Cutting These Monthly Expenses Could Pay for a Family Vacation

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There’s that family vacation we all are dreaming of. But between sky-high childcare payments, increasing gas prices, higher food costs and a never-ending pile of bills, how can you afford it? Well, what if I told you that with just three realistic changes to your everyday spending that family vacation to a beach or other destination can be within reach? This is the way.

How much money are we talking about here?

The American family vacation for four costs $4,580 on average. While that four-figure number is indeed large and feels out of reach, you really can free up enough money — and more — with just three changes to your recurring expenses. Bringing mindful spending to just three areas in your life can bring a dream family vacation to Maui closer than you think!  

And while I’ll be using average spending figures throughout this article, I intend to illustrate in real numbers that you really can find family vacation money in your current spending. It’s about spending less in these three areas so you can divert money to that much-needed family vacation.

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Three areas of focus

I get it. It’s no fun erasing all the fun from your daily life and attempting 50 different life changes to fund a one-week vacation. It’s also not realistic to suggest selling your car or moving to a cheaper cost-of-living area. And the thing is that you really don’t need to make those dramatic life changes to travel to the places you want to see in life. With relatively small changes in three spending areas, you really can find $4,580 – and more!

Image Credit: Nuthawut Somsuk/ istockphoto.

How to Find $5,856 of Your Own Money to Afford a Family Vacation

The average monthly spending for a family of four in America is $7,095, or $85,139 a year. That means that a $4,580 vacation would be 5% of a family’s annual spending. So, by focusing on changing three recurring expenses, you really can find $5,856 of your own money for a family vacation that won’t leave you feeling deprived all the other days of the year.

While you’ll see many articles suggesting people turn to side hustles or other ways of making more money, that’s not realistic for everyone. In this article, I’ll show how it is possible to go on a family vacation with the money you currently have. In addition, I’ve done the math to show how powerful some spending swaps can be over 356 days! 

While your numbers will be slightly different, the concept of savvy shopping and mindful spending is the same powerful tool you can use to find money in what you’re already making.

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1. Grocery shop at a new store to save $3,207 a year

It probably comes as no surprise that food is one of the most significant three expenses of any household (with housing and transportation being the other two). Whether they’ve got hungry teenagers or younger kids, Americans spend a lot of money on food at home. 

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a family of four with two preschool-aged children spends about $890 a month, or $10,680 a year, on food at home, with families of older kids spending $1,062 a month, or $12,744 a year.

You don’t need to go back to a college diet of ramen and PB&Js to afford a Mexico beach vacation. It can be as simple as buying your food at a different store. 

If you’re currently buying all brand-name groceries at a more high-end grocery store, switching to a primarily private-label store (Aldi or Lidl) or Walmart Grocery can save you a lot of money … like thousands of dollars! In fact:

  • A study by Cheapism showed that Aldi can save you 42% on your grocery bill, as it is the cheapest place to buy groceries in America.  
  • If you’re already buying the generic brand at your current grocery store, you can still save 20% on your grocery bill by switching to Aldi. 
  • Yes, there are claims out there that by doing nothing but changing your grocery store you can save $2,548 to $5,352 a year by shopping at Aldi.
  • While there are now more than 2,000 Aldi stores across 36 states, if you aren’t lucky enough to have one close by, you can still save a lot of money shopping for groceries at Walmart, now the U.S.’s biggest supplier of groceries. 
  • A study found that people can save 13.5% on their annual grocery bill, or $1,720 over a year, by shopping for groceries at Walmart.

Considering that most people will fall somewhere in the middle of these three options, the average savings of these three possibilities is a potential annual savings of $3,207 on your grocery bill. 

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2. Replace cable with streaming to save $1,409 a year

It’s time to cut the cable for more affordable streaming TV and movie services. 

According to, the average cable bill in America is $217.42 a month, or $2,609.04 a year. Being generous and cutting down to a budget of $100 a month for TV, the average savings would be $117.42 a month, or $1,409.04 over a year. To give you a sense of how far $100 a month can go, you could buy Hulu with Live TV plan, plus a Netflix account. Not too shabby!

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3. Look for more affordable fun to save $1,240 a year

While the pandemic has been painful in many ways, one of the things it has reminded us of is that you can have fun in many different ways. And many of those ways are free or very inexpensive! 

A recent Harris Poll survey showed that 82% of Americans realized that they don’t have to spend money to have a good time. And their bank balances increased for it.

The average household spends $2,482 a year on entertainment. Just AMC Movie tickets alone are $50 for a family of four, and that does not include popcorn or sodas! 

I’m by no means suggesting no fun at all, but by cutting this amount in half, you could save $1,240 over the course of a year. 

First, make a list of no-cost activities you’re interested in, and before spending on entertainment, review your list. Whether it’s going to museums on free days or checking out admission passes from your library; visiting county, state or regional parks for free outdoor fun; or holding movie and board game nights at home, quality time with your family doesn’t have to mean opening your wallet every time. 

This 50% approach still leaves you with $1,240 a year for those exceptional movies that are best seen in theaters, golf rounds at reasonably priced public golf courses, special shows or concerts that come to town that you don’t want to miss and amusement park tickets for the family.

For me, it’s about being intentional and saving your spending for those things that are the most important. In our house, that would be when Frozen or KidzBopKids come to town!

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The idea is to inspire

While I used averages to run these numbers, I hope that the intention of the exercise opened your eyes. It really is possible to find money within your bank account for your next family vacation. To me, it’s about finding ways to spend money on the things that are important to you.

And yes, feeding my family well is important to me, but if I can do it in a way that saves me thousands of dollars a year, you bet I’m going to try out a new grocery store.

So even if you don’t do everything in this article, if you found $1,000 to divert to an affordable family vacation that you can drive to instead of fly to, you can still call that a win!

This article originally appeared on Planner at Heart and was syndicated by

Image Credit: lisegagne.

Monica Fish

Monica Fish helps her fellow adventurers live a financially savvy life so they can travel and explore our beautiful world no matter their budget. She writes about smart timeshare ownership, vacation tips and tricks, NYC Metro Area trips and activities, and frugal, yet rich, living at