Last October, I headed over to Ireland for the first time. I was going with my girlfriend, who back in college decided to take a semester overseas in Ireland at the University of Galway.
Her one semester turned into three years and an undergraduate degree. Now we were heading to Ireland to see one of her friends from college get married and reconnect with other college friends.
Seeing as how it was my first time visiting Ireland and her wanting to see all of her old friends, we decided to take a 10 day trip. Our plan was to fly out on a Thursday night, arrive in Dublin at 8am Friday morning, and drive up to Belfast for a day of sight-seeing. From there we were driving the country, staying at a different bed and breakfast almost every night.
On flights, the rental car and nightly accommodations, we spent $3,400. When you take into account food and other incidentals, the overall cost came to roughly $4,500. We paid for this trip with simple savings tricks that anyone can use.
Travel Trick #1: Saving Other Income
I don’t like clutter. When I buy a new shirt for work, I make myself get rid of one that I haven’t worn lately. Along this same idea is cleaning up around the house. There are many things that we no longer use that are a waste of space to us. So we routinely clean out our house. For some of the items, I will list them for sale on Craigslist or eBay.
When I do sell them, I take the money I made and deposit it into a separate savings account. I do this for an entire year and then decide what I want to do with the money. In this case, I knew the money was going to be used for Ireland.
My other income adventures don’t stop with selling random household items. I sell old books that I no longer read on Half.com. I also take short surveys online that pay me a few dollars when I complete them. Finally, when I shop online, I use cash back websites. When I get the cash from these activities, I deposit the money into the same account above.
For 2012, the amount of money earned for Ireland totaled $1,550.
Travel Trick #2: Saving My Savings
I started doing this trick when I bought my house to help me pay more of my mortgage each month. Where I shop for groceries, they list how much I saved on the bottom of the receipt from coupons and sale items.
When I get home, I put the groceries away, then go online and transfer this savings amount from my checking account to my travel account. My budget will show the total spent still so the savings are a slight of hand.
For example, if I spent $45 on groceries after saving $5, I would put on my budget that I spent $50 in groceries. The $5 savings will go into my travel account.
On average, my weekly groceries savings is $20. But I don’t just stop there. When I buy clothes or other items, I always make it a point to transfer the savings from those purchases to my travel account. If you want to really see your savings increase, use this trick. Just from groceries alone I put over $1,000 into my travel account.
For 2012, the amount of money earned for Ireland totaled $1,825.
Travel Trick #3: Gift Cards
Just from the two tips I mentioned above, I paid for the airline tickets, rental car and a few of the overnight accommodations for our trip. My next trick is using a rewards credit card.
Personally, I use the American Express Gold Card. With it, I earn double points on gas and groceries, triple points on airfare and one point on everything else.
When I fly, I usually watch a movie. So, I head over to the grocery store and buy an iTunes gift card for my movie rental. The purchase at the grocery store earns me double points since it is a grocery store purchase. Same goes for eating out and movie theaters – I’ll buy a gift card or two at the grocery store.
I will also buy a generic Visa or Mastercard gift card there as well and use that for everyday shopping. I then turn around and use the points I earn for travel. Unlike most frequent flier programs, there aren’t any special conditions with using the American Express points that I earn. I just redeem each point for $0.01.
Note that I don’t redeem points to pay for airfare since I earn triple points on airfare when I use my Gold Card. I do use the points as a statement credit however. After I make charges, I log into my account online and select the charges I want my points applied to for credit.
For 2012, the amount of money earned for Ireland totaled $400.
Travel Trick #4: Zero Based Budgeting
Budgeting get s bad rap from many people, mostly because it is looked at as restricting your spending. I choose to look at budgeting as giving me a goal to spend less than what I think I should spend. I turn it into a game.
I budget on a zero based system, which means that I account for all of my income in my budget. There is not a single dollar that isn’t allocated to a category. At the end of the month, when I look over my budget, any money I allocated that I didn’t spend, I transfer to savings. In this case, I transferred that money to my travel fund.
For example, let’s say I planned to spend $200 dining out for the month. At the end of the month, I review my budget and see that I spent $150. I take that $50 I didn’t spend and I “spend” it by transferring it into my travel fund.
In the event I overspent in a category, I will move money from an account I didn’t overspend in and then transfer the difference. In this example, if I overspent my gas money by $10 for the month, I would only transfer $40 of the unspent dining out money.
For 2012, the amount of money earned for Ireland totaled $1,000.
Overall, using my four tricks above, I saved $4,775 for the trip to Ireland within one year’s time. Since we spent $4,500 we have a few hundred dollars saved for our next trip already! The tricks I use are completely painless. I don’t even notice the money is not there for spending. All that it takes is a little bit of time to make sure you do everything you can to save some money and to make the transfers.
The trip itself was a blast and I already want to go back! I’m always looking for other tricks to save money, so be sure to leave yours in the comments below!
Bio: Jon writes for MoneySmartGuides, a personal finance blog that helps educate people on personal finance so that they can reach their financial dreams. He focuses on investing, savings and paying off debt since those are the most challenging personal finance topics we face.
How much do you spend on travel each year? How do you save for it?