you cannot do is buy more time with your loved ones. Your kids grow up quick. Family members age. The inevitability of time will catch up. Cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s happen in the blink of an eye. Life has taught me a LOT in the last few years about making opportunities to make memories. Don’t wait. Life’s short. Adjust your priorities accordingly.
Preaching time is over! On to the nitty gritty of the saving money!
Planning Your Budget
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Newsflash… I am a big planner. A real shocker, right?
So, while I may not know exactly where we want to go each year for our family vacation, I do know we ARE going on a family vacation. AND I know what the tolerance is in our budget for that trip. I like to save up all year long and then when it’s time to pay for the vacation, the cash is there and ready to go. Or if I find an excellent deal on a rental, I can snag it up immediately because the funds are right there waiting for me.
Our Example Vacation Budget
I’ve compiled a list of items (with my own budget calculations included) to consider when planning your vacation budget:
We allow for a condo or hotel allowance of around $1,800 per week. You could certainly find a cheaper rental if you are willing to search.
We budget $250 for gas on
$250 for the week – It’s up to you if you want to count this in your vacation budget or not. We would be buying groceries each week no matter where we are located in the world. But I like to throw in a lot of convenience items (paper plates, plastic utensils, etc) I don’t usually use and some special treats as well, so I add this to our budget to keep everything covered.
We tend to eat breakfast and lunch at our condo, and then go out for a nice meal for dinner. I budget $800 for restaurant dining for the week, including a few ice cream treats built in! We like to go out for fresh seafood at the beach (Hello hush puppies and fried shrimp!). And also make sure to throw in ice cream shop treats at least a few times. Ice cream at the beach is just somehow more wonderful.
I plan on $250. Because you just don’t know what could happen. Maybe you blow out a tire or have car trouble. Or perhaps you have to go to the walk-in clinic because someone gets sick. Maybe you break the glass coffee table at the rental unit. I just like having that little extra built in just in case!
The Fun Stuff
Our fun activities budget is $500. This will cover if we want to go to a movie on a rainy day, the aquarium, mini-golfing, go-karting or to a local baseball game. If you are going somewhere like an amusement park such as Disneyworld, obviously this part of your budget would need to be bulked up considerably! Vacation is time for fun stuff and making memories. Plan it into your budget so you can enjoy the time together.
Splurge On the Fun Stuff
Splurge. Definitely make time for the fun stuff. You never know when you will make a memory for life.
I can distinctly remember (even though this was probably 25 years ago) my aunt taking me and my cousin (we were probably 12-13ish) to the old Pavillion in Myrtle Beach on a cloudy beach afternoon. She let us play a ton of games and then let us make a sand art project in a bottle.
I’m sure it was probably ridiculously overpriced, but we had so much fun. His was black and red and mine was hot pink and blue. And I still remember it after all this time. I can smell the hot dogs, funnel cakes and salty sea air. I could tell you what song was on the radio even! (You’re itching to know that the song was “What’s Up” by 4 Non Blondes, right?)
That’s why you should take time to do the fun, albeit frivolous, stuff while you are on a trip.
Total Vacation Budget: $3,850
I find our budget to be extravagant. If you got really serious about it and looked for some really great deals, you could probably shave at least a third of this budget, if not half! But we like the place we stay and the beach we go to and seem to go back year after year. We know it works for us!
But back to our budget of $3,850. To achieve this amount in our vacation savings account it means we need to save $320 each month to meet our goal. Seems like a lot, right? Maybe not!
Take a second look.
If we break that down into bite-size pieces, we really need to save $80 per week. That doesn’t seem so bad, does it? But, how can you come up with that amount each week? Well, to get you started, I’ve compiled some crazy easy ideas:
10 Easy Ideas to save $80 each week:
- Skip the coffee shop twice this week: $5 each trip, $10 total
- Pack your lunch two days this week and skip the
drive thru. $8 each trip, $16 total
- Freezer/Pantry night – Plan to use up some freezer and pantry staples for dinner one night each week. This means $10 less on the grocery bill per week! (I’m assuming most dinners in your repertoire will cost around $10 for the ingredients… if not more!)
- Use a refillable water bottle and don’t buy bottled water each week: $5 a week
- Use coupons! There are online coupons, store coupons
andnewspaper coupons. Make it a goal to use $5 worth of coupons each week. Try to make sure you are using coupons on things you would buy anyway. You haven’t saved any money if you buy something you normally wouldn’t, just to using a coupon.
- Limit yourself to one soda per day. This saves me at least $7 (2 6-packs of soda bottles @ $3.50 each) per week. And it helps me drink more water!
- Homemade Pizza Night – It’s fun, everyone gets exactly what they want on their pizza AND it saves a boatload of money. We call it Daddy’s Pizzeria Night (Because Daddy makes the pizza!). Savings $15/week (We usually spend $25-$30 on pizza delivery, so I subtracted
half,since we still need to buy our ingredients for home pizza.)
- No buying candy at the store. I’m embarrassed to say; this easily saves me $5-10 per week. I’ll go with the low estimate of $5 in case you don’t have
my samesweet tooth that I have. Plus, this helps me not ruin my teeth or give myself diabetes.
- Keep 3 meals in the freezer at all times. This will save you on the night of the week you are the most frazzled and would have hit a drive through or take out. We all have that night. We know it’s coming. Additionally, this freezer meal is probably WAY healthier for you too! $10 per week saved, at LEAST!
- Leftover Night – This would be Tuesday night at our house because
garbageday is Wednesday. We need to clear out the fridge. $10/week saved on grocery ingredients.
Total Weekly Savings: $93
So, look at that… that simple list is already $93/week. CONSERVATIVELY. It’s probably a lot more than that. And you can probably come up with two or three more ideas that fit your routine best. And BOOM – right there – you have your vacation savings covered for the year. Even if you did nothing else! $93 each week for 52 weeks is $4,836. And that wasn’t even hard to save!
But Wait – I Have More Ideas!
Let’s just say not all those weekly ideas worked for you. Or you have an even larger budget in mind for your next vacation and you want to add more funds to the savings. Here are a few ways to save quite a bit each month to add to your tally!
8 Easy Ideas To Save an Extra $100 Each Month:
- Ebates: $10/month – I use this for everyday purchases that I’d be making anyway. They are often offering 1-6% cash back online for Amazon, Kohls, Belk, QVC, Carter’s, Zulilly, etc. I love to find a good coupon and then be able to stack some Ebates rebates along with the coupon. I keep my eyes out and purchase a lot of birthday and/or Christmas gifts this way. Ebates sends out a check each quarter, and mine is usually around $35-$50.
- Birthday Cards – These things cost a fortune! I like to buy a bundle of 36 birthday cards for $10 on Amazon. The cards are super cute and very general, meaning I can use them for most anyone. Instead of $4 per card at the store, these are about $.27 each. Also, you could use supplies on hand to make cards. This easily saves $10 per month for us! Probably more!
- Utilities – Turn the thermostat up or down, depending on the season. Up for summer, down for winter. Shower more quickly and with the water a smidge cooler. And turn the lights off when you aren’t in the room! This could rack up at least $10 per month in savings on your utility bills.
- Get a library book instead of buying the newest bestseller: Save $10
- Babysitting: Swap out childcare with some friends. You keep their kids while they go to dinner one night and then they keep your kids while you go out to dinner for a date night. This easily saves $40 on a babysitter, once a month.
- Stock up on grocery sales when everything is at its rock bottom price. The grocery store cycles on sales around every 6 or so weeks. Wait until chicken breast is at the lowest price and buy 5 or 6 packages to last in the freezer until the next time it’s on sale. Try this for any meat you would use. This will save at least $20 a month on your meat purchases alone. Not to mention other staples you use all the time.
- Go to the salon every 8 weeks instead of every 6. You would cut out 2 salon visits per year, saving you at least (if you are dying your hair like most women on earth) $150 (2 $75 visits), which would amount to $12 extra a month in your pocket.
- Buy in Bulk – I order toilet paper, paper towels, diapers, wipes, dishwasher soap and laundry detergent from Amazon on a monthly subscription order. It saves us 15% on each item because we have 5 or more items we subscribe to each month. (Also, we can all agree, if we don’t walk into a Target or Walmart, we’ve automatically saved $50-$100. You know how it happens! Target is my happy place and my nemesis, all wrapped in one!) I’m going to put this at a $20 per month savings for a conservative estimate!
Total Monthly Savings: $132 per month
That’s $132 a month, with EASE. Which adds up to $1,344 for a year
Still want to save more?
- Participate in a Yard sale: $150 profit (at least!)
- Consignment Sales – Sell baby items and clothes at a consignment sale: $150 profit
- Use Cash – Pay for groceries and
drive thrusin cash, and save up your coins: $50/year from the coin jar, minimum. Probably more!
- Parties – Host a “Friends Night In” – This will easily save $50 each time you do it by everyone not going out to restaurants. Have everyone bring a dish and whatever they want to drink. Host one twice a year for a total of $100 per year.
- Contract Bills – Review your contracted bills like cable, cell phones, car insurance, homeowner’s insurance, etc. This could easily save you $100 this year. Further, try to negotiate rates for being a long time and loyal customer. You’ll be shocked at how much you can get taken off your bill if you simply ask!
That’s an annual savings of $550 for very little effort!
If you really want to go all in – cancel your cable or satellite. Do make sure you have unlimited internet for the streaming (we learned this the hard way!! We did NOT have unlimited internet! You can be we sure do now!). It required an upgrade our internet to be unlimited data, but we still came out $75 a month ahead, for an annual savings of $900.
So, all together we have:
- Weekly Savings: $93 per week, or $4,836 per year
- Monthly Savings: $132 per month, or $1,344 per year
- Annual Savings: $550 per year
- Cable Savings: $75 per month, or $900 per year
For a grand total of: $7,630 per year – OF EASY MONEY SAVED
This wasn’t even a list with anything painful! (Except maybe the cable. We really haven’t missed it though! We have Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime along with a digital antenna for the three main channels, so really, we are set!)
Look how easy it would be to take a vacation each year. For this much savings, you could take 2 vacations! Or one really big one! Or you could take one and use the rest for savings, or debt or another large purchase! Anything you want to do with the money!! I’m always shocked how much money you can save with a few minor adjustments.
Above all, if you get a little creative and shuffle a few things around, you too can come up with easy money for
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