It’s that time in the semester when students’ minds start turning to visions of spring break. Whether your dream destination is Miami, Cancun, Punta Cana, or anywhere in between, one thing is certain: You’ll need money to get there.
Here’s the catch: If you’re like most of the country’s college students, money is likely in short supply. But don’t give up on those dreams of sandy beaches and abundant sunshine just yet. Instead, implement the following strategies to save up enough dough for your dream spring break.
If you’re going to spend the next month or so cutting back on expenses, you’re going to need to give yourself a good reason. Consider posting pictures of your desired destination on your bulletin board or fridge, or write down a list of things that you’re looking forward to experiencing on spring break. Refer back to those pictures or that list every time you’re feeling tempted to splurge on new clothes or a night out at the bars. You can also enlist the support of friends and agree that you’ll all help hold each other accountable to your savings goals.
Make a budget.
When money is tight, making a budget can help ensure that you’re putting every penny to good use. Start by writing down all of your weekly expenses, and then identify areas where you can cut back. For example, can you take the bus or bike instead of driving to and from campus every day? Can you swap out bottled water for a reusable water bottle that you fill up at water fountains? Once you’ve eliminated superfluous expenses, assign yourself a dollar amount for each legitimate expense category (groceries, gas, and so on), and then commit to spending no more than that each week. Deposit all of your leftover cash in your spring break fund.
Take on extra hours at work (or pick up a part-time job).
If you already have a job, see if you can pick up a few extra hours each week, and deposit all of your overtime earnings into your spring break fund. If you don’t currently have a job, try to secure some part-time work in order to help meet your savings goals. Many schools offer on-campus work opportunities; you can also check with local restaurants or retail establishments to see if they’re hiring. Bonus: Not only will working part-time beef up your spring break savings account, but it’ll also provide you with fodder for your resume.
If you don’t have a job (or even if you do), it’s still possible to procure some income via some entrepreneurial spirit. Can you sell possessions that you don’t actually use (such as old textbooks) by listing them on Facebook, craigslist, ebay, or your school’s bulletin boards? Can you rent out an extra room in your apartment for a few weeks? Or you could get even more creative and consider selling t-shirts, busking, or offering to be the (paid) designated driver for your fellow students.
Cook your own meals.
One quick way to spend less? Stop eating out, and start cooking in your apartment or dorm. (You’ll be surprised by what you can accomplish with a mini fridge and a hot plate.) Instead of buying lunch on campus every day, start packing your own. Make things fun by alternating homemade dinners with friends—you cook Monday night, they cook Tuesday night, and so on. Pro tip: Whenever you buy groceries, be sure to make a shopping list ahead of time so you aren’t tempted to splurge on impulse buys.
It’s easy to lose track of spending when you pay for everything via a credit card. By using cash, you’ll keep tabs on how much you’ve spent in real time and will also know exactly when to stop spending. (Hint: It’s when your designated allotment of cash is gone.) It’s a particularly good idea to leave your credit card at home whenever you’re hitting the bars—that way you won’t wake up with a hangover and buyer’s remorse. No matter what, never carry a balance on your credit card(s).
Enlist the help of apps.
Apps like Unsplurge and Mint can help hold you accountable to your savings. They’ll let you identify goals and track your spending so that you always know where you stand with your budget. And when it’s time to actually book your trip, using travel apps can help ensure that you get the most bang for your hard-earned bucks.
Put your student ID to good use.
Most student IDs allow you to take advantage of discounts at local restaurants and retail establishments—meaning the key to great savings might be sitting in your wallet (provided you only use it for essential purchases, of course). Some student IDs even include deals for hotels, airfare, and trains. Know the benefits of your ID so you can put it to its best use both before and during vacation.
By scrimping a little, strategizing a lot, and keeping your eye on the prize, you’ll be able to save up for spring break—and enjoy it, too.