17 Ways to Afford That Dream Vacation This Year

17 ways to afford that dream vacation

Make the small changes now that will have you traveling the world later

1. Set up a separate savings account

If you've been around my website's block a time or two, you know I'm a die-hard savings account junkie. Setting up a separate savings account to scrounge away a few bucks here, 5% of your paycheck there, can add up to a lot of dough that will be sending you on the vacation of your dreams. This is why I was able to take myself on a 12-day "sabbatical" this year along the Mediterranean Coast. (More on that in a future post).

2. Automate your savings

This is a piggy-back off of tip #1... but if you set up that separate savings account, might as well make it automatic. There's nothing better than the whole, "set it and forget it" thing when it's forgetting that you now have $1,000 extra in an account to do whatever you damn well please. You can easily automate your savings by setting your bank account up on auto transfer. Pick the dollar or percentage amount and let it rip!

Go on a shopping ban to save money for that dream vacation

3. Go on a shopping ban

I recently interviewed Cait Flanders who just wrapped up a two-year shopping ban. This not only gave her perspective into the things we choose to spend money on that is really really unnecessary, but also gave her the freedom to spend money on what she really loved (cough: travel). Every January, I make a commitment to myself that I'm going to go the entire first quarter of the year without spending money on new clothes. It always ends up being way easier than it seems, plus it saves me a lot of dough.

4. USE WHAT YOU ALREADY HAVE (IN YOUR CLOSET, CUPBOARD, AND REFRIGERATOR)

A second piggy-back, this time from tip #3. If you're going to do a shopping ban, you can look beyond just banning the clothes shopping. Think about all those random bottles of lotion you have socked away under your bathroom sink and keep forgetting about every time you find yourself in the drug store. What about that Costco-sized bag of frozen chicken breast you keep feeling too lazy to unthaw and opt for Postmates instead. Start using what you have and save yourself trips to the store, storage at home, and money in the bank.

5. Get a roommate (or another one)

You might be thinking, "No, I just can't... just... no." But let's be real, rent (or a mortgage) is the biggest expense you probably have right now. Especially if you live in a city like Chicago. Getting a roommate to help you cover half of that expense means mucho dinero in your travel savings. More money for travel, means more money without a roommate when you're drinking sangria on the beaches of Barcelona. Now, doesn't that sound nice?

6. Take advantage of the sharing economy

Along the lines of getting a roommate, instead you could open up your place for home-sharing. Think AirBnB or use craigslist to rent out your place for fully-furnished temporary living. Have a car? Uber won't make you rich, but it will make you extra money. There are numerous ways to share what you own and make some money on it. A little Google research and you're well on your way to skiing the Swiss Alps with your 80's snowsuit. (Because you're so retro.)

Cook at home to save up money for your dream vacation

7. Cook at home

Ahhh, the cold, hard truth. I get it... cooking takes time, energy, and just enough talent to avoid burning literally everything you're about to eat. But you and I both know this can save you up to $20 per day (that's $100-$140 per week!) and that's an additional 2-3 days of vacation in some foreign countries. Like I said, cold, hard truth.

8. Buy and cook in bulk

Now that you're on the "cook at home" train, might as well buy that food in bulk. My boyfriend is the more thrifty type, and while I always used to opt for small portions because "I'm a small human" he was looking at the price per unit, which is obviously the more thrifty thing to do. Now, he let's me tag along to Costco to get frozen fruit, grains, and spices for ridiculously cheap (and also those apple chips, which no matter how large the bag is, will always be gone the next day).

9. Shift to a mostly plant-based diet

I am very lucky, because although I am a meat-eater, I have an endless source of free, wild game from my Iowa-based, hunting and farm loving family. But not everyone grew up practicing their archery skills in their backyard. If you are a carnivore, then you know that meat is not always the most affordable food option. Here's a challenge: shift to eating meat for only 2-3 days a week. If you can do it, you'll probably be able to put a few extra bucks in your pocket. If not, find yourself a hunter, marry him, and get used to having spray bottles of deer pee in your refrigerator. These are the sacrifices one must make.

Opt for a bike instead of a car. Okay, maybe not this one...

Opt for a bike instead of a car. Okay, maybe not this one...

10. Sell your car

Car payment + Insurance + Gas + Registration + City Stickers/Parking Stickers/Really Cool Bumper Stickers. It all adds up. If you're in a place where you could get by without owning and operating a vehicle, then please do yourself a favor. If you can take a bike most days and supplement Uber or Lyft when you're in need, the monthly costs can be much lower than those of driving your own car.

11. Sell your stuff

I can vouch that this isn't as easy as people make it seem, especially that Sophia Amoruso girl (but seriously, read her book). However, I-myself have bought many things from consignment stores, apps that sell used goods, and even Craigslist and eBay... so you know there's a market for your junk and it doesn't hurt to give it a try.

12. Make the coffee

Girlfriend, we know this one is not always easy for me. I'm a coffee-shop-hopper. That's how I get my work done. But when it's time to put the pedal to the metal, you know I'm gettin' my home brew on.

Skip the drinks and invite friends over for cheap wine to save money for your dream vacation

13. Skip the drinks and invite friends over for two-buck-chuck

If you don't know what two-buck-chuck is, shame on you. Just kidding. It's super cheap wine that you used to be able to get at Trader Joes for 2 bucks! I'm not sure if inflation has changed this... but you get the picture. When you can drink an entire bottle, split amongst friends, for the price of half a drink at a bar... you know which option will get you to Bora Bora faster. Choose wisely.

14. Side-hustle with your hobbies (workout, bartending, daycare)

What's better than making a few extra bucks? Making a few extra bucks doing things you enjoy! Love babies? Babysit for a couple hours a week. Love dogs? There are busy people out there with adorable puppies who need your love. Like to workout? Get paid to help others get fit. Social butterfly? Or into listening to other people's problems? Bartending might be your thing. These side hustles might not pay much, and you aren't going to become a millionaire off your 3 hours/week vocation, but after just four months, you could have a good chunk of change for that dream vacay.

15. Side-hustle online (start a blog or a podcast that will lead to income)

If you have a unique voice and point of view, or you're just ready to share your own expertise and stories, take a shot at the online income sphere. Starting a podcast has been one of the best decisions I've made, and you can do it for almost nothing. After you've dedicated yourself to your platform, there's a good chance you can start creating a consistent and livable income from all your blood, sweat, and tears. (Just kidding, no Tess was harmed in the making of this blog.) 

16. Indulge in at-home fitness

Although this is not something I do myself (I'm a meat-head, gym-rat, sweat-monkey all but two days of the week) if you aren't regularly going to the gym, your membership is costing you a lot more per visit. When I can't get to the gym, I'm all over YouTube for some free, at-home fitness routines. Give it a try and you could be adding $40 to $190 a month into your travel fund.

Travel hack with credit card rewards and points to save up money and spend less so you can take your dream vacation

17. Travel Hack

I'm a novice in this department, but I did score a $170 roundtrip flight to Europe recently because of my novice travel hacking skills. I'll be writing in more detail about how to fly and stay in hotels using rewards cards that get you points, but for now, here are a few great resources if you're really interested in diving in deep. Source 1Source 2.

Now it's your turn... how do you save money for your travels? What are some tricks, tips, and tools you use to make extra money, put money away for the future, or get killer deals to take your dream vacations? Let me know in the comments below.

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