8 last-minute ways to save for vacation
5. Make a savings wall chartKids are more likely to get excited, and you'll stay on track more easily, if you make your savings goal visual. Chart a graph on a large poster board. Track your weekly or monthly progress toward your trip savings with colorful markers and stickers.
Set some milestones along the way: For instance, once you've saved one-quarter of your trip costs, celebrate with a special movie-at-home night or go out for ice cream. Celebrating your success makes the savings process fun.
6. Sell your stuffA garage sale is a great way to earn vacation cash from your castoffs. To attract a crowd, run an ad in your local newspaper and post easy-to-read signs around your neighborhood. Check local regulations about posting notices, of course, and write signs in crayon if it looks like rain.
Sales tips: Kids' clothes sell well at yard sales, adult clothes don't -- try a consignment shop instead. List kids' clothing sizes and brand names, if you have them, in your ad. Some parents make special trips to garage sales featuring labels like BabyGap and Gymboree, says Danger.
If your kids are old enough to help, let them pick some of their older toys to sell, suggests Dave Ramsey, author of "The Total Money Makeover." A special kids' table with a sign like, "All proceeds go to purchase of our Disneyland souvenirs," is often a big hit -- and it's a great way to teach your kids about money.
7. Use your tax refund -- nowDo you usually get an IRS refund in April? If so, too much tax money is being withheld from your paycheck. Fill out a new W-4 form with your employer right away. Adjust your tax withholding so that it's fairly close to what you will owe in April.
Your next paycheck should be substantially bigger. Start transferring the extra money into your dedicated vacation savings account or category. If you still get a refund this spring, sock it away, too. Heather Larson of Tacoma, Wash., puts her family's refunds into short-term certificates of deposit that expire right before their vacation. That way, they don't spend the money on anything else. You can locate the best rates in your area on Bankrate.com.In the months prior to your vacation, use a credit card that accumulates "rewards"(points or cash rebates) for everything you can: gas, groceries -- even day-care tuition.
Let rewards pile up, then use them toward plane tickets (if you've been banking points/dollars for a while), hotel or rental car discount, or gift cards for chain restaurants you'll visit on your trip. You can locate and compare rewards cards at Bankrate.com. The key, of course, is to pay off your balance in full every month. Vacation debt is not the kind of souvenir you want to collect.