How to Save for a Vacation When Money is Tight

Don’t we all wish we could travel more? There are so many places in the world and even here in the U.S. that I would love to see. My husband and I try to travel as much as we can, even if it’s just a short weekend trip with our camper. We love exploring new places. Of course, we both have jobs and a budget, so it’s not like we can just pack up and leave whenever we feel like it. When you’re short on time and money, seeing the world isn’t quite so easy.

I think it’s important to take vacations. It’s good for our minds, bodies, and even our relationships. Going on a vacation gives us a chance to recharge, which allows us to be even better when we get back. If you never give yourself the chance to take a vacation, it’s easy to get burned out on life. When my husband and I went through premarital counseling, our counselor suggested setting aside an hour each day, a weekend each month, and a week each year for just the two of us.

Can you imagine how much better life would be if we all followed that rule? A weekend away each month and a week vacation every year with my husband sounds amazing! It’s easy to say you’ll do it, but actually following through can be difficult, especially when life gets busy and money is tight.
Now, this post isn’t going to be about finding the time for a vacation – I will save that for a later post. Today I want to talk about what you can do to afford a vacation, even when money is tight.

Sometimes we don’t feel like we have the money to go on a trip, so we don’t even bother trying to plan one. Right now you may feel like you don’t have any extra money to save, let alone spend on a vacation. How on earth could you possibly come up with enough money to travel? I’ve been there too, and today I’m going to share my simple trick that always works for us.

Start Your Travel Fund

My answer is easy – start a travel fund using a change jar. Honestly, I know you’ve probably heard it before, and it may seem way too simple to even make a difference. But this tiny little trick is how my husband and I saved enough money for our entire honeymoon. Seriously! We live in Michigan, and we flew out to San Diego for one week. We stayed in a hotel in La Jolla, rented a car, went to the beach almost every day, went hiking, went whale watching, shopped, and enjoyed amazing food – all with basically just spare change that we saved in a jar! Our entire trip was paid for in cash up front. Plus, it was one of the best trips of my life! We cannot wait to go back. In fact, we already started another change jar to make another trip out to California next year.

You can also open a bank account specifically for your travel funds. As your change jar gets full, deposit the money into your account and watch it grow as you continue to save. You don’t have to do it this way, but I like to see that designated travel money separated from the rest of my savings, so I always know exactly how much I have set aside for travel.

Start With What You Have

To start a change jar, you obviously want to begin by tossing in any spare change you can find. Look in your purse, in your car, and around the house. If you haven’t collected change in a while, you may be surprised at how much you find lying around the house. From here on out, make sure you add any spare change you’re left with at the end of each day to your jar.

It will probably take a while to save up on just change alone, so you can also throw in small bills like fives and ones. Those bills are small enough that you probably won’t even notice they’re missing from your wallet. My husband and I decided to start by putting any bill smaller than a 20 in our change jar. So whenever we have singles, fives, or tens on us, they go right in the jar before we can spend them. Most of the time that cash would get spent on trivial stuff anyway like snacks, Starbucks, etc.

The amount of time it takes to save will depend on how much you put in and what kind of trip you want to go on. If you’re looking to book a trip to Europe on spare change alone, this method will take quite a while. My husband and I saved only our change and some singles here and there for about two years. Then when we decided where we wanted to honeymoon, we started saving larger bills and pretty much any cash we had on us for another year or so until we had enough.

This time around, we are going to be saving more cash from the beginning, so we expect it to go much faster. We primarily use our credit cards for spending these days. It’s how we do all of our budgeting. So whenever we have cash on us, it will most likely go in the change jar or “travel fund” as we call it.

This is a way to get you started when you feel like you don’t have any extra money. It’s easy to throw in spare change and small bills. As time goes on, try to add in more and more whenever you can. Hopefully you’ll be able to start saving much larger amounts, which will make this process go even faster. As you see your travel fund grow, this will actually get easier because you’ll start to realize how much every little bit adds up, and you really can save for a vacation!

Generate Extra Cash

A lot of us primarily use our credit cards, which definitely reduces the amount of cash we have on hand. If you need to make some extra cash to add to your travel fund, consider some of these ideas –

  • Sell things around the house that you no longer want on Craigslist or Facebook
  • Use Poshmark to sell unwanted clothing
  • Have a garage sale
  • Use cash back apps like Ibotta or Ebates and put your earnings toward your travel fund
  • Sell your used textbooks on half.com
  • Make and sell items on Etsy
  • Start a blog!
  • Pick up a side job – babysitting,  house cleaning, yard work, etc.

These are just a few ideas, but there are tons of ways to make extra cash. Do a Google or Pinterest search for ideas, think about what skills you have, get creative, and start generating extra income for your travel fund!

Let it Be

The key to any successful savings fund is to not touch it. It will be tempting at times, but you have to pretend like it’s not even there. Pretend like it’s not even an option to use that money elsewhere. It should get easier as you go.

Once you start seeing that you’ve saved a significant amount, you’ll be motivated to add in more and more! I promise you will be amazed at how much you can save without even realizing it!

Do you think you could save for a vacation using a change jar? What trips do you want to start saving for? Also, what are some other ways you can think of to make extra cash? Leave a comment and let me know what you think!

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