Traveling without blowing a hole in our wallet

Mrs. Moneyseed and I have been married almost 3 years now, and we haven’t taken one actual vacation for leisure, as most of our previous vacation days were used to spend time with family, or to attend weddings, etc.

This year we’re breaking that mold as we are planning not one, but three, awesome vacations.

The first trip is to Orlando, Florida. We’ll be spending about a week in town hitting the tourist traps, but primarily spending our time hanging out with friends, cooking, lounging by the pool, drinking a few beers and playing the occasional board game*.

Expenses: ~$1000

The second trip is the big one, it’s a full-week resort getaway in Ecuador. Mrs. Moneyseed and I will be spending the week with Mr. Money Mustache, JD Roth, Jim Collins and Cheryl Reed, as well as 23 other lucky individuals, doing a little soul-searching as well as helping out the local community.

Expenses: ~$6000

The final trip will be to St Louis, Missouri for FinCon13, an event for personal finance bloggers to learn from, share, and network with some of the greatest members of the community. Apparently this conference is supposed to be the bee’s knees for us finance nerds.

Expenses: ~$1000

Every month we put $750 into our American Express high yield savings account so that we can put it towards new experiences/travels. Even though we have the money readily at hand to go on trips like these at our whimsy, it just wouldn’t be right unless we tried to somehow “earn” the $8000 so our savings would not only be unscathed due to our travels, but they would continue to grow.

Here are a few ways that we can save a little extra money to help absorb the costs of our travels:

  1. Refinancing our house. Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t doing this so we can go on vacation. We’re doing it because we were able to reduce our APR to 3.25%, which brings our payment down by $300/month. We are closing next week, so we will get a pass for April’s mortgage payment. That means we are saving $300/month May-December and saving $1900 in April for not having to make a payment. Total $4300
  2. Utilizing child care vacation days. It’s pretty standard that you have to pay for daycare year-round to keep your kids’ spots even if they are out for a day, a week, or longer. Our daycare center gives us 2 vacation-weeks a year (per child) where we can pull our kids out, and not have to pay for them for the duration. We will be fully taking advantage of this perk this year. Total $600
  3. Selling stuff. I can’t set an exact amount that we will receive from selling stuff this year, but just looking around the room right now all I can see is dollar bills. My aim is to sell at least $100 worth of crap online every month through December. Total $1000
  4. Credit card rewards. Traveling is a great time to cash in credit card reward points. At the beginning of the year we had a balance of $250 unused rewards, and we are projecting $800 additional points this year. Total $1050
  5. Blog income. Since two out of three of our trips can be written off as business expenses, it only makes sense to pay for as much as these trips with blog income as possible. To fully pay the remainder of trip expenses we would need to average $105 in blog income from now through December. Total (hopefully) $1050

Will everything go according to this perfect arrangement? Probably not, but unlike the typical American family, we aren’t just saving for vacations, we are trying to Save Our Savings as well. If we are $1k-$2k short in the end, then we still managed to not spend $6000 on traveling.

Saving money alone isn’t enough to get you ahead. It’s only enough to level you out. Back to zero. To accomplish this feat of traveling practically for free, you have to be creative, and try to find money where most people would overlook it.

What lengths do you go to to save money for traveling or other big expenses?

* In addition to being Personal Finance junkies, The Moneyseeds are also huge board game nerds.

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