Writer: D'Lyn Ford
LAS CRUCES -- A savings account can help cushion the impact of vacation expenses. A New Mexico State University consumer education specialist offers ideas for getting money into the account.
Decide to put a specific amount from each paycheck into the vacation savings account, said Susan Wright with NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service.
"You can do this by having the bank automatically transfer the money from your checking to your savings account," she said. "To make it easier, have your employer automatically deposit your paycheck. The bank will take care of the rest. What you don't see, you won't miss."
Set up a collection station using a quart jar where all family members can contribute their loose change every night. Everyone will be able to see the "vacation fund" grow. When the jar is full, have the kids help roll the coins and determine what the savings account deposit will be.
"If you are in the habit of eating out every day -- try taking your lunch and save the amount you would spend for lunch," Wright said. "If all family members are willing to do this, quite a lot of money can be saved. Do the same with snacks and sodas. A six pack of soda costs just a fraction of what you pay for soda in the vending machine -- save the difference."
Another idea is to plan a movie night and rent a video instead of going to the theater. This will save a lot of money over time, Wright said. To really cut costs, rent "classic" movies, which cost only a fraction of "new" features. Pop popcorn, and then put all the money saved into the vacation savings account.
Also, save coupon money. "When you shop, use coupons for items you would buy anyway and save the amount of the coupon. If you save just $2 each week for groceries, that will be more than $100 to add to your savings account in a year," she said.
Another way to save is by baking children's birthday cakes instead of buying them. Make muffins for snacks instead of buying doughnuts at the bakery. "If you don't know how to make pie crust, bake a frozen pie instead of purchasing a ready-to-eat pie at the bakery," she said. "Or, get a cake mix and make a cake instead of the pie -- as long as there is something sweet to enjoy, most people will be happy."
Try shopping the grocery ads and plan menus using the meats and vegetables that are on special each week. Bank the difference that would have been paid at "regular" prices. "For nights when you promise the kids hamburgers, be sure to have french fries in the freezer and soda in the refrigerator," Wright suggested. Often burgers are inexpensive -- it's the fries and the drinks that really run the bill up.
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