You’ve always dreamed of taking a trip to Paris and getting to practice your rusty high school French. In your dream, you’d have breakfast at a quaint French cafe, maybe a flaky, buttery croissant or two and then tour the Louvre in the afternoon. Somewhere along the way you’d meet a gorgeous French man who would fall madly in love with you and sweep you right off your little American feet. Whatever happened to that dream?
Maybe money (or lack thereof) is the reason that you never fulfilled your Paris dream. But even in today’s economy, money should not hold you back. In fact, with the proper planning there is no reason that you can’t be on a plane headed to the most romantic city in the world within the next 9 months. If women can carry a baby (or eight as in the Octomom’s case) in nine months or less, there’s no reason that you can’t accomplish a simple task such as saving for a Paris vacation in the same amount of time.
Step One: Buy a Calendar
If your dream vacation is to Paris, try to find a Paris calendar. If it’s London, find a London calendar, etc. Once you have your dream vacation calendar, circle the date that is nine months from today in red on your calendar. This is your target date to have your vacation fully funded.
Step Two: Create a Dream Trip Itinerary
Spend an afternoon at Borders researching your dream destination. Make note of every attraction you want to visit and how long you plan on staying there. Try to be as detailed as possible because your trip itinerary is what will influence step three.
Step Three: Add Up All Your Dream Trip Expenses
Sit down with your calculator and a travel site like Orbitz.com and figure out how much this dream vacation of yours is going to cost you. Include everything – flight, hotel, rental car, food, musuems, etc. Add it up and now you have the exact amount of money that you’ll need to save up for this dream vacation of yours. Write this number inside the red-circled date on your calendar. Then break down your goal amount into more manageable weekly or monthly goals.
Step Four: Cut Costs
Take a look at your budget and see if you can find any places where you might be able to trim a little fat and contribute this amount towards your dream vacation fund. Can you live without cable for 9 months? If not, then how about 3 months? Don’t overlook any area of your budget. Whether it’s your clothing budget (no new shoes for 9 months!) or even food your food budget (living on peanut butter and jelly or Top Ramen for month) there is hidden money to be found. Figure out what you can give up and re-direct this money directly to your dream vacation fund.
Step Five: Create More Income
You can create additional income in a variety of ways. The most obvious would be to get a huge raise at work, but even if there isn’t a huge raise in your future, you can still increase your paycheck. Ask your Payroll rep if you can increase the withholdings on your W-4 so that you’ll see more money in your paycheck instead of having to wait till you file your taxes the following year.
If you’ve squeezed all the money you can out of your company, it’s time to get creative. Consider moonlighting as a waitress or bartender on evenings and weekends. Sell things from your apartment on eBay. Take up a writing gig. Work as a weekend receptionist. Start a blog and place Google ads on it. Do whatever you have to do, but the point is to get extra money coming in. Make sure any extra income goes directly into your dream vacation fund and doesn’t get spent at Prada instead.
Step Six: Force Yourself to Save
Place a coin jar in your kitchen and drop all your loose change into it at the end of the day. Sign up for your bank’s automatic savings plan and have a portion of your paycheck automatically deposited into your savings account. Some banks even have a program where purchases are rounded up to the nearest dollar and the difference is redirected to your savings.
Use coupons for everything and place your savings in your dream vacation fund. Try visiting sites like http://slickdeals.net or http://hotcouponworld for all the latest deals and freebies available.
Step Seven: Reward Yourself
Every time you meet your weekly or monthly dream vacation fund goal, treat yourself to a little something. It could be as simple as renting your favorite movie about Paris to celebrate or buying yourself those cute luggage tags or passport cover that you spotted in your favorite boutique. The point here is to stay focused on your goal without depriving yourself of life’s simple pleasures. If you think you might go overboard with rewarding yourself, set a limit beforehand so you know whether you can spend $5 or $25.
Step Eight: Revisit your dream trip itinerary every month
You should continue to research your dream destination until you become an expert. Talk to friends or other people who have vacationed there before and ask them to share their travel secrets and tips with you. Then adjust your dream trip itinerary and dream vacation fund accordingly. You may find a cheaper hotel, discover a rock-bottom flight or learn that a certain tourist attraction isn’t worth the trouble (or money).
Step Nine: Stop Making Excuses
Once you’re on your way to reaching your goal and money is no longer an issue, you’ll probably create new excuses for not going to Paris or your chosen dream destination. Maybe you think your work won’t be able to survive with you. They will. Maybe none of your friends wants to take two weeks off to tour Paris. Go alone. Maybe you think you should use your Paris fund for something more sensible. Don’t. Years from now you won’t regret missing work or going solo, but you will regret not following your heart and going to Paris.