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You don’t have to sell your soul or downsize your home to travel to the places you want to see in life. Relatively small changes in your spending and saving habits will get you where you want to go.
Ray Au reports

My wife and I attended a wedding in July; a pretty big wedding in Repulse Bay with Mahjong to start, an eightcourse Chinese banquet to follow, and then dancing. Handing over our lai see packet at the entrance it struck me, as it always does, what a sensible idea this monetary proof of love is.

By asking for wedding presents newlyweds run the risk of getting saddled with 20 juicers and some rather unpleasant or at least random “home accessories”. A wedding list at Harvey Nichols or Lane Crawford is all very nice but basically redundant for couples over 30, who already have all the crockery and chinaware, irons and toasters they need (in duplicate). Hard cash on the other hand is always useful.

Our friends are planning to use their lai see to pay for their honeymoon in South Africa. With 200 guests, all putting in HK$500 minimum, they are definitely on to a winner. (I checked: return flights for two to Cape Town in August with Qatar Airways come in at around HK$22,000, so they’ll have plenty left over for safaris and road trips.)

So the day after the wedding, as my wife reminisced about our blissful but comparatively modest honeymoon in Sicily, I sat back and felt bad. Fifteen years into marriage, we are still funding holidays with whatever is in our bank accounts when our travel date comes around.

This month, caught on the hop, we are headed for a two-week self-catering holiday in Koh Samui. Rents are still relatively cheap at the moment as the island bounces back from lockdown. It’s going to be fun, and we’re flying direct from Hong Kong… but can I do better by my family next year? Obviously, I can’t ask friends and family to subsidise us but what proven ways are there to fund and save for travel?


It occurs to me that the first step is to open a dedicated savings account. Over the coming year, I can then save for our summer jaunt directly and methodically.

Looking into this, I’ve found that set ting up a savings account costs nothing (or close to nothing). Just make sure that you don’t face any minimum balance penalties when you actually start to spend the money you’ve saved. I’ve also ensured that I have ATM and online access to the account, so I can draw money directly from the account when booking and travelling. The money I set aside for our trip should be the money I actually spend – no juggling between accounts.

Using a single, dedicated account will also help me budget during our holiday. I can keep an eye on the balance as our trip progresses, and track the true costs without too much effort.

In order to fund the account, I’ve set up an automatic (monthly) transfer from my current account. Consider that a transfer of HK$1,500 a month adds up to HK$18,000 a year. That would have paid for three return flights to Koh Samui this August on Bangkok Airways. I could have then checked the family into a little hotel rather than going the self-catering route.

It’s worth noting that employers will often agree to split your pay cheque deposits among multiple accounts. This means you could arrange for 5 or 10% of your monthly earnings to go straight into your dedicated travel account – without having to move it yourself, ask the bank to do it for you, or be tempted to spend it.


Tried-and-tested ways to save are often the best, so I’m going to bring out the (super-sized) change jar, label it “travel fund”, and drop my spare change into it daily. The banks exchange coins for notes if you bag it according to denomination, and a specified amount.

Our daughter Amy, 13, has sworn by this moneysaving method for years, but is it a childish means of saving? Not really! Not when you consider that it only takes HK$15 a day to get to HK$5,475 in a year. With two adults emptying their pockets into a jar every day, the loot adds up fast.

Talking about time-honoured ways to make a little cash, I’m inspired by the families who used to man the Flea Market stalls in DB Plaza. I figure you can make quite a lot by selling off unwanted clothes and household items – so when the market reappears, and assuming I’ve got enough clobber, I’ll hire a stall, In the meantime, I’m going to look into selling a couple of items on the DB Mums Facebook page. A friend recently put up a dehumidifier, a microwave, a baby changing table and a child’s car seat, and made a cool HK$5,500.

I’ve also been talking for a long time about getting rid of a ton of stuff on eBay, so when we get back from this year’s summer holiday, I’m going to get round to doing it. It’s time to par t with my Amazing Spider-Man Marvel comic books (Amy has no interest in them), and my wife says my “secret” stash of Sports Illustrated can go too. While individual items may not sell for much, every little bit helps.


If you are travelling for professional, educational or research purposes, you may qualif y for any number of grants. These travel grants do not fund entire trips, but they will offset some of your expenses – so while you won’t get a free holiday, it can be considerable money in your pocket nonetheless.

It strikes me, too, that travel grants can be an excellent way to help kids appreciate that the annual bucket-and-spade holiday costs a lot more money than staying at home. This year, I’m going to have Amy apply for a travel grant (from me) to help fund her next trip. I think she’ll enjoy going through the full grant process – establishing a foundation, giving it a name, getting letters of support, creating a budget and outlining her responsibilities. I’ll advise her to hit up her grandparents for a little cash.

To my mind, it makes sense to encourage kids to save a little from their weekly allowance to spend on their holidays. Explain that vacations cost extra, and that while you are still paying the bills at home during the trip and will cover the travel expenses, they will need to save up for any extras. When I talk to Amy about this, I’ll specify exactly what she’ll need to save for. I’ll cover flights, hotel rooms, meals, park admission and the like, and expect her to chip in for souvenirs and snacks.

Lastly, I encourage you to do a true budget for your trip. Work out what you will likely spend over the two weeks, including flights, accommodation, daily expenses and non-travel costs like boarding for pets. But also factor in what you will save, on things like energy costs, and ferry and taxi fares. Working out the pluses and minuses will give you a much more honest cash-flow analysis of how much your trip is going to cost. This year we’ll go anyway, next year we’ll do it right!

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