Insider’s experts choose the best products and services to help make smart decisions with your money (here’s how). In some cases, we receive a commission from our partners, however, our opinions are our own. Terms apply to offers listed on this page.
- Siblings Sunem and Israel Tovar saved more than $7,000 to take their parents on a dream trip to Mexico City.
- Sunem opened a new credit card and used the sign-on bonus to pay for flights for herself and her parents.
- Both siblings used sinking funds to save for their trip slowly.
On the road to financial freedom, siblings Israel and Sunem Tovar each built six-figure investment portfolios and fully funded their emergency savings.
Besides their shared goals of becoming work-optional and retiring early, the Tovar siblings also dreamt of taking their parents on a trip to Mexico City. The Tovar family moved to Los Angeles, California from Tijuana, Mexico in the early 2000s, then moved to Nashville, Tennessee in 2007.
“Our parents didn’t know English,” Israel says. “Our dad was able to raise a family of eight in LA back in the early 2000s on a salary of $17,500 a year.”
Sunem adds, “I didn’t know this, but, originally, my parents’ side of the family is from Mexico City.”
In September 2022, the siblings were finally able to make their dream come true. To pay for the trip, each used a savings approach known as a sinking fund. That’s where you set money aside for a specific upcoming expense, unlike a general savings account or emergency fund. Israel saved more than $3,000. Sunem has an annual sinking fund of $5,000 for travel, but she saved an additional $2,000 to cover her parents’ expenses on the trip.
On the other hand, Israel has been saving a sabbatical fund since August 2021 so that he could take a year off work, teaching high school students. By June 2022, he reached his savings goal of $20,000. Israel used part of the savings to fund his share of the Mexico City trip.
In the end, the siblings only spent a total of $4,149 on their trip on the following categories:
Here are three strategies the Tovar siblings used to save up for the trip.
1. They booked their flights early
Sunem and Israel booked their flights in December 2021 even though their trip was nine months away in September 2022. “Obviously, that was right before inflation got out of control,” Israel says. “But even with inflation now, planning well in advance makes [travel] way more affordable.”
Booking their flights early also helped Sunem and Israel break down their savings goal into smaller chunks for the remaining nine months until they left for Mexico City.
2. Sunem opened a new credit card and used the points to book tickets
Sunem opened a new credit card with travel rewards that gave her a big discount on flights for her and her parents. She paid just $698 round-trip for three people, compared to Israel who paid $580 for his round-trip flight.
She adds, “Now every time I want to go on a trip, I’ll see what different credit cards can get me.”
Insider’s Featured Credit Cards for Travel
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel. Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase.
75,000 miles after spending $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
Earn 5x points on all travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Earn 3x points on dining, including eligible delivery services, takeout, and dining out. Earn 3x points on select streaming services. Earn 3x points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs). Earn 2x points on other travel. Earn 1x point per dollar on everything else.
60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
3. The siblings used sinking funds to save small amounts over time
“Even before building my sabbatical fund,” says Israel, “I had a sinking fund for my parents. So when I had a full-time job, I would always put some money in there.” Israel used money from that sinking fund to pay for meals on their family’s Mexico City Trip.
On the other hand, Sunem’s sinking fund was solely for travel. “I always put money into it every week so that if I wanna go on vacation, it’s there.”
Saving little by little for their trip allowed the Tovar siblings to actually enjoy spending their hard-earned money, instead of feeling guilty for splurging on the trip.
Israel adds, “I actually feel like my relationship with money improved. We love exploring and experiencing new places with our family. We’re very family-oriented and we love our parents a lot. That was just beautiful to be able to experience Mexico City with them.”