Planning ahead for a summer vacation can save money and allow time to set aside funds. Families who budget year-round have a leg up, but there's still time left in the school year to get serious about saving. These tips can keep families from scrounging to cover vacation expenses all at once. They may even open the door to vacation options you didn't think you could afford.
Put the money earmarked for a summer vacation in a separate bank account and leave it untouched until vacation bills come due. You may be able to set up an automatic deposit from your paycheck directly into the summer savings account. This is a safeguard against forgetting to put money into the proverbial cookie jar every pay period or choosing to spend it on something else.
Even saving $20 a week by forgoing casual restaurant meals adds up to an impressive sum if you get the jump on things now. Start a savings plan in March for a July vacation and you could net more than $300 simply by eating at home instead of making a weekly stop at a local haunt. If dinner out typically costs closer to $50, your nest egg could easily hit $850 (minus the cost of extra groceries).
Most cash-back credit cards offer 1 to 2 percent cash back on total purchases. Some of the best reward credit cards offer more for specific categories, such as travel. Rather than paying cash or using a debit card for groceries and gas, swipe the credit card and rack up points. (Reminder: Keep track of what you're spending so there are no surprises at the end of the billing cycle.) If you put $5,000 on a credit card over the course of several months, you could earn $50 to $100 just for buying the things you normally would. The rewards from these cards are not usually taxed, so the full amount can be put toward a vacation.
Planning ahead saves you from buying vacation essentials on the fly and gives you the leisure to purchase what you need at the best prices. Search for coupons for the items on your list and keep an eye out for sales. Consider borrowing larger items, such as camping equipment, from family and friends.
While it's tempting to make a big purchase or a few home repairs when your income tax refund arrives, sock it away in the summer vacation savings account. This can make a big dent in vacation expenses in one shot. The timing may be just right: If you file in advance of the April 18 deadline, the refund should arrive in plenty of time to pay for summer family fun.
Empty your pockets and wallet of any loose change at the end of each week. Designate a piggy bank or jar for the entire family to pool their change. Count it up monthly and deposit in the vacation fund; every penny counts.
If you work at a job that awards bonuses or commissions, label a portion of that compensation for a summer trip. Ditto for birthday or holiday money you don't depend on for monthly bills. Any unexpected income can help you reach your goal even faster.
Before setting out to stock up on new boogie boards and beach chairs, ask around. There's a good chance friends, neighbors, and family members have items like these sitting idly in their closets. It's not worth buying your own if you will use them for only one trip every couple of years.
It's easy to put off contributing to the vacation fund if you have to actively do so every month. Determine a reasonable amount to put aside and set up an automatic transfer that will move the money regularly without you having to do anything.
If someone in the family can manage a side gig, put the extra money toward your vacation. Some after-school coaching jobs, tutoring, and retail positions don't require a huge time commitment. They can provide just enough extra cash to help cover expenses on a summer trip without having to make many, if any, cutbacks.