According to Fortune, Americans abandon 429 million paid vacation days every year. Moreover, people in developed nations across Europe spend far more time away from the office than American employees.
If your bank account is the main reason that life is all work and no play, maybe you're missing out on some tricks that could make saving for vacation easier. Saving money for vacation doesn't have to include exhausting side jobs and austerity. If you know how to make extra money and save money at the same time, a relaxing vacation could be in your future.
Click through for 50 ways to make your vacation dream a reality.
Create a Budget
Virtually all personal finance experts can agree on one thing: Having a consistent, simple spending budget is critical to saving for anything, including a vacation. You must keep track of what's coming in and what's going out if you're going to save. Luckily, Mint and Wave offer free budgeting software that links all your cards and accounts for convenient tracking.
Threaten to Cancel Service
According to Barry Gross, founder and president of BillCutterz.com, the simple act of threatening to cancel a service can get you a lower rate on monthly expenses, from cable to web hosting. Start by calling customer service and saying "cancel service" when you get the auto prompt.
"They might ask if you are moving," Gross said. "Say 'no.' This will immediately escalate your call to their retention department, which offers significantly higher discounts than just the general customer service department."
Ask for Discounts on Bills
Gross also suggests that cost-savvy consumers call up their service providers and negotiate on bills by asking open-ended questions like, "Where can you save me money?"
"If you ask, 'can you give me a cheaper rate?,' they can just say, 'sorry, no I can't,'" Gross said.
Be polite, call at off-peak times and, most importantly, don't let the customer service person respond to your request for a lower bill with an offer of extra service, like free HBO for three months. Comps might be nice, but they don't net you cash for that dream vacation.
Spend Less on Transportation
Social sites like Meetup.com and GroupCarpool.com host rideshare groups that get together to carpool for both commuting and long-distance journeys. The most expensive way to travel is alone. By carpooling, you effectively split the bill with other motorists.
The money you save can go into your vacation fund and, as an added bonus, you do the world a favor by getting a car off the road.
Cut or Trim Your Own Hair
According to Angie's List, the average haircut costs $28 for a man and $43 for a woman. Cutting your own hair — or at least trimming it between cuts to stretch out trips to the stylist — can add up to real savings. YouTube offers plenty of tutorials on how to cut and layer by yourself.
If you're not feeling adventurous, you can always visit a salon school. The student hairdressers offer discounts but are supervised by experienced stylists.
Ask for Loyalty Credits
Negotiating your bills can lead to real vacation savings. But don't stop with lower payments. "Ask if they can give you any 'loyalty' credits," Gross said. "They usually will give you a $25 or $50 one-time credit."
Buy the Right Things at the Dollar Store
While it's true that dollar stores offer great savings on everyday items for the home, buyers should do their research to determine the best buys.
Things like greeting cards, party supplies and balloons are usually steals at dollar stores, as are cosmetics, sunscreen and hair accessories. Avoid soda, which you can get cheaper at big box and grocery stores, as well as school supplies, which you can find for cheap at stores like Staples.
Keep It Simple and Un-Trendy
According to certified career coach Jess Chua, you can save big bucks on clothing without looking like a pauper — and you can pass those savings on to your vacation fund.
"Build a minimalist wardrobe that is focused on classic styles and fabrics," Chua said. "The choice of clothing should flatter your body type and reflect your personal sense of style. There is a tendency to waste more money if you follow fashion trends blindly and end up buying clothes, shoes and bags that are not essential."
Stay Beautiful on the Cheap
Many expensive beauty products have inexpensive, homemade alternatives.
"Search for affordable and effective DIY natural skincare recipes," Chua said. "For example, a turmeric face mask has been used since ancient times to rejuvenate skin. Natural ingredients like turmeric and organic raw honey possess anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that treat and repair the skin."
Cut the Cord
Your cable bill might be dragging down your budget. Today, there are cheap streaming services that can replace almost everything you love about cable.
"Cancel your cable subscription," Chua said. "Get a Hulu/Netflix subscription, Roku stick or Amazon Prime TV streaming instead. A TV antenna will also allow you to watch free broadcast TV, with access to networks such as CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox and more."
Get a Side Hustle
You can earn extra money from the comfort of your own home with a side gig that's more convenient than an actual part-time job.
"Use an online database like FlexJobs to search for legitimate, work-from-home jobs," Chua said. "Data entry, social media management, medical coding, talent acquisition and writing/editing tasks are some examples of jobs which can be done remotely."
Don’t Eat Out
If you look at your credit card statements, and you see more than just one or two dining receipts every month, your vacation fund wants you to cut back.
"Prepare your own coffee/tea and meals at home," Chua said. "Your wallet will thank you whenever you forego Starbucks or replace a restaurant lunch with a home-cooked meal."
Keep Out the Draft
Any money saved on energy costs can go directly into your vacation fund.
"Cover your windows with plastic," said Joseph Templin, managing director of Lamp of Castle Holdings and author of "Financial Mistakes of Young Americans: What They Didn't Teach You!" "In addition to making your apartment or house warmer, you can easily save $20 to $40 a month this winter."
Host a Clothing Swap
A clothing swap is a party that provides attendees with some new wardrobe items. Invite people of all shapes and sizes, preferably at the end of the season when they're ready to clean out their closets.
According to Oprah.com, it's wise to determine a maximum and minimum number of articles every person should bring and make sure everyone knows to bring items that are washed and folded. Ask them to add some accessories and swap away.
Head to the Library
For entertainment, Templin suggests visiting an amazing, free resource that exists in nearly every town and city in the country: the public library. Offering far more than just books, libraries let users rent everything from DVDs to video games for free.
Hungry? Call for Reinforcements
You don't want to waste money by dining out, but you want to have some fun and live a little while you're saving for vacation. "Get together with friends for a cooking dinner party instead of going out," Templin said. "Rotate among friends weekly."
Get a Coin Jar
Small change can quickly turn into big vacation savings. "Take all the change you generate every single day, both bills and coins from purchases, and put it in a jar or basket," said Stephen Lesavich, PhD, JD and co-author of "The Plastic Effect: How Urban Legends Influence the Use and Misuse of Credit Cards." "This will allow you to save money every single day."
Open a Dedicated Savings Account
The act of opening a savings account exclusively for your vacation fund can make you want to save more and watch it grow.
"Open a new savings account at your bank or credit union," Lesavich said. "Set up a small ($5, $10, $20, $50, etc.) auto withdrawal from whatever bank account your payroll check is deposited into to your new savings account."
Pay Yourself First
If you want to start taking saving seriously, treat your vacation fund as you would any other bill. Said Lesavich, "It will be automatically handled, so once you set it up, you will never have [to] think about it again. Even a $20 monthly auto withdrawal gives you $240 at year's end — enough to spend on vacation or handle a small emergency."
According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, Americans waste as much as $44 billion a year on name brands. CNN reported that, on average, Bayer aspirin costs $6.29, while the store brand costs just $2.27 — $1.14 on sale. The moral of the story is to buy generic whenever possible.
Related: Best and Worst Things to Buy Generic
Get a Good Travel Rewards Credit Card
The best travel-themed credit cards incorporate big bonuses that quickly allow users to earn enough miles or points to fly virtually for free. GOBankingRates.com compiled a list that lets readers see the best travel rewards credit cards.
Get a Good Cash-Back Rewards Card
Cash-back cards can be as good as those that award airline miles for travelers. By accumulating cash back, and not touching what you've earned, you automatically build a travel savings account that you can use on vacation.
According to Psychology Today, people are more reluctant to spend money when they use cash. Since you can't physically see money disappearing from your wallet, credit and debit cards take the pain out of spending and therefore encourage overspending.
Read for Free on Amazon
If you're an avid reader, ditch your book subscription service and take advantage of Amazon's extensive free e-book selection. You can also save on your reading habit by hitting used book stores or borrowing items from a friend's collection.
Consider Amazon Prime
Purchasing Amazon Prime for $99 a year seems counterintuitive, because it's an added expense. But subscribers get streaming TV and movies, unlimited storage and Kindle book borrowing, which can help you cancel several monthly subscription bills.
Even better, you get free two-day shipping on eligible purchases, a benefit that adds up to huge savings on household goods like paper towels and diapers.
Split the Cost of Subscription Services
You can add up to two adult "household" members, with no real household requirement, allowing others to chip in with you toward the $99 subscription fee while sharing the benefits of free Amazon delivery.
You can also split Netflix with roommates and even share Hulu services with a friend.
Get Free Amazon Shipping
If you don't want to spring for Amazon Prime, you can still enjoy free shipping, as long as you're not in a rush to receive your goods. Wait until you accumulate between $25 and $49 of eligible items in your cart to qualify for free shipping. The catch? It takes between five and eight business days for your purchases to arrive.
Make ‘Deal of the Day’ Your First Stop
Amazon maintains a comprehensive "Deal of the Day" page that offers big savings on goods the company is trying to get rid of. Stop there first on birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. And don't forget to check out other stores' websites, which might offer limited-time deals.
Make Friday Your Buying Day
Every Friday, Amazon lists more than 100 items for special, deep-discount sales for just 24 hours. Amazon's Friday sale is the ultimate discount rack.
For best results, establish one day each week when you do all of your shopping. Not only can this save you time — and gas mileage — but it can also help you cut out all that mindless spending throughout the week.
Opt for Gently Used
You can score like-new products in Amazon Warehouse, the site section where buyers can save big on lightly-used or open-box goods. Additionally, you can find deals on pre-owned products on eBay or Craigslist.
Put a Hold on the Holidays
If you've been saving up for Christmas gifts all year, put that money toward your vacation fund instead. If you're planning to exchange gifts with family, instead opt to do a Secret Santa exchange, in which you're assigned to purchase gifts for just one person.
Use Coupon Sites
From hamburgers to motorcycle helmets, there's a good chance that a coupon or discount code exists for whatever it is that you're about to buy. Search sites like CouponSherpa.com and RetailMeNot.com before making a purchase.
Related: 9 Sites for the Best Online Coupons
Be a Ride-Share Driver
Convert your car and free time into vacation savings by signing up as a driver for Uber, Lyft or one of the emerging competitor services. According to research by Princeton University, Uber drivers who put in one to 15 hours per week can expect to earn between $15.60 and $25.47 an hour, with most drivers averaging $16.37.
Be a Secret Shopper
Businesses of all kinds hire secret shoppers as part of their security and quality control efforts. You go in as a customer, eat a meal or buy some stuff and report back to the company about your experience. The most dedicated shoppers can make thousands of dollars a year, but the majority get reimbursed for the meal or items purchased and receive small stipends. Translation: free food and merchandise.
As a cautionary note, you should beware of mystery shopper scams. According to The Penny Hoarder site, never pay to sign up for a secret shopping gig.
Many companies pay people to take surveys, the results of which they sell to corporations and marketing firms. You can make money on the side by participating in these surveys. As is true with mystery shopping, there are disreputable sites running scams, so proceed with caution.
Sit on a Jury
Law firms and other legal entities pay people to serve as mock jurors on cases that haven't gone to court yet or to test new lawyers. Try eJury or Online Verdict to participate in this money-making endeavor.
Talk to Your Insurers
Call your auto, health, homeowner and other insurance providers to see if there is anything you can do to lower your rates. Bundling can save you money, as can lowering your deductible. In some cases, taking a free defensive driving course can lead to a lower premium, as well.
Become an Online Tutor
Share your skills and knowledge with someone who is eager to learn. There are many sites, like Tutor.com and TutorVista.com, which pay online tutors for their time and effort.
Reassess Your Mobile Plan
Research shows that many Americans pay for data they don't use, and they often have no idea how much data they use and how much they waste. Call your provider, see what plans it offers and make sure the plan you have is not too big for your needs.
Sell Your Stuff
OfferUp and other apps make it easy to list and sell household items you no longer need or want. Unlike eBay, you don't have to ship anything. Just list it for sale with some photos, and people will message you about purchasing and picking up.
Get an Acorns Account
The Acorns mobile app helps you invest and save with nothing more than your spare change — literally. Link a credit or debit card to Acorns and, when you make a purchase, the app will round it up to the nearest dollar and put the difference into your investment account.
Join Rewards Programs
Customer loyalty and rewards programs let you save money, get first dibs on deals and accumulate valuable points at the places you shop the most. Note that rewards programs are not the same as store credit cards, and you might want to avoid the latter if you're looking to save.
Take Advantage of Free Museum Days
Many museums host free days that waive admission costs for the general public during their slow times. Entertain your kids, yourself or a date with a fun, educational and free trip to a museum.
Buy Organic Produce Sparingly
Buying organic produce can reduce the amount of pesticides you ingest. But it can also be a waste of money. Maybe it's worth spending a little more to go organic on the "dirty dozen," which includes apples, celery and tomatoes. The "clean 15," however, are probably not worth the expense. Safer non-organic foods include honeydew, eggplant and avocados.
Smoking is killing you — physically and financially. According to Time, pack-a-day smokers can cough up an average of $1 million to $2 million that nonsmokers get to pocket over their lives.
Cut Electricity Costs
Most homes spend 5 percent of their energy budget on lighting. You can reduce that number by switching out bulbs for CFL, halogen or LED. To save even more — as much as $75 a year, according to Energy.gov — use Energy Star-certified fixtures.
Plan Meals Around Sales
Save money by planning meals for the week to avoid wasting unused ingredients or, even worse, eating out. For best results, base the plan on your local grocery store's flyer, circular and weekly sale.
Replace ‘Vampire’ Appliances
Americans spend between $895 and $2,438 on electricity every year, according to EIA.gov. And hundreds of dollars of that could be going to vampires.
Vampire appliances use "standby power" when they're plugged in, even if they're turned off. By slowly bleeding unused electricity, these appliances gradually kill your budget — and your vacation dreams. Kill vampires by unplugging electronics when they're not in use or investing in advanced power strips.
Work Out at Home
According to IBISWorld, the average gym member paid $41 a month in fees in 2014. Unfortunately, not all of us make it to the gym regularly after joining, and that money often goes to waste. Cancel the costly membership and work out at home with exercises that require no equipment.
Get Better Credit Card Rates
In most cases, you can get a lower interest rate on your credit card just by calling and asking for one. If the company doesn't give you a better rate, it might offer points, especially if you're a high-credit customer who pays on time.
Also, consider transferring balances from a card with a high APR to a one with a low APR. Generally, balance transfers offer low introductory APRs for a set period of time, often 12 months. You can consolidate debt, catch up and save on interest payments.