Exactly How To Save $2K For A Vacation This Summer (By Starting Now)

By | Tuesday, March 01, 2016


Recently, my good friend and I were discussing the feasibility of taking a vacation this summer, which is something we didn’t think would be within reach for either of us. While we ultimately decided not to pursue our ~dream vacation~ this year, the more we discussed budgeting and logistics, the more I realized how doable it is to budget for an exciting summer vacation if you start planning early enough.

If you’re someone who wants to put a savings plan into action, but isn’t sure where to start, I’ve got some ideas that might help. If there is one thing I feel confident in, it’s my organizational abilities. I am not one to keep a particularly organized room, or compulsively do the dishes (though that’s a goal of mine). However, I’m the type of person who is great at planning in advance, putting plans into action, and organizing the shit out of things. I value structure. I plan out my week on Sundays, and I plan out where every penny of my income for the month is coming from before the month starts. So it stands to reason that I love making budgets. (It should be noted that I also have a lot of shortcomings, but this subject matter allows me to dreamily talk about my organization bliss, so please forgive me.) Anyway, in addition to making my own budget, I’ve started making some sample budgets here on TFD. For example, a while ago, I planned out a way to save $10K on a $40K/year salary that was supposed to be adaptable to different people’s unique circumstances.

For my next sample budget, I wanted to focus on how to afford a vacation, even if you don’t make what you perceive to be vacation-going money. I don’t consider myself someone who is in the position to take overseas vacations every year. However, I have realized that with the right planning, it’s doable to fit a ~fantasy vacation~ into your budget.

My thought was to use $2K as a stepping off point because $2K could fund a European vacation (even during the “peak tourist” summer months). However, if you would prefer to whittle that number down, you could follow this budget only as far as you want, and head to a more affordable destination.

I looked up a few flight prices, and currently, to fly from LA to Dublin in July, it’s $1,200 for a round-trip ticket.

To fly from New York to Chile, it’s $880 for a round-trip ticket.

To fly from New York to Hawaii, it’s $940 for a round-trip ticket.

To fly from Boston to Madrid, it’s $790 for a round-trip ticket.

Of course, these are just examples, and perhaps none of these destinations speak to you, but I think it’s safe to say that if you’re going for a two-week trip, you will likely spend approximately half your budget on airfare, and the other half of lodgings, food, and entertainment. Of course, if you have frequent flyer miles, an airline credit card, or are tracking your flights with price alerts, you can potentially get these flight prices down even more.

If you start saving on March 1 for a vacation starting in July, you will have exactly four months to save. To save $2,000 in four months, I’ve devised a plan to cut expenses or add extra income each month. One of the biggest complaints most people (myself included) have with aggressive savings plans is the monotony of depriving yourself of the same things and never changing it up. For example, giving up having drinks out for the next four months seems like a tall order. Therefore, with this budget plan, each month you give up something different, or try a new “challenge.” In order to save $2K in four months, you need to save approximately $500/month. Here’s how you could do it.

March — Stop eating lunch out and buying coffee, and start lowering your bills. 

If you eat lunch out five times a week, that’s about $60/week, which is about $240/month. Eliminate your office lunches altogether in March. The reason I put this as the first month’s challenge is because it’s the change you can implement on the shortest notice. I am convinced that the reason I didn’t save money during my first year on the full-time job grind is because I got a $12 food truck lunch every single day (LA food trucks can really add up).

Next, it’s time to toss your coffee trips out the window. If you buy three lattes per week, that’s $15/week, which comes to about $60 a month. So, if you eliminate buying lunch and coffee, you’re likely saving $300.

Finally, it’s time to make some phone calls and see which bills you can cut. TFD contributor Anum Yoon tried lowering all her bills just by calling, and ended up saving money on her car insurance and her parents’ homeowner’s insurance, getting rid of two medical bills, and lowering her cable and internet bill. Also, to continue your aggressive savings trajectory, I recommend limiting your subscriptions. When I quit my job, I said goodbye to any premium subscription I had. If you eliminate Spotify ($10), Netflix ($7), and Amazon ($8), that saves you $25/month. This is always an expense you can get back at the end of the four-month savings plan. If you can save $75/month on your regular bills, and an additional $25/month on subscriptions, that brings your savings to $100/month.

Total savings: $400

April — Side hustle challenge.

Use all of March to set up a side hustle to go ham on in April. I used to babysit for about seven hours a week at $15 an hour for two little girls. That came out to $105/week, or $420/month. I could have easily ramped that up to take on one more shift (maybe an evening watching kids), or even asked the family I babysat for if they could refer me to a few of their friends. If you end up making an additional $125/week with a side hustle, that’s $500/month. For those looking for ways to make an extra $500/month, we’ve compiled some great lists of side hustles recently. A few of my favorite options are dog-walking gigs, and jobs catering parties (which can often be found on Craigslist).

And then you will still save on the utilities and subscriptions you cut in March, which is an additional $100 saved for the month.

Total savings: $600

May — A 30-Day challenge.

May is the biggest challenge — no eating or drinking out for 30 days. That means 30 days of cooking good food and making cocktails at home, and occasionally hosting at-home brunch. Realistically, if eliminating lunch out saves you $240/month, then taking away Seamless, restaurants, happy hours, and nice meals out, I think, realistically, saves you another $50/week at least, or $200/month. However, to accommodate this, you would likely spend an additional $80/month on groceries. Thus, your savings from the 30-day challenge might be around $360/month.

In May, keep the side hustle alive and save an additional $140 for the month (which will feel like child’s play compared to April).

Keep the utilities and subscriptions savings alive: $100

Total savings: $600

June — Cut down your entertainment costs.

You inevitably spend more on entertainment in June because, finally, summer has arrived. However, if you’re going on a vacation in July, June is your last month to save. For this month, focus on cutting entertainment costs. Often this means nixing work happy hours (like you did in May), forgoing concert tickets, and skipping weekend trips up to your friends’ house in the mountains. Overall, your savings could be up to $200.

Keep the side hustle alive: $100 (if your entertainment savings isn’t as much as you hoped, push this goal up to $200)

Keep the utilities and subscriptions savings alive: $100

Total savings: $400

And there you have it. This outline is exactly how I would save $2K for a vacation this summer. Of course, this budget is (loosely) based on costs and savings strategies I have experience with, and everyone’s approach to saving for a vacation will be different, depending on their money coming in, and their priorities. However, I hope this shows you that aggressively saving for a trip is possible if you start now, and that this outline provides you with the motivation you need to start saving.

Image via Unsplash

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