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Don’t Take a Vacation From Your Budget

Written by Matt Jabs - 9 Comments

Don't Take a Vacation From Your BudgetMy wife and I spent the first eleven days of this month enjoying our debt free vacation. Although we didn’t exceed our budgeted vacation spending, we found that the unstructured life of vacation could easily spill over into our every day financial lives when we got back home.

Vacation spending

When on vacation, it’s common to approach spending in unfamiliar ways. Just as you’re on vacation from employment, you’re likely to leave exchange your structured approach to money for a more relaxed approach. There’s nothing wrong with this… As long as you limit your spending to what you set aside for the trip, and then hop back on the budget horse when you return from vacation. The former is where we slipped up.

Here are a few ways you can avoid doing the same thing.

Create a vacation budget plan

This simply means that you should plan your spending while on vacation. Doing so will allow you to do all the things you want to do while helping you maintain a structured approach to spending.

Since you might not always know what you’ll be doing each day of your vacation, you should at least set a simple daily spending limit. If you have $1,000 to spend in five days, then limit your daily spending to $200/day.

Keep your receipts

Saving the receipts form each purchase will help you remain cognizant of how much you spend. Carry an envelope, place all receipts inside, and tally them up at the end of the day to ensure you have stayed within your spending limits.

Take a vacation from your vacation

Arriving home and jumping back into your job responsibilities the very next day may be a shock to your system! Try coming back from vacation a day or two early to help you ease back into everyday life. This will give you time to unpack, relax, go over your spending, and it will also give you a day or two to ensure you’re back on track financially.

Review your spending plan

When you get home, simply take a few minutes to go back over your normal family budget to help acclimate you to your existing plan. I think this would have helped me a lot. In fact, I was a bit out of sorts financially until I took the time to open our budget spreadsheet, review the numbers, and renew my passion for our spending plan!

In closing…

If you’re able to jump right back into the family budget after a week or more of relaxed vacation spending, pat yourself on the back for exercising sound self-discipline. If you have trouble doing so, then following these points should help you more easily transition from a vacation spending mindset back into your every day spending habits.

If you have trouble switching between a more free-spending vacation mindset and your more disciplined “at home” mindset, then you should definitely consider adopting a more strict vacation budgeting approach. That way you won’t deviate from your normal patterns as much, and won’t have as big of an adjustment when you get back home.

What about you?

Do you have trouble stepping back into your spending plan after a long vacation? What are some of the ways you protect yourself against taking a vacation from your budget?

Published on April 22nd, 2010 - 9 Comments
Filed under: Travel

About the author: is a thirty-something IT manager and blogger who wants to help himself and others get out of debt. He writes about personal finance and debt-free living at Debt Free Adventure.

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9 Responses to “Don’t Take a Vacation From Your Budget”

  1. 1
    Peter Says:

    Vacation is often seen as a time to relax, not worry about money, and just leave everything from home on the side. If you do that completely, however, like you mention you can end up spending a bunch of money while on vacation – and then it can bleed over when you get home. To help combat this we continue our budget while we’re on vacation. We save cash for the trip, and get it out before we leave. Then we spend the cash while on the trip -and when it’s gone – it’s gone. When we get back – since we never really left our budget plan, it’s easier to get back into it. :)

  2. 2
    Balance Junkie Says:

    These are great tips and very timely as we head into prime vacation season. Disciplined budgeting can help you enjoy your vacation to the fullest without worrying about the bill coming due when you get home. Thanks!

  3. 3
    Balance Junkie Says:

    These are great tips and very timely as we head into prime vacation season. Disciplined budgeting can help you enjoy your vacation to the fullest without worrying about the bill coming due when you get home. Thanks!

  4. 4
    Seaside Vacations Says:

    Great post. Thanks for sharing those tips.

    The Outer Banks of North Carolina offers great vacation rental homes for all types of travelers; small beach bungalows to large beach front estates…many with flexilbe payment plans and no interest!

    The Outer Banks is the perfect beach vacation…a great combination of peaceful relaxation and fun local activities/attractions; gorgeous beaches, a wide variety of water sports, world-class fishing and surfing, great local art and shopping, delicious local food, history, nature, etc.

    Please let us know if we can help you plan your next trip to the Outer Banks.

    Seaside Vacations
    OuterBanksVacations.com

    4820 N. Croatan Hwy
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    Blog.OuterBanksVacations.com

  5. 5
    Sharon Says:

    I NEVER stop with the budget – it’s an illness, I swear! ;) My husband hated my manilla receipt collecting envelopes with daily spend tracker spreadsheet(s) taped/stapled to the front that I bring on vacation with us! Look – you can see it on the bed here, when we went to Italy:

    http://i459.photobucket.com/al.....g/1511.jpg

    At first, he thought I was too uptight (maybe I am). Now he thinks my vacation planning/budgeting is “cute.” My husband is one of those people who will order the most expensive thing on the menu every time we go out to eat – and this “habit” carries over into booking hotels (4 star hotel in that pic above, but to be fair, we got an awesome deal – a deal that we will probably never get again!), and other vacation activities! So my concession is to budget more than I think we’ll need, or he can spend (but still an amount we can afford) so I’m not so uptight about it. I share the budget with him and he does very well staying within it. I track everything with the envelope – and keep a running total by category, so he knows when we can splurge and when we need to start watching the $$. It works very well. The last thing we need to be fighting about on vacation is money!

  6. 6
    Rosa Says:

    We have a total amount in mind to spend on vacation, and we don’t go over it. If we run out of money (it used to be actual cash, now it’s just an electronic tracking amount) then, oh well, we’re in a nice pretty place, relax for a few days.

    The time debt is a big trap, thoguh – we ALWAYS overreach how much we can achieve in a certain amount of time, time our return to assume nothing goes wrong and we won’t need a decompression day before starting our work weeks.

  7. 7
    Olivia Says:

    Our vacations are modest and we’ve found that planning ahead what we can do, usually one “big” thing each day, and how much it costs works well. We use envelopes with actual cash. Each of us gets some “blowing money” for ourselves in addition to that set aside for use as a family. Before we go, each person chooses what they’d like to do from the frugal options availble and we join in as a family. That way we all enjoy one thing we know we’ll like, and try something we might not normally.

  8. 8
    Christina Says:

    Usually when I’m on vacation, I already have a budget, how much to spend on accommodation etc. etc…but then I always end spending more. I will take your advice on this. thanks.

  9. 9
    Steve in W MA Says:

    Making a transition plan for your return from vacation is a great idea. Part of the transition has to be settling up your vacation spending and accounting, and reestablishing your normal budget situation. It’s also a good idea to do some grocery shopping and cook a few meals and make sure you have food available to pack lunches if you (as I) normally eat your own food for lunch in preference to paying through the nose for it at restaurants and cafes.

    Making sure these everyday, every week simple tasks are back in swing is a great way to reestablish yourself at home after vacation, makes for a more peaceful transition back to “regular life”, and it helps keep you on track with your financial goals too.

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