Winter has been filled with some unusually warm and sunny sans coat and scarf days, yet summer is still several months away. And that’s good news for those us who still need time to save for a great summer getaway.
Whether the ideal escape is a weeklong Caribbean vacation, a multi-country cruise, or a road trip, implementing a few small budgetary changes can yield big savings that won’t add new debt or disrupt necessary expenditures.
Here are five tips that will help bring your vacation dreams to fruition without breaking the bank:
1. Enroll in automatic savings. Instead manually moving money from checking into savings set up automatic deductions based on your pay periods. To determine how much to save for your vacation, divide the amount you’ll need (i.e. $1,000) by the number of pay periods between now and your ideal vacation date (i.e. 20 weeks). It’s better to have the deductions made per pay cycle—whether it’s weekly or bimonthly—because it won’t be tempting to spend the money.
2. Cut costs: How many premium channels do you need? Is a home service bundle with cable, internet and a home phone practical? Analyze your monthly expenses to figure out how and where you can reduce expenditures.
Tiffany “The Budgetnista” Aliche, author, spokesperson and personal finance expert suggests calling your cable company to reduce your services. “Continue to pay the full amount, but pay the new reduced amount to the cable company and [apply] the savings to a savings account,” she says.
3. Brown bag it: Buying a bagel and coffee for breakfast, a sandwich and snack for lunch and take-out from your favorite restaurant adds up to depleted funds. If you eat out often and want to know exactly how much you’re spending, record all to-go food purchases—what you’re eating and spending—for a week. Over the weekend, go grocery shopping for similar food items. Budget enough time to prepare breakfast and lunch for work and cook easy meals at home. When you see how much you can save each week, it’ll be the sweet smell of savings.
4. Get a side job: If funds are unavailable, but you have a little extra time, consider getting a side gig that offers flexible schedules and capitalizes on your skills as a people person or home improvement expert. “You can save by making more money with sites like Tours by Locals, Task Rabbit and Urban Sitter,” Aliche says.
5. Keep it local: When was the last time you went sightseeing in your hometown or a neighboring one? Plan a summer adventure filled with local places to eat, drink and play for free or cheap. Start the day by visiting museums, galleries and botanical gardens that offer free admissions or small donations.
Use relatively inexpensive modes of transportation like streetcars in cities , including Washington, D.C.; Mesa, Arizona; San Francisco; Atlanta; and Houston.
In New York City, residents could opt for a free “cruise” on the Staten Island ferry, which includes sweeping and singular views of the Statue of Liberty. If you enjoy the heights, check out New York City from 250-feet above on the Roosevelt Island Tramway at a cost of less than $3 each way.
When it’s time to refuel, explore Yelp to help find a new restaurant for brunch, which is often considerably less than dinner. You could also indulge in ethnic street fare from food trucks and outdoor cart vendors.
Some popular meals include Jamaican jerk chicken and falafel, a popular Middle Eastern dish made of deep-fried ground chickpeas or fava beans that is usually served in a pita. If you have a sweet tooth, try churros, a fried-dough pastry that is popular in Spain, Portugal, France, and the Philippines.
Finally, explore city guides like TimeOut to find free outdoor concerts and festivals. And wrap up the day by watching the sunset at a park, sitting in a comfortable area to read a book or journal or take postcard selfies in front of a favorite spot in so you’ll have mementos from your inexpensive local vacation.
Are you ready to start saving? Let us know how you plan to get started in comments.
Carolyn Desalu is an essayist and travel and lifestyle writer whose work has appeared in Ebony, Essence and The Globe and Mail. Aside from writing a book of essays, she enjoys finding the best doughnut shops in every city she visits. Follow her on Instagram @bycarolyndee.