In a down economy, it may be hard to imagine finding a few hundred dollars, or a few thousand, to spare for a vacation, but let's face it: you probably need it now more than ever. And if you're not the type to have plenty of disposable income lying around for a trip, there's just one way to afford a vacation, and that's by saving. But if you're living paycheck to paycheck, how can you possibly fathom putting aside enough for your trip? It's not impossible, but if you want to make it work, you'll have to get creative. We've highlighted 25 creative ways to build your vacation savings, from going on a diet to starting a crowdfund. Try some, or all, and get just a little bit closer to your vacation goal and some much needed time off.
Save the Earth and some cash at the same time! Take your glass, aluminum cans, plastics, and more to the recycling plant and get money for them. It's not much, but it can all go into your fund as found money.
Update your energy plan with your provider, and get your family into the act when it comes to cutting utility costs. Sit down and explain your current energy usage, with a goal to cut it by 20% through small changes like turning off the lights and taking shorter showers. Sit down each month with your bills and celebrate your savings (and major accomplishment) as a family.
Let savings add up $1 or less at a time. Many banks will allow you to round up purchases to the nearest dollar, or transfer $1 to savings each time you make a purchase, adding up savings quickly but in a small way. Alternatively, if you're using a checkbook, you can do the same thing, entering purchases for $1 more than they actually were and transferring the difference at the end of the month.
Save money you'd otherwise be spending at the grocery store by instituting a once-a-month Pantry Week. In this week, you'll eat only what you already have in the house, and also likely discover that you have more than you think.
Everyone wants a vacation, and no one wants to sacrifice, but if you just don't have the funds, something's got to give. Sit down as a family and decide what you can live without in order to afford your next vacation. Cut your cable, try a different Internet provider, or shop for store brands instead of name brands.
Although a change jar is great, not everyone uses much cash these days. Instead, you can set up an automatic payroll deduction that sends cash to your vacation savings account every time you get paid. Even $20 adds up.
Take on a temp job:
Work a booth at your local fair, sign up with a temp agency, or pick up gigs on Craigslist to earn a little extra cash, then funnel it all into your savings for the next vacation. What a great motivator for work!
For families traveling to sunny destinations, go on a "hitting the beach" diet, eating leaner and avoiding junk food prior to your departure. Enjoy a more beach-ready physique and add more vacation money to your funds.
If you're not already couponing, now's a great time to start. Use online coupons and check your weekly circulars to cut back. Then, compare your savings with previous grocery bills and transfer the funds to your vacation savings account.
Get your kids involved:
Sure, it seems a little weird to ask kids to pay for vacation, but it's a valuable lesson in learning to budget for the finer things in life. Encourage kids to get in the act by asking them to contribute part of their allowance to the family vacation fund.
If you're planning travel far in the future, a savings bond is a great way to lock in your cash and earn interest at the same time. Purchase them online for as little as $25 at a time. Perfect for small windfalls that you'd like to put to good use on vacation.
Resorts like Disney now offer gift cards or "Disney Dollars" that can be purchased online and in stores and used toward a vacation. We've even seen these in line at Target for as little as $25 each. While you're picking up necessities, buy a little part of your vacation, too.
Another creative way to put vacation gift cards to good use? On card swap sites. Websites like CardPool and Plastic Jungle allow you to sell or trade your unwanted gift cards (like ones from stores you don't shop at) for ones that you really want, like cruise lines or resorts.
Sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter aren't just for new electronics and creative campaigns. They're being used for family vacations as well. If you're brave enough to ask family, friends, and even strangers to pitch in, this can be a fun way to afford your next trip.
Some companies have started not just offering vacation time, but creating vacation savings accounts for employees. At software company Motek, employees earn $100 for their vacation fund each week they work, adding up to $5,000. If employees leave, they lose the fund, but get to enjoy a great vacation if they stay. It's great for retention and employee happiness, and a good idea to propose to your own company.
At the bottom of your grocery store receipt, you'll likely see a figure touting how much you "saved today" with coupons, sales, and store card savings. Take this amount, and put it directly into your vacation fund.