It’s no secret that traveling takes money. There’s your plane tickets/gas money, lodging, food, not to mention the souvenirs your loved ones are expecting you to bring back. It’s also no secret that saving money is hard, especially if things are already tight. In fact, the assumption that saving money would be too difficult is one of the biggest reasons people decide not to take the vacation they’ve always wanted.
It’s true, trying to save a a set amount of money every month can be very daunting. I myself have tried many of the year-long savings plans. You know, the ones where you save one dollar the first day, two dollars the second day, and so on and so on. The problem sets in around day twenty or thirty. I just don’t make enough to be able to save that much everyday, or sometimes even every week, so I often give up and save nothing at all.
So how are we supposed to save for our dream trip when saving seems so impossible? Well, what if we changed our perception? Instead of trying to save, what if we tried not to spend? That way you can put away the exact amount you would have spent on something else, and you can avoid the pressures of saving a set amount daily.
Here are three ways to not spend money that I have found very effective:
1) The Five Dollar Challenge
This is something that a customer of mine brought to my attention. She was able to save $300 in the course of a year, though she admitted that she could have saved even more. So here’s the idea: For one year, every time you receive a five dollar bill, you put it away somewhere you won’t touch it. Of course, it doesn’t have to stop there. Let’s say you receive two ten dollar bills as change, so you put one of them away as well. If you have a couple extra dollar bills, why not save those too? This “challenge” has the potential to save us hundreds in a very unchallenging way. Here’s the hard part. In today’s world, we don’t necessarily use cash as much as we would have say ten years ago. Everything’s about the plastic. If you are are serious about the Five Dollar Challenge, you may want to commit to almost exclusively carrying cash.
2) Collect Your Change Daily
Like the Five Dollar Challenge, this one requires the use of cash. As someone who works at a financial institution, I have seen first hand the power of loose change. Just the other day, I had a gentleman with an old ice cream bucket that was half full of change. He told me he was sure the bucket contained no more than $50. In reality, there was nearly $160 in there. The moral here is that when saving pocket change, you never know how much is there. This can make not spending it a little easier (If you don’t know the exact amount you have, you don’t know the exact amount you can spend). Keep a container of your choice (coffee can, old water jug, bowl, etc) by your front door or wherever would be convenient for you (Mine is on my dresser). At the end of the day, put every cent you have in the container. Even if you can’t put something in there everyday, this method could save you hundreds.
3) Make a List of What You Want vs. What You Could Spend
Visualization has always been a helpful tactic for me. This is one I have started doing recently. It takes a little time to catch on, but once it does, it really works. Think about the trip you want to take. Now make a list of all the things you want to do there. This will include both big and little things. For example, when I go to Ireland, I want to go to a bunch of their museums. This would be a big thing. I would also like to just hang out in pubs talking to locals and listening to live music. This would be a little thing. (Ultimately, it is up to you what is considered big or little, though classification does not really matter in the grand scheme). Next to each item, write down its approximate cost. Now, next to that, write down an every day item you might blow money on that costs about the same amount. For instance, let’s say that for four dollars in Ireland, I can have a drink at a pub, and here in America I can have a Starbucks drink for right around four dollars. So every time you think about buying something you don’t really need to be spending money on, this list will remind you want is more important to you.
Now of course, these methods may not work for you in this exact form. As with any savings tactic, you must bend them to fit with your needs and means. Feel free to play with any of these, and let me know on the contact page if you find an easier or more efficient form of any of the methods I have posted. Hopefully you can find at least one of them useful and begin on your way to the vacation you’ve always wanted. Good luck, and happy saving!