The hardest part about traveling is probably learning how to save for a big trip — it sounds like a straightforward thing, but you'd be surprised how many dollar-snatchers crop up throughout the week, emptying your wallet without you noticing. But the thing is, even if it's hard, if you really want to travel, you're going to keep hustling until you have enough coins in the "someday" jar to finally go.
But even just reading that feels painful — who likes to hustle and scrimp and save? How fun is it to buy the off-brand peanut butter or to cut Nutella out of your life? How realistic is it to swear you'll bow out of every Friday night hangout and never, ever grab any takeout until that boarding pass is in your hands? It sounds like a tough life you guys, and when things get a little too tough we have a tendency to drop them.
So how do you keep yourself motivated as you slowly build towards your backpacking goal? How do you not pull another "maybe next year" excuse out of your back pocket? Simple: You automate the saving. Don't let it sit there in your checking account, hoping that it won't be spent on a winter boot sale or wild night of rounds of drinks. And I'll tell you exactly how to avoid that — below are seven ways you can save for a trip without trying.
1. Switch Over To Just Using Cash
How easy is it to flash that plastic when you're about to buy a too-fancy drink at the bar, seduced into thinking it's a solid idea by the dim lights and the hot bartender? Now how painful is it when you watch a physical 20 dollar bill being broken and only getting a couple bucks back for said drink?
Yea. Real painful.
If you're serious about saving up for your trip, switch over to using cash immediately — it'll constantly stop you in your tracks. Lifestyle writer Emily Co at lifestyle site PopSugar pointed out, "If you're not responsible with your money, try to opt to live credit-card-free. Yes, you may be losing out on reward points or cash back, but if you're going into debt because you're not thinking about your purchases, perhaps you need to lay off charging things to credit." So tuck those cards away; at least until you have that ticket in your hand.
2. Sign Up For A Bank Of America "Keep The Change" Account
OK, if we're going to have a fighting a chance with this savings thing, we're going to have to automate a couple of steps so the burden of being responsible doesn't actually lay on our shoulders. Having said that, may I introduce you to the Bank of America "Keep the Change" account? Your checking account is linked with your savings, and every time you spend an amount, your change gets tossed over to your savings, letting you save penny by penny. For example, if you spend $2.53 on your morning doughnut, then you get charged $3 and 47 cents gets moved to your saving account. It might not seem like much, but after a while you'll have progress.
And the perks don't stop there. According to financial writer and analyst Glenn Curtis at financial site Investopedia, "For the first three months Bank of America even matches your virtual change deposits — up to a limit of up to $250 per year." That's free money towards your trip!
3. Move Any Unexpected Money Into Savings Immediately
Don't even look at the check. Don't take half a second to think about all the pretty and tasty things you can buy with it, because you're going to pretend it doesn't exist. Without missing a beat, tuck that sucker right away into your savings, not letting it meet your checking account under any circumstances. That way your nest egg has a chance of making it till the end. Co advised, "Funnel any windfall you get straight to your savings account. You won't even notice the loss, but you'll definitely see the gain in your savings!" Just tuck it away and forget about it.
4. Enroll in Wells Fargo's "Way2Save" Program
This program is pretty similar to Bank of America's "Keep the Change" account, but the difference is it's more aggressive. Rather than moving over loose change with each purchase, Wells Fargo upped the ante and will instead move a full dollar every time you use your debit card. Finance writer Paul Sisolak at finance-help site Go Banking Rates explained in detail, "Unlike Keep the Change, Way2Save doesn’t dabble in loose change, and automatically deposits $1 from your checking to the Way2Save account every time you make a debit card purchase, pay a bill online via Wells Fargo online bill pay or perform an automatic payment from your checking account." This way if you have both accounts, you'll save a lot faster without even noticing the small pocket change gone.
5. Take Out Any Singles From Your Wallet
Conversely, if you're using cash make sure you take out any singles from your money fold. If you automatically take them out at the end of every night, you'll be making a solid effort to scrimp up all your change. Financial writer Mark Riddix from finance help site Money Crashers offered, "At the end of each day, take your single dollar bills and save them. If you have $12 dollars left after you get home from work, take the 2 single dollar bills and place them in a jar."
In addition to this, try doing the same thing with every paycheck, just with hundreds. If you get $657 every two weeks, scoop up those $57 and dump them in your savings right away. That way, you're getting a bigger lump-deposit every month in addition to the spare pocket change.
6. Schedule Automated Savings From Every Paycheck
In addition to taking the change from a broken hundred every paycheck, see if you can schedule an automatic transfer every two weeks that would go directly into your savings account. It doesn't have to be a lot, but that way you have money moving over into your dog-eared account without you even thinking about it (or missing it.) For example, Riddix said, "Schedule small automatic transfers directly into your savings account. You can sign up at your local financial institution for part of your paycheck to be automatically deposited into your savings account." Have a hundred or two move over every month, and you'll be surprised how fast your account is growing.
7. Reevaluate Your Friend Group For The Time Being
Do you have a group of friends that love to go order appetizers and dessert with their entrees when you go out? Or do you have a group that likes trying out trendy cocktails a lot more than getting deals at Dollar Wednesday bars? If so, consider trying to hang out with a different friend group while you're trying to scrimp and save. Don't worry, it's not as harsh as it sounds. Co explained, "That's not to say that you should avoid your spendthrift friends like the plague, but be honest when you can't afford to do something instead of trying to keep up with the Joneses."
If one of your pals offers to go somewhere you know is going to set you back at least $20, just be honest with them about your plans and what you're working towards. If you can't make every Saturday night, then that's perfectly fine. You'll won't even miss it once you're relaxing on that beach you've wanted to go to for months now. Pinky promise.