By Jamie Wagner, Ph.D.

Woman writing in a notebook

Summertime Planning

For me, July Fourth has always felt like the summer hump. Once you’ve reached this holiday, it’s all downhill from there even though there’s still so much summer left! If you’re like many people I talk to they feel the same way and feel disappointed because they didn’t get to check off enough items on their summer bucket list. With school about to start and the fall football season right around the corner (36 days until the first Husker game), why don’t you get a jump start on next summer so you don’t have any regrets.

Pick a Vacation Location

Brainstorm and pick one, two, five or 10 places you want to visit. They can be elaborate international vacations or budget friendly staycations. The point is to actually make a goal, write it down and even tell someone about it. Commit to taking the time away from work, the kids or whatever chaos to go on this vacation for you.

Create a Budget

Once you know your destination, now you must budget to pay for it. Do some research and estimate how much money you’re going to need for the vacation. This may be a reality check as you may want to go to Fiji for two weeks but your budget says you can go to Kansas City for the weekend. Be realistic with how much money you are willing to spend. Yes, this can be a trip of a lifetime, but it’s not worth it if you’re going to be in debt paying off maxed out credit cards for the next five years.

Create a realistic budget for how much the trip is going to cost, and then break down how much money you need to save each month (or paycheck) to accomplish the goal. For example, if your trip will cost $7,000 then you need to commit to saving $583.33 each month ($7,000/12=$583.33 if you’re planning to go in one calendar year).

How to Stick to the Budget

Now that you know how much to save, you need to come up with a plan to actually save that money. I encourage everyone to have an emergency fund for “just in case” situations. In my personal opinion, a vacation is not one of those situations. It’s not wise to tap into your emergency fund to pay for a trip.

Money Saving Tips

  • Look at your current budget and determine if there any categories you can cut. Cut them and take the money and put it toward your vacation. For example, my husband and I allot $200 a month to eat out. I’d be willing to cut that in half and put the $100 each month in a vacation fund. We now saved $1,200.
  • Create a budget line item for the vacation. Make the vacation front and center. This may mean cutting from other places, but you could trim in several areas and not even notice much of a change.
  • Have a garage sale or sell unnecessary items on apps or buy-sell-trade sites. My husband and I recently redid our landscaping. We sold the rocks that were in the garden beds and bricks that surrounded the trees. We made close to $200. While this might not seem significant, every little bit helps and these rocks and bricks would have been discarded anyway (win-win for my pocket book and for the environment for recycling).
  • Start a side hustle. Pick up a side job working part-time to earn extra cash. Make it a point to put this paycheck completely into your vacation fund. By doing this, your “regular” money isn’t being touched for your vacation. I do consulting, and the money I make from some of those jobs goes toward my bathroom fund. In a few months my bathroom will get remodeled, and I won’t have to use my “regular” money to pay for it.

Enjoy Your 2020 Vacation

After all of the hard work you did saving your money, make sure you enjoy your vacation. Turn on the out of office message and recharge. I firmly believe that taking a break will make you a better version of yourself when you return.

Repeat Year-Over-Year

Like the shampoo instructions, rinse and repeat. Go through these same steps year after year. Be aware that your budget is fluid. Every month and year is different from the last so make sure you adjust accordingly. Last year my husband and I went to Cuba which was quite expensive. This year we’re going to Kansas City for the weekend to play Top Golf and visit Ikea (don’t you want my glamorous life!?). Because our vacation plans are different, our budget and saving was adjusted throughout the year.