Are you ready for a break? Here’s how to save up for the trip of a lifetime.
9 min read
Working out how to save money for a trip can be an exciting and empowering process. Not only does it bring you closer to going on your dream vacation, but it also helps you create money-saving habits that can last you a lifetime.
While thinking about how to save money for a trip during a global pandemic may seem a little weird, it actually has some unexpected benefits. For instance, giving yourself a fixed goal in such unstable times can become a great source of comfort. So, here’s how to start getting smart with your money so you can enjoy the trip of a lifetime in the (hopefully!) not so distant future.
How to save for your dream vacation
First things first, you need to work out how much your trip is going to cost. This means deciding two things: where you want to travel, and for how long. Once you’ve got this idea in mind, it’s time to get specific. This means creating a cost estimate for the following:- How much your airfare (there and back!) and your travel insurance will cost
The price of your accommodation
Your budget for food and drinks
The cost of any activities and sight-seeing trips you want to take while there
The amount you want to have stored in a travel emergency fund
Of course, you won’t be able to reach an exact amount, but you’ll get a good ballpark figure of what you’re aiming for. In general, it’s best to give yourself an extra buffer by assuming you’ll spend a little more than expected in all of these categories.
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If you’re planning a trip to a European country, in general, you should plan to spend around €1500 per month when there. Of course, this will vary, often quite dramatically, from country to country. While a week-long trip for two to Amsterdam will cost on average around €1800, a trip for two to Poland for a week will cost you around €800 (flights excluded).
But remember—over-budgeting is always better than under-budgeting. There’s no greater cure for the post-vacation blues than returning home with some leftover cash that you can use to start saving for your next trip.
How to create a budget for your trip
Now that you know how much money you need to go on your trip, it’s time to create a budget. While budgeting may sound boring, it can be incredibly liberating. Understanding your cash flow and adapting it to match your needs creates a sense of financial independence that is especially valuable in uncertain times.
1. Track your spending
To start budgeting, you need to understand where your money is going each month. This means you need to start tracking your expenditures. Every single one. This requires making a note of all of your income streams when compared to all of your expenditures over a 30-day period. You could do this manually by checking your bank statements and entering these figures into a spreadsheet. Or, if that sounds like too much work, you could consider using a budgeting app.
2. Separate your expenses
For this next step, you need to separate your expenses into two categories: fixed and variable. Your fixed costs include all your expenditures that are more difficult to change. This comprises things such as your rent, debt repayments, and utility bills. Your variable costs, however, include anything you spend that is a little more adjustable. So, this category covers any subscription services (e.g,, Netflix, Spotify), all non-essential grocery shopping, and clothes shopping.
3. Cut back on your variable expenses
As your variable expenses are non-essential, they are by far the easier category to cut back on. There are several things you can do here. First, consider changing the way you shop for groceries to make some significant savings on your monthly food budget. This could mean making weekly meal plans so you can project your weekly food expenditure in advance, buying food in bulk, and avoiding shopping on an empty stomach.
Next up, it’s time to cancel any unused subscription services, swap your mobile tariff to a cheaper plan, and get into the habit of buying new items second-hand. If you want to set yourself a challenge, try choosing a day each week where you commit to spending nothing (besides fixed costs). Those these savings might seem miniscule, collectively, they will add up.
4. Use a designated savings account
Once you start to free up some extra money each month, it’s important to put that money in a designated savings account. By separating your savings from your daily spending account, you prevent yourself from needlessly eating into your savings so you’re more likely to stay on-budget.
An even better tip to filling up your savings? Automate a monthly transfer into your savings account. Once you know how much you want to put away each month, set up a monthly automated bank transfer that moves this amount into your savings account without you having to think about it.
5. Keep track of your budgeting goals
At the end of each month, it’s important to assess how easy—or difficult—it was to meet your budgeting targets. If you find that you’re struggling to meet your targets, you may need to reduce how much you save each month or identify an area where you could free up some extra money.
If, however, you find you’re saving more than you planned, then adapt your budget to accommodate for this and try to save even more. The trick is to set a budgeting goal that is challenging enough to inspire you to be smart with your money, but not so difficult that it feels impossible and demotivates you from trying.
6. Stay motivated
One of the best features of working out how to save money for a trip is that you have an exciting, motivating end-goal to work toward. Though it’s also important to save up for an emergency fund or your pension, there’s no doubt that these are significantly less inspiring goals to work toward.
As a result, you might find it useful to decorate your home with some visual aids to help you stay on track. For example, you could stick a photo of your holiday destination next to your computer, or you could use it as the background on your phone. Whenever you feel tempted to stray from your savings goals, you can use these images to help visualize yourself back on track.
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So far, we’ve gone over some general savings tips for traveling. But if you only have a short window to save before you hit the road, we have some helpful tips for that, too. In addition to saving on your variable costs, identifying some fixed costs you could cut-back on can save you a considerable amount of money—in considerably less time.
7. Cut back on your rent
The biggest fixed cost that most people have is usually rent. To save money here you have a few options. The easiest choice is to get a roommate or two so you can halve or even third the cost of rent. If you already live in a place with roommates, consider moving into a smaller room where the cost of rent is usually less than that of a larger room. If possible, you could also consider moving back home to live with your parents. It’s not everybody’s first choice, but you will likely end up paying significantly reduced rent—or maybe even no rent at all.
8. Make savings on your utility bills
Finding ways to cut down your utility bills each month will also go a long way to increasing your overall savings. Here are a few tips you can start putting into action:
Identify any appliances that are energy inefficient and replace them. Consider selling them and replacing them with second-hand, more energy-efficient alternatives.
Ensure that you’re with the most cost-efficient energy and gas providers. This means doing a bit of research, but it’s well worth the effort financially.
Replace all your lightbulbs with energy-efficient LED bulbs.
9. Pick up a side hustle
If you really want to save money quickly, then picking up a side hustle is a great way to increase your monthly savings. If you already have a 9-to-5, this could mean picking up a few evening shifts at a bar, finding freelance work, or taking up a restaurant job on the weekends. While this may seem extreme, if it’s only for a limited period of time, you lessen your risk of burning out.
But remember—your mental health is always more important than sticking to your monthly savings goals. If you find that taking on an extra job is taking a toll on your mental wellbeing, adjust your monthly savings target, not your lifestyle.
How to save money for a trip fast
If you’re still looking for a few more tips on how to save money for a trip fast, we have one final alternative for you to consider. This suggestion requires you to save less before you leave, meaning you can meet your savings goals faster. However, it also means being more flexible with your definition of a dream vacation.
10. Take your work with you
While this wouldn’t work for shorter trips, if you’re planning on going away for a month or more, it might be worth considering taking your work with you. As more people are now able to work remotely, it’s becoming more accepted that work doesn’t mean staying in the same place. This opens up even more possibilities when it comes to travel.
By choosing to work remotely from your vacation, you don’t have to save a huge amount of money before you leave. What’s more, if you choose to go to a particularly cheap destination, you may even find that you save more money than you would have staying home! Just remember to keep your work-life balance in check while you’re away. This could mean taking some holiday days during your trip to ensure that you make the most out of where you’re staying, or perhaps even taking some unpaid leave if your budget can accommodate it.
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N26 can help make your travels a little easier. All our accounts let you make payments from anywhere in the world, in any currency—with no extra charges. You’ll also have access to a virtual card that lets you make contactless, mobile payments, without having to remember to pack a credit card. Our premium account holders are eligible for a range of travel insurance benefits to keep them secure while they’re away, as well as Spaces sub-accounts, to set specific savings goals for each and every trip. Visit our Plans page to find the option that’s right for you.