family vacation, Lists, Parenting, personal finance, savings tips and tricks, vacation

How to Budget for a Vacation When a Vacation Isn’t in the Budget

This post contains affiliate links for rebate programs.

The thought of taking the family on vacation isn’t something a lot of people who live on a budget might think is possible, unless it’s a quick trip to a local campground or lake. However, with a few lifestyle tweaks and some money-saving tips, your dream vacation might seem less like a dream and more like a reality. 

The first thing you’ll want to do when getting ready to save your vacation is to have a destination in mind. This destination will help you to estimate exactly how much you should save. After all, a family vacation to Ireland won’t cost the same as a family vacation to Destin. Once you have your destination in mind, it’s time to estimate how much your trip will cost. You can get an idea on airfare by going to any of the airfare sites and research different times of year to travel to your dream destination. You might discover that you would be okay shifting your plans from a June vacation to a September vacation to help save on your ticket costs. You can also use the same strategy to estimate the cost of lodging. Don’t forget to add in some money for food and a car rental if you’re planning to go somewhere that requires a vehicle. 

Now that you have an idea on the cost of your trip, it’s time to start saving! It’s this part that can seem a bit daunting to many. But the truth is, it’s much easier than expected. The trick is to start simple and save a little over time. If you’re flexible on your time frame for the trip, it will make the saving part much easier. 

Eating Out

When you want to save money, it’s time to cut back on the unnecessary spending. Many people don’t realize how much money they spend each month when it comes to eating out or grabbing a Starbucks in the morning. If you want to go on this dream trip, it’s time to start making coffee at home and packing your work lunches. Take the money that you would usually spend on those items and put it into your vacation fund. This step leads us to the next point.

Meal and Snack Prep

To make it easier to cut back on eating out, it’s essential to plan your meals for the week. If you know every day what you’re going to eat, it makes it a lot harder to have an excuse to eat out. To help you plan your meals for the week, look at the store sales flyers for your area. Plan your meals around what’s on sale and what you already have in your fridge.

Once you’ve shopped, load up your fridge with easy to grab and go snacks and lunches. Did you know that you can premake sandwiches to stash in your fridge and freezer? Cut up some fruits and veggies to have in baggies or reusable containers to toss in your lunch bag. When you make dinner, double the recipe so you can have another meal later in the week. The more you plan, the easier it will be to stay on track.

Save that Change

It’s time to start saving those pennies, nickels, and dimes-literally. Any time you see a piece of change on the ground, pick it up and put it in your jar. If you use cash to buy something, keep the change and throw it in your jar. That money will add up over time, and before you know it, you could have a couple hundred dollars in change to help you pay for your trip.

Gift Cards

Depending on where you’re planning to go on vacation, you might be able to start saving with gift cards. Places like Disney allow patrons to pay for their vacations using their branded gift cards. You can slowly begin to stash them up over time to help spread out the cost of your holiday. During your trip to Target, if you suddenly feel like buying the cute llama shaped planter, put it back and opt for an airline gift card in the same amount. Spend the money on memories instead of clutter.

Savings Account

Maybe you’re going somewhere that won’t allow you to pay with gift cards, or you’re not sure which airline you’ll be flying, so a gift card isn’t an option. That’s okay! Set up a savings account to start stashing that cash in. The interest rates aren’t always great, but a little something is better than nothing. Some banks run specials that will award you with money for setting up an account. Shop around to find out if any of your local banks have promos going on that could help you save more money for your trip!

Wish List

When your family or significant other asks you what you’d like for any of the gift-giving holidays, tell them your plan and ask for gift cards or cash in lieu of objects to help you save up. Be sure to take note of the gift so you can send a postcard from your destination! The same goes for the kids. If grandparents ask what the kids want, tell them that Visa or AmEx gift cards would be great for them to have as spending money on the trip. Then, take a picture of the kids buying items with the gift so the kids can put it in their thank you cards.

Get Those Rebates!

If you’re looking for a way to earn money while you do your shopping, then you need to sign up for some rebate apps (if you click the links for the apps within this post, I might earn a referral bonus)! Apps like Ibotta, Checkout 51, and Receipt Hog allow you to earn money back on your shopping trips. If you’re shopping online, then you should definitely have an Ebates account to help you earn money! Any time you cash out on those apps, you can save it for your trip! It’s extra money you wouldn’t normally be getting, so it’s perfect for that vacation fund.

It’s not always fun to save, especially when you put off the immediate gratification you could get from spending money on an impulse buy. You just have to remember what you’re doing it for and know that someday soon, you’ll be somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit. When you begin to implement these tips into your life, your vacation will become more attainable. Just remember, nobody has the money for a vacation until they make money work for their vacation.

If you have any tips that I didn’t include, please feel free to share them below! Or if any of these sound like something you’ll use, let me know in the comments!

6 thoughts on “How to Budget for a Vacation When a Vacation Isn’t in the Budget”

    1. It’s amazing how much stress finances cause. Even just a weekend at a local hotel can help with the need to relax! Just get away from the house for a night or two.


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