Monthly Challenge: Start Planning and Saving for Your Vacation Now

Half the fun of going on vacation is dreaming about what you’ll do when you get there. Fresh oysters. Boat rides. Lounge chairs. Room service! The earlier you start saving for your trip, the more cash (and the less stress) you’ll have when you arrive.

That’s why our challenge this month is to start planning and saving for your next vacation now. Here are four steps to a sweet summer adventure:

1. Location, location, location. Where are you headed? The east coast? The west coast? The Hawaiian Islands? Whether you’re trying out a new locale or visiting an old fave, go ahead and pick your perfect spot before another month goes by.

2. Determine how much money you’ll spend. It’s time to dig into the details. Look up flights, estimate gas mileage, compare hotels, and think about meals. For example, if you’re driving to a beach that’s about eight hours away, you can estimate your fuel costs around $100, your hotel around $700, your food at $400, and your entertainment at $300. That makes your total budget $1,500.

3. Put it in your budget. The best way for that $1,500 to not end up on your credit card is to save your money before you go. Here’s how: If you’re heading out in five months, take that $1,500 and divide it by five. That equals $300 to save each month until your trip.

Meet your money goal each month by creating a vacation line item in your budget. You may have to temporarily cut back on a few flexible spending categories like clothes or coffee. And that’s perfectly fine. Just make sure you’re not cutting back on any long-term money goals like your emergency fund or retirement savings.

4. Watch it grow. There are two ways to keep up with your vacation money. You can simply make a fund in your EveryDollar budget, or you can auto draft that $300 into another savings account each month. In five months, you should have exactly what you need to enjoy the heck out of your dream vacation.

Bonus Tip: Go ahead and sign up for coupon alerts for your destination through Groupon, Living Social, or individual restaurant sites. It’s totally worth another email if you get half off the city’s best sushi or a huge discount on that spa treatment. You can unsubscribe when you get back! But for now, put your focus on getting there.

Start saving for a vacation with your EveryDollar budget, like now! Your week of chilling out awaits.