CRUNCHEd: a blog about people and numbers

25 Creative Ways to Build Your Vacation Fund


In a down economy, it may be hard to imagine finding a few hundred dollars, or a few thousand, to spare for a vacation, but let’s face it: you probably need it now more than ever. And if you’re not the type to have plenty of disposable income lying around for a trip, there’s just one way to afford a vacation, and that’s by saving. But if you’re living paycheck to paycheck, how can you possibly fathom putting aside enough for your trip? It’s not impossible, but if you want to make it work, you’ll have to get creative. We’ve highlighted 25 creative ways to build your vacation savings, from going on a diet to starting a crowdfund. Try some, or all, and get just a little bit closer to your vacation goal and some much needed time off.

  1. Recycle:

    Save the Earth and some cash at the same time! Take your glass, aluminum cans, plastics, and more to the recycling plant and get money for them. It’s not much, but it can all go into your fund as found money.

  2. Cut down on transportation costs:

    Cut back on everyday travel to save for your trip around the world (or across the state). Consider walking, taking the bus, or riding a bike to save on gas and car maintenance.

  3. Keep vacation at the forefront of your mind:

    Dream about getting away on a regular basis. Put travel photos on your fridge, read travel magazines, and check out destinations on Facebook to stay motivated in your savings goals.

  4. Purge your closet:

    Get rid of old clothes, household items, and things you no longer use by selling them on eBay, in a yard sale, or through Craigslist. You can find hundreds of dollars this way!

  5. Cut back on dates:

    Save your money for nights out on vacation. Instead of a few nights out, cut back to a single fun monthly date.

  6. Just say no to stuff:

    Say no to stuff, and yes to experience, prioritizing your spending for vacation above other discretionary spending.

  7. Make energy savings a family affair:

    Update your energy plan with your provider, and get your family into the act when it comes to cutting utility costs. Sit down and explain your current energy usage, with a goal to cut it by 20% through small changes like turning off the lights and taking shorter showers. Sit down each month with your bills and celebrate your savings (and major accomplishment) as a family.

  8. Round up your purchases:

    Let savings add up $1 or less at a time. Many banks will allow you to round up purchases to the nearest dollar, or transfer $1 to savings each time you make a purchase, adding up savings quickly but in a small way. Alternatively, if you’re using a checkbook, you can do the same thing, entering purchases for $1 more than they actually were and transferring the difference at the end of the month.

  9. Eat out of your pantry for a week every month:

    Save money you’d otherwise be spending at the grocery store by instituting a once-a-month Pantry Week. In this week, you’ll eat only what you already have in the house, and also likely discover that you have more than you think.

  10. Give something up as a family:

    Everyone wants a vacation, and no one wants to sacrifice, but if you just don’t have the funds, something’s got to give. Sit down as a family and decide what you can live without in order to afford your next vacation. Cut your cable, try a different Internet provider, or shop for store brands instead of name brands.

  11. Set up a payroll deduction:

    Although a change jar is great, not everyone uses much cash these days. Instead, you can set up an automatic payroll deduction that sends cash to your vacation savings account every time you get paid. Even $20 adds up.

  12. Take on a temp job:

    Work a booth at your local fair, sign up with a temp agency, or pick up gigs on Craigslist to earn a little extra cash, then funnel it all into your savings for the next vacation. What a great motivator for work!

  13. Direct all "found money" to your fund:

    Cash gifts, rebates, credit card rewards, and other surprise funds can all go into your vacation fund.

  14. Go on a diet before vacation:

    For families traveling to sunny destinations, go on a "hitting the beach" diet, eating leaner and avoiding junk food prior to your departure. Enjoy a more beach-ready physique and add more vacation money to your funds.

  15. Sell what you’re good at:

    If you can knit, craft, or even create furniture, you have a source for vacation savings. Share your talent and save for vacation by selling your items to friends or online.

  16. Coupon:

    If you’re not already couponing, now’s a great time to start. Use online coupons and check your weekly circulars to cut back. Then, compare your savings with previous grocery bills and transfer the funds to your vacation savings account.

  17. Get your kids involved:

    Sure, it seems a little weird to ask kids to pay for vacation, but it’s a valuable lesson in learning to budget for the finer things in life. Encourage kids to get in the act by asking them to contribute part of their allowance to the family vacation fund.

  18. Buy a savings bond (or several):

    If you’re planning travel far in the future, a savings bond is a great way to lock in your cash and earn interest at the same time. Purchase them online for as little as $25 at a time. Perfect for small windfalls that you’d like to put to good use on vacation.

  19. Pick up vacation gift cards:

    Resorts like Disney now offer gift cards or "Disney Dollars" that can be purchased online and in stores and used toward a vacation. We’ve even seen these in line at Target for as little as $25 each. While you’re picking up necessities, buy a little part of your vacation, too.

  20. Swap gift cards:

    Another creative way to put vacation gift cards to good use? On card swap sites. Websites like CardPool and Plastic Jungle allow you to sell or trade your unwanted gift cards (like ones from stores you don’t shop at) for ones that you really want, like cruise lines or resorts.

  21. Start a crowdfund:

    Sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter aren’t just for new electronics and creative campaigns. They’re being used for family vacations as well. If you’re brave enough to ask family, friends, and even strangers to pitch in, this can be a fun way to afford your next trip.

  22. Ask your employer to get in the act:

    Some companies have started not just offering vacation time, but creating vacation savings accounts for employees. At software company Motek, employees earn $100 for their vacation fund each week they work, adding up to $5,000. If employees leave, they lose the fund, but get to enjoy a great vacation if they stay. It’s great for retention and employee happiness, and a good idea to propose to your own company.

  23. Put it on layaway:

    Retailers like Sears and even travel agents will allow you to put your vacation package on layaway, making payments on your trip until you’re ready to go. It’s a great way to save with a goal in mind.

  24. Take a small vacation now for a large one next year:

    If you can’t afford a huge vacation every single year, don’t sweat it. Try a staycation or a cheaper destination close to home to save money, and roll that savings into next year’s vacation fund.

  25. Save your savings:

    At the bottom of your grocery store receipt, you’ll likely see a figure touting how much you "saved today" with coupons, sales, and store card savings. Take this amount, and put it directly into your vacation fund.

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