(Plus a bonus weekly savings worksheet!)
It’s the start of the new year and I know, even this early, that the budgeting struggle is all too real. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably already internally low-key hyperventilating about the deluge of vacation pictures you’ll soon be seeing on your Facebook or Instagram feed. And as you infinitely scroll while you wallow with social media envy in your favorite pint of ice cream, you think to yourself, How the fork are they affording these flipping trips?
Don’t worry, mama. You’re not alone. This is an unfortunate and ugly side effect of social media and I’m here to tell you, DON’T. GET. SUCKED. IN. People love showing the unicorns and rainbows, but most of them won’t show you what’s really under the hood–the credit card debt, the trust fund, the side hustles. You just see the end product: ultra-filtered images of near-perfection where the mom is laughing, the kids aren’t sulking, the diaper bag isn’t bursting at the seams, no one’s yelled “mom” for the millionth time, and no one’s melting down because they missed nap time or they need snack number 5.
Meanwhile, back in real life, you’re thinking about how much you should save each month for vacation, or how you even get started with creating a family vacation budget.
Polling our Southern California moms, the most popular spring and summer break vacations for 2020 are Mexico, Las Vegas, Maui, Miami Beach, and The Bahamas. Of these top 5 spring break destinations, four locations require planning and budgeting for plane tickets for each family member.
It’s pretty ironic that you’re stressing over something that’s supposed to help you de-stress, but that’s the reality of it. There’s a lot to think about, after all. After figuring out where you’re going, you have to budget for accommodations, your plane or train tickets, or map out your route if you’re going on a road trip.
But the beginning of the year is actually a great time to start saving up for that trip you’ve been dreaming of. And I’ve listed the best strategies to save and bulk up your bank account so you don’t have to use your credit cards and go into debt paying for your trip. Best of all, these tips help you save for vacation even on a tight budget!
The 52-Week Savings Challenge
The concept is pretty simple. To start, I recommend that you either open a new savings account solely dedicated to your vacation fund or that you earmark one of your savings accounts (if you have more than one) as your dedicated vacation bank account. If your bank allows you to label your accounts with nicknames, it might help you visualize your end goal more if you see “Cancun” or “Maui” next to your vacation savings account.
You start by tucking away just $1 in the first week of the year and then you increase your deposits by another dollar each week throughout the year. So in week 2, you deposit $2, then $3 in week 3, and so on. By the end of December, you’ll be putting away upwards of $50. After all is said and done you’ll have saved up close to $1,500 without really breaking a sweat!
It takes a different mindset but if you think about it, you’re literally putting away spare change (well, until you get to December) but it’s so satisfying to see that little vacation nest egg grow! And then you’ll have funds to pay for all or part of your vacation instead of racking up debt on your credit card.
Pro tip: Choose a specific day each week to make your deposits, and stick to that day to get used to the pattern (I like Fridays because it feels like an added accomplishment as each week closes out). Better yet, schedule your transfers ahead of time that way you don’t even have to think about having to move your money around every week.
To set you up for success further, our team created this template to make things much easier and much more visual for you. There’s something so satisfying about checking off each week that you’ve made a deposit, plus with this worksheet, you get so see you how far you’ve come.
Our template’s so easy to use! Follow these steps to get you going:
- Create a copy and save it to one of your local folders.
- Customize your Week 1 deposit amount to your desired starting deposit.
- Customize your weekly deposit increments–we take care of computing the weekly running totals so you can see how much you’ve saved up, as well as your total savings at the end of the year.
- Every time you’ve completed a deposit, check off the checkbox for that week. It’s a great motivator to see how far you’ve come and how close you are to your goal.
If you fall behind, don’t feel discouraged! You can always adjust your weekly deposits so you can catch up. Just stick to the program and we guarantee it’ll be one habit you’ll keep for years to come.
And if you use our template, you have the opportunity to save even more. For example, if your budget allows you to save $2 each week, you could save over $2,700 at the end of the year!
If you just do a search on money-saving apps, you’re bound to find a gazillion articles recommending a gazillion apps. So where do you start? Which ones do you trust?
Our advice is to start slow and choose one to three apps you’d like to try, instead of going gung-ho and downloading twenty apps that you’ll end up forgetting about in a month.
As with any habit, it will take time before a new thing that you introduce into your life becomes almost second nature. And if you’re a busy mom or dad, your time is so precious that you really want to use the apps that a) you enjoy using and b) doesn’t require a huge learning curve.
So here are our team’s current faves, in the hopes that you give them a try. Note: We’re in no way connected with these companies and our endorsements are independent and not paid; we’re just parents who love to save extra wherever and whenever we can–can you say ka-ching?
Digit is a smart app that does a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to analyzing your income and your expenses. It looks at your finances as a whole and calculates how much you can actually save each month, and then it puts that amount aside into an FDIC-insured Digit account. It will review your finances about 2 to 3 times a week to make sure it’s optimizing your savings.
Acorns is an app that rounds up your credit and debit card purchases to the nearest dollar and invests those cents into an Acorns account which is part of their investment platform. You’re given options to invest in moderate to aggressive funds based on your level of comfort. There are monthly fees associated with your membership, and they are calculated on either your account balance if you have more than $5,000, or a fixed amount if your balance is under that.
You Need a Budget helps you, well, create a budget. It teaches you how to prioritize expenses and is more of a tool to guide you towards better spending habits. We’ve found that a lot of our users pair this app with Mint, which is pretty much like an online and beefed-up version of those checkbooks of yore (remember those?). Mint also helps you organize your bills in one place and also lets you pay those bills through the app, and as a bonus, the app also makes it easy to see when those bills are due so you can avoid paying late.
If you’re curious to see what apps other experts are recommending, check out this Entrepreneur article that lists their favorites, or NerdWallet’s online list of their recommendations.
There’s no denying it–the gig economy is here to stay, and for good reason. It’s easy to sign up, the learning curve is pretty low, and you can always sign up to more than one gig to supplement your income.
While the gig economy used to only attract college kids looking to supplement their financial aid or allowance from home, more and more companies are opening up opportunities for people from all walks of life–full-time professionals, part-time workers, stay-at-home parents, as well as people looking to just diversify their income streams.
This Washington Post article says that about 16 percent of gig workers are stay-at-home parents, and their ranks are rising. And there seems to be a growing draw to side gigs among moms, because “the gig economy simply allows them to meet responsibilities at home that they want to take on or cannot afford to outsource.”
Gigs are a great way to make extra money while allowing parents to keep their schedules flexible. Some gigs can even be done with kids in tow or while at home! If you’re on the fence on signing up to one of these services as a provider, check out this Women Deserve Better article that discusses the pros and cons of the gig economy for moms.
And with so many choices these days, it’s easy for parents to choose the right gig to sign up for that works with their schedule and lifestyle. Here are just a few gigs worth mentioning:
Rent Out Your Baby Gear
Our company, Urban Tykes lets parents rent out their gently used baby gear to families visiting their area. We encourage our owners to bundle their baby gear in attractive packages to increase their rental appeal even more. Parents can list their cribs, pack and plays, bathtubs, toys, playpens, books, cleaning implements, bottle warmers, and pretty much whatever else they feel would be useful for parents who are just trying to recreate the comforts of home to their young children.
How much you earn: Through our platform, parents can make their baby gear pay for themselves (and then some) with each rental they complete. Rates vary depending on the items rented out, but bundles usually go anywhere between $25 and $40 a day. We charge a 10% commission off each rental, and you take home the rest.
Where to sign up: Urban Tykes
Up-Cycle Your Clothes
Poshmark and Thredup both let you sell your gently used clothes. You simply send your unwanted outfits to these companies and they’ll sort which ones are good enough to sell on their platform, and then they can either return the rest to you or donate the things they opt-out of selling online. They get a commission off your sales, but they also take care of packaging all the clothes and shipping them to the next owner.
How much you earn: Your take-home pay varies per item that’s sold, but understandably, designer items go for much more than more mainstream brands.
Where to sign up: Poshmark or Thredup
Work Remotely Part-Time
FlexJobs and Indeed are great resources for finding part-time or contract remote work in practically any field that allows telecommuting. The most popular jobs are freelance writers, customer service representatives, and customer support specialists. Most companies offer flexible hours and some even have attractive benefit packages for those who can work full time remotely.
If you’re already out and about running errands for yourself, why not run other people’s errands and earn extra cash doing it? With Instacart and Amazon Fresh, you can shop and deliver groceries, while Doordash and Postmates let you pick up food and deliver them to homes that may be on your regular commuting route. TaskRabbit’s platform is more unique in that there are several errands that users can request help with, and sometimes custom requests are also made.
How much you earn: Customer service jobs pay an average of $17 an hour, freelance writers are paid anywhere from $5 per story to $250 for longer articles. Delivery services pay about $10-$25 an hour, according to this Geekwire article.
Where to sign up: Instacart, Amazon Fresh, Doordash, and Postmates for delivery services. FlexJobs and Indeed for remote work. TaskRabbit for errand-running.
Next Up…Your Dream Vacation!
So there you have it! Three verifiable and creative ways to save for travel, plus a bonus worksheet that helps you save for your vacation without breaking the bank. I hope that with these tips, you’ll be able to save money for travel and when you do finally get to go on vacation, you’ll be out there actually enjoying your trip instead of stressing out about how to pay it all back.
Happy travels and feel free to tag @urbantykes on your next family trip to be featured on our feed!
Billy Gozum is the Founder and CEO of Urban Tykes, a secure online marketplace that lets parents rent out their baby gear to families traveling to their city, giving families opportunities to travel lighter with baby when they rent the baby gear they need, and to earn extra income when they list their baby gear for rent on our platform. Billy is a proud girl mom and is a fierce advocate for traveling with kids. She has flown over 100,000 miles with her kids and shares her tips and advice to parents who experience travel anxiety in her Ultimate Guide to Flying with Kids. Billy encourages mindful parenting, especially when flying with children because kindness to yourself and others causes the most amazing ripple effects.