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Summer Vacation Damage

September 6, 2018


My son started kindergarten this week, a big milestone in my family’s life that we’re excited to celebrate. The start of school also marks the end of summer vacation which means it’s time to take stock of something you may be embarrassed to talk about in public: the havoc summer wreaks on your finances.

Did you take a one week vacation and come back with a credit card balance $1,000 over what you budgeted? Do you look at the statement and glaze over trying to figure out what went wrong?

Expenses like hotels, amusement parks, and other tourist attractions can be reasonably predicted in advance when setting the summer vacation budget.

What almost always trips up the summer vacation budget is food. If you’re a family of four and you eat out every meal on a 7 day vacation, that’s $1,500 in food. By comparison, when you’re at home, you’re likely spending considerably less.

Thankfully there are some simple ways to keep your next vacation budget under control:

  • Bring your own snacks to attractions – Savings $105

    • Snacks and meals inside amusement parks are at least $5 and you’ll pay up for low quality. Use those savings towards a meal or something else on your trip you’ll appreciate more.

  • Find a hotel that includes breakfast – Savings $280

    • You usually don’t have to pay up materially on the hotel cost to get a continental breakfast.

  • Get accommodations with a kitchen – Savings $800

    • Assumes you still eat out once a day

    • AirBnB and similar rental sites make it easy to find something suitable

    • You’re on vacation, no way do you want to do dishes and make meals! Prepared dishes from a grocery store deli can still save you bundle. Where you’ll see the biggest savings is on drinks. A bottle of wine at a restaurant is at least $40. That same bottle from the store is probably $10.

There’s nothing wrong with going out to eat 3 times a day on vacation if that’s what brings you happiness. You just have to budget for it in advance.

Make the cap on your vacation spending non-negotiable and use the above tips to stay inside of that amount. If you’re running high early on in the week it means trimming back the meals and attractions later in the week. Remember if you go over your budget there’s no magic wand that can wave away that expense.

I’m writing this because I’ve committed all of the above summer vacation financial crimes…now what?! We’ll cover how to recover your finances in the next blog post. Stay tuned!

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