This time last year, I celebrated my 21st birthday in the only place I saw fit for such a momentous occasion: Walt Disney World. Although it was easily the most fun I’ve had so far in my young life, I also happened to spend more money during that one week than I’ve ever spent at one time in my entire life. Now, this is a little Disney-specific, because that place is notorious for being expensive as all hell, but I find that in general, vacation time is where I blow the most of my money on shit I don’t even remember once the week is up.
I’m heading out in a few days for a much-needed week in Cape Cod with my family, and have spent the past week or so trying to formulate a plan to prevent me from getting too wallet-happy and swiping my credit card at every corner for no reason other than the fact that I’m on ~vacation~. These are the six rules I’ve set for myself that I hope will prevent me from returning home next weekend with a suitcase full of regretful vacation purchases.
1. I will take advantage of the kitchen in the vacation house we will be renting. I love food (do I talk about that too much?) so I tend to get way too jazzed up about eating at restaurants for every meal just because I’m on vacation. But being in a different location doesn’t mean every meal should be a full-fledged ~treat yo’self~ situation. At the very least, cooking a hearty breakfast before heading out to explore your vacation destination is one of the best ways to stay full on less cash.
2. I will not do any pre-vacation shopping. This is an important tip for many reasons. First of all, there’s a 100% chance I have enough bikinis to make it through a five-day beach vacay. Second, I’ll likely do a bit of shopping when I’m there (or at the very least, I will be spending money on many other things), so there’s no need to do any pregame spending. Which brings me to my next tip.
3. I won’t get caught in the destination sweatshirt trap. Something about a New England vacation brings out this primal desire in everyone to own an article of pastel apparel with a location written on it. But no one really needs a pair of sweatpants reminding everyone that they went to Martha’s Vineyard once. Also, they usually cost more than 40 bucks, which is absurd for such a useless piece of clothing. I’ve never really fallen victim to this spending trap before, but I like to give myself this reminder each time. I feel like it is a problem that can strike suddenly at any time in life, like severe food allergies.
4. If I decide I must souvenir shop, I will save it until the very last day. Souvenir shopping is the plague of vacationing. Every item with “New York, New York” scribbled on it seems like a once-in-a-lifetime purchase when you’ve just begun your visit, you’ll find that the same shit exists in every single souvenir shop, and also online. If you save it until the last day, you’re less likely to be impressed by all the overpriced junk and pass it up in favor of a postcard, or better yet, your real memories.
5. I will pack very strategically in order to prevent any emergency purchases. I’m not sure about anyone else, but I am both a.) very forgetful, and b.) very indecisive. I’ve gone on trips where I’ve forgotten all of my underwear, and others where I’ve remembered everything except for the one article of clothing I needed to complete an outfit, and therefore felt completely justified in running out to purchase that item during my trip. I will remedy this issue by first of all, packing Chelsea-style with an excel spreadsheet to make sure I don’t miss a single blessed item I may want or need during my trip. My best friend also gave me one of the best tips of all: pack at least one outfit for every “clothing mood” I could possibly have, so I at least have all of those options. This is a harder tip for those who are traveling via airplane, because obviously that restricts the amount you can pack. I’m lucky to be driving there, so I can pretty much stuff my little Honda Civic with my entire closet if my heart so desires. I refuse to buy a pair of shoes my outfit requires just because I forgot them at home.
6. I will not use the trip as an excuse to drink during every meal. The “I’m on vacation – I deserve this!” mentality is dangerous, because it makes me feel like I’ve truly earned a bloody mary with breakfast, a margarita with lunch, and a glass of wine with dinner. But I haven’t actually earned a single one of those lovely beverages. And they probably cost me a solid $12+ each in an expensive vacation town.
If you’re like me, you’ve saved a solid chunk of change in preparation of your vacation so you can enjoy it thoroughly, worry-free. But having any amount of money dedicated to a vacation doesn’t mean that you should feel like you have to spend it all on shit that you’ll end up purging from the back of your closet in a few years anyway, or throw it at three big, fancy meals a day, all complete with multiple $12 cocktails. Vacation is a time to relax, not a time to throw all of your savings goals out the window just to enjoy a frozen drink on the beach at 11 a.m.
Mary is the summer Media Fellow at The Financial Diet. Send her your summer intern stories (your lessons, failures, triumphs and good advice) at firstname.lastname@example.org
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