Summer is right around the corner and the idea of taking a step away from the responsibilities and routine of normal daily life is becoming more attractive by the second. The kids are out of school and the weather is great for leaving your desk, computer, and copy machine behind. Yes, a bit of R&R is exactly what you need. It is said that employees who take advantage of their vacation benefits tend to be much more satisfied in their positions. However, more than half of U.S. workers forfeit their vacation days in lieu of keeping their noses to the grindstone for a number of reasons. Some feel they can’t trust anyone else to do the work while they are gone. Others say they simply can not afford it.
According to Money Magazine, the average American spends approximately $1600 on vacation. At this rate, a family of four would need to spend upwards of $6000 to vacation together. This is a luxury that many American families do not enjoy. Nevertheless, if you can be counted in the half of American workers who do take vacation at some point during the year you will want to be financially prepared.
Be NOT Deceived!
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love a good deal. As such, here is a word of caution about booking cheap hotels, rental cars, and airline tickets. If it seems too good to be true, it may very well be! Many of the most appealing advertised prices do not include taxes and fees which can drive up costs considerably, in some cases absolving the benefits of booking with that particular source. Depending on your destination, Forbes says that travel related costs can expand more than 50% beyond the advertised price. This information begs the question...
”How much are you planning to spend on vacation this year?”
The operative word being “planning” suggests that there should be a definite strategy for your spending during your escapades. If you have not yet made room in your budget for vacation expenditures, but you still would like to play hard, here are a few last minute money mustering tricks to help keep you in the black this season.
1. Plan your spending
Take the time to estimate and add up the cost of your entire vacation. Get into the details by considering transportation, lodging, food, entertainment, shopping, etc. Play around with the numbers until you come up with a plan that is feasible and comfortable for you. This will serve as your goal budget and will give you a financial objective to work towards.
2. Make the cut
Ideally, we would all have enough money to have everything we want now as well as later. Realistically, most of us must make decisions to forego some of the things we want now in exchange for the things we want even more later. This means you may have to cut back on, or cut out altogether, entertainment, gym memberships, cable services, cell phone packages, kid’s tennis lessons, or even family movie rental services. These items may all seem like essentials, but they are each money draining extras that can make it difficult to reach your vacation budget goals. If you truly want to make it to your final vacation destination, you may have to make a few cuts.
3. “Pantry Week” pays big!
Avoiding your favorite restaurants and taking your own lunch to the office are great ways to stretch your dollars and stay healthy. By observing “Pantry Week” you can take this concept even a step further by avoiding the grocery store altogether for an entire week at regular intervals, perhaps once per month, until your scheduled vacation. This technique can yield big payouts if you stick to it.
4. Chart your progress
Create a poster to keep track of your progress towards your vacation budget goal. This project is fun and engaging for all family members. Give the kids a particular job and let them update the chart as needed. This will serve to motivate the entire family to save. It will also help younger family members see and understand why some of the usual expenditures are not exactly feasible during this time.
5. Pay yourself, not the IRS
If you normally get excited at the annual return of tax season because of money you expect to get back, you are paying more taxes than necessary all year long. By submitting an adjusted W-4 to your employer you can start receiving those funds right away. Instead of waiting until tax time, pay yourself now and add those funds to your vacation savings.
By researching cost, planning your spending, and saving in advance rather than relying on credit or taking money away from other necessary areas, you give yourself a vacation worth taking. Proactively limit your own spending to create a comfortable cushion will give you the peace of mind to thoroughly enjoy your much needed rest and relaxation.