To make sure student debt doesn't prevent you a vacation, check out this expert advice for four steps you should take to travel on a budget.
With summer well underway, you're probably dreaming of a trip to the beach, the mountains, or some other awesome destination.
The only problem?
If you're repaying student loans, fitting a summer vacation into your budget may be a challenge.
To make sure student loan debt doesn't prevent you from taking flight, check out this expert advice for four money hacks you should take to afford an amazing trip this summer.
1. Figure out how much your vacation will cost
Coming up with the money to pay for a vacation quickly might be impossible when you have student loan bills and other large monthly expenditures. But with a little foresight, you can do things right.
“Instead of going on vacation on a whim, plan ahead,” advised Leslie Tayne, a debt attorney, student loan expert, and founder of Tayne Law Group. “You'll be able to find better deals on flights, hotels, and other vacation expenses. Plus, you'll have more time to save up for your trip.”
Planning ahead allows you to put aside money over time so you can afford both your student debt and your trip. “Rather than putting the entire trip on a credit card and acquiring interest and added debt, set a savings goal each month to cover your trip and any related travel expenses,” suggested Jill Caponera, a consumer savings expert.
Atiya Brown, an accountant with The Savvy Accountant and a certified financial education instructor, recommends starting the planning process by pricing out your vacation and determining the amount of money you need. Next, calculate the time until your vacation and use that number to set a weekly or biweekly savings goal. “I started planning in December and determined $1,000 was good, so that was 21 weeks of [saving] $47.62 weekly,” Brown said.
2. Budget to afford student loans and summer vacation
Knowing how much to save for vacation is just the start. To afford your trip, you must follow through and save the funds.
To do that, consider starting a vacation account and making automatic contributions from each paycheck. “Transfer your money automatically from your payroll so you don't see the money in your take-home [pay],” Brown said. If your contributions to your vacation savings fund are automatic, you'll be sure to have the money you need.
While it can be hard to come up with the extra cash to save, look at your spending to find areas where you're wasting cash. “If there are things that you can do without, cut them from your budget,” Tayne said. For example, you could drop cable TV or cut down on eating out. That could help you afford to both pay your student loans and afford a trip.
If your debt is stopping you from saving for a vacation or other goals, you also could consider refinancing your student loans to secure a lower interest rate or lower your monthly payments. With that savings, you'll have extra wiggle room in your budget.
Caponera also suggested giving up spending entirely for periods of time. “Try a no-spend week each month,” she said. “Other than gas in your car and groceries in your fridge, try at least one no-spend week for the rest of the summer where you don't spend money on any extras. You'd be surprised how much extra money you'll have when you're not on a constant spending spree.”
3. Take advantage of deals and discounts
The cheaper your trip, the less you have to save. To cut vacation costs without compromising quality, shop carefully for bargains.
“Aug. 23 has been dubbed National Cheap Flight Day, with flight prices dropping significantly during the last week of August,” Caponera said. “It's also a great idea to use flight tracking apps such as Airfarewatchdog to monitor price changes on your desired flights and set up alerts for price drops. Be ready to book immediately if you see a great deal — oftentimes, they'll spike back up in the same day.”
You also can find discounts using mobile devices. “These days, there's an app for everything, including hotels and airfare,” Tayne said. “Apps such as Hopper and Groupon often offer great deals on accommodations. You may even find a package deal that includes [a] hotel and dining or a rental car and airfare.”
4. Consider a staycation
If it's too late for you to save up for a lavish trip, you can enjoy new experiences by taking a staycation close to home.
“You could take advantage of the sights and attractions near you and end up having a wonderful vacation — and save money too,” Tayne said. “Do some research to find out what your area has to offer: a hike in the mountains, landmarks, beaches, or national parks. A staycation could be just what the doctor ordered.”
Traveling when you have student loans is possible, but you have to be smart about it.
You either need to earn enough money to live frugally and put the majority of your earnings into paying off debt, or save up a lot of money before you leave. You can also consider picking up a side hustle or learning about ways to make money fast.
Either way, traveling while you are still in repayment is definitely something that requires careful consideration.