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Taking time off from work to go on vacation should be a pleasant experience, but it can make you feel guilty and anxious if you end up going over budget. Planning ahead is the best way to prevent this from happening, so you can leave your vacation feeling relaxed and refreshed, rather than worrying about credit card charges you’ve accrued while you’re away. .

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I spoke with finance professionals and other financial experts to get their advice on budgeting for a vacation – without the guilt of overspending.

How to Create a Vacation Budget

When it comes to creating a vacation budget, “the more detailed it is, the better,” says Rachel Cruze, author, financial expert and host of “The Rachel Cruze Show”. “How much are you going to spend on travel and accommodation?” What about meals and souvenirs? »

In addition to flights, hotels, food, and gifts, your budget should factor in transportation while you’re there and anything else you’ll need to purchase for your trip.

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“Your budget should include the cost of renting a car once you get there and the gas that goes into that car, as well as insurance if you have to pay for it,” says personal finance expert Bobbi Rebell. at the house of Score and author of “Launching Financial Grownups”. “It can also be clothing that you may need to buy specifically for the trip. For example, if you are going on a hike, you might need special equipment.

Figure out which attractions are must-sees and which are just extras.

“Decide in advance what your big spending is,” said Lacey Cobb, CFA, CFP, director of consulting solutions at Personal capital. “By prioritizing your shopping before you arrive, it will be easier to narrow down the list of sights you might want to see.”

You should also consider additional expenses that may arise with your departure.

“Don’t forget the costs associated with being away from home, like pet care,” said Lindsey Bell, chief markets and financial strategist at Ally.

Additionally, you also need to account for any missed income.

“While it’s not directly something you pay for, you should also consider that if you have a business or job that doesn’t pay you when you’re on vacation, you won’t get paid for that time. absence, so that’s a cost that also needs to be factored into your planning,” Rebell said. “Your bills and expenses don’t stop.

How to save for a vacation

Cruze recommends setting up a sinking fund to save for your trip.

“A sinking fund is a strategic way to save money for a specific purchase, like a vacation, by setting aside a little each month,” she said. “It’s one of the best ways to be intentional with your money, especially when you’re saving for something very specific. So once you’ve established your budget, divide the total amount you need by the months left before the holidays and start saving.

Consider temporarily reducing your expenses so you can contribute more to your vacation fund.

“Look at your spending from the last few months looking for unnecessary expenses you can cut,” said Leigh Singleton, director of financial education at Monifi.

If you have a longer time frame, you may want to consider investing your vacation funds.

“If you have at least six months before travel, investing savings can earn you interest and increase your travel budget even faster,” Ally’s Bell said. “Consider short-term investments, CDs, or money market accounts, depending on your financial situation.”

It’s also a good idea to save more than you think you need.

“Build a cushion,” Bell said. “Remember, this is a vacation, so it’s unlikely you’ll be able to anticipate every dollar you’ll spend. Instead, budget some money beyond the costs you anticipate.

“I build a miscellaneous $500 budget into the budget that I can use for one-time purchases,” said Deanna Ritchie, editor of Read write.

How to Avoid Overspending on Your Vacation

The first step to avoiding overspending is to be realistic about what you can actually afford.

“You may deserve your dream vacation before you can afford it,” Tally’s Rebell said. “Accept that and make adjustments. If you can’t get past that destination you’ve always wanted to visit, consider a shorter trip. Or, if you really want a longer break, consider a more DIY itinerary with more affordable accommodations where you can cook your own meals and cut costs. If you dream of a beach vacation in a certain place but a similar one is on sale, jump on it.

Once you’ve figured out where you’ll be going and for how long, make an effort to save as much money on upfront costs as possible.

“Allow time to research the best times to travel,” Cruze said. “If you have some flexibility, play around with different date and time options. The cheapest days to fly are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Traveling during the week can also help you save on other costs.

“Staying in hotels during the week rather than the weekend will save money,” said Steve Gickling, CTO at Schedule. “Spa services and park passes can also cost less during the week.”

You should also plan your route as far in advance as possible.

“Spontaneity can be fun, but also risky,” Cruze said. “Planning your trip gives full transparency to expected costs and time commitments. There’s also no harm in purchasing passes or attraction tickets in advance. That way, you’ve already paid for it and know exactly where it falls in your budget.You can also look for areas that have free attractions, like zoos, museums, and parks.

Although you have to spend money on meals, snacks are an expense that can easily blow your budget.

“Snacking while traveling can be very expensive,” said Lakisha L. Simmons, Ph.D., financial freedom coach and CEO of Brave Consulting. “I always buy snacks before I leave. Each child has their own backpack with snacks and a refillable water bottle. Buying snacks on the go can be very expensive for a family, so I definitely pack plenty of protein bars and fruit for the trip.

Another way to save is to find attractions that aren’t in heavily touristed areas.

“Embrace the local culture,” said Cobb of Personal Capital. “Avoid the main part of town in favor of the side streets where restaurants are packed with locals.”

Cobb also recommends walking or taking public transportation rather than relying on taxis or rideshares.

“That way you can experience a city up close,” she said.

Also, look for ways to cut back on non-essential vacation expenses.

“Do you really need souvenirs for everyone at home?” said Ally’s Bell. “Evaluate your expenses as you go and adjust them if necessary. For example, if you’ve stretched your budget, cut back on your last day – maybe try lower-cost dining options. Or, if you find yourself under budget, you can spend more on gifts before you get home – or use it for your next trip!

One way to make sure you don’t overspend is to withdraw as much money as you budgeted for before your trip and only spend what you’ve allocated to yourself.

“Leave the credit cards at home,” said Dwain Phelps of Phelps Financial Group. “Using your credit card can lead to unnecessary expenses. Using cash means you only spend what you have on hand. You should only have a credit card for emergencies. It can also protect you from identity theft.

Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty Spending Money on Vacation

You should never feel guilty for giving yourself a vacation, especially if you plan ahead.

“Reduce feelings of guilt while on vacation by setting a budget and sticking to it,” Ally’s Bell says. “If you’re questioning your vacation spending, it could mean you’re spending beyond your means or maybe your spending isn’t aligned with your priorities. Think carefully about your budget before your trip and have a fun vacation!”

And remember that while vacations come at a cost, the memories you can create are priceless.

“Tomorrow is not promised,” said Dr Simmons. “So even if you’re focused on paying off your long-term debt or saving for the future, know that those travel memories are important and can last a lifetime. No need to feel guilty about living and enjoy life!

Gabrielle Olya contributed reporting for this article.

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About the Author

With eight years of personal finance experience at GOBankingRates, Jaime Catmull has built an extensive network of influencers and financial experts. Now she’s tapping into that network to get the real scoop on how you can live your best financial life and grow your wealth.

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