Do you look through your window past the dreary grey winter sky and dream of a sandy beach and soothing sunshine? Do you prefer the May flowers to the April showers? Summer vacation is probably the best cure for what ails you, but we all know they can be pretty expensive.

So how do you save up for a summer vacation? When you approach a vacation budget as a year-long process, it turns out that it’s a lot easier than you might think, and I’m here to show you how.

How to Start a Vacation Fund

So we’re starting with a goal of $2,500 – broken up over the course of a year, that’s around $210 a month. Think about what you want to do, where you’re going, and all of the necessary expenses:

  • Travel
  • Food
  • Incidentals
  • Souvenirs
  • Lodging
  • Attractions
  • Supplies – sunscreen, clothing specific to the area, snacks, and so on

Once you know what everything will cost (roughly), you can better understand your budget. It’s a good idea to give yourself a few hundred dollar buffer, so if your expenses total more than $2,500, consider increasing your budget a bit. Now all you have to do is start the process of putting aside $210 each month.

Open a vacation savings account

Freeing up or earning an extra $210 each month isn’t going to help you if it gets spent before summer rolls around. The first thing you want to do is open a savings account just for your vacation and don’t touch it. Make it a goal to put $210 into it each month, more if you can comfortably do it.

If you get a direct deposit regularly, you can set up your account to auto-transfer a certain amount to your savings. Even a small transfer of each paycheck is an easy way to ensure you don’t spend the vacation money before it goes to your savings account.

Now that we have the account set up for your vacation, let’s find some ways to fill it with cash!

Ways to save money for a vacation

If your budget is tight, you will need to make some changes to make your $210 fit into it each month. From cutting some monthly bills to changing how you shop, here are some of the best ways to save money for your vacation.

Use cashback credit cards

One of the best money hacks is to have a cashback credit card that you pay off each month. We have one that we only use for gas and groceries, and we pay the balance each month because it never gets too high. Every dollar we generate through the cashback program is free money in our pockets.

While credit cards can be scary, if you use them wisely and take advantage of their perks (like cashback), they can help you save for your vacation. Learning to be savvy with credit cards can even help you get out of debt!

Clean up your budget

We live in an age where our budget is nickel-and-dimed worse than ever before. A few dollars on a coffee each day, or an extra $5/month for an additional streaming service doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up. Making your coffee at home alone can save you $20 or more each week, and that’s just one small change. If your family likes to dine out, drop one restaurant and cook at home instead – that alone could be $40 or more.

Take a look at your budget and find where you’re spending extra money on something you don’t really need. Now imagine that money going towards a ski trip or a beach vacation – doesn’t that sound better?

Use shopping apps to save money

I love saving money on my everyday shopping, and many apps and browser extensions automatically find discounts online. Some even give you cashback for using their platform. Utilizing all or even a few of these programs will help you save money for a vacation quickly and easily.


It’s no secret that I love Rakuten. It’s a great way to get discounts and cashback on your everyday shopping. Simply go to the Rakuten site, find the store you want to shop at and click through the Rakuten link. You’ll get a discount on your order as well as a percentage of your total back as cash in your Rakuten account. Every quarter they send you a direct deposit for the amount in your account.

Because you can count on the quarterly checks, you can plug that amount into your vacation budget. Consider the boost to your vacation fund if you buy items you need for your trip with a cashback credit card through Rakuten. Now that’s a money-saving hack! Sign up for Rakuten through my link and get $10 cash in your account when you make your first purchase!


Honey is a browser extension that automatically finds discounts and coupons online when you’re checking out at just about any online store. It applies them to your cart so you always get a nice discount and you don’t have to go hunting for expired coupon codes, either. You can signup for free here and start raking in the savings today.


The Ibotta app saves you money and gives you cash back on grocery trips. When you’ve opened your account, Ibotta will tell you about deals and specials at local grocery stores in your area. Often the deals will include several items bought together – a frozen pizza, soda, and popcorn, for instance. When you’ve checked out, you simply snap a photo of your receipt and Ibotta does the rest, sending you cash back into your account.

One tiny extra step for some free cash in your pocket is a pretty great exchange. If you sign up for Ibotta through my link, you’ll get $5 in your account with your first purchase. Start earning free money towards your summer vacation with Ibotta today!

Earn some extra cash with a side hustle

The internet is full of ways to make some cash on the side. If you’re a digital artist, writer, or great with web design, there are tons of sites where you can make money right now. Sites like Writer Access, Upwork, and Fiverr allow you to leverage your skills into a weekly or monthly paycheck that you earn in your spare time. If you want some ideas, check out this list of work-from-home side hustles you can start today.

Surveys and games that pay cash

If you’d rather play games or use your phone to passively gain income, some sites and apps can help. Inbox Dollars is a survey site that I’ve been using for years to earn extra spending cash in my free time. You can answer quick questionnaires for a small payout, and they add up quickly. There are also games you can play for rewards as well. Sign up through my link and get $5 immediately in your account – that’s 1/40th of your monthly goal already!

Then there’s ShopTracker which gathers non-personal data about your shopping habits and pays you $3/month. You don’t need to check in each day, play games, or answer questions. It simply sits on your phone and you get paid.

Get paid while you create your beach body

Whether or not you’re going to the beach on vacation, summertime inspires many people to drop some pounds. Some apps and sites want to pay you to get healthy. If you’re already working off that winter weight, why not get vacation funds, too?


This site interfaces with your phone to track your movement each day and gives you points. When you’ve reached 10,000 points (it’s faster than you might think), they pay you $10. You also get points for answering questions about your exercise and eating habits. If you’re already making healthier lifestyle choices, Achievement pays you and encourages you to keep on track.


I love StepBet! It’s an app that allows you to bet money that you’ll complete a targeted number of steps per day. It syncs up with your phone, fitness-tracking watch, or other wearable fitness tech and tracks your movement. You get put into a challenge with other people and the pot is split among those who complete the challenge. While you don’t make a ton of money with StepBet, it’s a great way to keep motivated to complete your daily step goals while earning a little bit of extra money.

Get Paid to Lose Weight

Now if you want to lose weight and make a lot of money, Healthy Wage is for you. The site works by helping you choose a target amount of weight to lose in a set amount of time. Then, you choose an amount of money you’d like to wager each month and Healthy Wage bets against you. For instance, my husband bet $50 each month and made $676 when he reached his goal. Some people make thousands of dollars when they complete their challenges with Healthy Wage – it’s legit and a great motivating factor to lose weight.

You can read more about my husband’s experience with Healthy Wage, and if you want to sign up, head straight to the sign-up page! If you’re already wanting to lose weight – for summer vacation or just in general – Healthy Wage is a great way to stay motivated and make some good money.

Get started saving for your summer vacation today

If you make saving for your vacation a year-long process, you’ll find it’s pretty easy. Only $210 per month gives you $2,520 to work with, and that’s a good budget for a family trip. Remember to start a savings account specifically for your vacation and do not touch that money. If you can afford to, have some of each paycheck auto-transfer into that account from your direct deposit.

Cutting out small extras in your budget – like eating out less or making coffee at home – can add up quickly.

Using shopping apps like Rakuten, Ibotta, or Honey will pay you money back for making purchases online. If you combine this with a cashback credit card you pay off every month, that’s free cash in your pocket for next to no additional effort. If you find that these changes aren’t enough, you can earn extra cash with some side hustles or apps on your phone.

Cutting costs, shopping smarter, and earning some extra money each month will make it easy to save up for a summer vacation. Now the only problem you’ll have is getting everyone to agree on where to go!

Do you have some hacks for gathering a summer vacation budget? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Website | + posts

Thrifty Guardian was founded as a way to help parents lead richer lives through money saving tips, side hustle ideas, and parenting advice (including fun DIYs and recipes!)