Don’t get us wrong: Winter is lovely. Snowmen and sweaters brighten even the grayest, most frigid days. But we’re still relieved that spring is (finally) on the horizon, and we’re eagerly planning some epic spring break adventures.
Spring break is an exceptionally popular time to take a vacation — particularly for college students and millennials. More than half of millennials surveyed in a study spearheaded by TripAdvisor planned spring break travel in 2018, and 2019 should be no different.
While some destinations are cheaper than others, travel ain’t free. In fact, Skyscanner found that the average spring break flight cost $602 last year… and that’s before you even purchase a single margarita.
Of course, if you’ve got a hefty student loan check in the bank, it can be tempting to use some of it to fund your spring break adventure. But don’t! It’s not worth the added agony down the line — or the cost of accruing interest — and it can add to an already-staggering student debt total. (The average debt figure for 2018 graduates was $29,800.)
Fortunately, there are plenty of pain-free ways to save up for a spring break travel budget. With the right tools and tactics, you won’t even notice the money is gone until you’re sitting back with your toes in the sand.
Here are some smart ways to trick yourself into saving up for the spring break getaway of your dreams.
If you have a smartphone, the key to spring break savings may already be in the palm of your hand. Here are a few apps that make it simple to turn your spring break plans into a reality.
This app’s name makes it sound like it’s your personal butler — and for good reason. Albert is all about using technology to create a custom financial plan that works for your situation, analyzing your income, spending habits and goals.
After you connect your various accounts, Albert keeps you apprised of rising bills and unexpected fees that can throw your budget off balance. Then, it automatically sets aside savings based on your habits, slowly amassing a cushion without you even noticing.
Finally, Albert users have the added bonus of communicating with Albert Genius, a service backed by live human financial experts, and which is available to you via text at any time. Albert allows its users to pay “what you think is fair” for the service, starting as low as $4 per month.
Available for both Android and iOS, Qapital is all about making saving fun. (Yes, fun.) You can set goals and rules to turn your penny-pinching project into a challenge, and the clean, bright interface makes it simple to see whether or not you’re staying on track.
Another cool feature of Qapital that makes it perfect for spring break savers: It allows you to set joint goals, where you and your friends all save for a common objective. In other words, you can get your whole spring break squad in on the game, which can help keep everyone motivated and achieve your goal easier.
Qapital’s fees start at $3 per month for basic service, and go up to $6 and $12 for its “Complete” and “Master” tiers, respectively.
Digit is also into saving money “without thinking about it.” It allows you to set specific, achievable goals. Rather than using an app interface, Digit is all text message-based, so it feels like sending a quick line to your friend … who just happens to be helping you save a ton of dough.
World traveler and former Student Loan Hero staff writer Susan Shain used Digit to painlessly save — get this — nearly $2,000. Although she’s an old pro at saving up for trips, she had never been able to amass an emergency fund, so she decided to try Digit to see if it would work.
“I noticed the app withdrawing small amounts of money from my account,” she writes, “but it was never enough to cause me any financial worry. When I finally logged in 10 months later, I was stoked to see I had saved almost $2,000. What a nice surprise!”
Yes, investing is all about the long game — and you need this spring break stash now.
But getting your portfolio started will put you in a better position to enjoy adventures later in life by allowing your money to be fruitful and multiply. The best time to start investing is when you’re young.
(Psst: A couple of the apps we’ve discussed above, like Qapital and Albert, also include investment options, so if you’re already signed up for them, have a look before you download another app!)
Just imagine how much money you’d have if every time you swiped your credit card, the spare change from your transaction was automatically rolled into an investment account.
Well, that’s exactly what Acorns does with its “Round-Ups” feature, which makes it possible to build a hefty nest egg without thinking about it. The app is also rolling out a debit card, which will make it easier than ever to stick to your budget.
Acorns is built with beginner investors in mind, providing a wealth of information on its Grow blog to help you take control of your finances. Its services start at $1 per month, and go up to $2 or $3 if you opt in for additions like retirement guidance.
Got $5 to spare? You’ve got enough to start investing — at least if you use Stash, an automatic investment app geared toward beginners. For a fee of $1 a month, you can set up small automatic deposits (think: five bucks a week) and allocate them into themed ETFs to ensure your portfolio matches your values.
Or, if you’re interested in investing in specific companies, you can take advantage of Stash’s fractional shares to buy just a little bit of big name stocks like JPMorgan or Alphabet. Stash also offers fee-free retirement accounts for users under 25, which may be worth taking advantage of if you’re eligible.
Not quite ready to download a savings app? Put off by the idea of paying to save?
Well, you can DIY the incremental savings that make these apps so effective by setting up automatic transfers at your existing bank account.
Although the exact steps to set up the transfer will depend on your specific bank, it’s usually not too difficult — in fact, you’ll likely be able to do so from your online account portal. Even setting aside as little as $10 per week can really add up over time, especially if you move the money into a high-interest savings account, where it’ll earn a little extra.
Rewards and loyalty programs
It seems like every store you go to, there’s another customer service agent asking if you’d like to sign up for the rewards program. And while it can get tiresome, you can actually score some substantial savings if you take advantage of those rewards.
For example, Shell’s Fuel Rewards system earns you 5 cents off per gallon every time you spend $25 inside participating stations (which isn’t hard to do if you frequently run inside to grab a snack).
Five cents per gallon may not sound like much, but it can really add up, especially if you’ve got plans to drive somewhere far away, like Orlando. You can also earn points at Shell by purchasing gift cards for companies like Amazon and Apple, so if you’re already planning to spend money at those companies, you might as well buy the card instead.
Another popular loyalty program, particularly for java-fueled college students, is Starbucks Rewards, which allows you to earn points, or “stars,” each time you spend a dollar at Starbucks.
These stars can later be traded for free food and drink items, and you’ll also get exclusive access to member events, offers, free refills, a free birthday reward and more. At two stars per dollar spent and a reward once you collect 125 stars, you’ll get a freebie every $62.50, not counting star bonuses. And let’s be real — it’s easy spend that at Starbucks in a month.
Saving for spring break doesn’t have to be painful
Even if you’re planning an all-out spring break bash, you don’t have to break your back saving the money to get there. Small steps, like downloading a savings app, can reap big rewards without wrecking your lifestyle.
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* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.
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|4.23% – 13.23%1||Undergraduate and Graduate|
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|5.85% – 6.99%6||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.95% – 9.81%7||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.45% – 12.42%8||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
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