“Saving money to travel is hard.”
“I’ll never be able to save enough to take that dream vacation…”
Does this sound familiar to you? It definitely does for me.
I’ve spent the last couple of years learning the in’s and out’s of personal finance, and how to save money while covering all the financial responsibilities that come with adulthood.
Somewhere along the way, I’ve learned that it doesn’t need to be hard. It can be simple to save money towards your travel goal, with a few shifts in thinking and a solid game plan. If you’re currently struggling to save for your travel goals, here is my ultimate list of Do’s and Don’ts for saving money. I hope these tips will be as helpful to you as they have been to me.
DON’T… Say You’ll Just Save “Whatever’s Leftover”
This is a recipe for disaster. Here’s how it usually goes: I tell myself, “I’ll transfer whatever is leftover in my account at the end of the month.” Then, I get distracted by shiny objects that I obviously need to buy right away and end up with no savings at the end of the month.
After many months of deluding myself that “this time will be different,” I’ve found another system that works better for me. Which is…
This is me searching for leftover money at the end of the month. (I kid, I kid…)
DO… Automate Transfers to Your Savings Account
Since it’s so easy to fall into that, “I want the shiny object, so I’m going to buy it now” trap, I knew I needed to get more strategic. My new solution is to automate transfers into my savings account twice monthly.
For example, if my goal is to save $100 each month towards a future vacation, as soon as my paycheck comes in, $50 gets transferred right away. This way, the money is out of sight and out of mind. Another bonus? Because I know that my monthly savings goal is already taken care of, I no longer feel guilty about the occasional impulse purchase.
DO… Open a Credit Card with Cash-Back, or Airline and Travel Points
I love my cash-back and points credit cards. Occasionally, the sign-up bonus alone was enough to cover the cost of an airline flight.
My cash-back card is the American Express Blue Cash Everyday, which offers 3% cash-back on groceries, 2% on gas and 1% cash-back on everything else. With my frequency of groceries and gas purchases, I’ve always seen a great cash back return. My personal favorite for travel points is Chase Sapphire. With no yearly fee, 2x points on travel and dining, and a 50,000 points sign-up bonus, it’s a no-brainer for anyone who loves travel.
With all of that said, I feel like I need to caution everyone about a common credit card trap…
You’ll get on that flight a lot quicker with the help of cash-back and rewards points.
DON’T… Treat Your Credit Card as “Free Money”
When you receive your shiny new cash-back or travel points credit card, please remember that you should treat this card as you would cash in your bank account. Your credit line is not “free money” and shouldn’t be treated as such! If you aren’t careful with your credit card spending, it can be very easy to fall into a debt trap.
Here’s how I avoid that trap: I use a budgeting system called You Need a Budget to track all of my purchases. You can choose to link your bank and credit accounts if you prefer an automated approach, but personally, I keep track manually as I find the daily attention towards personal finance is helpful for staying within goal.
I plug in my expected income for the month, set-up my recurring, fixed expenses, and then enter any incidental daily purchases. With this system, even if I am making purchases on my credit cards, I know for certain that I am not going over my monthly budget. Using this system with YNAB, I haven’t kept a balance on my credit cards for months. I highly recommend it – particularly for anyone new to budgeting, like me!
DO… Shop Second-Hand Whenever Possible
If I’m being 100% honest with you all, this is something I am still working on. For years, the thought of buying second-hand never even entered my mind. But with saving money more in the forefront of my mind lately, I know it’s a shift in thinking I need to make.
I love clothing – and I love shopping online for clothing – so instead of browsing full-price sites, I’ve been trying to shift towards browsing second-hand sites like ThredUp or Poshmark. If I feel like going out to shop, I’ll check out a local thrift store instead of heading to the mall. Small changes eventually lead to big shifts – or so I’m hoping!
I literally only wore this dress once. So wasteful… but at least there’s this photo to commemorate its one and only outing?!
DON’T… Make that Purchase Right Away
Nobody is perfect. So while I’d like to say I shop second-hand most of the time, I do my fair share of online shopping still.
Here’s a trick that’s helped me from making as many impulse purchases. There is a browser plug-in called Shoptagr, which allows you to save an item you’d like to purchase. The app will then monitor the item, and notify you when it goes on sale. Bada-bing, bada-boom, you’ve saved money!
Plus, often times the simple act of saving the item gives me the dopamine rush I would’ve gotten from actually completing the purchase. In a similar vein, I keep a running wishlist on Pinterest, which helps me cut down on impulse purchasing.
If you’re ready to make that purchase, though? Make sure before you do, you’re using a cash back service like Ebates and also using the Honey app, which will automatically check for the best discount codes available.
DO… Unsubscribe from Online Store Email Newsletters
The best way to avoid online shopping impulses in the first place? The “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. If you’re not receiving tempting offers in your inbox on a daily basis, you’ll think about online shopping much less.
My favorite tool for unsubscribing from email newsletters is a service called Unroll Me. Unroll Me connects to your inbox and detects all of the incoming email subscriptions. It then rolls up all of the subscriptions, prompting you to select which you’d like to keep, which to unsubscribe to, and which to “roll up” into a special folder. That way, you can still receive some of the emails, but they won’t come straight to your inbox.
It’s a lifesaver when you’re trying to save money. (Or, if you’re just tired of receiving 100+ promotional emails per day!)
When you’re struggling to save, let your dream destination be your motivation.
DO… Regularly Remind Yourself of Your Goal
This is by far the most important thing to note. Your travel goal should inspire you. When you think of your travel goal, are you filled with motivation and energy? Your goal has to truly excite you. Otherwise, it’ll be easy to become distracted by the instant gratification of impulse purchases.
So first, make sure your goal is one that’s truly exciting to you. Then, remind yourself of your goal regularly. This might mean creating an inspiration folder of images that represent your goal, starting a Pinterest board, or planning your vacation on a weekly basis.
Any time you’re tempted to unnecessarily spend money, remind yourself of your goal. Then, ask if you still want to spend the money. Sometimes, the answer might be yes – and that’s okay! That’s why the most important tip to follow is automating your savings towards travel goals. If your savings goal is already covered, you don’t have to feel guilty about “treating yo self!” every now and then.
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What is your most helpful savings tip?
Let me know in the comments below.