When you’re on a tight budget at home, saving for travel can be a daunting prospect at best. It’s all too easy to get swept away by consumer culture and wind up spending your hard-earned cash on a right-now commodity instead of putting it away for future travels. Sticking to your travel savings plan is actually as simple as keeping your priorities straight and making good use of a few basic techniques.
Use online budgeting tools
The online budgeting tool Mint.com and its respective app can give you a comprehensive look at your full financial picture. You can keep track of all your assets and transactions in one place, set budgets for everyday spending, and even track your progress towards a financial goal. This highly visual website, and others like it, is a huge boon to anyone with a bank account, but it’s especially useful when you’re saving for a particular travel goal. Keeping a close eye on all your spending is also a good habit to develop for when you’re on the road.
Break one big goal into several smaller goals
As with any financial goal, splitting your final sum into more manageable chunks of dough is a far more palatable way to overcome the hurdle of travel costs. Do plenty of research on your destination to determine what the daily cost of travel is – how much is one night in a hotel? What about meals, transportation, and attractions? Do you need to pay for a visa to enter the country? Keep these pieces separate in your savings plan, so you can regularly feel the satisfaction of reaching a goal. You may not have enough for the whole trip yet, but knowing your plane ticket is taken care of will be a rewarding thought on its own.
Make a vision board
Don’t rely on just one tool for tracking your savings. If you’re a more tactile sort, you’ll surely relish the satisfaction of ticking off steps on your savings path on a physical budget board. A small dry erase board or chalkboard comes cheap at any office supply or craft store. Don’t be afraid to get creative with how you represent each piece of your travel savings puzzle – you can write a checklist, draw a big thermometer, sketch out a large grid with a progress bar at the bottom of each square…whatever floats your boat. Keep your budget board in a highly visible location, like by your front door or on the fridge. Seeing your savings unfold before your eyes will be hugely rewarding and motivate you to continue that good progress.
Find comparison points
Even if you surround yourself with inspiration and motivation at home, there’s no stopping temptation from wheedling its way into your mind from a storefront down the street. When you’re confronted with a gotta-spend-now urge, it’s helpful to have some comparison points on hand. Would you rather spend $10 on a mediocre deli wrap for lunch now, or have that $10 to spend on adventurous street food bites in Southeast Asia? You could upgrade your laptop this month or you could put that $500-1000 towards your plane ticket. Knowing exactly what your savings will buy you down the road will help soothe the pains of delayed gratification.
Leave a little room for leisure spending
Just because your savings are your top priority doesn’t mean you can’t also budget for a little fun at home. In fact, if you try to do a complete 180 on your spending habits right away, you’re more likely to slip up. Instead of cutting out things like coffee houses, restaurants, bars, and other entertainment cold turkey, you can gradually and significantly reduce your spending by simply indulging in these leisure activities less frequently. Instead of hitting Starbucks every morning, make that frothy latte a Monday morning treat and stick to brewing your own the rest of the week. Or, make Friday’s happy hour a monthly or biweekly occurrence rather than a weekly mainstay.
Keeping your travel savings on track is easy as long as you stay on top of the details and remind yourself of your motivation at every opportunity.