How to save for a graduation trip (because you deserve it)
By ATB Financial 29 October 2018 5 min read
If you’re in the process of earning a university degree or technical certificate, you know how much hard work and time goes in to your education. You’ll spend years churning out assignments, cramming for midterms, being run off your feet in your work placements and drinking endless amounts of coffee just to be able to keep your eyes open in those 8am labs. At the end of it all, you’ll slap on your graduation cap, prance across a stage and proudly accept the super expensive piece of paper you’ve laboured tirelessly for. Why not reward yourself for all your work? Here are five steps to help you plan and save for a graduation trip:
Start saving now
Although you may have only just started your post-secondary program, it’s a good idea to start saving for your graduation trip sooner rather than later.
It only takes a little to save a lot. Putting just $25-$30 from your bi-weekly paycheque into a tax free savings account (TFSA) can add up to almost $3,000 over four years. Contributing $50 bi-weekly over four years will result in over $5,000 in savings. The more consistent you are (even with small contributions) the more you’ll have saved up when you graduate—if you need some help sticking to your savings plan, you can set up automatic deposits.
A TFSA is a good way to save for your big trip if you’re planning for two-plus years down the road. A TFSA has growth potential beyond a basic savings account that offers the opportunity to build your savings tax free, along with the ability to withdraw your money when you need it. Opening a TFSA with ATB Prosper and investing in this fund regularly is a good place to start.
If you’re near the end of your program and are planning to take a celebratory graduation trip within a matter of months, you might be better served by setting up a high-interest, low fee savings account.
Keep your debt in check
While student debt is a reality for most Canadians attending college or university, making an effort to keep your debt low will make post-graduation life (and vacations) that much easier to finance and plan for.
Carefully consider your costs while you’re studying, and see if you can subsidize your loans with a part-time job or help from family members. Just restricting the amount of your student loans to tuition and book costs can make a big difference to the debt load you’ll carry after you graduate.
While you generally can’t bargain down your tuition bill, you probably can make a deal with your parents or grandparents. Maybe you’ll take on the yardwork in exchange for free rent and meals. Maybe you can cover the costs of your groceries and entertainment by picking up shifts on Tuesday/Thursday and attending classes Monday/Wednesday/Friday. Many institutions offer flexible scheduling to accommodate this budget-conscious approach to getting an education.
Make a plan
Take your interests into account when planning your trip. Post-secondary is often (ironically) a time to put your passions on hold, and what better way to celebrate your freedom than by indulging your long-neglected love for surfing...or sustainable agriculture...or LEGO®?
Have you always dreamed of running a marathon on the Great Wall? Do you want to backpack across Canada? Attend a big music festival overseas? Although you may change your mind about the details before you graduate, having a general plan in mind can help you adapt your savings plan to the trip you want to take.
Hash out the actual costs
A well-planned trip is all about taking care of the logistics beforehand. Traveling with friends or family can help reduce your costs, since you’ll be able to split the bills for accommodation and transportation. Just make sure your travel companions are as committed to the trip as you are so there are no last-minute surprises. Once you know where you’re going and what you’re doing, make sure you price out:
- Accommodations. Are you staying in a hotel? Hostels? On an ocean liner? In a tent? Regardless, make sure you know how much it will cost, and what will be included.
- Transportation. While airline tickets are the most obvious transportation expense, you may also need to rent a car, or take taxis, the ferry, or public transit. If you plan to drive your own car, budget for gas expenses and surprise maintenance.
- Food. If food isn’t included with your accommodations, make sure you’re realistic about how much you’ll need (or want) to spend on restaurants, coffee, alcohol and groceries.
- Activities. Whether you plan on visiting museums, getting a tattoo, taking guided tours or attending shows, make sure you’ll be able to afford it.
- Other expenses. If you plan to do serious shopping in Paris, want to bring back souvenirs for your whole extended family, or think you might be struck by an expensive impulse to visit a small island off the coast, admit it now—and budget for it.
Plan to book your trip early
Plan to book your trip about six months to a year in advance. Keep an eye out for seat sales or tourism promotions. Often, the earlier you book, the lower the cost of flights and accommodations. Plus, if you’re still in school when you book your trip, you may be able to take advantage of student discounts.
Congratulations! You’re now equipped with the tools to make the completion of your degree, diploma or certificate something a bit more personal and a little more exciting than sweating in a black gown while your grandma takes too many photos on her smartphone. Wherever life after post-secondary takes you, knowing how to save for a meaningful experience is a skill that will help you achieve your goals—and enjoy your achievements!