Travel Series: Volume 6
You may remember in Post 1 of this series that I touched a little bit on the fact that my husband and I are just working class people. No trust funds or lotto winnings here! So finding ways to finance travel without going into huge debt is very important to us. So let’s dig in to some great ways to make the money happen for your trip.
Establish a separate bank account to save travel money in.
This is a great way to separate the Bill Money from the Play Money. I opened a new checking account at Huntington Bank while they had a promotion going on and they deposited $200 in my account for meeting some basic criteria. You will hear me say this a lot, “I love free money!”
Skim the fat
Have you seen the Voya commercial’s with the green money and the orange money analogies? One is to spend now and one is for retirement. Same concept works here. Try to put away a little bit each payday (maybe even the same amount each time to create the habit). Another way I do this is to see how much I have left over at the end of a month and put some in your Regular savings and some into Travel savings. It is important to have regular savings in order to avoid tapping into the travel savings if an emergency pops up. And they always do!
Work just a little bit more
If you work in a job that offers over time or extra shift availability, grab some for your savings fund. You don’t have to work all the time, but even a few extra shifts can add significant savings over time. I work a very part time job. I only work a few short shifts per month, but the earnings potential is high. I then have my checks direct deposited into my Travel Savings. They recently had a special event that ran over a few weekends and I asked to be scheduled as many of the shifts as possible since we are travelling in 4 months. I was able to bank a tidy little sum to the travel fund. Perfect!
Look for the Pot of Gold
- If you get paid weekly, you get an extra check about every 3 months or if you get paid every 2 weeks, it happens every 6 months. I try to bank 50% of this extra payday divided between my Regular and Travel Savings accounts.
- If you get a tax refund, bonus at work or other “pot of gold windfall” like birthday check’s or Christmas bonuses, try to put a % of that into your account as well.
- My husband often has unused vacation days on the years we don’t go on big adventures. His company pays him out for them on his anniversary there. We try to put that into the Travel budget as well.
Cut the Crap
Take a serious look at your budget and see if there are places you can cut expenses in order to increase potential savings. Can you reduce the size of your garbage container, do you really read that newspaper, do you watch all the cable channels you are paying for. I recently looked at my Netflix account. We were paying $21.99 per month for 1 blue ray at a time and 2 lines of streaming at a time. Since there are 4 of us, sometimes we were bumping each other off while streaming and I often had blue rays forever without time to watch them. So I looked at the bill and cut out the discs and added 2 more lines of streaming and cut the bill $7 per month. Doesn’t seem like a lot, but if you do this with 3 things, you have found $25 per month for savings.
Utilize Free Money
Trust me, it’s out there. You just have to recognize it or know where to look for it.
- Rebate Apps: These are some of my favorite apps that I build up cash back balances with just for making regular purchases. You can often stack deals with store discounts or regular coupons and still get these rebates. Ibotta, Check Out 51, and Ebates. In 1 year’s time, I earned $534 from Ibotta, $120 from Check Out 51 and $200 from Ebates. That comes to $854 in free money for my vacation savings. In order to stay on track today, I will provide a post with a more in depth description of the best Rebate Apps another time.
- Grocery Store Discounts: I can use my store discounts with the Rebate apps and save even more! The grocery store I use has digital coupons and rewards points. I go through the list of available coupons every 2 weeks or so and clip what I may use. Then just put in my rewards info at check out. Not only does it apply those digital coupons, it tracks my spending and when I reach a certain amount I get a savings reward ranging from $5 to $10 to use on my next shopping trip.
- Department Store Rewards: Rewards are earned for purchases made at stores like Kohl’s and gives me bonuses that I can use to buy other things later. My favorite thing is to stack deals – Start with an item that is on sale, apply a % off discount offer, deduct a rewards coupon and perhaps a $ off voucher earned from a previous shopping trip. Saving is Winning!
- Credit Card Rewards: You can earn points on purchases that you make then cash them in for Visa Gift cards, gas cards, restaurant gift cards, or money off on travel. Things to keep in mind are that some cards offer better rewards per dollar spent then others, with some the rewards are only on certain category purchases. Make sure that you look at several options and find one with a low or no annual fee, that offers points on everything or at least a lot of relevant categories to maximize your earnings, and one with a good selection of rewards to choose from.
- Loyalty rewards: Rewards for frequenting particular hotels, restaurants, or airlines. If you stick mainly to the places you earn rewards for on hotel stays and dining, your points add up faster. I have cashed in points for free hotel nights and discounted food purchases. Buffalo Wild Wings and Outback have good Diner Rewards and Holiday Inn (IHG) offers a robust Rewards program as well. Sometimes they run bonus points promos for stays during a certain timeframe. For airlines, Southwest runs some deeply discounted fares and also has a Rewards program. You can cash in Southwest rewards for airfare or things like drink vouchers for your flight! These rewards create budget savings I can then put into my Travel account.
- Fuel rewards: Earn cents off every time you fuel up. I save these up until there is a week when gas is high and then cash them in at the pump to keep my gas cost more affordable.
0% Interest Credit Cards
For the big trips, I usually have to put down a deposit at the beginning. I make sure to use a credit card that accumulates the maximum points for this amount. Then I pay that off prior to paying for the balance of the trip which is usually around 3 months later. I use my points card again when paying for the remainder of the trip or airfare. Check your points after this to see if you have enough to get a Visa Gift Card, money off your bill or some other travel related item. I earned enough points from the deposit for my next trip to cash in for a $100 Visa gift card that I can use when I go.
When I pay the remainder of the trip, I use the card again to earn points. Then I try to pay as much as possible on that amount before I transfer the remainder to a 0% interest card (there is usually a 3% fee for this which is still way less than interest and gives me more time to pay). How long I take to pay this balance depends on the balance and how many months of 0% interest I am allowed. So if they offer 18 months, I make sure to pay enough per month to pay off the balance before the interest kicks in. (More free money). If the points card also offers 0% interest, you can eliminate the transfer step.
Getting rid of unused items can be another easy way to make some extra coin for your piggy bank. Have a garage sale, or sell stuff on Ebay, Facebook Marketplace, LetGo or list items in your local newspaper. My friend, Sprout, uses Poshmark. If she needs a new dress for an event, she browses their site for a gently used item and a fraction of the price. She can sell items there as well. Another great place to trade out clothes is Plato’s Closet. Amazon has an easy to use site to buy books and textbooks in exchange for Amazon gift cards. So figure out what you want/need to get rid of and research the best means to grab some fast cash.
Use an old coffee can or mason jar and start collecting coins. Throw in loose coins from the laundry area, found under the cushions or when you empty out your pockets at night. This doesn’t seem like a fast way to save, but it sure adds up over time. Try to roll some coin periodically so it isn’t too crazy when you are ready to cash it in or find out if your bank has Coinstar for free if you are a customer. Mark is the change jar King.
Watch sales, use coupons, check Groupon or Living Social for discounts on items or events you want. Stack deals like starting your Groupon purchase from Ebates or Ibotta to earn a rebate of the % of your spend and still get the deal on what you are buying.
Buy bulk items like toilet paper, paper towels and dryer sheets from Boxed. It is a no membership Box club that is ran by great people. I have a list of things that I get there regularly that are big savings. I order them all at once to get “free shipping” and make sure I take advantage of any promo code discounts and free samples they are offering.
Taking these small savings steps along the way can lead to a lot more travel cash in the end! When you combine a few of these, you can really maximize your “free money” and fill up the Piggy Bank quickly. I hope that I have given you some food for thought in how you can save for your next adventure.
Make sure you leave a comment if you have any great ideas to add or know of a really good program to help us earn some extra travel money.