Goal: Affording Your Dream Vacation!

Too many people go to their graves having never taken that one trip they always dreamed of solely because the total cost of the trip was too daunting. Follow these steps to “find” the money and set sail within just a couple years.

Financial goals are rarely about dollars in the bank — they are about realizing a dream that requires financial backing. So rather than using the word “goal,” which can sound restrictive or negative, I like to use the word “dream” when helping clients set up a savings plan. And “dream” doesn’t mean unattainable or far-reaching. In fact, if you’ve stopped dreaming, I bet you often find yourself asking, “What’s it all for?”

Therefore the first step in setting and achieving financial goals or dreams is to re-start your dreaming. Do you have a trip, home or purchase that you’ve always passed off as pie-in-the-sky or “someday?” When you look at the total price of such a dream, do you sigh and think to yourself, “Maybe when I win the lottery?” Well, today is the day that I challenge you to turn someday into an actual date, no lottery ticket required. With a smidge of discipline and a little time, you can take that trip or have that house.

Perhaps you’ve always dreamed of taking an Alaskan cruise. With flight and cruise packages, this fantastic trip can cost upwards of $5,000 for two people. (This figure is based on a room with a balcony, departing out of Seattle for a 7-day roundtrip cruise) That amount can seem daunting and impossible if you are a typical American who struggles to keep $5,000 in the bank for emergency purposes. I’m here to tell you that it is entirely possible with a little planning. Here’s how:

Let’s say you and your beloved are preparing to celebrate your 38th wedding anniversary. (Congratulations!) Wouldn’t it be a treat to embark on an Alaskan cruise to celebrate your 40th? If you start saving today, you can get there without even breaking out a credit card. This year, rather than giving your sweetie a store-bought gift for your anniversary, head down to the bank or credit union and set up a 40th anniversary trip savings account.

Start your account with an initial deposit of $100 — remember you don’t have to buy an anniversary gift this year, so stretch a little to start saving toward your dream. You then need an additional $4,900 to realize your dream. Since you have two years, or 24 months until the big day, you’ll need to put away about $200 per month.

If you are paid every other week, that equals $100 per paycheck. When you split the amount with your beloved (after all, your gift to him is STARTING the account, but he should help you get there), it’s just $50 each per pay.

Make your savings automatic via payroll deduction or automatic transfer, and without any pain at all, you will be setting sail for glaciers, polar bears and Eskimos. Bon voyage!

A version of this post was published in the Cincy Chic column “Cents & Sensibility” on February 1, 2010.

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