One of the best and smartest ways to save for a vacation is to open a separate savings account specifically for your vacation fund. If at all possible, jump-start the account with a lump sum, such as a tax refund. Have a certain amount automatically taken from your paychecks and deposited directly into that savings account. That way you never see the money, so there is less temptation to spend it. And of course you’ll be earning interest.
The Vacation Box
If you don’t want to keep your money in the bank, purchase the $5 a Day Automated Bank. I found this gadget in the SkyMall magazine on a recent flight. If you didn’t want to fork out the $49.95 for a cardboard box, have the family make one together – lock it up – and don’t forget to “feed” it each day. $5, the cost of your daily Starbucks fix, can add up to a lot in a year!
The Change Jar
Make a rule that you never spend coins. Save all your pocket change and throw it in a big jar. Label the jar (i.e. “Our Disney Cruise”) to remind your of your goal. Periodically you can roll the coins and see how much you have. (This is a great job for kids.) Once it’s rolled, put it in your vacation savings account.
If you don’t want to roll the change, see if your bank takes unrolled change. Some banks have change-counting machines and they’ll count your coins for free or for a very small fee. There are CoinStar machines in many grocery stores that will allow you to dump in a ton of change and get a slip redeemable for bills at the cashier, but you’ll pay a hefty premium (somewhere around 9%) for the service; if you do this, at least pluck out the quarters and roll those!
Variations on the change jar: Never spend quarters, or never spend dollar bills. Put those in the jar.
When writing a check, round up your checkbook entry to the nearest dollar. For instance, if you write a check for $46.62, record it in your checkbook as $47. Not only does this help you prevent overdrafts, it also means you’re accumulating a little extra in your account every time you write a check. Another good thing about this method is that you’re earning interest on that extra money, assuming you have an interest-bearing checking account.
Round down your deposit entries to the nearest dollar. For instance, if you deposit $503.64, record it as $500. Again, you’re accumulating a little extra “ghost” money in your account.
A variation on the checkbook rounding method: charge yourself a dollar every time you write a check, plus round up. So if the check was for $25.72, round it up to $26 and add a dollar, making the entry in your checkbook $27.
Another variation on the checkbook rounding method: round up to the nearest five dollars. So if the check was for $35.69, round it up to $40. If it was for $19.11, round it up to $20.
Saving Your Savings
At most grocery stores after you check out and look at the receipt, it shows you how much you “saved today” by purchasing sale items, using coupons, or the store savings card. Use this as an incentive to purchase these sale items and use coupons, as whatever the amount is that you “saved today” automatically goes into a vacation account. Whatever the amount is, transfer that over from you checking into your vacation account.