How to Save on the Small Things So You Can Afford the Vacation of Your Dreams

balance-865819_640We all have a dream/bucket-list vacation. Maybe that dream is to drive all over the continental United States in an RV for a year. Maybe that dream is a first-class/five star trip through every country in the European Union. Maybe it’s a cruise or even a series of cruises. Whatever the trip, one thing is universal: it is likely going to be very expensive.

It’s easy to look at something expensive and decide that it is unattainable. After all, you have bills to pay! You have debt to manage! You have day to day expenses! You’re barely able to save up an emergency fund, let alone a retirement or bucket-list travel fund. But what if you could? What if you could save up that money? It isn’t impossible, after all.

The best way to save up for something big is to look for ways to scrimp on things that are or seem small and to create a budget that has room for your vacation fund within it. Here are some tips to help you do that.

Your Utilities

Everybody knows that there are hundreds of different techniques that you can use to reduce the amount of power and water you use and, as a consequence, the amount of money you spend on your utility bills. Turning off the lights, taking shorter showers, only running full loads in your washer, dryer, and dishwasher, etc. Every small step you take to reducing your power and water consumption is one small step you take toward your travel adventure.

Shop Around

Most people have mastered the art of comparison shopping for goods and services. You go to a few stores and make note of prices, you call around, etc. But are you shopping around for everything? If you aren’t yet, now is a good time to start. In addition to groceries, stylists, and ordinary services, you can also shop around for larger needs. For example, if you live in a deregulated energy market, you can shop around for the best electricity rates. You can shop around for the best bank fees and interest rates for your savings accounts. You can even shop around your debt and take advantage of balance transfers or debt consolidation programs.

Even if you live rurally, you can shop for many of the items you need online. Dried goods, personal hygiene supplies, etc–you can often find these items online for a great deal less than you would find them at a local grocer or pharmacy.

Make and Grow Your Own

If you’ve never learned to sew or garden now is the time to do so. Growing your own produce is phenomenally cheaper than buying it in a store. Eating produce you’ve grown yourself is also healthier for your body. Even if you live in a small space, you can grow herbs, spices, small fruits and berries in containers you keep on your window sills.

Sewing is a fantastic skill that will help you extend the length of your clothing. Knowing how to replace buttons, hem your own pants, patch holes, make small repairs–each of these tasks can extend the life of a garment by months or even years. It’s also a handy skill for taking clothing that is past its prime and turning it into something new. You might not be able to make a brand new shirt but you can make quilts, handkerchiefs, etc.

Managing Debt

The most savings, of course, come from properly managing your debt. Are the interest rates on your loans and credit cards as low as they could be? Are you making more than the minimum monthly payments to ensure that you’re paying down your debt as quickly as possible?

One of the best ways to save up money for a larger trip is to siphon off a bit of a debt payment after the account is paid off (but not before). Traditionally, as you pay off one debt, you would then take whatever your monthly payment toward that debt might be and distribute it equally across your other debts to increase the amounts you’re paying there. Instead, take 15% of that monthly payment and save it. 10% should go into a long term savings account for your retirement. 5% can go into your travel fund. If you haven’t yet built up an emergency fund, split it up equally with 5% going to long term savings, 5% to emergency savings, and 5% to traveling.

There are lots of ways to save on the little things you buy and within the details of your spending and budgeting systems. These are just a few suggestions. What are some of the techniques you’ve used to “beef up” your travel fund?

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