Since there will be upwards of 500,000 people in town for the National Cherry Festival this week, this seems a likely time to talk about how to pay for that vacation you‘ve been dreaming of all year.
How can one afford to travel up north for a week of carnival rides, hotels at premium rates, wine tours and dinners by the Bay? Not to mention expensive destinations all over the world?
Easy: save your money.
Okay, that seems like a no-brainer, but most of us have a tough time saving for college tuition or a new car, much less a frivolous vacation. The most common complaint I hear from my non-traveling friends is that they “can‘t afford to go anywhere.“
Translation: they failed to plan for one of the most soul-nourishing events you can do for yourself and your family each year.
Those who do bite the bullet and go on vacation anyway often ‘put it on the card,‘ creating an unhappy post-trip experience for the payee, much like when the Christmas credit card bills come rolling in come January.
But if travel, a family vacation, and having a wealth of experiences is a bigger priority than being a slave to a big mortgage or a car payment, there is a way to get er done.
Consider a simple investment strategy called ‘pay yourself first‘ to save for your next vacation.
Just as you might ‘pay yourself first‘ by having some portion of your paycheck deducted straight into your 401k plan, so too can you save for the trip of your dreams.
The idea is to establish a set amount of money to save from each pay period come hell or high water. These funds go into a separate checking account, and its quite pleasant to watch them pile up as the months go by. It‘s a variation on the old Christmas Club plans that banks used to offer to help you save for the holidays.
By ‘paying yourself first‘ you never miss the funds because theyre not a consideration for getting by. They go straight to the bank and you live on whats left over.
But what happens if your car breaks down or you need a new furnace?
Tough beans -- you cant touch that vacation fund any more than you can access your 401k plan before retirement age.
Somehow, you will always find a way to pay for the endless stream of roadblocks that life throws at you -- the dental bills, the brake job, the leaky roof -- but you will seldom ever manage to adequately save for a travel adventure unless you have the steel to make it a priority.
A friend once dreamed of going to Paris on Bastille Day to celebrate his 50th birthday. He talked about making the trip for several years in advance, but his birthday rolled around without any savings in his travel piggy bank. It would have been a simple matter to have saved $10 per week for a couple of years and -- voila! wine & crepes by the Seine -- but as it turned out, he never made the trip.
Even a small amount of weekly savings can add up to a great vacation. Just saving your daily pocket change each day adds up to several hundred dollars over a years time.
Of course, the ‘pay yourself first‘ strategy is a dud if you are addicted to credit cards and auto loans. The only trip you take when you go into the consumer lifestyle of debt is deeper in the hole.
We‘ve all been suckered by the temptation of easy credit in America, but the hard lesson here is that inevitably, debt puts you in a ‘pay yourself last‘ situation.
It‘s all a matter of perspective and what you value in life. When I see a sign at an auto lot that says, “Only $369 per month,“ I don‘t see a happy ride down the highway of success -- instead, I see a round-trip airfare to San Francisco, Florida, Cancun or New York going down the drain month after month for five years with nothing to show for it when the loan is paid except for the need for another loan.
There‘s a solution for this one too: ‘pay yourself first‘ by saving a small amount each week for your next vehicle as well as your vacation or the kids‘ college fund. You will go much further in the long run, my friend.
See you at the Cherry Festival.
Downes‘ new ebook, Planet Backpacker: The Good Life Bumming Around the World, with more than 75 color photos is now available on Kindle at amazon.com and on Apple iBooks.