Carrie Schwab Pomerantz
(SET ITAL) Dear Carrie: I'm a single mom in my late 30s. I had the good fortune to travel with my family when I was younger and want to provide the same opportunity for my 10-year-old daughter. On my salary, people tell me I'm dreaming, but I think travel is important. Any tips on how I can incorporate this into my budget? -- A Reader (END ITAL)

Dear Reader: Because you mention your budget, I expect you're already on the right track. Saving successfully for a goal is about prioritizing, but to do so, you first have to have a handle on your expenses. If you have a budget -- and stick to it -- there's no reason why you can't save for whatever goals are important to you. You may have to make trade-offs along the way, but this will help you focus on what you really want.

Before we get into specifics, let me say that if traveling with your daughter is a top goal, don't let others discourage you from doing it. Your goals are unique, and only you can determine how to achieve them. Here are some ideas that may help you do just that.

FIRST, COVER THE BASICS

This is axiomatic. Before you can spend money on extras like travel, you have to make sure you can comfortably cover all your essential expenses. This includes not only costs like housing, food, transportation and insurance, but also any debts you need to systematically pay down.

On top of these monthly expenses, my list of essentials also includes making regular contributions to a retirement account and making sure you have an emergency fund. I imagine that saving for your daughter's education would also be high on your list.

MAKE TRAVEL A LINE ITEM ON YOUR BUDGET

Once you have these financial bases covered, look at your discretionary income and expenses and prioritize to carve out a line item in your budget for travel. For instance, what do you regularly spend each month on going out to eat, entertainment or gym fees? Can you earmark a portion of that money for travel? Be honest about how much you can really afford to set aside each month toward this goal.

SET A SPECIFIC DESTINATION -- AND DOLLAR AMOUNT

Granted, it's not always easy to give up one thing for another. So for extra motivation, make your travel goal concrete. Choose a destination, do some basic research and come up with a dollar amount you need to save. You could even give yourself a couple of travel targets. For instance, a weekend trip to Washington, D.C., might be easier to swing than two weeks in Europe. Prioritize these destinations, perhaps focusing on the ones that are more within reach.

SET UP A DEDICATED ACCOUNT WITH AUTOMATIC DEPOSIT


Carrie Schwab Pomerantz

Carrie Schwab Pomerantz is a Motley Fool contributor.

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