My wife and I ask this question every year.
You should know that we are big promoters of vacations. I am a fan of the work hard, play hard philosophy. Past vacations continue to linger as some of our favorite family memories.
Family Vacation as an Investment
When you think investments are all about money, you’ve got everything wrong. An investment is simply something your give part of yourself to with the hope that you get at least as much, if not more, in return. When you vacation I believe you invest in your family.
Nevertheless, there are a lot (A LOT) of decent, honest people who are upside down and backwards in debt who still vacation on an annual basis.
Should a family in debt take a vacation?
Why, of course! Vacations are important. For many families they are the glue that keeps them together. They create memories that will probably be worth more to you at the age of 80 than any one of your dollars in the bank account.
HOWEVER, families in debt should take cheap, and I mean cheap, vacations.
I am amazed at the number of families in debt who take BIG vacations (over a couple thousand dollars). The problems is that if you are in debt you will get one week of relief from the burden, but when you return over the next 11 months you will pay double the worry, hassle, and fear.
How to plan an ‘I’m-in-debt Family Vacation’:
Consider a ‘staycation’. A staycation is a vacation where you stay in your own house. This removes the transportation costs as well as accommodation costs. For a successful staycation you will need to remember a few things. Get out of your regular routine – even go to a different church, unplug, check out the sights in and around your home.
If, however, you must get out of town …
Make the vacation within driving distance of your home – flying adds an extra layer of expense.
Consider a house swap with someone you know. There are some house swap programs and that might be for you. However, I would suggest making plans with people you know.
Make your own meals.
Buy an Entertainment Book for your destination and only go places that you have a coupon for.
Debt Free – How Much Vacation Can You Afford?
Your vacation needs to be “proportional to your income”. Beyond that, there really are no rules. Since your budget is a system, if you want more for vacation you will need to plan less for something else. Make sure you are still doing some long term saving, giving, and then from there you set the limit based on your preferences.
Check to be sure your budget percentages are in line. Check out the Recommended Budget Percentages by Category
How to Save For a Family Vacation
- Decide early. The sooner your make your decision about taking a family vacation, the more time you will have to save.
- Set a starter budget. You should be able to do this in about a half hour. Go to www.sidestep.com to get a rough idea on the cost of airfare, hotels, and car rental. From there, assign a number to the average amount you usually spend on breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Add in some miscellaneous expenses and money for activities. You can also find valuable information at www.helpmetravelcheap.com.
- Start saving money each month between now and your vacation date. Let’s say it’s December 2009 and you plan to vacation in July and you want to spend $3,000 on your vacation. Over the next seven months you will need to save $430 per month.
- Organize your savings: If you are an ING user just open a new subaccount and set up a reoccurring deposit into that account for $430. If, however, you are looking for a new account to set up your vacation savings you might check out Smartypig. After you open a Smartypig account you simply indicate how much vacation money you want and the date you need the money. Smartypig will then automatically transfer the right amount of money every month to be sure you make your goal. In addition, with Smartypig you can get a “Savings Boost”. If you take your savings and use them to buy American Airlines gift cards you will get a savings boost of 3%. If you use your money to buy Travelocity Hotel gift card you will get 10%. If you use your money to buy a Sandals Resort card you get a 10% boost.
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Photo by dawnzy58.