A family vacation can be some well-deserved time off from the responsibilities of working and keeping a household running smoothly. It may not be so fun, however, if you’re worried about how you’re going to pay for it when you return home.
If a maxed-out credit card and sleepless nights worrying about paying for your trip are part of your family vacation, then it’s time to find some better solutions.
Starting with the premise that you’re shopping for the best travel deals months before a vacation, it can be wise to start saving for that vacation early, too.
Open a savings account that’s used only for vacations, and make automatic payments into it from either your checking account or directly deposited from each paycheck. Just as you hopefully pay yourself first by automatically contributing to a retirement account, you should also put money into a vacation account.
It can either stay in that savings account or you can move it to a certificate of deposit for six to 12 months to earn more interest. Tying it up for months will also make it more difficult to withdraw it on a whim for a major expense. Setting up the vacation account with an online bank can also make it harder to withdraw the money.
For help reaching a vacation savings goal, try an online service such as SmartyPig.com. It can pay higher interest rates than banks, and does the money transfers for you until your goal is reached. From there, your family can come up with ways to save or earn more money.
Start small. A change jar, which every family probably has already, can be a visual reminder of what you’re saving for. Decorate a jar with a global map and have everyone in your home put their spare change into it. Count the coins each month and deposit the money in your vacation account.
If you can find a side job—even if only for a few hours a week—put all of that money into the vacation account. If you’re working as a freelance contractor, be sure to put aside about 30 percent of such pay for taxes.
Lastly, if you get an annual bonus at work, get a big tax return or come into a good sum of money in another way, put that money aside for a vacation. This extra cash may not be an expected part of your budget, but if it arrives it can make saving for vacation a lot easier.