A new year often means lofty resolutions, especially when it comes to planning and maintaining a travel budget.
Though there are many personal-finance sites and software out there, this year I’m resolving to use Mint.com‘s free online tool. You can create plans for saving toward retirement and buying a house, but I’ll be primarily using the site for its Travel Goals, which help you set — and stick to — realistic travel budgets.
And though the tool obviously doesn’t do the hardest part (you still have to save the money), it does track how far or close you are to achieving your Travel Goal.
For example, say you want to go to Hawaii for a week this summer. Once you create a budget by filling in the estimates for airfare, hotel, meals, and other expenses, you can then specify how much you will contribute to that Travel Goal each month.
If you underestimate how much you’d need to save per month, the online tool points out: “Oh no! You aren’t saving enough each month to reach your goal on time.” The tool then offers you two ways to fix your Travel Goal: increase your monthly contribution in order to reach your desired travel date or postpone your planned date to fit your monthly contribution.
If you stay on track with saving the specified amount each month, Mint.com’s budgeting tool highlights (and adjusts) the projected date of when you can afford to take the trip. Save more, and you could afford to take your trip a month or two earlier.
But if you slack on your monthly savings, the date will be pushed back — a reality check and an instant motivator. Once you mentally equate an unnecessary clothing purchase or an impulse buy to the consequence of delaying your trip by a month, saving becomes a little more real.
Granted, most people will buy plane tickets and reserve hotels with a credit card several months before actually taking the trip; the tool helps track if you’ll be able to easily pay it all off after your trip. After all, nothing ruins a vacation more than coming home to bills that you’re not financially prepared to handle.
To fund my travels this year, I’ve linked my Mint.com account to an ING Savings Account labeled Travel Fund.
How do you stay on track with saving up for a vacation?
[flickr image via epSoS.de]