Thursday, September 10, 2009

Budget for Your Vacation--Pt. 2

We've discussed reasons to quit delaying your dream vacation and we've found some great tools to help us budget for our trip. Here are some of my own tried and true methods of saving for that trip of a lifetime.

  • Use websites like Yapta to help you track airfare to your dream destination. If you've already purchased a ticket for your flight, Yapta will also track the price for that particular flight and that can help you decide if it's worth paying the change fee for the difference when prices drop
  • Use websites like Airfare Watchdog or Travelzoo for deals on flights originating from your city.

As I mentioned in the post prior to this one, I am not a "saver" by nature. While I was working at my part-time job, one of the benefits I took advantage of was the employee credit union and direct deposit.

I sat down and looked at how much of my part-time check I needed to make all my bills and have a little bit of spending money until the next payday. Anything extra, I allocated towards my new savings account at the employee credit union. You are probably asking why it was so important to do all of this saving at the employee credit union? Why not just open a savings account at my local bank and put the money in there? Here's the deal breaker for me...I CANNOT SAVE. If money falls into my hot, little hands, I spend it. If I open a local account, I have access to that money all the time. I have no willpower in these things. I've tried but I really can't do it. The employee credit union was in Minnesota. The ATM card they sent me was just that, an ATM card. Not a debit/credit card, an ATM card...and I only got one.

So for me, it was necessary to determine how much money I could put away and it was easier for me to have this money automatically taken out of my check to go directly into my savings account. It was better for me to have the bank be very far away so I could not readily access the money. And it was better for me to take that one ATM card, wrap it up in plastic wrap, wrap that up in foil, put a whole bunch of rubber bands around it, and throw it in the back of my freezer. Now the card was never in my possession and if I wanted to use it to take money out of the account, I would have to go home, dig it out of the freezer, remove all the rubber bands, then the foil, then the plastic wrap, then go back out to an ATM machine to get the money. You get the picture. Honestly, by the time I got home, I had usually lost the inclination to go get the money.

I've since then opened an account that is interest bearing and has a debit/credit card associated with it. I still do my trick of never keeping the card on my person and I still work at making it difficult for me to attain the money at a moment's notice. I like this account because it is independent of my local checking account and is no way tethered to my personal accounts so if I lose it, no one has access to my personal accounts. I also like that it has the debit/credit option because with the VISA logo, I know I can use this card pretty much anywhere in the world. I also made sure before I opened this account that there would be no surcharges for using ATM machines out of the country. The only charges I incur when I'm traveling overseas are a 3% charge for converting the currency. (Don't forget to calculate the surcharges into your expenses because if you don't, you might find yourself short of money towards the end of your travels.

This was how I saved and it worked for me. I didn't stop there either. I canceled my cable. I began throwing all my change into jars and I used that money for incidentals I might need for my trip. If you're familiar with Coinstar (these are coin counting stations in stores like Wal-Mart or your local grocery stores), Coinstars allow you to take your change and convert it to pre-paid cards for stores like Amazon, JC Penney, Borders, Cabela's and Eddie Bauer's for no fee! You just take your change to the nearest Coinstar, dump it in, choose which pre-paid card you want and voila!, you have money to purchase some of those neat travel gadgets you've been reading about!

These budget calculators and techniques may not be for everyone. Everyone may not view traveling as something more important than a new car or siding for your home. But if you're willing to make some sacrifices and cut back on some guilty pleasures, then your dream vacation may not be as far out of reach as you once thought it was. Even if you only put $25.00 per paycheck away every month, at the end of the year, you'll have $600.00 and $600.00 may be the price of a flight to your dream destination!

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