This is Part 5 of our Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck series. You can find all of the previous posts in this series HERE.
Written by Mr. Crumbs
Upon reading the title of this post, you’re probably saying to yourself “isn’t vacation… entertainment?” As in, you just wrote a post on trimming entertainment expenses, now you’re going to talk about vacations?
People spend as much on a one week vacation, as they’ll spend on entertainment in one year. This number totals in the thousands. That’s why this topic is worth addressing in and of itself.
A few examples to consider:
- We priced out going to Disney one year (although we didn’t go). The price for one week (staying outside the park) ended up running between $2,500-5,000. And this was for basic lodging. The park passes alone were almost $1,000!
- We had friends who recently paid off their debt. Several weeks later they were back in debt because they went on a long weekend trip. Their credit card totaled more than $2,000 for just a few short nights.
Have you ever felt the “social pressure” of people telling you that you need to take your children to a particular tourist destination? (Fellow friend and blogger Erin shared a great post about that recently.)
Have you ever priced out some of those theme park-type trips, only to find that it would take you MONTHS of neglecting your savings account to be able to finally afford one?
Let me be clear. There is NOTHING WRONG with taking a nice or expensive vacation. But you shouldn’t do it if it creates a financial burden or headache for your family – especially if you feel social pressure to do so.
With that said, I’d love to share with you 6 ways to enjoy vacation on a budget without going broke or into debt.
6 Ways to Enjoy Vacation on a Budget and Without Going Broke or into Debt
(1) Ignore the social pressure.
That’s right! Ignore the social pressure anyone around you might be putting on you. Be up front and honest with that person and just say:
“I can’t afford it” or “We’re saving for something else” or “It’s not our cup of tea.”
We have several awesome friends who visit Disney every year. They always come back and tell us that we need to go, but we reply each time that we’re saving up for something else instead.
Still, they would tell us we should go to Disney, if anything, for the kids… until this year when we went to Costa Rica.
(2) If you want it, save up and pay cash.
One of our dear friends came up to us after we got home and asked how we afforded the trip to Costa Rica.
The simple answer – we saved up! For six years people!!
The wonderful thing about saving up for a trip in advance is that it eliminates the stress of figuring out how to pay for it – while you’re supposed to be enjoying it. It also eliminates the concern about setting a budget for vacation, because what you’ve saved up IS your budget.
To make it even more interesting: two weeks in Costa Rica (including round-trip airfare) was roughly the same cost as a single week in Disney!
(3) Go during the off-season.
By waiting just a week or two, you can save THOUSANDS. Our family took a trip to San Diego a couple of years ago we saved $1,500 on the rental house by waiting a couple weeks after the close of the summer season.
It might mean pulling your kids out of school for a week (or re-arranging your homeschool schedule), but it will save you a ton and you will enjoy your vacation that much more knowing that you paid less for just as much fun.
(4) Don’t go at all.
The reality is, you don’t have to go at all! It seems rather counter-cultural in America to NOT go on vacation, but you can skip out on it altogether. This provides several advantages in that it allows you to save your vacation time as well as continue earning an income.
If you have one of those “use it or lose it” type employers, plan a staycation. Enjoy your time off at home and with your family, but without the pressure of those high cost vacation. (Huge list of cities and ideas here.)
(5) Find more frugal alternatives.
This is especially important if you’re doing a staycation.
The large majority of our frugal alternatives involve outdoor things like hiking and the beach. Finding a park or dollar movie is a great way to have frugal entertainment on the fly without breaking the bank. Jessica has great tips of planning a great staycation.
Here are some great ways to have fun outdoors for free!
(6) Go camping.
Perhaps the most frugal and relaxing alternative of them all is camping. You can camp in many parts of the country for free or as little as $10-20 per night.
A lot of people scoff at the idea of sleeping in a tent or having to walk to the shower, but it’s actually one of the most relaxing and rewarding experiences we’ve ever had because it’s just so simple.
In just a couple days, you’ll see an entire family go from being stressed out to being utterly relaxed. Giant brownies over the campfire does wonders for your soul and well… kids love watching the fire!
With that said, don’t find yourself trapped spending thousands on vacation. If you go, make sure you can afford it and have saved up for it. Otherwise, consider some of the frugal alternatives in this post.