Every Friday I publish “Frugal Friday!“, an open-ended series with some of the simple and best ways to really save you money both now and in the future.
So, winter is over and it’s time to start thinking about holidays. Whether it’s a camping trip to Bangor, hiking in the Pyrenees or sitting on a beach in Tunisia, the sad unavoidable fact is – holidays cost money. With the cost of living and financial uncertainty still high and getting higher, the time to start saving is now.
Here are 10 smart tips to make this year’s holiday affordable, whatever your budget.
1. Hunt around for deals to cut costs
Many holiday companies are offering great deals on package holidays and even including extras such as free car hire or ‘kids travel free’ deals. If you’ve earned enough miles in a frequent flyer programme, use them for air travel instead of paying for your flights to make the overall cost of the holiday less.
2. Don’t be afraid to haggle the price
You can also – despite what we may culturally be accustomed to - haggle with your tour operator to get a better deal, or get them to throw in free upgrades such as a dedicated taxi from the airport to your hotel rather than a group taxi. Click the link to see my 6 tips for getting your own way when haggling.
3. Consider what it is you actually want
If money is tight this year, consider changing the type of holiday you go on. If you usually stay in a hotel, why not try self-catering? If a villa is your usual ‘home-from-home’, try a caravan or chalet instead. Camping is fun and usually the cheapest option. Holidays in the UK outside of mainstream accommodation are often cheaper than travelling over the channel or flying to far-off destinations, particularly in the school holidays. If all you want is to relax, it doesn’t really matter if it is Los Angeles or Littlehampton.
4. Make a plan and set a savings target
Once you’ve decided on your holiday, create a budget so you know how much you need to save. Find out what it will cost for travel, accommodation, meals, car hire, petrol, activities and spending money. Add those costs up to get a savings target and then add another 2% for contingencies.
5. Open another bank account
Keep your holiday funds totally separate from your normal money environment and savings. This way, you will be less tempted to dip into them for general spending or emergencies (that’s what you emergency fund is for). Try to pick an account that has no fees and earns interest. Make sure it is one that will let you take out your cash when you need it without too much hassle – an account managed online would be a good choice.
6. Make it happen automatically
Put funds into your holiday savings account on a regular basis, so you’re on track to hit your target. Set up a direct debit or standing order depending on the account type so you don’t even have to think about it.
7. Make use of unexpected cash
If the rest of your saving goals are on target but the holiday fund takes lowest precedence due to the financial climate, consider increasing your holiday savings by putting any extra cash into your holiday account. Tax refunds, work bonuses, car boot sale proceeds, money generated from online auctions – every little bit helps!
8. Don’t put it on credit
While I’d advocate paying for your holiday on a credit card to take advantage of the Section 75 Protection it affords, make sure to pay it off in full when the bill comes in by using the money put aside already in your holiday savings account. If your family holiday costs £3,000 then paying credit card interest on it at 14% or considerably worse will quickly make the holiday a misery when you come back as worse case scenario you’ll still be paying it off when next year comes around!
9. Beware of excess baggage charges
Be careful what you buy on holiday as you will probably end up having to pay an excess baggage charge to take it back with you. Most airlines only offer 20kgs free for economy class passengers at most, which quickly disappears with just normal luggage. Start throwing in nic-nacs, bottles of olive oil and other heavy items and those kilograms will soon be draining the last of your holiday cash.
10. Take requests, don’t impulse buy
We’ve all been there. “Look at this! Isn’t that beautiful? I bet Aunt Betty would love it”. Multiply that by 10 relatives and 15 friends and you’ve filled another suitcase with souvenirs that only 3 of them will actually appreciate. By all means take requests for items to be brought back but don’t impulse buy things that nobody really wants. You’ll waste spending money, and probably fall foul of the excess baggage charges, too.
Got a tip? Share yours in the comments!