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Personal Budget Tweaks to Boost Your Summer Vacation Fund

After a cold and bleak winter, many Americans are eagerly looking forward to a summer vacation. A great vacation can be expensive, however, and if you plan one, your personal budget may need modification to accommodate the expense. By starting now, you'll have time to ensure you have the funds you need for a memorable summer vacation. Make moderate changes to your personal budget, you can enjoy a vacation this summer without taking on unnecessary debt, and come home without the dread of overburdened credit cards. Here's what you need to do.

Track Income and Spending

Every personal budget starts with the basics of knowing your income and spending. For most people, tracking monthly income is fairly straightforward. Freelancers and other self-employed people, however, need to look over several months' worth of income data to get an idea of what average monthly income is like.

Tracking spending can be tedious, but it's still the best way to find out where you are overspending. Using a personal budget system like Mint.com is a terrific way to make sense of your income and spending and track progress toward your goal of a summer vacation. You can even make your vacation savings a line item in your personal budget.

Once you know income and spending levels, you can use several tactics to help you afford your vacation.

Tactic One: Reduce Spending

The easiest way for most people to save money toward a goal is to reduce unnecessary spending, and that's why tracking spending is so important. Most people are surprised to discover how much they spend every month on unnecessary products and services or engaging in "retail therapy."

One of the easiest ways to reduce spending is to prepare more meals and snacks at home. Not only do you save money, you usually eat healthier as well. Reevaluating phone, cable, and internet providers is another way to cut spending. Switching to a cheaper phone or cable plan, or ditching cable altogether in favor of Netflix can free up quite a bit of money.

Tactic Two: Increase Income

Making more money to fund your summer vacation is another option, but it requires more effort than cutting spending. If you work where you can ask for more work hours, that's one way to boost income. You could also consider taking a second job and funneling the money earned there toward your vacation fund.

A spouse who is out of the paid workforce may be able to sign on with a temp agency to bring in some vacation money, and kids from middle school on up can earn their own vacation spending money. Kids who are too young for traditional work can often earn well doing yard work, babysitting, or doing housework for neighbors.

Tactic Three: Stretch Vacation Dollars

Don't wait until the last minute to book airline tickets. You'll usually get the best fares if you buy your tickets approximately eight weeks before you leave. You can also sign up for air fare alerts and sometimes score very low fares. But be aware that fares in general are higher during the traditional summer vacation months of June, July, and August. Putting your trip off until September can save you money on both air fares and lodging.

Plan to stay in lodging with basic kitchen facilities so you can prepare many of your own vacation meals, or purchase groceries at your destination that you can enjoy in your hotel room. Breakfast foods, snacks, and soft drinks are much cheaper if you buy them at a supermarket rather than using vending machines and dining out for every meal.

If you're going to a destination with adequate public transportation, or where many attractions are within walking distance, you may not need to rent a car there. When choosing lodging, don't forget locally owned hotels, which are often less expensive than chains. You can often do enough research online to pick lodgings with the best combination of price and amenities. Be sure to read traveler reviews too, to avoid unpleasant surprises.

A summer vacation is more than just a great time with family or friends. It can deliver you home refreshed and ready for your kids' upcoming school year and energize you for your return to work. If you start planning now, you can look forward to a fun vacation without overspending and get your personal budget in better shape at the same time.

Photo Credit: Michal Marcol / freedigitalphotos.net

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