It’s a new year, and with the turning of the calendar page comes an annual tradition: New Year’s Resolutions! For many people, these resolutions center around health and well-being — like losing weight or working out more. But for others, 2017 brings an opportunity to see the world (or the country) through travel. Those experiences may be invaluable, but they come with a price tag. If you have resolved to travel more in 2017, how can you make it happen on your budget?
The first step is to actually have a budget. This is a basic building block of all successful financial planning. After all, you can’t know how much you have to spend on fun “extras” like travel without first knowing how much you are bringing in and what your fixed monthly expenses are. Once you have the budget part nailed down, you can move to the next step: hacking your finances to travel more in 2017. While we can’t promise you extra income or fewer expenses to make it happen, we can provide you with some simple tips to make the vacation of your dreams a possibility.
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Make the Most of Your Spending
When it comes to living expenses, there are some that simply can’t be avoided, including groceries, utilities and transportation costs. If you are already paying for these items, consider using a credit card that gives you travel perks such as cash back, air miles or rewards points. You can then translate these into a savings fund for your trip or to book a flight or hotel. Some cards give additional points for certain categories of purchases, which can help you build up your savings more rapidly with double or triple points for grocery purchases or nights out at a restaurant.
Of course, there is a catch with this strategy: you should only be charging what you can actually afford, and you should be able to pay off your credit card bill each month. If you are overspending to try to get rewards, you’ll lose in the end. The interest and fees on credit cards will rapidly outweigh the benefits of airline miles. Think of it this way: if you’re paying $150 each month (or more) in credit card interest, you could probably afford a plane ticket on just a few months of interest payments, while it may take over a year to earn enough miles to get a “free” ticket. If you decide to use a credit card to get rewards for travel, treat it with caution, and only charge what you can actually afford.
Slash Your Discretionary Spending
Over the years, many Americans have started to consider certain expenses to be necessary, whether it is a pricey cell phone bill, a daily cup of coffee or regular manicures. In reality, these items are not necessities (unless you require a smart phone for work) — they are luxuries that we have become accustomed to over time. If you are serious about travel in 2017, you can put away quite a bit of money by cutting out these types of expenses.
It’s easy to fall into excessive consumerism — picking up a few items because they’re inexpensive, taking advantage of special online deals for things that you don’t really need, or buying stuff impulsively because you always have a mini computer in your pocket or purse. Limiting your expenditures can be a boon to both your financial health and your 2017 travel plans.
Start by taking a serious look at where your money is going. Are there areas of spending that you can easily cut? Focus on what you really need, and limit your spending to those basics. Remember that a new shirt may seem like a great idea — but it won’t last as long as the memories of a fantastic trip. Buy what you need, and eliminate frivolous purchases. Soon, you’ll find yourself packing up your suitcase and heading out on an adventure.
Save, Save, Save
Funding a trip can seem like a daunting task, particularly if your goal is to go somewhere far-away or exotic. A vacation that costs thousands of dollars may seem like a pipe dream, but it is doable if you spend wisely and start saving now.
When you are putting away money for travel, remember that it doesn’t have to be huge chunks of cash all at once. Small savings — $50 per paycheck — can add up quickly. If you automatically save a set amount each month, saving will be easy and relatively painless. When you add your savings from reduced spending, you may find yourself on the trip of your dreams far sooner than you thought possible.
Travel can be expensive, but if you are smart about your finances, you’ll be able to take more trips than you thought possible in 2017.