In a time of crippling student loans and credit card debt, taking a vacation can seem like an impossible task. Don’t get me wrong, if I’m in financial ruins, taking a vacation and spending more money doesn’t really seem like a wise thing to do — but if you don’t take a break from the stress, your mind and body takes one for you anyway. We recently took two road trips, one to Marfa and one to North Carolina, and now that I’m back, I am so grateful to have taken a little break. If you had asked me a month ago if I would be going anywhere this summer, I would have looked at you like you were crazy. Saving up the money can seem really discouraging and impossible at times, after all.

So how do you save up for a vacation when you’re totally broke? I have a few tips that definitely helped me:

1. If you’re going on a road trip, plan go with as many people as possible.

This will save you money on gas, and you can even work out a plan for everyone to bring some kind of food for the trip. It’s like a road trip potluck! You may have to take a few more restroom stops, but you won’t be paying nearly as much for gas. Score!

2. If your bank offers it, enroll in a Keep The Change program or enroll in auto-draft for a savings account.

It’s harder to save up money when you have to manage it yourself, or if you know it’s there. I know I’ll be more likely to spend $200 if I know that I have some extra money laying around. Why not trick yourself by enrolling it into a savings account or Keep The Change program? Mark recently checked his Bank of America savings account after he enrolled in a Keep The Change program a few years ago, and he has almost $800! Wow! 

3. If savings accounts aren’t your thing, deduct a certain amount from your paycheck and start your own Adventure Fund. 

Setting aside money in my standard bank account is impossible. It’s not that I’m bad with money, but I can be a bit impulsive when it comes to shopping. So if I’m saving up for a certain vacation or shopping trip, I have to go to the ATM and put the money in a labeled jar or give it to Mark to hide for me. It’s kind of fun keeping tabs on the jar and watching the money grow after some time, and it actually deters me from breaking into it if it’s clearly labeled. It sounds crazy, but it works. Print out a photo of the destination or write down a few things you want to see while on vacation and tape it to the jar — it will be more difficult to dip into your savings.

4. Don’t go out to eat or to the bars for a little while in order to save up.

It sounds kind of crazy, but food and drinks really add up. We completely stopped going out to eat and going to the bars about a week before our vacation, and it was nice having an extra bill or two to spend while we were in another place. If this is really difficult for you, just tell yourself that you’re saving up to eat meals and drink in new and exciting surroundings. Once you take your vacation, you’ll be glad that you have the money to live like the locals and try a bunch of new places. You’ve been saving up for this trip, so order whatever you like — you’re on vacation!

5. Price-check everything for your trip, just in case.

Before we left for Marfa, I couldn’t believe that Mark wasn’t planning on getting a hotel until we arrived. I don’t think so! I’m a huge planner, so I made sure to check the prices for everything and double-checked our reservation before we left. You don’t want any financial surprises while you’re gone!

6. Check Groupon for fun deals going on around your destination.

Groupon is a great resource for saving money and having fun. You can find great deals on restaurants, local sights… just about anything! Just make sure to double-check the terms before you buy.

How do you save for vacations? 

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