10 Smart & Easy Money-Saving Secrets
Psst! Saving for your next big vacation is easier than you think when you break it down into these start-today steps.
At Budget Travel, we devote a lot of time to helping travelers get the most out of their financial resources. That can mean finding bargains in notoriously expensive destinations like Paris, introducing our audience to surprisingly affordable luxury experiences such as Palm Springs, or just showing them how to wring every last second of pleasure out of their vacation without breaking the bank.
I recently spoke with Jesse Mecham, CEO and founder of the personal finance site You Need a Budget (YNAB), who, as the name of his brand suggests, is a kindred spirit who has devoted a lot of his time to a mission similar to ours: showing everyone how to take control of their financial resources and getting the most out of them.
When you add Budget Travel’s know-how to YNAB’s solid financial advice and online- and app-driven financial trackers, the sum is 10 start-today tips to help you save for your next big trip.
VISUALIZE YOUR VACATION
Before we get into hardcore money-saving tips and financial tracking tools, we need to start with something a little less tangible, but critical to the process: creative visualization. Really! You’re already familiar with the notion of creative visualization when it comes to travel. Many trips begin with vacation inspiration from one of Budget Travel's features or slideshows. For Mecham, visualization is more than just dreaming. “The biggest paradigm shift in saving and spending smarter is to really get into the why behind your vacation,” he says. “Think back to a vacation that you absolutely loved. What was it about that vacation that made it great? Was it the specific location, the company, the relaxed pace? Was it time spent with your family unplugged from work?” Let that visualization inspire you not only to plan your next vacation, but to devote yourself to saving for it in the most responsible manner possible.
GIVE EVERY DOLLAR A JOB
The concept I like best about Mecham's You Need a Budget program is its No. 1 rule: Give each dollar a “job.” That is a way of focusing on what money you actually have on hand (not future paychecks, windfalls, or hoped-for raises or bonuses) and making sure you understand what each dollar (literally down to zero) is going to do for you (its “job”). That means, of course, understanding exactly what you need to spend on essentials like your home, food, utilities, and car before you can assign any dollars to travel. This may at first sound limiting, but it is actually the opposite: Giving each dollar a job frees you to start putting aside what you need for travel. Should you choose to use YNAB’s online- and app-driven financial tracking services (they offer a free trial), the notion of assigning jobs to dollars becomes very tangible and habitual, and it’s fun to see your savings go up.
“My biggest budgeting challenge before developing You Need a Budget was dealing with an irregular income,” Mecham says. “But YNAB teaches you to budget only the money you have on hand, so it becomes much more manageable. And now I prepare for large, less frequent expenses (like vacations!) by spreading them out as monthly costs, saving a lot of stress.”
UNDERSTAND YOUR EXPENSES
Mecham actually calls this “embracing” your expenses. After you assign each dollar its job for essentials, it’s time to break down larger, less frequent expenses like holidays, insurance, birthdays, and, yes, travel) so you can treat them as regular monthly expenses. Instead of “saving for a rainy day,” you are accurately predicting how much you’ll spend on your annual vacation (for many, that tends to amount to about one week’s salary, though avid travelers often budget much more). Broken down into very simple math, if your dream trip to Yellowstone is going to cost $1,200, you can easily “embrace” the notion of putting aside $100 per month for a year. It’s really an extension of “give each dollar a job” and allows you to pinpoint what you need for that trip you visualized and make it a regularly monthly "expense" instead of one big annual bill.