Vacation on a Budget: Enjoying Summer Vacation When Money is Tight
School’s out, the weather is warm, and everyone is going on vacation. Ideally, summer is the time to get away, see something new and spend time with loved ones. But, a summer getaway with the family carries a big price tag. According to a recent study, Americans take on a whopping $1,100 in debt when they take a vacation. On its own, that’s already a huge number. But, if you’re already dealing with debt, this expense may derail any progress you’ve made toward restoring your financial health. Lucky for you, you don’t have to dismiss your plans for summer fun just yet. Try these tips for having a fun summer without going into debt.
Don’t try to compete
Summer can be a tough time to be on social media. Every time you check your Facebook or Instagram, it seems like one of your friends is taking a lavish family vacation. Soon, it seems like each friend’s vacation is outdoing the last. It’s important to remember that everything on social media is highly curated. You may be seeing pictures of fancy meals and expensive excursions. But, you’re not seeing the financial impact this is having on them. Remember that when your FOMO is starting to kick in, or you’re tempted to recreate their Instagram magic. Instead, focus on you, your family and your financial situation. Your vacation is for you and your loved ones—not your social media feed.
Start saving early
If you think you can swing a vacation, don’t wait until the last minute to try to pay for it. It’s easier if you set aside small amounts of money over time to use for a vacation. This may mean a few lean months, but it beats blowing through all your money in one swoop and being unable to cover bills and expenses afterward. Keep in mind that even though vacation is more fun than bills, saving for a vacation should always be a lower priority than your other financial obligations. If you must choose whether to pay a credit card bill in full or contribute to a hopeful vacation, choose your credit card! Your vacation will feel much more worthwhile when you’re not burdened with credit card debt.
Create a budget
If you are planning to take advantage of the summer months, plan early and carefully. Being unorganized can lead to unexpected expenses and an unhappy bank account when vacation is over. Instead, create a budget before you go. First, you’ll need to do an assessment of your bank account. See how much money you will have available for summer fun after you pay all your bills and other financial obligations. Then, start plotting out all potential vacation expenses and how much money to allocate towards each expense—think lodging, food, activities, gas or airfare. Be thorough and remember to include what you were able to save prior to your vacation! Too many surprises can throw everything into chaos.
Think outside the box
Vacationing on a budget calls for additional creativity. A trip including airfare, meals and lodging can get expensive quickly. Instead, think of ways to have an enjoyable getaway without these expenses. One strategy is to plan a “stay-cation.” This means you find fun activities in or around your own community. You could hike, check out a museum, lounge by a pool, try a new restaurant or anything else you’ve never done. You’re still off work, enjoying the summer and seeing new things, but you’re not spending nearly as much money. You could also try camping. You’ll incur expenses for gas, a campsite rental and equipment. But, you’ll save on lodging and meals. If you’re more of a beach person, there are still ways to make a beach trip work for you. Just opt for beaches within driving distance (lakes and rivers are good options if you don’t live near a coast!), choose basic lodging and opt for cooking and dining in!
A vacation doesn’t have to break the bank, but you shouldn’t feel obligated to take one either. Just spend your summer enjoying your family and focusing on your financial health. If you do want to take a vacation, just be mindful of your spending. But, most importantly have fun! For questions about managing your money or mindful spending, we’re here to help.