Affording Your Vacation
by Fran Joyce
I have a business degree, and I minored in economics, but I am not qualified to dispense financial advice. However, I went to college on a scholarship, so I am no stranger to pinching pennies.
First, decide where you want to go for vacation, establish how much money you need for the trip, and devise a plan to pay for it.
If you don’t have one, establish a monthly budget that covers your expenses and sets aside something for emergencies. Look closely at your budget for ways to save money each month - turn off lights, take shorter showers, eat in, plan your meals and stick to your grocery list, freeze leftovers for later use, and plan your errands to save time and gas. Look closely at your cable and cell phone bills.
Whatever is left over is your discretionary income. From that, you have your “walking around money” and your vacation money.Depending on how much you have, you may be able to deposit a specific dollar figure into a vacation fund.
“Walking around money” includes any money you spend for food, drinks or entertainment that is not part of your budget or a reimbursable business expense.
If you are trying to save for vacation, every time you buy a cup of coffee or a Big Mac, put an equal amount of your “walking around money” into your vacation fund. If you run out of money, stop spending. If you just have to have another latte, take the money out of your vacation fund.
If you find yourself constantly “borrowing” from your vacation fund, re-examine your spending habits and your desire for a vacation.
Do not under any circumstances use a credit card for “walking around money.” These charges add up, and you will incur interest charges on any unpaid balances.
What about credit cards? Before applying for a credit card, compare interest rates, reward programs and applicable service fees. How are travel/mileage points or cashback bonuses earned and redeemed? Remember your credit score can be affected whenever you apply for credit, or open and close accounts, so choose wisely.
Try to pay credit cards off each month – it’s Finance 101. This will improve your credit score more than never using credit cards because you are demonstrating your ability to use credit wisely. Resist the temptation of taking a cash advance on your credit card.
That said, stuff breaks and emergencies happen; your emergency fund only goes so far. If you have a house, your best bet is a low interest home equity line of credit. Unlike credit card interest, the interest you pay is usually tax-deductible if you itemize deductions. Use it for a large unexpected expense or to pay for your vacation, but keep in mind you are borrowing against the equity in your home – have a plan in place to repay the funds.
If only it were this easy...
How does your money garden grow?
Back to penny pinching - there are ways to raise money while decluttering your home. Sell it on Let Go, Craig’s List or eBay (safety first though – talk to friends who have used each service and be careful). Have a yard sale or take nicer items to a consignment shop. Deposit whatever you make directly into your vacation fund. Sell unwanted gold or silver jewelry for cash.
If you are crafty (and talented), look into selling your creations on Etsy or Amazon. Make sure there is a market for your creations before you spend money for supplies and commit your time to making things.
You can also make money taking surveys or earn rebates for purchases, but always check to be sure you are dealing with reputable businesses and beware of sharing any personal or financial information.
If after every effort, your vacation fund stays flat, never fear This Awful-Awesome Life has some ideas for staycations that will help you relax and have fun.