School is out for most students, the sun is shining, the sky is blue, and it is time for hundreds of thousands of Americans to take time off for vacations. When I was a kid, my family never really took vacations. I remember going away with some friends one summer and for three weeks, we had the best of times. Life was good. It was in the mountains, in a very rural area and dozens of miles from the city. It was so much fun.
Because I wasn’t used to going away on vacation growing up, I never really thought about taking time off when I was independent and able to. There were several reasons for that. The main is that I was paying out of pocket for school and living on my own. Now that I’m financially able to, I look for ways to discover other parts of the country and live extraordinary experiences.
Most people want the same thing: take time off, relax, travel and experiences new adventures. The problem is usually a financial barrier, and those who are not disciplined end up taking up debt by swiping their credit cards just to enjoy a vacation. With social media and the incessant flow of incredible images of exotic places, the temptation is ever difficult to resist. You may see your friends going on crazy, once in a lifetime trips and naturally, you want to be there too. Let me reassure you that the saying ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ really applies here and you shouldn’t always envy those Instagram accounts.
My goal is for you to be financially stable; get out of debt, have the proper amount of savings and continually the increase your income. To accomplish this goal, you must make some sacrifices for a period. While you are working on developing more than just a 9 to 5 income, let’s delay gratification. Sacrifices are not indefinite. In fact, the ultimate goal is to enjoy a luxurious vacation without worrying about its cost. But meanwhile, if you plan on getting away from the hustle and bustle momentarily to recharge this summer, here is how you could do it without creating a financial fire.
Budget and plan!
You expected this, right!? Of course; you must budget and plan. The philosophy is not to decide (or expect) how much you’ll spend after you’ve picked the destination or the activity, you should rather decide what to do after you’ve set a spending limit. How much can you afford now without affecting the rest of the summer negatively? How much do you have saved and what percentage of that should you spend? What amount is responsible based on the state of your current finances. You should clearly define the answers to those questions wisely. It’s ok to use your credit card if you’d like to but there should still be a budget.
This is not meant to refrain you from enjoying your time off. In fact, if you have the means, do have fun and live some great experiences. I believe it is still a good idea to set a budget no matter what your limits are.
Consider these options for your vacation
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard of Airbnb. Like Uber is revolutionizing the taxi industry, Airbnb came to compete against the hospitality industry. Instead of being confined by the limits or the setting of a hotel building, now you have the option of ‘feeling at home’ while you’re away. You may rent a home and make it yours (as your contract permits) and have more flexibility than you would in a hotel suite. When you go on vacation, you want to relax and have fun and live like the locals. Airbnb might just be the solution. And there is another bonus. You might save money as well based on the location that you picked.
Plan day trips and look for unique experiences
Here is a thought: instead of paying for hotel rooms, you could also take fun day trips. About two years ago I discovered OnlyInYourState.com and it has been my go-to whenever I feel like discovering new places or getting out of the normal routine. The website, as its name indicates, highlights unique places, attractions and events that you could visit in every single state. From road trips along the best fall foliage in your state to hikes with the best views, from the best beach front to the best restaurants, it features everything. Just pick a state, pack your car, get some gas and go on the adventure of the day. You will discover beautiful small towns, the craziest back roads, the most fun people. By the evening, when you get back to your home, you would’ve have the best day of your summer. Oh, by the way, you would’ve saved money as well.
Visit family or book with other family members (or friends)
Some of us have family living in a different state than we do. In many cases, we barely see them throughout the year and only get to squeeze a couple days of quality time around the holidays. Why not take the summer and reconnect with those beloved people? It’s an opportunity to discover another environment, another city, another people.
Because of the very fast pace culture that we live in, it is easy sometimes to forgo quality time with family for our careers. Time is precious and specific memories can only be made once. Don’t delay too long. Call you brother, sister, cousins and decide to visit them. You might save some money this summer along the way.
Finally, there is the good old staycation. Yes, it’s ok to just relax at home too. Maybe the vacation that you want is a couple thousand dollars away and you need to save up for it. Or maybe, you just want to take up some DIY home improvement projects this summer. Whatever it is, staycation is a viable option, if not the best, when you plan on saving money. By the way, taking day trips still applies here. There is so much to do while staycationning, it shouldn’t be underestimated.
A vacation should not wreck your finances. I hope with these examples, you’re able to make a financially sound decision this year and I wish you the best of times with your friends and family this summer.