A 3 Step Way to Guilt-Free Vacation Spending

We have been trained as a culture to feel guilty when we do things for ourselves. Let’s face it, if we are going into deep levels of debt to pay for, we should feel guilty. But if we can afford it, we deserve a guilt-free way to spend it.

Vidova Gora, Brac

As Americans, we are constantly fighting a war against vacation, or more specifically, our vacations are under assault. At my job, it took me 4 months just to get my vacation request approved. All the while in Europe, courts just ruled that if you get sick during your mandatory 4 week vacation, you get a do-over. Quite a contrast.

For those playing at home who are in a financial position to afford a nice vacation every few years (one that costs a few thousand dollars), we need to equip ourselves with an attitude to combat the snarky comments like “that’s a long time to be gone from work” or “I hope your boss likes you.”

Anyone who utters these types of comments is simply spreading the brain-worm meme of vacation hate.

In order to eliminate any guilt and fend off judgement, just follow these simple, yet often-ignored steps:

  • Estimate It
  • Save It
  • Spend It

 

Estimate It

I say “estimate” because “calculate it” sounds nerdy. While we can’t figure out to a “t” what a trip of a lifetime opportunity would cost, it’s safe to say it’s going ot be a few thousand dollars.

The best way to estimate it is to write down all the things you think you will do when on the road for a week to three weeks. We will probably have transportation, meals, tour and museum fees, evening entertainment, souvenirs, hotels, snacks. If you are renting a car, think of gas. 

Rather than try to guess how much we will spend in the smaller areas like eating and museums, we just estimated that on top of lodging, car rental and other expenses we knew ahead of time, we’d probably spend an average of $100 per day on eating, museums, and gasoline. Once we had this number, we multiplied it by the number of days we’d be active, and had our final number.

I would advise to always err on the side of overestimating. This is to account for new clothes or a new camera – unplanned purchases  that you may decide you need.  The estimation is a very crucial step in the process, because it will help you understand and decide if you can actually afford it or not. If you add up your dream vacation to Paris, halfway across the world and it’s just way outside your budget right now, a road trip to a spa hotel in Las Vegas, could be just as fun for a whole lot less. Paris will still be there after you’ve saved up for another trip.

 

Save It

Once you have a pretty good idea of your total trip cost, you know how much you need to save each month to ensure that you will have the trip paid for before you leave.

Saving in advance is a great way to put money out of your head for your trip and truly enjoy your limited time.

We used an online savings bank that allows you to set multiple savings goal and take an automatic withdrawal from your checking account each month.

 

Spend It

You may be wondering why the third step of guilt free vacation spending is…spending. That sounds a bit obvious, right?

For some people, though, it’s not. I’ve been there myself so I know firsthand. Even after budgeting an adequate amount on a prior trip, I still spent too much time keeping mental notes of the daily spending and seeing if I could come in under budget.

Don’t do this.

Spend your money. You deserve it.

End of the day approaching and you’ve got $40 left for the day? Take a horse-drawn carriage ride or get a massage. Or ask your concierge if they can put two bathtubs in a forest for you and your partner, like in those Cialis ads.

Unless you’ve greatly overestimate what you needed, just spend it. All of it. Buy refrigerator magnets just because. Get a sweet airbrushed t-shirt because it made you laugh. Buy a new camera or tablet. Eat a dinner that is WAY more expensive than you would have ever eaten while saving for the trip.

Just make sure to leave yourself enough money to buy a postcard for your boss.

 

 

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37 Comments
  1. I tend to feel guilty when I spend money on vacations. I hate that feeling! I need to realize that I earned it.
    Michelle recently posted..Spending, Life, Income and Food Updates…My Profile

  2. John, it was great to meet you this weekend! Holly and I had a lot of fun getting to know you and talking about blogging!

    I hope you have fun on your trip and I can’t wait to put your 3 step vacation spending plan into action! We might go on a small trip this year but nothing large enough to feel guilty about.
    Jason @ WSL recently posted..Blog Income and Site Statistics June 2012My Profile

  3. I think the big reason why we as a society are trained to feel guilty about vacations is that far too many people take regular vacation when they haven’t really ‘earned’ it. They do so at the expense of putting money aside for retirement or paying off debts. If vacations weren’t limiting stuff like that, there would be no reason to feel guilty. I know in your case you really earned your upcoming European vacation after fighting hard to pay off your debt.
    Modest Money recently posted..Why You Shouldn’t Buy Cheap Pet FoodMy Profile

  4. Really needed to read this… going on vacation in a few weeks and have not really told anybody about it because I feel guilty that many are not going on vacation. You are right – I have worked hard, saved and I have the money to spend on vacation – going to go and have a GREAT TIME and not worry about what other people think. Thanks.

    • Hey Patti – glad you read this and were able to feel good about your hard work. Hope you enjoy your vacation!

  5. Always, always overestimate. I think that’s the smartest thing to do.

    I definitely feel the guilt. For the tiny vacation I get this year, we are taking a huge camping trip, to which I calculated the costs to be incredibly cheap compared to staying in a hotel. I would love to take a hot air balloon ride, since I’ll probably never do it otherwise, but at a cost of $235/person, I feel bad about it and it feels stupid since we have the money. But when you’re saving for something big like a down payment, every little dollar counts and I feel guilty for spending it otherwise.
    thethriftyspendthrift recently posted..Why We’re Keeping Our CarMy Profile

  6. I’m on an 11-day vacation from work, but luckily I don’t have to pay since I’m with my mom and we’re at my sister’s volleyball championships. I haven’t really had to spend a dime and it feels nice haha. Next week is another story, and I need to figure out what we are going to do. I have a few thousand in my travel fund, but I definitely am not using it for this next week!
    From Shopping to Saving recently posted..Why Do We Enable People to Spend Money While Shopping?My Profile

  7. I love the last point (of course I would) for two reasons. First, you already budgeted for it so in essence it’s a sunk cost in terms of your budget. Secondly, it’s just fun to not worry about any of that crap when you’re supposed to be relaxing and having fun.

    The vacation dilemma in this country is huge. People are afraid to take a vacation because it’s “wasting” money, or for fear they might not have a job when they return, or whatever reason they come up with. I think it should be mandatory that people take their vacation day in full (in whatever combination they want). It’s not even a matter of going anywhere, people simply don’t take the time, which is nuts.
    Eric J. Nisall – DollarVersity recently posted..Will the Millennial Generation Ever Retire Early?My Profile

  8. This is the process we are doing with our honeymoon next year. We’ve estimated (high) the potential costs, let both our bosses know well in advance about the vacation time, and our currently saving for it.
    bogofdebt recently posted..Spending Recap 6/25-7/1My Profile

  9. Words to live by! I used to feel guilty about taking vacations, but not anymore. I work very hard for my income and for my time. Just like how no one looks out for your money like you, the same goes for your “time”. And I’ve decided that “me time” is best spent next to a pool in Mexico :)
    MyMoneyDesign recently posted..Which Is Better – Rental Income or a Stock Market Index Fund?My Profile

  10. Bathtub in the forest part = I’m dying! I would never be able to spend money on something at the end of the trip because I’d already budgeted for it. I would feel sooo guilty! This is the second post today telling me to stop beating myself up and just spend the money I worked for and budgeted, but I just can’t. I mean, I have no problem spending it! The problem comes later when we’re flying home and I’m nagging poor Jeff about why we asked that poor concierge to drag those full tubs out to the middle of the forest? It wasn’t even romantic and the water was cold….gross. ;)
    Michelle recently posted..Birthday Edition Round-upMy Profile

  11. I think I need to move to Europe
    Sean @ One Smart Dollar recently posted..Beginner’s Guide to Finance – InvestingMy Profile

  12. I used to vacation about 3-4 times per year in the UK but that quickly vanished when I moved to Canada. Back home I could find trips for so cheap and the experience of a lifetime. I planned everything but hung out with the locals for some authentic home cooking on the cheap.

    Now that I’m in Canada I get about 5 weeks vacation this year but for some it’s only 2 weeks after 1 year of service on the job. I used to get around8-10 weeks in the UK.

    So for now, we are planning a trip home next year, not much planning needed. We will plan some flights out of UK hopefully to Spain or Germany to meet up with some mates. We may also go to Australia to meet up with relatives. The important part for us is planning and a budget.

    Great post mate! Lots to think about.
    Mr.CBB
    Canadianbudgetbinder recently posted..SOW, GROW AND SAVEMy Profile

  13. Great post John!
    ESS is absolutely key.
    I work hard enough (60+ hrs/week), and make time for some vacation time, whether its local or down south.
    Cheers!
    E
    Eddie recently posted..How Do You Become Rich?My Profile

  14. Great advice! When we aren’t saving like crazy for a new house (current situation), we put away a set amount every month in our vacation fund. It’s like a bill (just like our emergency fund and paying ourselves for our cars now that they are paid off). That way, when it is time to plan our vacation, we can do all the fun stuff and leave the guilt behind. :-)

  15. The vacation guilt concept is an interesting concept. The reason many people might feel guilty about taking vacations is largely because government officials don’t discuss the need for it. On average, they talk about the need to find a job, work and support a family (which are all accurate). However, I think that there should be just as much emphasis placed on telling families that taking vacations is just as important. It increases productivity, improves customer service, creates happier customers.
    Anthony Thompson recently posted..Work-at-Home Moms – Reasons They’re the World’s Greatest CEOsMy Profile

  16. I totally agree! We work hard for our vacation time and our money. It is good to budget and plan for your needs first, but letting vacation go to waste is a sin in my book.

    When I am at work, I work hard. I do that so I can get my away time to enjoy.
    Eric recently posted..Understanding “Need” vs “Want”My Profile

  17. I know what you mean about feeling guilty about spending.

    So many times I’ve seen something I want to buy at the start of a vacation but don’t buy it just incase I see something better, then regret it when I don’t see anyhting else and the thing I wanted has now gone!

    If I see something I like I just buy it now!
    Money Bulldog recently posted..Is Your Money Really Safe In The Bank?My Profile

  18. We used to have to take 2 weeks off at work – some sort of SEC rule – to allow bosses time to get in and inspect your work area to make sure you aren’t doing bad things.

    I never have felt guilty taking a vacation, but I often had to work extra hard to prepare for it and recover from it – at work.

    I have always been anal about planning vacation trips – budget, itinerary, and etc.
    Marie at FamilyMoneyValues recently posted..Logo DesignMy Profile

  19. Sounds familiar, I have a vacation coming up and not one person in my family has been positive about it and have completely disregarded that I am always doing something for work, every day… maybe not for hours at a time but taking two weeks completely OFF shouldn’t be something I should feel guilty about unless I’m doing it every month when I don’t have the money.

    Great points, and i think it might be a little hard for us pf bloggers to completely let go of that mental calculator even on vacation, lol.

  20. I have been “funemployed” for about three months now, and every day feels like a vacation. So every penny I spend I am guilt ridden over. I’d like to be working, but I’d also like to enjoy this time I have off as it might never come my way again.

    Congrats on your big trip! You guys deserve it! :)
    L Bee and the Money Tree recently posted..My first week on the “Live like you are miserably poor challenge”….My Profile

  21. These are all important tips. Especially starting with the estimate it part. I’m planning a trip to Disney with the kids. It’s years away, but I know it’s going to be pricey so I’m figuring out the costs now so it’s easier to save.
    JP @ My Family Finances recently posted..Should Your Family Switch to Verizon’s Share Everything PlanMy Profile

  22. 4 weeks to get a vacation approved? I can never understand bosses who mess with time off or paychecks. Those are the two pillars you just don’t mess with if you want your employee to stick around and keep working for you.
    AverageJoe recently posted..Homeowners Insurance: My Friend’s Best FriendMy Profile

  23. Thank you for preaching this! I really think one way of avoiding the stress of money is going to an “all-inclusive” place. We honeymoon’d in Jamaica at an all-inclusive (including all drinks), and it was wonderful. We recently wen to Hawaii and stayed at a B&B, but we’re constantly worried about overspending. We had to make too many money decisions for vacation, and it kid of bummed us out.

    But I agree, if you save for it, SPEND THE MONEY!!! That’s what it’s for!
    Jacob @ iHeartBudgets recently posted..How Much Money Did You “Blow” On Fireworks?My Profile

  24. This is how my parents do vacations. They may be careful the rest of the time but we never keep track of things on our vacations. It’s a nice break from being frugal. It was always their goal to be debt free so they could take us on nice vacations-and they made that happen!
    Chase

  25. This is truly a very enlightening post. why feel guilty when you’ve earned it and you can afford it.

  26. Coming from the UK I always found it hard to believe that Americans got and sometimes took so little holidays or vacations!

    The standard in the UK is about 25 days not including public holidays and Christmas, Easter etc. If you follow another religion with different holidays you get even more time off!

    Saying that, we do live in really small houses compared to your guys and our portion sizes are nothing to write home about.

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