I need a vacation, can I take a break from making good financial decisions?

Got this great email the other day. It’s an excellent question. And by the way, I LOVE giving free advice.

Pete,

I’m sure you get tired of emails exactly like this one, asking for free advice – but I thought I give it a shot anyway.

I’ve been following your blog and twitter for about a year now and actively trying to get my financials in a better position. I’m 27 with a solid job, a car payment, and some credit card debt. Every purchase I make, I now ask myself if it is necessary or will it make getting out of debt more difficult. My girlfriend of a year is also on board with this and has also made a commitment to save and stay out of debt.

The issue becomes at what point are you allowed to spend money? She would really like to take a vacation together later this year. Every time I think about it I think of how far that $500-$1000 I will spend could go towards my debt. And I know for her it would either take a hit on her savings, or go right on a credit card. 

When I try to save so much money each month to put towards my credit card, it seems counter productive to take some of that for a vacation fund. We’ve looked at cruises to avoid food costs, all inclusive resorts to avoid drink costs, but the costs of all these just get overwhelming. I’m inclined to just say we can’t afford it this year, but I’m sure I will feel like this every year it comes up. I hate spending so much money on a trip that is over before you know it. But at some point, doesn’t everyone need a little time away to relax on a beach?

Would love to hear your thoughts on this situation.

Thanks,

J.T.

JT,

Excellent question.

It’s possible that you truly can’t afford to do it. What’s happened over the last several months is that you’ve raised the bar on your financial life. You are intentional with your money, and you refuse to “buy something and figure out how to pay for it later.” This is a good thing. However, this is what is creating a conflict. You’re battling your old sensibilities in making this decision. But have you gone too far? Is it possible to let up on the reins for a couple of months in order to go on this trip, without hurting your financial life? If so, do it. If not, then don’t do it. You can hit pause on your debt pay down, as long as you don’t go backwards by going on this trip.

Me personally? If I question whether I can afford something, I make sure that I use “extra” sources of income to fund the purchase. I try not to fund the purchase with my regular cash flow. This could mean trying to earn extra money via freelance work, overtime, 2nd gig, etc.

Does this help?
Life isn’t all about working for money. You need to have fun too. But you shouldn’t sacrifice the future just to let go. Who knows, maybe you could vacation monthly once your debt is paid. 

4 thoughts on “I need a vacation, can I take a break from making good financial decisions?

  1. I would like to chime in on this subject. I have been working diligently in paying off debt since 2010. Since then I have paid off my credit card, my car and padded my emergency fund. In January, when I evaluated my goals for the year I decided to give myself a two month reprieve after my car was paid off.

    The intention was not to take a “vacation” from being responsible or take a vacation from my financial plan/goals. Rather, I am using this “reprieve” strategically – as a part of my financial goals for the second quarter – to purchase some practical household items that I have been “sacrificing” all this time. For example, I needed a new blender because I make healthy smoothies every morning. I needed a new toaster because I was pretty sure that my old one was going to set the house on fire at some point.

    Anyway, maybe I am doing things in a way not recommended by experts but I have tended to be so frugal and sacrifice GREATLY when I am working toward my goals that I really felt I deserved a “break” to take that money and put it towards this type of thing.

    My reprieve is over but I feel like this is has been my “reward” for sticking to my plan.

  2. Taking a break helps me re-group and re-energize, but I think there is a line that can be drawn. There are great hotels nearby, beaches within driving distance, and tons of opportunity to have a break without going overboard. A little bit of organization and pre-planning will go a long way. We are heading to FL in the fall, saving up now to pay for it – but there is no way I’m going to spend $500/night on a Disney resort, or $100/pp for a breakfast with a large costumed mouse. The kids will love staying in a hotel about a mile away, riding the shuttle in, and I’ll be sure to track down the mouse when we arrive and snap a great family photo.

  3. My husband and I have been paying down our debt diligently for about 6 months now. I even keep a spreadsheet that says exactly how much needs to go where so I know where we stand and when we can expect to be debt-free. For our anniversary in September, my uncle gifted us his timeshare in Key West. So, we are taking a week’s vacation, for our anniversary, and all we have to pay for is the flight and food. And since we’re in a condo we can make most of our meals there. There is always a way to do a vacation. Ask around and see what kind of deals you can get or if you know someone who may be willing to let you use their timeshare or vacation house. You never know what you might find.

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