If you’re a budget-conscious traveler, you likely already know about farecasting sites like Hopper, FLYR, and Kayak, rock-bottom flight deals to Europe on carriers such as Wow airlines, and the destinations where your U.S dollar will go the farthest this year.
But do you know how to save the money for your trip to begin with? MONEY editor Diane Harris shares her tips for setting aside money for your dream vacation.
Make your goal concrete.
“When it comes to something like a trip—a very particular goal—there are a number of tricks to get yourself to save more,” explains Harris. “The first would be to make what you’re saving for as concrete as possible. Decide which vacation, when, where you want to go.”
“Also, put a number on it. Set a budget. See how much airfare would cost, your hotel, meals. Have a very specific idea of how much you need to meet your goal,” Harris says.
Find pictures of the destination, and post them by your computer. Or have a picture in your wallet—the more that you can remind yourself of the goal the more likely you are to save. “Also, put a number on it. Set a budget. See how much airfare would cost, your hotel, meals. Know how much you need to meet your goal.”
Make saving easy.
“The next thing you want to do is make it easy on yourself,” says Harris. “Most of us are creatures of inertia—if you have to think about it each time you put money away, life will intervene.” Instead, Harris suggests setting up a separate travel savings account with automatic deposits. All it takes is filling out a simple form at the bank, or making a request to your HR department to have portions of your paycheck deposited into separate accounts. “Money that we haven’t touched—we don’t miss. You will automatically adjust your budget,” says Harris.
Also, if you have a sudden windfall (a raise, a bonus, a tax refund), put a portion of that toward saving for your trip as well.
Make it public.
Tell other people about your goal. “There’s a whole body of research showing that if you tell someone what your goal is, and if you write it down, you’re much more likely to achieve it. Tell your mom, tell your kids, tell your friends and co-workers that you’re taking this trip. Write it down and put it on your refrigerator or your bulletin board at work.”
Hold yourself accountable.
“Hold yourself to it; to make yourself accountable.” There are a number of online tools to help with this step, but Harris recommends Stickk, a site designed to help people set goals, and then achieve them through reminders and alerts. You can even designate a friend as your “referee” to monitor your progress and keep you on-track.
Those are the basics, but Harris offered a few other tricks as well.
Save your change.
“Never pay with change—only pay in paper currency, and you’ll have a bunch of change at the end of the day,” Harris suggests. “Taking all of your loose change and putting it into a jar actually adds up,” she says.
Keep your hands to yourself.
“When you are shopping—don’t touch anything,” she says. “Research has shown that if you touch something, you feel psychological ownership, and you’re more likely to buy.”
Institute a waiting period.
“To avoid impulse shopping, wait 24 or 48 hours before you buy something. If you think about it again, and you won’t make half of the purchases.”
Write it down.
Another trick Harris recommends is to spend the week writing down everything you spend, from a stick of gum to a magazine. Studies have shown that once you see your habits written out, you’ll self regulate, and cut back.
Find ways to add income.
“There are only two ways to save: make more money or spend less,” says Harris. It’s often easier to cut back on expenses than it is to find the time to increase your income, but adding revenue streams can certainly speed the savings process. Have a yard sale; pick up some freelance work; sell unused furniture on Craigslist; apply for a part-time job. It all adds up. Just make sure to capture those profits and put them toward your goal (as opposed to a Starbucks coffee addiction, or a new outfit).