Debt is a necessary means to an end for millions of Americans. Whether using credit to cover a major purchase, like a vehicle or a home, or simply to cover a gap in cash flow from paycheck to paycheck, debt can accrue at a rapid rate. Leaving balances unpaid each month leads to interest charges that can be hard to overcome, leading to Americans owing a collective $13 trillion to creditors. With an average debt balance of more than $100,000 across all forms of credit per household, it is no surprise that getting out from under the weight of debt is a common goal.
Working toward paying off debt balances takes dedication and a laser-like focus, and for many, that means avoiding the luxuries of life. A vacation, for instance, isn’t something individuals with debt think is feasible, especially when savings accounts are minimal and interest rates on balances owed are high. However, skipping a getaway does not have to be the norm, even when debt repayment is your focus. You can take a vacation – it just means you may need to get creative to make it happen.
Benefits of Vacationing While in Debt
Before considering your options for a getaway while you are also working on paying off your debt, it is helpful to recognize there are benefits to taking a vacation. You may not recognize how necessary a trip may be, and while the advantages differ for each person, you could ultimately improve your financial situation by getting out of your day to day briefly. Here’s why a vacation is helpful.
A Break from Budgeting
Paying off what you owe to creditors is not a simple task. In fact, it takes quite a bit of advanced planning, an up close and personal look at your cash flow and budget, and discipline that is likely to make your head spin. While these are necessary factors in successfully getting out of debt, they can cause a significant amount of stress. Taking a break from it all with the help of a vacation can provide a respite from the constant budgeting requirement, giving you an opportunity to renew your energy for a short period.
A Clear Head
Scheduling a break from the mundane process of budgeting for your debt repayment plan can also provide an opportunity to clear your head. When you are in the throws of calculating interest rates, monthly payments, and eventual payoff dates, it can be hard to see your big-picture progress. A vacation helps you evaluate your forward movement from a different, more relaxed perspective.
Motivation for the Future
The clarity you gain and the relaxation you feel after taking a vacation can also lead to increased motivation for your future debt payoff plans. Having the ability to take more breaks from the daily grind of life is a catalyst to improve your financial life. That includes saving for future trips and, for many, expediting repayment on current debts.
Strategies for Budget-Savvy Vacations
Now that you can see the advantages of taking a vacation while you’re working toward debt payoff, you may be wondering how to achieve your vacation goal realistically. The good news is that you have several options for making a getaway work with your budget, even when it’s limited.
Avoiding the Glam
If you’re in need of a vacation sooner rather than later, think about how you can pull it off without breaking the bank. This often boils down to accommodations if you’re planning a trip far from home. You don’t have to stay at a top of the line hotel or resort to enjoy your vacation, and it isn’t necessary to upgrade flights or rental cars, either. Instead, save costs on avoiding the glam of traveling to and staying at your destination. Depending on where you plan to go, this could save you hundreds of dollars, some of which may be used to pay off your debt when you return.
Staying Close to Home
Another option for a budget-savvy vacation plan is skipping the travel altogether. Airfare plus rental car plus hotel can add up to a pretty penny, and in a hurry. Think about what you may be able to do close to home instead. Maybe that’s a road trip with the family to a friend or family member’s home near or in a big city that has plenty of attractions. It could also mean finding a short-term rental in a nearby place that doesn’t require a flight or a car rental to arrive. Skipping one or more of the added costs of traveling far away can eliminate a significant expense for your next vacation.
Getting Creative with Activities
Saving on your next getaway can also be achieved by getting creative with the activities you plan to do while you’re gone. Whether you’re traveling solo or with the family, select a destination that offers plenty of free attractions or excursions. For instance, a day filled with museum visits and public parks can be just as enjoyable as a theme park, without costing an arm and a leg. There are also sites that offer discounts if you plan to do multiple activities or visit more than one attraction in a certain area. Look into these options before booking your trip, and see how much you can save.
Saving in Advance
If you know a vacation is on the horizon for you, check your budget to see what’s available for saving ahead of time. While this may seem like a challenge when you are also working toward paying down debt balances, it isn’t impossible. There are often small items you can cut out each week or month, and those dollars can be set aside in your new vacation fund. If finding extra dollars is not realistic, think about generating an additional stream of income through a side hustle or selling unwanted items. Planning ahead, just like you’re doing with your debt repayment plan, can make a remarkable difference in getting you to your next vacation without financial stress or worry.
Christine Yaged is a co-founding partner and Chief Product Officer of FinanceBuzz. Christine launches and scales brands. She is passionate about technology, digital marketing, and people.