All articles

The Qapital User’s Guide: Saving and splurging on a trip to Hawaii


A few years ago, in honor of my mom’s pseudo-retirement, my mom, big bro and I pooled our money together for an epic family vacation to Hawaii. While it was awesome and many Instagram-worthy moments were had, I ended up dipping into my credit cards. No bueno. 

Flash forward to the present, as my partner and I plan to take a trip this December to The Aloha State to help celebrate his milestone birthday. With the trip just a month away, I’m dead-set on not accruing any debt this time around. 

Here are some key lessons you can learn from how I am saving—and splurging—on a trip to Hawaii:

Consider your goal

While on a road trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico, earlier this year, my partner mentioned, out-of-the-blue, how he wanted to check out the Big Island and the massive lava flows. 

“Well, how about we go for your birthday?” I asked. 

“Let’s do it,” he responded. How amazing would it be to traverse the tropical terrains of Hawaii in the winter? 

And as his birthday is in December, it was a totally doable savings goal.  

Identify your budget

We’ll travel to two islands—Oahu and the Big Island—over the course of 10 days. My partner and I sat down a few months ago to figure out exactly how much our trip would cost. 

Here’s roughly what it came down to: 

Big-ticket items

When it comes to the large, anticipated expenses, I’ll handle airfare and the car rental. My partner has agreed on footing the bill for accommodations. While on the island, we’ll switch off paying for things.  

Our two plane tickets came to a little under $1,100. Since we’ve decided to take a ride-share and public transport while in Oahu, where it’s a little easier to get around, we’ll rent a car during the six days we cavort around the Big Island. Car rental will cost roughly $200. And we estimated about $200 a night for the hotel, which adds up to $1,800 for nine nights. 

Airfare: $1,100 
Car Rental: $200
Hotel: $1,800

Total: $3,100

Variable expenses

While there are certainly knowns, such as food, entertainment, and transportation, the exact costs will vary. I’m thinking roughly $150 a day for food and another $100 for entertainment and transport, which is probably more than we’ll need. Since we’ll travel for 10 days, that racks up to about $2,500 for food and fun. 

Food: $1,500 
Entertainment + Ride Share: $1,000 

Total: $2,500 

Allow for splurges

I’m somewhat of an anti-budgeter, which means I pay myself first (i.e., sock away money toward my saving goals) then spend what remains. And because I don’t assign a job to every dollar in my budget, I like to add a bit of money cushion here and there. That’s why I’ve included a bit of a “Splurge Fund” into my Hawaii vacation fund. Having “extra” money makes you feel like you’re on top. In turn, it provides a psychological lift of sorts. 

The big number

I decided on saving $3,000 for my share of the entire trip. After after paying for airfare, car rental, and my half of food and entertainment, which tallies up to $2,550, that leaves about $450 to spend on whatever I please. I imagine I’ll spend that dough on some island snacks for my family or on a whimsical tchotchke. 

My Share: $3,000 

My Partner’s Share: $2,600 

Grand Total: $5,600

If that seems like a lot for a 10-day trip to Hawaii, it is. This is more than we probably need, but it allows for a bit of padding so we have room to splurge. That way we don't have to "count beans" and stress about spending too much during our trip. And if there’s anything left over from my portio of the trip, I plan on rolling it over to my next fun, big-ticket savings goal. 

Decide on the right savings tactic for you

In 2016, I simply paid for my share of the trip—airfare and splitting the costs of food and entertainment—from a designated “fun fund,” and came up a little short. This time around, I’ve saved well in advance for my Hawaii trip. 

Truth be told, I started a vacay fund in my Qapital account last year to tour Berlin with my dear Chicago friends. I set an arbitrary goal of $2,000 simply because it “felt right” and hey, it was better than having zilch. 

And when it became apparent that our soft plans to visit Germany would fall by the wayside, I changed the name of my Qapital goal from “Berlin 2018” to “Hawaii 2018,” swapped out the cover photo and upped the goal from $2,000 to $3,000. 

The fun part was in deciding which rules to set in my Qapital account to hit my goal: Here are the rules I set:

52-Week Rule

How this rule works: You start by saving $1 on Week 1, $2 on Week 2, and eventually $52 by the last week. After a year, you’ve saved up $1,378. Qapital features two options: You can start with $1 on Week 1, then work your way up to $52. Or you can start with $52 the first week. 

I started by socking away $52 during Week 1. After finishing up my first cycle, I’ve just kick-started my second cycle for the 52-Week Rule. 

Round up Rule

How this rule works: Every time you make a purchase, the remainder is rounded up and put towards your savings account. You have options to round up to the next $1, 2, 3, 4, or 5. 

I linked my debit cards and credit cards so that for every transaction, it’s rounded up to the nearest dollar. 

Guilty Pleasure Rule

How this rule works: Every time you spend money at a specific merchant (say, a restaurant or retailer), you save an amount set by you.

I set a rule that every time I spent money at In-N-Out Burgers and enjoyed an Animal-Style cheeseburger and fries, I would sock away $10 each time. 

Boosting your savings to hit your goal.

I’m not at $3,000 (yet!). Granted, I wish I had a bit more focus on hitting my $3,000 mark. For instance, when I started last year, besides setting up the 52-Week Rule, where I saved around $1,400 in a year, I could’ve set up an auto-save of an additional $20 a week or so to save $1,040 in a year’s time. The Round-up Rule and Guilty Spending Rule could top me off at $3,000 to help me hit my goal earlier. 

As I get nearer to the trip, I’ll aggressively put money into my designated Hawaii trip fund. 

As you can see, it’s pretty fun and motivating to save for a major expense like a trip. You won’t be worried whether you can afford that vacation, or that you’ll need to dig a little debt hole to have fun. Tropical getaway, here we come!

Looking to save for an upcoming trip? Download Qapital and set up a goal to start saving immediately!