Are you trying to figure out how to afford a vacation this summer? Or maybe you have your heart set on visiting Cancun for Christmas.
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Either way, financial management website Mint.com can help you calculate how many lattes you would have to skip to pay for a plane ticket, resort or any other expenses for your dream trip.
Since 2007, Mint has been helping spenders big and small set goals for their personal and household needs. In June, it launched a new tool to help travelers set a vacation goal and then save for it.
First, travelers establish how much they think their trip will cost. Mint's founder, Aaron Patzer, recommends using sites like Kayak.com or Hotels.com to estimate airfare, hotels, and daily spending.
Then turn to Mint for detailed budgeting assistance. On Mint, you can download your personal financial information, right from your accounts, to get a reading on exactly where you stand after paying your monthly bills and putting aside savings for things like college funds or retirement.
The new tool, Mint Goals, helps Mint users figure out how much they need to save every month to make their vacation goal by the travel deadline. Or, you tell Mint how much you can save each month, and Mint lets you know when you can reasonably expect to be on that plane headed for the Caribbean.
Mint works with travel sites like Expedia.com and Orbitz.com to provide travelers with planning tips and resources, and supplies other handy tips. Flying on Tuesday or Wednesday tends to be cheapest; if you get a travel rewards credit card it can help pay for the cost of the flight.
And it shows users how to cut back in other areas, such as dry cleaning or restaurant bills, to make the trip happen faster.
"It shows you where you are spending your money," said Patzer. "Maybe you spend 25 percent of your money on rent, and however much on clothes and coffee. Going out to lunch every day at work? Maybe I can do that only two days a week."
Mint sends its users a progress report about once a month to keep them from drifting back to those costly lunches.
"It's like the elementary school fundraiser," said Patzer. "You can see if you're ahead or behind on your goal. If maybe it's a couple years out, and you forget to save, this gives you that discipline."
Travel is just one of eight common goals Mint has identified by surveying its users about their savings. Others include saving for college, remodeling a kitchen or bathroom, retiring by a certain age, and setting up an emergency fund.
Mint is free; the site makes its money from the referral fees paid by banks if the website's users open new accounts.
Once you have analyzed your spending at home, and your vacation costs, you might find out you can afford two weeks in Tahiti, not just one. Or that you have enough money left over to eat those restaurant lunches after all.
"Simply breaking it down into its components does make it easier to estimate," said Patzer.
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