When traveling on a budget, the first step – before you even leave your house – is figuring out how you will pay for it. Saving for the the trip. For many people, this may not be that big of an issue. But for those of us whose budget is already tight, the idea of paying for a trip or vacation can be stressful or even unrealistic.

Here’s my number one rule when it comes to budgeting:

Never let lack of funds keep you from truly living!

So let’s say you want to take the family on a summer vacation, or you have to attend a wedding in a different state, or you are finally going to Italy with your spouse. Here are some steps to prepare financially for the trip..

If possible, plan your trip far in advance.

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My year at a glance poster calendar

I’m a planner, so this is easy for me. It can sometimes be stressful or even disheartening because of course sometimes things change and plans fall through. Carey losing his job in December is a great example of this. We don’t know what our situation will be in the coming months, or if he’ll have time off available to travel. But we make plans nonetheless and then allow for some flexibility.

Planning ahead allows you to search out more affordable accommodations, flights and activities. And it gives you more time to save. Knowing what is coming builds excitement and gives you motivation to set a little more money aside. I’ll talk more about trip planning on a budget in a later post.

Save! Save! Save!

This can be particularly depressing if you are on a tight budget and don’t have much discretionary income. I promise you that is is possible. You just need to get creative. Here are a couple of ideas:

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Our change jar

  • Start a Change Jar – it isn’t going to garner thousands of dollars, but it certainly adds up. Start using cash more often for groceries, gas, and other miscellaneous items. Then simply bring home the change and put it in the jar. I intentionally try to spend less when paying with cash just so I’ll have change. When the jar is full, take it to the bank and put it in your savings account, and then start over. It is extremely motivating to see the jar fill up. Even the kids like to put their change in it.
  • Get Creative – Look through your stuff. Like all of your stuff. And get rid of stuff you don’t use or need. Sell your stuff on craigslist or ebay and throw all of your profits into your savings account. When looking at that dvd or clothing or obscure toy that you just can’t get rid of, ask yourself, “Would I rather have this sitting in my closet collecting dust or be sitting on the beach?”
  • Use Your Talents  – We all have skills. Some are obvious and others not. But you can use your talents to help bring in some extra money. First the obvious- if you play an instrument, teach lessons. Even one lesson a week can garner $50 a month or more depending on your experience. Same thing goes with art or tutoring. Are you creative? Start an etsy shop and put some of your creations on there. I link alot of photos on this blog to items I sell on etsy. Other marketable talents could include gardening, babysitting, cooking/baking, sewing, communication or tech skills, auto repair or detailing, dog grooming or sitting, hair cutting, etc.
  • Sacrifice – This one might not be as fun, but it is definitely worth it and can bring in some big numbers. Stop eating out (or eat out less), buy less shoes, take more time to plan your groceries so you can cut your grocery budget, watch fewer movies, cut your subscriptions to hulu, netflix, or whatever site you’re paying for. Cut back and put the difference into savings. But here’s the key: Put that money into savings AT THE BEGINNING of the pay period. Don’t just take what’s left. Plan the sacrifice and put the money away so you aren’t tempted to spend it in the moment.
  • Automatic Withdrawal – Have a set amount of money automatically transferred to your savings account every month. You can easily choose the amount and transfer date online with most banks. This may require reworking your budget a bit, but even if it’s just $25 a month to start, it will make a difference.
  • Open a Savings Account – This should be obvious. Have a place to keep your money and don’t touch it. It is helpful to have your travel account separate from your regular savings or emergency account. This way you can know exactly what you have and how much you need.

Saving money is hard, but oh so possible! Heck- Carey doesn’t even have a regular job right now and we’re still putting money away. Traveling on a budget is possible- and so worth the extra effort you will put into it!