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The SMD Vacation Post Mortem

July 27, 2015

Mrs. Saver and I recently got back from a lovely week-long vacation with friends to Charleston, SC. While we were thrilled to be taking some time away from work and have the chance to be around our good friends, we definitely knew that it was important to set a budget for our trip and stick to it in order to not derail the rest of our budget for the month.

Vacationing can be especially difficult when it comes to finances since you almost never know exactly where your money will go day-to-day. You can definitely work towards setting up meals and plans, but it’s pretty common to deviate from your plans during a care-free vacation.

How Did We Do?

Budgeted: $1,264 (consists of lodging, events, food and gas)

Spent: $1,628

Difference: -$364

As you can see, we went over budget by several hundred dollars. After reviewing our expenses, we can attribute our over-spending to a few key areas, the primary of which was food. We definitely enjoyed quite a few meals out with our friends, along with a surprisingly large amount of money spent on smaller purchases such as snacks.

There were also a few larger expenses made towards local events. While several of these events were planned ahead of time, we actually took a detour in our plans during the week to go kayaking. While it ended up being a blast, it was an unexpected expense that wasn’t originally considered in our budget.

Lastly, I also made the mistake of not tracking our expenses regularly during the trip. One of the most powerful tools in managing your money is your own awareness of your spending. As we carried on through the week spending freely, I took a moment towards the end of our trip to enter our expenses into YNAB. I was a bit disappointed in what I saw. With still a few days to go, we only had around $200 left over, which is far less than I had hoped to have at that time. I believe that if I had kept a better eye on our spending, I would’ve been less inclined to make wasteful purchases such as that second Choco Taco that I neither wanted nor needed.

Looking Back

So what did the SMD household learn about our money during our vacation? In short, it pays to be aware of where your money is going, whether you’re on vacation or not. Next, when planning a vacation, budget for what you expect, then add an extra 10%. The goal is to optimize your spending to get the maximum enjoyment, but you definitely don’t want to wipe out your cash and go into debt in the process.

This brings us to the final and most important point – don’t use debt to pay for a vacation. Paying cash for your vacation is a fantastic gift to give yourself. Notice that I didn’t say that you shouldn’t pay for your vacation with credit cards; we put every purchase on our rewards credit card. However, we paid it off in full as soon as we got home. Paying interest on purchases made during a past vacation is a nasty pill to swallow, regardless how great the experiences were.

How did we deal with going over budget? We managed to set up a small buffer of cash in the event that we overspent on the trip. Once we arrived home and paid off our credit cards, we simply replenished our budget where necessary using the cash reserve, and it was business as usual. Not only do we have some great memories from the trip, we can rest easy knowing that we don’t owe an additional penny. Now that we’re clear on vacation expenses, it’s full speed ahead with more saving and investing. Better luck next time I suppose.

Have you taken a vacation lately? How did you do when it came to your budget?




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