Now that you’re a dad, vacations probably don’t feel as vacation-y. Still, it’s pretty damn fun to watch your kid having their mind blown by seeing a human-sized mouse, or run in terror from whatever the hell Goofy is. But that hilarity can cost a shload of scratch, and money is pretty tight because you have said kid. So it’s time to figure out how to make saving for vacations as easy and painless as possible. After all, it’s not like those college kids in stinky suits will come to you.
Be A Budget Master
You will never know how much it’s possible for you to save until you find out what’s coming in and going out. That means it’s time to put your finances under a microscope. Not that they’re that small. Just … Nevermind.
Happily, there are a bajillion online tools that will help you parse your income and spending. Some are free apps, others can be accessed through your financial institution’s online banking system. The trick is to take time and make sure your spending categories are being tracked correctly.
Once you have the data from a few months of tracking, it’s time to look it over with your partner and see if there’s anything that’s killing your account every month. Be prepared to be embarrassed by your buffalo wing expense.
Have A Goal
It might help to set a vacation money goal. Consider what the vacation will look like and what you’ll spend in food, entertainment and travel expenses. Add it up and divide it by the number of months that stand between you and the trip (way too many). Once you know what you need to save per month, it’s time to make saving as easy as possible.
Much like online budget tools, there are many digital ways to get saving to happen automatically. And once you’ve discovered what you can cut in your budget, you can take that amount and start flowing it into a high interest, zero-fee savings account.
Make sure you do your comparison shopping before you start squirreling away for vacation. It might feel convenient to stay with your own bank when saving, but they might not be offering the best rates.
Also, consider more esoteric options. For instance, some credit unions offer accounts that keep funds inaccessible until a day of your choosing. That limits your ability to plunder vacation savings when the Nintendo Switch drops. Who needs a beach when you have a cow milking video game?
Give It A Boost
In your life, you’ll occasionally be #blessed with small windfalls. That might be a work bonus, an unexpected rebate, a mistake made in your favor, or friends losing pocket change in your couch. When these pieces come through, plop them directly into your vacation savings account as quickly as possible and then try to forget it was even there. If your friends question you about their change, deny everything.
Get A Little Extra
There are a few ways that you can get some extra money into your vacation savings account, but unlike the occasional windfalls, these require a bit of effort on your part. That said, seeing your kid eat sand for the first time will be so worth it.
Have A Side Hustle
Right now the gig economy is cooking. If you have the time, and the right car, considering getting involved in online businesses like the big ride-sharing service companies for some extra moola.
If you’re like most Americans, you have a bunch of crap you don’t need. Get that yard sale going or put your goods up on one of the many sell-it-yourself sites. And again, funnel the cash straight into vacation savings.
You ain’t too proud to do it (if it means you vacation sooner). Sites like Go Fund Me give you an opportunity to ask friends and family members to kick in a couple bucks. Many would be happy to help you out for a special occasion. Just make sure you’re prepared to receive the occasional judgy comment (and then dump those people as friends).
The point of all of this is that a vacation isn’t just going to fall into your lap. It will take a bit of effort on your part to get your kid to a magic kingdom. That said, you can make the process relatively painless, unlike the inevitable sunburn you’ll get when you fall asleep beside the pool.