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How to save for an awesome vacation

Kristin is a freelance magazine and web editor. She's compulsively organized, loves solving people's problems, and makes ice cream in her spare time, which you can read about on her blog: belinder.co

Little ways to save for big expenses

Don't let money woes prevent you from taking an awesome vacation. There are plenty of little ways to save for vacation everyday. That dream trip just might be within reach after all.

Raise your hand if you're ready for a summer vacation. If you're like many Americans, you might not have your summer trip planned yet. According to a survey from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, 55 percent of U.S. adults don't have a vacation on the books this year. We know taking a vacation can have all kinds of benefits, but they can put a serious dent in your savings account. In fact, according to the same poll respondents expect to pay an average of $3,000 for their summer vacations. Thankfully, you can start saving now to make sure that dream vacation is one you can afford.

1. Make saving automatic

Set up a recurring transfer each month or each paycheck into a separate vacation fund. "The easiest way I've found to build this type of fund is to open a separate savings account and earmark it for the vacation," says Judy McNary, a financial planner in Broomfield, Colorado. "Then set up automatic transfers from your checking into your vacation account every month." Or have a portion of your paycheck put into a separate account via direct deposit. If you don't see that money go into your checking account from the start, you won't miss it.

2. Give up the little things

You've heard it before, but giving up that morning latte really can add up. "Whatever your habit is, if you cut back on it just a little bit, it can add up," says Kevin Gallegos, vice president of Phoenix operations at Freedom Financial Network. "If you give up Starbucks just twice each week, you're saving $8. By the end of the year, that's $400 you're saving."

3. Try a rewards program

There are several sites out there that allow you to get cash back on the items you're already planning to purchase. Upromise, a division of Sallie Mae, offers 5 percent cash back on sites like Travelocity, Hotwire, Hertz rental cars and more. So the money you're spending on booking your vacation can help you afford the activities on your trip according to Upromise, users have earned back more than $1 million on travel expenses in the past year. Ebates offers a similar program and offers rebates on sites like Amazon, Sephora and Gap.

4. Get your kids involved

If you're planning a family vacation, make sure your kids are involved in the planning and budgeting process if they are old enough. "If there's an activity that they want to do while on vacation have them contribute to their allowance, babysitting or odd job money toward the family vacation fund. You can even let them control the budget for one day of your vacation," says Suzanna de Baca, Vice President of Wealth Strategies at Ameriprise Financial. If they want a new swimsuit, book or game to take on the trip, teach them how to save for it. They'll feel even more involved in the vacation.

5. Don't forget the couch cushions

No, you won't be able to fund your whole vacation from the spare change you find in the couch or the bottom of your handbag, but you might be able to save enough to go out for a nice dinner or buy souvenirs at the amusement park. You might be surprised at just how much your coins add up to, according to a survey from Coinstar, consumers' average estimate for how much their change was worth was $26, when the average amount consumers convert to a no fee eCertificate at Coinstar machines is $56. Time to clean out the cup holders.

6. Learn to love the $5 bill

If you want to save more money quickly, consider this trick from the site Get Rich Slowly: Save every $5 bill you get back in change. Deposit that money directly in your vacation fund — you'll be surprised how quickly it can add up. The key is you have to be disciplined about it. No cheating and spending a fiver. It also doesn't work well if you put everything on your credit card.

Tell us: What's your best money saving tip? Share it in the comments.

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