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Summer Dreams: How to Have Your Dream Vacation Without the Budget Nightmare

Summer Dreams: How to Have Your Dream Vacation Without the Budget Nightmare

By Anne Arbour

April showers have come and gone, May flowers are starting to peek through the soil and for many of us, our thoughts are turning to summer vacation.

We have a list of dream destinations, but worries about the extra expense are disrupting our visions of perfect lazy, hazy summer days with friends and family. Here are some steps to take right now to make sure you can take that dream vacation without running into a budget nightmare. 

Set a Savings Goal

Take a close look at your resources to determine some realistic travel options. If others are involved, sit down together to determine a common wish list.

Is it a trip to Europe? Camping? How about a staycation with day trips to some local festivals?

Setting achievable goals is the first step in planning your summer holiday, so you can determine how much money you will really need to have available to make the plan work.

It’s important to set clear expectations and limits – for yourself and your travel companions – to avoid stress and disappointment.

Will costs be split equally? Is one of you ‘five star only’ while the other is happy with budget accommodations?

Once you know what you’re working towards, you can break down how much you need to save per month to help you reach your goal. You can also discuss what each person involved, be it a family member or friend, has to do to help reach the goal.

If an expensive holiday just isn’t in the cards for this year, be creative in the short term to come up with an equally enjoyable experience for all, and start working toward the larger goal for the future.

Create a Spending Plan

If you don’t have a personal or household budget, this is the first step to finding money for your vacation.

It will likely be an adjustment to set some extra aside if you don’t know what you need for the rest of your expenses. (You can check out My Money Coach for some great, easy tips and tools for simple budget building).

Once most people take the time to track their spending and create a budget, they usually find it easy to identify expenses that they can cut back on so they can achieve their savings goal, or where they might be able to increase their income to give their savings a boost. Another possible option is to consider ways to make a little extra money and use the proceeds for your spending money.

Look for expenses to trim

One of the easiest ways to find a little extra money is to trim back somewhere else.

As part of your budgeting process, start to track different things you’re spending your money on. Look at all of your expenses and decide where you can cut back.

That could mean creating meal plans and taking advantage of price matching to save money on groceries, or taking a closer look at your communications plans to ensure you’re really using everything you’re paying for (or maybe you’re using more for your plan and paying for expensive overage fees).

There are so many different places our budgets leak money if we’re not keeping track, so take the time to look and see where you can plug some holes. One (or more) of these leaks may be your ticket to that summer getaway.

Get Creative When it Comes to Saving Money

PSST! Want to know a secret? There are lots of fun ways to get creative about saving. 

There’s the 52 Week Money Challenge, or collecting coins in a jar, or even the 30 Day Money Challenge.

Did you know that you could save $465 in only 30 days? What? It’s true!  For each day of the month, save the amount of the date in a jar or separate bank account. Start by saving $1 on the 1st of the month, $2 on the 2nd  of the month, and so on, until you reach $30 on the 30th. By the end of the month, you’ll have saved $465!  

Challenge yourself and your travelling companions to try this or to come up with other creative ways to save to meet your vacation goal.

Set-up Automatic Transfers

We can be our own worst enemy when it comes to saving our money so sometimes we need strategies to keep it safe from ourselves.

Your financial institution can help you set up automatic transfers from your chequing account into another account where it’s more difficult to withdraw, taking the money out of your reach and making it less tempting to spend.

This could be a high interest savings account that is not linked to your debit card. If, for example, you were to automatically transfer $25 per week into a separate savings account, you would have $1,300 saved within a year.

By breaking down your vacation savings goal into small amounts per week or per month, the task of savings feels less overwhelming, and automatic transfers mean you don’t even have to remember to do it!  

With summer finally just a few months away, now is a great time to start thinking about the ‘how’ of your vacation, as much as the ‘what.’ 

Go ahead and daydream about barbecues and days at the beach, but don’t forget to get real about your budget and spending, using these steps.

Planning and saving ahead of time will avoid stressful, long-term credit card payments that can last long after the fun of the vacation has been forgotten! 

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Anne Arbour is the Credit Counselling Society’s Financial Educator for the Greater Toronto Area. Anne has over 25 years combined experience in facilitation and financial services, including operating her own small business financing company. She holds an MBA and is a Certified Educator In Personal Finance. Anne has served on expert panels for ACTRA and for FuturFund, and has been interviewed by Global News, Today's Parent Magazine, Canadian Money Saver Magazine and The Toronto Sun.