We regularly bring you a column from Simon Read, a personal finance expert with extensive experience in helping people make the most of their money. In his last piece, Simon looked at the cost of Christmas.
If you’re like me, the depressing weather at this time of year will make you want to have something good to look forward to – a holiday in the sun! And knowing that in a few months you could be sitting poolside sipping a cocktail, or exploring that old ruin with the sun in your eyes, is a good way to help cope with the shorter nights and rainy days.
But assuming you want – like me – to have a fantastic summer holiday to look forward to, the question is, how to pay for it? The easiest and most convenient way is to simply put it on the credit card. You can worry about paying for it later but, if you’ve been sensible, you’ll have a piece of plastic that gives you cashback or loyalty points. If you’re splashing out a couple of grand on a decent holiday, think how much cashback that’ll net you!
But, and it’s a big but, if you don’t pay off credit card debt right away, you end up being stung by high interest. And that could mean putting your dream trip on plastic proves a costly mistake. If you can’t pay off the whole amount in one go, you could box clever by opening a card with a 0% deal and transferring the debt to that. However, that’s not taking account of the balance transfer fee. Many cards charge 3% for that so if you transferred £2,000 you’d have to pay out £60 for the privilege.
So maybe sticking the holiday on a credit card is not such a good idea. In fact it’s a lousy one. The simplest and easiest way to pay for a holiday is to plan for it. You know you’re going to go away in the summer so start saving for it months ahead. In fact the best way to pay for a holiday is to have a regular savings habit into a holiday account. Work out how much you plan to spend on your breaks each year and stash a 12th of the total away each month.
That should mean that paying for trips is painless. But it does mean planning; not just planning your saving but also your spending. You know when you have big costs coming up, annual insurances or council tax for instance, as well as holidays. Your saving plan should take account of your spending needs so that you can cope with big costs without having to dip into the red or use an expensive credit card.
In other words, think about what you’re saving for in 2018. For long-term savings you want to find the best possible return on your cash, which will mean being happy about making the most of peer-to-peer opportunities, or bonds. But for short-term savings where you know you will need the cash in a matter of months, you should keep it in an account that is easy to access. That will mean sacrificing decent returns for paltry ones, but is the price you have to pay.
Sorting savings into short-term and long-term is a good way to start a sensible savings plan.
That’s especially important as it means that once you’ve accounted for all your short-term needs, for holidays and bills and so on, the rest of the cash you have available to put in a nest egg can be used to get better returns. And that will leave you laughing all the way to the river bank or beach, depending on your chosen holiday.
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