Cut These 9 Expenses in One Year to Get a 10-Day Hawaii Vacation


Would you like to escape to the Hawaiian islands for a vacation this year? Well, who wouldn't? Tropical breezes, mai tais, snorkeling, waterfalls … once you start thinking about it, you're probably ready to pack up and go right now.

Except for that whole money thing. A 10-day vacation in Hawaii would cost around $5,000, for a typical trip for two. And you don't have it.

Well, mark your calendar for departure one year from today. Here's a 12-month savings road map that will make that Hawaiian vacation a reality. (See also: 15 Ways to Save During a Hawaii Vacation)

The breakdown

There is practically no upper limit on what you could spend on a vacation, but by my research, you could have a nice trip for two to the islands spending $1,300 for airfare, $2,100 for lodging, $1,000 for food, and $600 for a rental car and gas. That's $5,000.

How to save $5,000 in one year

Here are some low-hanging fruit ideas for cutting $5,000 from your spending this year. You don't even have to do all of them! Pick about five of these cutbacks to get your savings total up to $5,000.

1. Get a better phone plan: $600

You may be paying up to $100 a month on for an "unlimited" data plan — $1,200 a year. But that's not necessary.

The first thing you should do is log into your account and see how much data you're actually using. If you're only using two gigabytes of data each month — or if you could learn to reduce your data usage by taking advantage of Wi-Fi networks — you could switch to a Boost Mobile plan that charges $35 for three gigs, or try Ting, which charges by usage. Ting claims its average customer pays just $23 a month.

Even if you need unlimited data, there are budget providers out there that offer coverage pretty similar to the big brands. Boost's unlimited talk and data plan is only $50.

2. Drop the TV plan: $388

The average cable TV package, with about 239 channels, has an introductory price of $72.62 per month, according to But once your promotional period is over and you add specialty channels, you could be paying close to $200 a month.

What would you miss if you replaced cable with a $20 digital antenna and a Netflix plan ($7.99 to $13.99 per month)?

Many families find they wouldn't miss much. Sports fanatics are an exception, and whether you can use a workaround depends on your level of involvement. You can get a package from streaming service Sling that includes the NFL Network, ESPN, and Fox Sports 1 for just $35 a month. I get my baseball fix by paying $19.99 a year for the At Bat app, which allows me to listen to streaming radio broadcasts. My husband watches his NFL team after the Sunday games are over, using NFL Game Pass, at $49.99 a year.

If you replace a $73 cable subscription with a $14 Netflix subscription and a $25 Sling subscription, you'll get much of the same programming for $39 a month.

3. Brown bag it: $1,500

Eating out for lunch every workday at a fast casual restaurant runs at least $10 per person, which is $50 a week, or $2,500 a year.

Won't you feel sad when your co-workers head out for lunch and you're stuck eating at your desk? Not if you put in a little effort to pack delicious lunches. One really easy way to pack a lunch is to simply package leftovers from dinner as you clean up. But even if you punt on planning and bring yourself pre-made salads, gourmet frozen burritos, or a can of soup, you'll still be saving time and money over restaurant meals.

Be generous and budget $4 per packed lunch, and you're still only at $20 a week, a $30 savings over eating out. It's also a good idea to get out of the office to eat. If the weather's good, invite co-workers to a picnic in the park.

4. Quit the gym: $700

Two-thirds of people with gym memberships never go to the gym, according to Statistic Brain. Two! Thirds!

The average cost of a gym membership is $58. If you're one of those people who is paying for the luxury of planning to go to the gym, definitely quit this minute. If you actually use your gym, consider whether you could work out at home or in the neighborhood for free. There are an awful lot of fitness classes on YouTube nowadays.

5. Drink tap water: $1,000

Let's say you consume three bottled beverages a day, whether that's cans of soda, bottles of water, or flavored iced tea. Quenching your thirst is costing at least $3 a day, or $1,095 a year.

Instead, spend $30 a year on Brita filters to make sure your home or office water is delicious, $20 on a nice reusable water bottle, and you'll never be thirsty, even when on the go. You'll even be able to pat yourself on the back for being nicer to the earth.

6. Change your coffee habit: $600

We're all sick of hearing about how spending $5 on lattés every day is ruining our financial futures. And maybe you were only spending $3 a day at the coffee shop anyway. But if you're spending that much every weekday, that still comes out to $780 a year.

Here's a little secret: With a small upfront investment, you can make coffee at home or in your office that tastes better than most of the flat whites you've been buying. Try using a French press, a simple pour-over, or, my favorite, an Aeropress.

You can make great coffee at home for 60 cents a cup, factoring in the cost of quality beans and even the electricity and water you use. If you'd rather use a single-serving machine, those prepackaged cups cost about 70 cents to $1 apiece — still a significant savings over $2 to $3 for a brewed coffee at a shop.

As for foam, this year I invested in a fancy milk frother for about $80. And I'm still hundreds of dollars ahead.

7. Cut back on carousing: $2,000

I found the ultimate buzzkill online: the Alcohol Spending Calculator. Punch in the number of times you go out per week, the number of drinks you have, and the average cost of a drink, and it'll tell you how much you're pouring down the drain each year.

For instance, going out three times a week, having three drinks each time, at an average cost of $10 per drink, and you're looking at $4,680 per year.

I'm not a total party pooper, so instead of banning booze, I'll suggest you cut back to one night out per week, find ways to save money at bars, plus have a rotating night in with friends once per week, for an average weekly booze bill of $50, or $2,600 per year.

8. Do your own nails: $1,000

The average woman who gets her nails done every two weeks spends over $1,200 a year on those mani/pedis. Fortunately, you can learn to do a professional-looking manicure at home with just a few tools. Even if you splurge and spend $200 a year on manicure tools and polish, you're saving big.

Or do this one thing

Do you smoke? If so, do we have a deal for you! You don't have to quit cable, bars, Starbucks, or the nail salon. You can simply ...

9. Stop smoking: $5,000

Cigarettes cost between $5 and $14 a pack, depending on how much your state tacks on in taxes. The Quit Now calculator can show you how much you would save if you stopped smoking, based on how many cigarettes you smoke a day and your local price. Giving up a pack-a-day habit in one of the more expensive states could save you $5,000 in a year, with just that one change. (If you quit smoking in addition to the money-saving ideas above, invest the savings and you'll bankroll annual vacations for years to come.)

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