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Vacation in the future? Budget First, then Shop

​If there is one rule that applies to nearly every situation in which you find yourself either needing or wanting to spend, it is the rule that you should first budget before you shop. Vacations follow that same rule.

Do you want to go on a summer getaway of some kind? Go through your finances and see how much you can comfortably spend without relying on credit cards. Then and only then, visit sites like the one Groupon has for getaways. It is wonderful to find great deals, and vacations are good for you emotionally. But, going into debt for that getaway can take away from that emotional bonus.

In Lewis Carroll’s book Alice in Wonderland, Alice asks which way she ought to go; to which the Cheshire Cat answered it depends on where she wanted to go.

“I don’t much care where,” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the cat.

Let’s apply that to travel. If you want to go on vacation, but don’t know where you are going, then anywhere you go will suffice. Most people don’t operate that way, however. If you live Seattle and you want to go to the Oregon Coast, then you will figure out the best way to drive there.

The same logic applies to budgets. If you know that where you want to be is financially free of debt, then you will do what it takes to get there. So, you will first figure out where you are, then decide how you are going to get where you are going to go. That may mean sacrifices, but chances are most of us won’t have to completely give up things like vacations.  If we are truly committed to being financially free we will budget first, then plan. That means knowing where the starting point is in terms of available money and then planning within that amount.

There might be concessions made as a result. For example, the Oregon Coast traveler might decide to stay in the $55 per night motel on the Washington Coast instead of the $95 room in Oregon. Whatever sacrifice that is, however, will be more than made up for by the peace of mind of knowing that vacation did not break the budget.

So remember, determine how much you can comfortably spend and then target your searches (vacation of otherwise) to those opportunities that fall in those financial parameters.

You can always get help with budgeting skills and other strategies for dealing with debt, by contacting a credit counselor at American Financial Solutions. There you can learn tools that will help you overcome your financial issues and still enjoy your life.

Published Jun 6, 2014.