It won’t be long until summer, and many are looking forward eagerly to that annual summer vacation. For some, it’s worth waiting for, but for others, it’s not worth overspending.
And the fact is many Americans do.
An Experian survey found that 68 percent of people overspend on summer vacation, and 35 percent don’t save for it.
“You want to enjoy a vacation and know you’re not paying for it for years to come,” says Alexander Joyce, a retirement planner and president and CEO of ReJoyce Financial LLC..
“Going for the beach vacation or somewhere special is always something wonderful, as is spending time with the family, making memories. But at the same time, if the budget isn’t friendly, maybe you should go somewhere closer and for a shorter time. The bottom line is you should customize your own vacation with regard to both your current financial status and with an eye on not hurting your future.”
Joyce gives five ways to plan a summer vacation without wrecking your financial situation:
Don’t touch retirement funds. “Certainly stay away from those retirement savings accounts – 401(k)s, IRAs – as a way to pay for expensive vacations,” Joyce says. “As much as we like to say vacationing is a hot priority, so is saving long-term, and you shouldn’t lose focus on the goal.”
Budget honestly. Many people do not vacation within their means, as the Experian survey shows. Joyce says planning and sticking with a budget is a must to avoid financial issues down the road. “You should be disciplined enough to build that budget and stay true to it,” he says. “It’s difficult to do, and you’re going to overspend at times, but make sure you put that back, re-allocate it.”
Avoid spending traps. They happen all over on a vacation, often spontaneously – eating out, massages, golf, other entertainment. “You should decide on trade-offs,” Joyce says. “Consider eating at more affordable restaurants. Have a good idea in advance what are some good-value family activities and what is wasting money.”
Keep your credit card home. The Experian survey showed families charge an average of about $1,250 on their credit cards for summer vacations. “Try not to use your credit card the entire trip,” Joyce says. “And if you do, pay it off with no interest. Going into debt for a vacation should never be part of your plan.”
Skip the travel agent. Many people turn to travel agents, at an extra expense, to plan a trip. Plotting your every move may be difficult, but the more research you do ahead of time, the better prepared you are to experience the kind of vacation you can both enjoy and afford. “You know your budget better than a travel agent,” Joyce says, “and it’s fun as a family to explore what you want to do, trust yourselves in what you’re doing.”
“A lot of people come back from vacation and are already filled with regret, wondering ‘Why did we spend so much money?’ ” Joyce says. “Trimming down one vacation smartly could mean you can afford the bigger one the next summer. Now that’s worth it.”