Budgeting For The Beach: Can You Afford A Vacation?

Budgeting is the perfect way to keep track of where your money goes every month, but it’s also a great tool for planning and saving! Not only can you monitor mandatory monthly expenses, but your budget will allow you to easily see how much is left over for the fun stuff.

If you’ve been following along, you’ll notice that traveling is one of my favorite things to do. While I can’t do it as often as I used to after buying a new home and tackling more grown-up issues (oh hey, bills and loan payments), I still try to make room for these expenses in my budget (just another great thing about being financially responsible: setting your own priorities!), even if I only set a little aside at a time. Since I don’t have a whole lot of extra money to work with, I’ve learned a few tricks for bringing costs down, and because of that, I’ve been able to visit places I’ve always dreamed of seeing!

Make a little more room in your budget for the fun stuff by considering some of these money-saving vacation tips. Happy traveling!

1. First thing’s first: Plan ahead and save up! It’s rare for us to take off on a whim due to work restrictions unless the price is right, so we often plan our trips well in advance. This allows us to figure out how much money we’d need and when we would need to have it by. How much can you contribute to your travel fund every month? Saving even just a little over time can eventually get you to where you need to be. I set aside a pre-determined amount out of each paycheck in addition to my emergency savings, and if I came across anything extra (we made a profit at our local flea market!), I added it to my stash.

2. Compare prices. Shop around before you settle on costs for hotels, flights, or even a destination. Our most recent vacation has more than proven this point. We finally made our way to the Caribbean for an entire week, and it cost us less than we usually spend on our traditional six days we spend in Maryland every year. How is that possible? We opted for a cruise, which allowed us to visit 6 different places in 7 days, with a cruise line that offered us the most value for what we were spending. Know what you’re paying for to get the most bang for your buck!

3. ALWAYS check for deals and discounts. This has been my biggest money-saver! You can find deals on hotels, flights, and local attractions and events through sites like Travelzoo, LivingSocial, and Groupon. Sites like this also offer great all-inclusive packages for more expensive trips (i.e. Caribbean or overseas vacations), especially if you’re looking to travel sooner rather than later. Combining your flight, hotel, and food expenses eliminates the guesswork and can often save you more money as opposed to planning everything separately on your own.

4. Timing is everything. You can often get better deals when you plan trips off-season, when most other people aren’t likely to be traveling. Do a little research on the destination you’re looking to visit, and see if any hotel or flight deals are offered to attract guests during the slow business season. Rates are also the most expensive during high-travel times; it’s common for folks to take a week-long summer vacation or an extended weekend during the rest of the year. Hotels generally have lower rates for Sunday – Thursday stays.

5. Watch where your money is going. I try to be sure that I’m only spending money when it’s necessary. If you’re road-tripping to another state, you’ll obviously need to pay for things like fuel, but that doesn’t mean that you need to grab a cup of coffee or a candy bar every time you stop for it. When I know I’ll be staying in a hotel with a refrigerator, I often pack meals and snacks to eat in my room as opposed to eating out at restaurants. (No fridge? Remember to bring non-perishables!) Cutting back on frivolous expenses allows you to spend your money on necessary or worthwhile things, or even better, come home with it in your bank account!

6. Bring some friends! Consider planning a joint vacation with a few friends or family members and split some of the costs (i.e. lodging, food, etc.). Having buddies around that like to do similar things can make vacation even more fun. It’s also a great way to squeeze in some extra quality time together.

Will you be traveling on a budget this year? Share some of the ways you save more money with us!