Should You Go on Vacation While You're in Debt?

By Tim Lemke on 16 May 2018 0 comments

When you're struggling to make ends meet and working to pay off debt, you may be inclined to skip the summer vacation. It just doesn't seem sensible to take a trip when you're trying to be diligent about saving.

But taking a vacation isn't impossible, even for the most debt-ridden among us. In fact, getting away may just be the thing you need. Here are some reasons why a vacation shouldn't be out of the question, even if you're working to pay off debt.

You can keep it short and close to home

A vacation doesn't have to involve a three-week European tour. While that's something you'd love to do one day, it may not be in the cards right now. And that's OK. A short trip of just a few days can often have the same positive impact on your spirit and mood. Consider a three-day drive down the coast, or a long weekend at a beach house. Maybe even just a few days backpacking will do the trick. I have found that trips of four or five days can be just long enough to disconnect and recharge, but short enough to keep costs at a minimum. (See also: Yes, Affordable Family Travel Is Possible)

You can rough it

A pup tent and a bedroll is far cheaper than a five-star hotel. Camping's not for everyone, but if you love the outdoors, you can enjoy a wonderful vacation and truly get away. There are many National Parks that offer a low or even no entry fee, with sightseeing that is second to none. And if you have kids, it gets them off the electronics. Take a hike in the Smoky Mountains. Go canoeing on the Buffalo National River. These can be enormously fun and relaxing trips that will hardly cost you a dime. (See also: Camping for a Week Is Only $160 at These National Parks)

You can share the cost with friends and relatives

No one likes a moocher, but you can save some serious coin by teaming up with friends and relatives. Hotels rates are based on double occupancy, so fill that room! Or consider renting out a house with a large group and splitting the cost. A weeklong rental in the Outer Banks of North Carolina may seem pricey, but not when it's split eight ways. You can save even further by grocery shopping and sharing cooking duties instead of eating out. (See also: 7 Tips for Family Getaways When You Don't Have a Vacation Fund)

A vacation can bring you mental clarity

One of the most important reasons to take a vacation is that it can allow you to get away from the day-to-day stresses of life and reflect on the bigger picture. If you can slow down for a few days, you may be able to think more clearly about your financial situation and your career goals. While on vacation, you may gain some understanding of why you are in debt to begin with. You might take time to re-evaluate your spending priorities. You may be able to recharge and decide to go after that higher paying job. It's hard when you are in the thick of things to make big changes to improve your life, but vacation can give you the fresh perspective you need.

A break from budgeting can be helpful

Getting out of debt requires strict financial discipline. You need to watch every penny that comes in and out, and this can be enormously stressful. It can be frustrating and depressing to constantly deny yourself things you want and to feel like you need to justify every dollar you spend. At a certain point, you just can't take it anymore, and you end up blowing through your budget or making irresponsible purchases. Taking a vacation can help. You don't need to go away for too long or spend too much, but giving yourself a break from the drudgery of saving money will make you hate it less. You'll come back refreshed and ready to tackle that debt load. (See also: Yes, You Need "Fun Money" in Your Budget)

Vacations can motivate your debt payoff

Who among us hasn't gone on vacation and found themselves wishing they could live like that all the time? A long weekend trip to Napa Valley might leave you wishing you could chuck it all and buy a vineyard. A few days laying on a beach in Florida can have you asking your boss if you can work remotely from Fort Lauderdale. A vacation can help you dream, and inspire you to make changes to improve your life. You may come to realize that it's the debt that's holding you back from achieving your dreams. If you leave a vacation saying, "I wish we could do this more often," perhaps you'll work harder to pay off debt, save and earn more money, and make it happen.

It's better to spend money on experiences than things

Even when you're working to pay off debt, you're still going to be setting aside some money for things you enjoy. But there's a lot of evidence that paying for physical items isn't nearly as satisfying as spending money on experiences. In other words, forget the new flat-screen TV and go kite surfing instead. Experiences are more likely than possessions to contribute to your relationships, define your purpose and passions, and are generally more memorable. (See also: 4 Reasons You Should Splurge on Experiences, Not Things)

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