How to Save Money for Travel & Cut Expenses
Are you dreaming of a family trip and wondering how you can save enough money for your next vacation? We love to travel and are always looking for creative ways to experience the world more too. It all starts with a plan, a goal, and a commitment to making the vacation a priority. If we can do it, I wholeheartedly believe you can too. I’ve put together a list of 27+ simple ways to build a family travel fund, so you can start today. So let’s get the dreaming, planning and doing started.
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HOW TO SAVE FOR A VACATION
How to Save Money for Travel & Create A Travel Budget
As things start to open back up around the world, many people are starting to dream about travel options, and are looking to create a family travel budget to make it happen.
This is a good opportunity to look at our lives and find ways to manage our finances in different ways. I acknowledge that for some who are in a more challenging position financially, this may be more difficult.
I want to say it is possible. I’ve travelled when making less than $12,000/year, and our family has travelled while living on one salary and making an average Canadian income of around $50,000/year.
While these tips are quite simple, putting them in action may not always be easy. Yet, if you and your family want to travel more, it is possible, with a little prioritization and commitment to making changes that will help you live out your dreams.
You Need A Budget (and A Family Travel Budget)
The number one mistake people / families make when trying to travel more, is not having a budget.
A budget is where it all begins.
You want to pay off debt so you can move to your dream house and vacation every winter in Florida or the Bahamas…you need a budget.
You want to send your kidlets to a better college / university….you need a budget.
You want to quit the job you hate and travel the world for a year….. you need a budget.
If your family has been on the fence about really looking at your income coming in, and your expenses going out, now is the time to start. In order to build a family travel fund you will need to first create an overall budget.
Unless you have been practicing good money management for a long time, you’re likely like me and in need of a good reminder or two, to look at and address those bad financial habits. Remember I said it’s simple, but may not always be easy.
You also need the right mind set. Having a budget is an amazing long term strategy that will actually help you reach your goals. There’s no immediate short term gain or endorphin rush from impulsive spending. It’s like the tortoise, slow and steady wins the race, or in this case earns an awesome family trip.
If you want to save more money for travelling, you’ll need an overall family budget.
Track All Income and Expenses
Start by tracking ALL of your family income and expenses.
Make a list. Be sure to include all those “little” charges like coffees, apps, subscriptions, treats, as well as costlier items like gifts, gym memberships, utilities, mortage etc. ALL OF IT! Be brutally honest.
The very first time I did this it was eye opening experience. I had no idea where all my money was going, or why I was living pay cheque to pay cheque when I wasn’t making any big purchases.
Assign either bi-weekly or monthly amounts to each budget category and track your progress every paycheque. There are a few options for tracking your budget. We currently use a spreadsheet. You can also use an App, and very popular zero budgeting program like You Need a Budget (YNAB) or an app like MINT.
We won’t be able to go into detail on how to budget here, as it requires a more comprehensive post. There are lots of how to’s out there, or sign up for a free course like the Busy Budgeter’s 90 Day Budget Bootcamp if you need extra help and support.
Cut Back on Your Monthly Expenses & Save More Money for Travel
Now that you you have an idea of where you money is coming in and going out, see if there are ways you can cut back on everyday expenses.
Here are some tips to save on your monthly expenses:
- Pay off high interest credit cards first. It will be difficult to save if you have credit card payments each month.
- Schedule your bills to be automatically paid. Having everything set up will avoid late payment fees.
- Use bigger appliances during off peak hours to save on your electric bill. Check with your electricity for the best hours.
- Reduce Christmas and Holiday spending, by making homemade gifts or offering your services such as cooking a meal, cleaning their house, watching their kids so they can go on a date night etc.
- Use cash back apps to get money back on every day purchases you already make.
- Get your hair cut regularly? Stretch out the time in between haircuts, or choose a hairstyle that needs less frequent haircuts.
- Do spa days & nails at home instead of paying for a salon trip.
- Turn off email notifications from online retailers, that entice you to spend money with their coupons.
- Hold small Birthday parties at home, and cut back on extravagant parties and gift giving.
- Use gas cash back apps to save up to $0.25/gallon.
These are just a few ideas, there are more ways to save later on in this post.
Create And Prioritize Your Family Travel Goal
How will you know how much to save for your next family vacation, if you don’t have a goal in mind?
It’s also important to make sure everyone is onboard with your goals and how you will get there. Plus planning ahead and creating a travel goal & budget will help prevent you from going into debt on your next trip.
Choose Your Travel Budget First
Creating a family travel goal can be done many ways. One way is to take a look at your budget and see how much you can realistically save in the time frame you want to travel by. Then choose a destination that fits your budget.
For example, if you want to take a trip in 6 months, and know you can save $1,000/month, then your travel budget would be $6,000. Start looking for destinations, or ways to make your dream trip happen for $6,000.
We did this with our winter trip last year. We decided in August we wanted a two week getaway in January or February.
I really wanted to go to Hawaii, but since we decided so late, realistically we couldn’t save enough in that time frame, and we didn’t want to go into debt over it. So we chose two weeks in Cuba in AirBnBs instead of at an all inclusive. We had a fabulous time, and came in under budget.
Choose Your Destination First
Another way to create a travel goal is to choose your destination first. Once you have decide on your destination, figure out how much it will cost for flights, accommodations, excursions, food etc., then divide it by the monthly amount your family can realistically save, to get your estimated months until travel.
For example, if your family of five wants a $10,000 vacation to Thailand, and you know you can realistically save $500/month, it will take you 20 months to save enough up.
Prioritizing Family Travel
One caution, if you are planning on making some pretty big changes to prioritize saving for travel, make sure all family members are on board.
If one partner still wants to spend like crazy and the other wants to penny pinch, or if you haven’t looped your kids in as to why you are having a frugal Christmas, or buying fewer expensive “toys’, it can make reaching your goals harder.
Get your kids and partner involved in the decision making. Invite them to give their input into destination, ways to save or earn extra money.
Buy your kids a travel piggy bank and encourage them to save their allowance, or earn extra for vacation spending money, or to save for an excursion they would like to do.
Sign Up for Travel Newsletters
Nobody wants to clutter their inbox more than they have to, but signing up for mailing lists for travel & airline companies can give you an edge when looking for deals.
Cheaper vacation costs = more vacations or longer trips.
After signing up for my favorite newsletter, you can save up to 90% on flights out of US airports.
HOW TO SAVE MONEY FOR A FAMILY VACATION
Open A Travel Savings Account
I am hoping you have already made yourself a budget by now, but if not now is the time to do it.
Add a line item to your budget for your next vacation, then open up a bank account specifically to place all vacation funds into. The best part, you can watch your fund grow throughout the year. Most banks these days offer free online savings accounts you can add to your exisiting accounts.
We do this. In fact we have multiple bank accounts for all our budgeted expenses, so we know how much we have saved for each category. It’s an electronic version of the envelope method.
Tip: Open a savings account you can’t access immediately, or through your bank card. The temptation to use your money for unexpected expenses will be less.
Automate Savings To Your Travel Fund Bank Account
Set up a reoccuring transfer so that each paycheque, your vacation money is transferred right away into your travel fund account (or a day later to avoid overdraft fees). If you can’t see it, it’s like it doesn’t exist right?
Or better yet, if your work offers the option of splitting your pay cheque into multiple bank accounts ( which mine does) have a portion sent directly to your vacation account.
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Ways To Build Your Family Travel Fund: Cut Your Family’s Expenses
Cutting your family’s expenses or bringing in more money are the only two ways you will be able to agressively save for more trips. Or ideally do both. I will give you some ideas for both coming up.
Reduce Unnecessary Spending
First step is to reduce unecessary spending. With the list of expenses you made for your budget above, consider what your family actually “Needs,” versus which of these items are actually “Wants.”
Take a piece of paper and put two headings on it “Wants” and “Needs.” List all your expenses under the appropriate category.
Things you could live without are likely wants. Things that cover basic necessities like food, clothing, shelter, supplies for school or work are likely needs.
Beside each “Want” write down the average amount you spend on these items each month. If it’s a yearly purchase or cost, divide by 12, to get your monthly amount. That is how much your family could potentially save. You might be surprised at how easily these expenses add up.
Next decide which unnecessary spendings you could live without. This will be different for everyone. Some families may be comfortable making drastic changes, others may prefer a more moderate approach. Do what works best for you.
Imagine What You Can Do With That Money Instead
If you are finding it hard to give up any of the extras you are used to, imagine what you will do on holiday with that money instead.
- Fancy umbrella drinks on the beach.
- Sipping an espresso in Italy.
- Three awesome days at Disneyworld with your kids.
- A road trip to an awesome National Park like Bryce Canyon.
Find the thing that will motivate you, your partner and kids.
Stop Unnecessary Monthly Charges
Stopping unnecesary or duplicate monthly charges is good one.
It is so easy to rack up $50 or more in reoccuring monthly charges for Apps, for streaming services (like Netflix, Disney+, Prime, Crave), for subscriptions to Kindle Unlimited, Apple Magazine or kids STEM boxes etc.
That language app you bought for your trip last year, but didn’t cancel and it’s now 7 months later and automatically renewed. Know how I know? Our family has all of these, and more.
Every month review your family’s subscriptions to see if you can get rid of some. I know it’s hard. If you don’t want to get rid of them for good, could you do it temporarily to meet your vacation goals? What are you willing to give up to have an extra $50 – $100/month go into your travel fund?
Minimize Your Cable And Internet Package
Internet is ridiculously expensive where I live in northern Canada. When my teenage stepson is living with us, we need the maximum package available, and even then it’s often close. But when he’s not, we reduce the package and save the extra money.
Can you minimize your cable package, by cutting down on a few movie or sports channels?
Better yet, can you cut the cord with your cable company and try streaming services? Streaming services are much more affordable and more on demand.
Review Bills & Negotiate lower rates
Bigger companies are often open to negotiating rates, to stop you from switching companies. Gather up your bills once or twice a year for cellphones, cable, internet, home and auto insurance and give those businesses a call. Figure out what you are asking for ahead of time, and ask to speak to a manager if the customer service agent can’t help you.
Also look into if it is cheaper to pay them all off annually, rather than with a monthly bill.
You can save hundreds of dollars a year by doing this.
Make And Bring Coffee From Home
Making and bringing coffee from home may not seem like much. However, if you are spending $5-$10/day on coffee ( + a muffin, or bagel, cause you have to eat breakfast on the go right?!?), 5 days a week that’s $100-$200/month PER PERSON.
Chances are, you probably buy coffee for home as well, so that’s doubling up on your coffee expense. Buy yourself a thermos and take your coffee to go. I really like my Kleen Kanteen. Or go in on a coffee club at work where everyone takes turns buying supplies.
Make Your Own Food
Here’s another area where we ( yes i am including myself in this), can spend way too much money. Eating out in general can eat into your travel fund faster then you can say peanut butter and jelly.
If you buy lunches daily at work, and dine out /order take out for your family a time or two a week, that will quickly add up.
I read an article that stated the average Canadian family spends around $300 a month eating out, that’s $3,600 a year. That’s a little less than what it cost for our entire two week Cuba trip.
Small changes can have big impacts.
Can you learn to cook new and interesting meals that will save you money, and gain a new skill? Bring a bag lunch full of delicious leftovers to work, or have a themed dinner night to up the meal excitement, but not the cost.
Now I am not saying to avoid eating out completely (unless you are hardcore into saving money fast. If that is the case then GO TEAM THRIFTY!. Reducing your restaurant budget by half or more will have you well on your way to funding your next trip.
Save On Groceries
Food makes up a significant portion of a families budget each month. The average Canadian family in 2022 is expected to pay $14,767.36 / year. A family of four in the US will pay approximately $14, 892 for a moderate budget. Finding ways to reduce or minimize your grocery budget will help your family save money faster.
Here are a few tips to help your family save money on groceries:
- Grocery shop only once a week. Frequent trips equal more spending.
- Skip Whole Foods, and buy at discount grocery stores
- Use cash back apps like Fetch Rewards, or Ibotta to get money back on grocery purchases
- Buy in bulk or buy items on sale
- Buy store or no name brands
- Support local CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) or farmers markets
- Grow your own herbs and vegetables
- Stock up on the basics (rice, pasta, beans, lentils) that have a long shelf life
- Store food properly to avoid spoilage
- Make a meal plan and stick to it
- Make a grocery list, and only buy those items
- Buy only what you can realistically use to prevent waste
- Don’t shop when you are hungry
As a family we do one week a month where we clean out the fridge and freezer. It’s a no buy week, and we get creative with meals to use up leftovers and whatever is kicking around in the cupboards. This is a great way to save on some food money, and reduce waste.
Save On Accommodation
Saving on accommodation really depends a lot on your lifestyle and flexibility with living arrangements.
Are you living in a lavish house that takes all your “extra” cash to pay the mortgage and provide upkeep? Could your family consider living in a smaller place, or moving to a cheaper part of town? Perhaps you have an extra room you could rent out to an international student, or on AirBnB for some extra cash.
We choose to live in a very small home with reasonable mortgage payments (less than what it would cost us to rent a 3 bedroom apt), and that’s a choice we make so we can prioritize travel, debt repayment and building up our retirement savings. It’s not our dream house, but it works for our financial goals.
Another option is to live closer to work, or a good public transportation system, so you could bike, or walk to work. Which leads us into the next money saving tip, ditching your car.
Save on Gas
Gas prices are ridiculous these days!
Use Gas Buddy to find the cheapest gas near you, then sign up for gas station loyalty programs, which can save you on average $0.05 a gallon. Gas Buddy has a card where you can save up to an additional $0.25 a gallon when you link and pay through your own credit/debit card.
Upside is another free cash back app where you can earn up to 25¢/gallon cash back on gas. Just check-in to the gas station to redeem your offer. After joining you can also save up to 45% cash back at restaurants and up to 30% cash back at grocery stores.
- In the US? Use code AFF25 to get an extra $0.25 / gallon off your first gas purchase with the Upside app.
Ditch The Car
Cars cost a lot of money. Ditching your vehicle can help your family save on car loan payments, insurance, gas and repair costs.
Maybe you own two cars. Could you sell one and either carpool, walk or bike everywhere? Bonus you’ll get more exercise, so maybe you can cancel that gym membership you bought but never use, and save even more.
Understandably this won’t work for everyone, but take a look to see if this option would work for your household.
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Save On Utilities – Go Green
Making small changes such as switching out your lightbulbs for energy efficient ones, or a installing a programmable thermostat, can save you money, and help reduce energy consumption. Good for you, better for the environment.
Encourage everyone to flip off the lights when not using, or to wear a a cozy wool sweater, instead of cranking the heat.
Borrowing and sharing supplies with friends and family can save you money, and build community.
My daughter reads voraciously. We can’t afford to buy all the books she goes through each week, so a trip to the library, or book exchanges with her friends are one way we reduce costs.
Start a tool lending “library” with your friends or neighbours for gardening gear, lawnmowers, ladders, power tools etc. Instead of each family buying these items, pool your resources and share these tools.
Buy Second Hand Clothes
Second hand clothes shops are a great way to cut costs on clothing.
Especially for kids who grow out of their clothes anyway in less time than it takes to binge watch Stranger Things (almost).
Many high quality shops are popping up for professional clothing as well.
Have A No Buy Week Or Month
One way to reduce spending is to conciously choose to not buy anything for a period of time. As a family choose one day a week, a week a month, or a full month, then bank the amount you would normally spend in your vacation account.
If you are used to spending freely, this might feel restrictive, but so worth it in the end. Try putting all your credit cards on ice, or locking your card temporarily.
A great general tip to reduce impulsive spending is to institute a mandatory wait period before making any purchase. If you wait two weeks to a month and it’s still something you want or need, consider buying it only then.
Have A Minimal Or No Present Holiday
Try spending less during the Holidays, as this is often where families spend in excess. We like the idea of four small presents; something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read.
Another option is to choose to have a no present Christmas, and use your next family vacation as the gift. Let each child pick an excursion as their present.
A no present holiday may only work with older kids who don’t believe in Santa, and may be easier to sell if the trip is a winter destination and close to Christmas time.
Look For Deals On Equipment
If your family vacation plans include big ticket items like tents, skiis, snowboards, or kayaks, see if you can get a good deal by buying used. Look out for swap and shop opportunites, or consider buying used rental equipment.
Sometimes it is more affordable to rent, or buy and sell gear at your destination. This also saves on extra luggage fees if flying.
Give Everyone A Small Weekly Allowance
Human tendency is to overspend if we try to be too frugal or restrictive. Give everyone in your family an allowance each week to buy whatever they like. No judgement here. Want iced frappucinos? No judgement. Want the latest game? No judgment. As long as it falls within the alloted amount, no problem.
My partner and I have a smallish budget we get each week to spend freely on “wants.” If we want to eat out, it has to come out of that bucket of money. We need a haircut, same. We want fancy clothes, or the latest gadget, then we have to save some of it up to purchase our wants. If it’s truly a need then we put it as a category in our budget.
How to Make Extra Money for Your Next Family Vacation
If you can’t, or don’t want to reduce your expenses, then the only other way to build your family travel fund is to bring more money in. There are plenty of ways to make extra cash, so check out some ideas below.
Use Cash Back Apps for Everyday Purchases
Cash back apps are an easy way to earn money back on your everyday purchase.
Whether you’re heading to the grocery store, need to buy some new clothes, or purchasing travel tickets, it can be fun to earn rewards. You’ll want to be careful that you aren’t spending extra money, or putting purchases on credit cards that aren’t in your budget, just to get more cash back.
Here are a couple of excellent options out there:
- Fetch Rewards – Best cash back app overall. After signing up for free, earn points from receipts from any store or restaurant. Redeem them for gift cards to popular retailers or other rewards. Earning rewards on your everyday shopping trips is easy, just scan receipts within 14 days.
- Iobotta Rewards– Best Cash Back Savings App – Earn rewards by scanning your receipts to 100’s of retailers like grocery stores, clothing strores, convenience stores, and popular big-box stores like Walmart, taples, Walmart, The Home Depot, Walgreens, Kohls, Target, Party City, and Wegmans and more.
- Rakuten – Best Cash Back App for Online Shoppers – It’s a cash back and shopping app that lets you earn cash rewards for shopping for things like clothes, ordering takeout, booking travel, and home improvement. Each retailer lists the percentage of cash back you will get for purchases that day. Get up to $30 bonus cash for using this link.
Get Paid To Take Surveys
If you have a bit of spare time, then getting paid to take surveys is a great way to earn some extra cash. They aren’t reliable as a main source of income to pay your bills, but can pad your travel fund each month.
PRO TIP – Never pay to take a survey, or a membership fee. Those are scam sites, and legit survey sites won’t require you to pay.
Share your opinion and influence major brands products and services, while getting paid to take surveys. You earn digital points each time you take a survey, which are then redeemable for PayPal cash or gift cards.
It’s free to sign up, and is perfect for when you have a bit of spare time. Say when you are waiting in line, riding the bus, lazing around on the couch.
Swag Bucks is another way you can earn points to redeem for paypal cash or gift cards.
You can earn Swagbucks points for completing surveys and other activities such as shopping online, searching the web and watching videos. Sign up for free.
Hold A Garage Sale
I don’t know about you, but no matter how hard we try to live minimally we always end up with a closet / shed / gargage full of stuff. Try the Marie Kondo approach. Go through your home and get rid of things that don’t bring you joy (or more realistically, items you haven’t used / worn / taken out in the last 6-12 months).
Hold a garage sale so your unwanted items, can become someone elses treasures.
I remember with great fondness my childhood garage sales, and being so excited to get $10 for all my precious junk. This is a good way for your kids to earn spending money for their trip too. All money goes into a travel only piggy bank or travel bank account.
If an in person garage sale is not an option right now due to COVID restrictions, try an online garage sale. Which leads me to the next point, sell stuff online.
Sell Stuff Online
Gently used baby and kids gear sells like hotcakes. Have you ever been on a Mom or parent buy and sell page? The competition is fierce for the best deals!
If your family has old strollers, clothes, toys you name it, somebody somewhere is looking for a good deal, as kids are expensive. Or maybe you have some old antiques you are just looking for an excuse to get rid of. Try out your city’s classified groups on Facebook, or Craigslist, eBay, or the Facebook Marketplace.
Hold A Bake Sale – Pick Up Or Delivery
Remember all those bake sale school fundraisers from your youth? Bake sales are another way to raise a bit of cash.
This one seems like a lot of work to me, as inevitably I would end up doing most of the baking, while Miss Seven spent most of her time tasting the goods. However, this would be a fun way to get your kids involved in raising their own spending money.
Make baked goods, or any food for that matter that your friends and co-workers may be interested in. Offer home delivery or no contact pick up options.
Use A Reward Credit Card
A great way to save a little cash or get flights for free, is to use a credit card that collects airmiles or offers cash back.
Decide as a family which one works best for your needs, and use it for all your everyday purchases such as gas, groceries, gifts, bills etc. Make sure to pay the card off each month though.
Often credit card companies will also offer sign-up bonuses. Sometimes they are even enough for a free flight. Search out the best deals.
Rent Out Your Home
Renting out your home on AirBnB or VRBO while your family is travelling, is another good way to earn some extra cash. As a bonus, you will have someone to watch over your house for you while you’re gone (and pay you to do it).
If your job allows it, work a bit of overtime and bank the extra cash for your trip.
While working overtime in the short term might seem like a drag, the long term payoff is a fabulous family holiday. At time and a half, or double time, those hours can quickly add up to a substantial vaction fund.
Get A Part Time Job or Earn Money Online
Finding a part time job, or working online can earn you some extra holiday moolah. Here are some creative ideas to try:
- Teach english online
- Be an online tutor
- Offer music, art, biking, or car repair lessons
- Freelance work online; editing, writing, graphic design, virtual assistant
- Sell stuff on Etsy
- Offer childcare, car washing, dog walking
- Deliver pizzas
Be sure to send that money directly into your travel fund bank account, to reduce the temptation to spend it immediately.
Take A Portion of Your Tax Return
If saving money is a challenge for you, consider getting extra taxes taken off each paycheque, that you’ll get back at the end of the year as a tax refund. If it’s an extra $50/paycheque that’s over $1200 you’ll have saved in a year. You also likely won’t miss the extra $50 if you don’t see it. Out of sight, out of mind.
Saving Money For Travel Is Fun.
Building your family travel fund won’t always be easy. Especially if you are on a limited income, have challenging life circumstances or are still paying off student loans or debts. Prioritizing family travel, and taking actions to get control of your finances will be so worth it in the long run.
I hope you will have some fun a long the way.
We’d love to hear all about your next dream vacation. Where are you planning on going? What are your challenges with saving money? Do you have any money saving tips to share? Let us know in the comments below.
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