Mike and I travel without putting any of our trips on a credit card. Our policy is to save the money BEFORE we leave home, not pay for it afterwards. As a result, people often ask us how to save money for travel. Wanna know how we do it? Without further ado, here is our secret… we simply to make it a priority! Is that an oversimplification? Yea, a little. But that doesn’t make it any less true! Here’s how to save money for traveling using our system.
Step One: Create an Account
Open a separate savings account specifically for bankrolling your travel dreams. This is not the same as your emergency fund, retirement fund, Christmas shopping money, or kid’s college fund. This is distinctly different, separate and for one single purpose. Got it? Good.
Step Two: Put Money in the Account
When you get paid (whether it’s a weekly paycheck, a bonus, a gift, or money you found in the parking lot at Walmart) automatically save a percentage of it into your travel account before you even see it in your checking account. I can’t tell you what percentage to save because I don’t know your bills, your travel desires, or what your discretionary income looks like. The important thing is to just pick a percentage and stick to it EVERY SINGLE TIME you receive income. Ours is 10% but yours could be 3% or 30% depending on your situation. Any percentage works but the more you can commit to putting away, the faster you will be able to cruise off into the sunset.
Step Three: Leave Money in the Account
You’ve already decided what you can afford to save towards your travel fund so now you just have to leave it in there.
I say “just” but it isn’t always easy. If you typically find yourself spending your entire paycheck, you WILL be downsizing your spending elsewhere to accommodate the missing funds*. That may mean you have to suggest game night at home when your friends invite you out drinking, or you might have to decline a Saturday night dinner and a movie. It may mean brown-bagging your lunch instead of hitting the drive-through. Maybe it means giving up cable tv or your Starbucks addiction, or driving a vehicle you don’t love instead of a dream car. It takes sacrifice to learn how to save money and not pilfer your travel account away, but I can pretty much guarantee that you won’t regret it when you’re lying in a hammock on a beach in Honduras! (<— Seriously, one of my favorite places on the planet).
Step Four: Plan Your Trip
At first, it may stink to decline invitations or give up convenience items but the benefit of automatically paying your travel account first is that eventually you stop thinking of that money as available income. Once that happens, you will be surprised at how fast the money starts to add up and you can start planning your trip a lot sooner than you think!
*This is assuming you are one of those people who SHOULD have enough money to take a vacation every once in a while but can’t quite figure out why your account is so empty at the end of the month. I am talking about reallocating and taking control of an existing discretionary income, not trying to dismiss anyone who is just struggling to have their basic needs met.