The winter months get many of us dreaming about our next vacation to a warm place. But would you spend $25k for a $10k vacation? My colleague, Steve White, recently wrote about how this could happen:
Everybody likes a vacation. If you could take a $10,000 vacation where would it be – Vegas, Miami, the beach, LA? If you could choose between spending $10,000 or $25,000 for the same Vegas vacation (same airfare, same hotel, same restaurants, same clubs, same blackjack losses), which would you choose? The $10,000 dollar one, right?
Let me tell you how you can spend $25,000 on that Vegas trip. Book that $10,000 trip using a credit card and make the minimum payments on it. The minimum payments would be about $175 a month and it would take you 12 years to pay if off at that rate.
$175 a month times 12 years is $25,200. Think about it. You could have taken 2 1/2 trips to Vegas for what you spent on 1 trip.
So how can you avoid this fate? One option is to simply not take vacations, but if you value your emotional and ultimately physical health and productivity, that’s probably not a good idea. In fact, spending money on experiences like a vacation generally gives a much bigger “happiness bang” for your buck.
Instead, set a goal for your vacation and estimate how much it will cost. You can even use this tool to find a trip based on your goals and budget. Once you’ve set a target, subtract any savings you’ve managed to set aside for that trip and divide the remainder by the number of months between now and when you want to take your vacation to determine how much you need to save each month. But where will you come up with that money? Steve suggests starting with a spending plan:
A spending plan allows you to focus your money on what is important to you – like a vacation. The best way to do this is to set a 30 minute weekly appointment with yourself to review your finances. I recommend scheduling this when your energy level is high and you’re able to concentrate. I am a morning person so mine is Saturday morning.
Whether you use our Easy Spending Plan, our Expense Tracker, Mint, or any other system for your spending plan doesn’t matter. What matters is that you have a spending plan. Personalize it and continually ask yourself, “I see where I am spending my money. Is this really where I want to spend it?” If the answer is no, find one area to adjust and make that the topic of the next week’s money meeting.
This isn’t about anyone lecturing you on what to spend money on but about you taking control over your own finances. Ask yourself if each expense is more important to you than your vacation. (Remember that you generally buy more happiness with experiences than with things.) If not, pay yourself first by reducing that expense and have the savings automatically transferred each month into a separate designated savings account for your vacation. Now you have a savings plan to complement your spending plan.
What if you can’t reduce your expenses enough to fund your vacation? In that case, you’ll have to adjust your goal either by postponing it or by choosing a lower cost trip. Financial planning is all about trade-offs. There’s no one right answer as long as you’re making an educated and conscious decision.
Finally, you might want to use a rewards credit card to pay for your trip. This way you can earn cash or points towards your next trip and actually come out ahead…as long as you pay the balance off in full from your savings. Do this often enough and maybe you can eventually spend $10k on a $25k vacation!
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