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Vacation Debt

Posted On: 2006-07-31
Length: 8:41

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Is vacation debt weighing you down? A three-step plan on saving for next year's getaway now, in this Fidelity Personal Finance podcast.

Step 1. Find ways to recharge this summer without breaking the bank. Step 2. Start saving for next year right now. Step 3. When you're ready for your dream vacation, continue on the cost-cutting path.

We'll review each of these steps in more detail in just a minute. But first, your income barely covers your monthly bills. You just financed a new SUV. The kids need braces, and you have $5,000 in consumer debt. But darn it, you work hard and deserve a vacation? Can you relate to this sentiment? As summer gets into full swing and your friends and co-workers rhapsodize about their upcoming cruises and road trips, it's easy to start thinking you have a right to a vacation of your own. And that, according to financial planner, Diane McCurdy, is when the temptation to whip out the credit cards starts to seem reasonable. After all, you work really hard and need a break. Besides, you can always pay it back later. Right?

In her book, How Much is Enough, balancing today's needs with tomorrow's retirement goals, McCurdy claims that our instant gratification culture makes people feel their entitled to a big summer vacation. But what if your grandmother, who lives across the country dies and you have to put that trip on the card, too? What if your heat pump breaks down and you have to replace it. What if you do finance the vacation and spend the whole two weeks stressed out about the money you're spending? Well, according to McCurdy, it's rarely a good idea to go into debt unnecessarily. And vacation is not a necessity. So should you forego your summer fun entirely? Not at all. McCurdy merely believes that vacations should never be charged. And if you can't pay cash for your dream vacation this summer, then figure out an inexpensive alternative, and postpone that lavish trip until next summer. And start saving for it right now.

How do you do that? Let's examine McCurdy's three-step plan for breaking the vacation entitlement mindset. Step 1. Find fun ways to recharge this summer without breaking the bank. In other words, be creative. Get the whole family involved in brainstorming cheap, or even free vacation ideas. You might discover that a day at the local water park is as satisfying to the kids as a week at Disney World. Some other ideas to consider, why not vacation in your hometown? If you live in a big city or within driving distance of one, there are probably lots of local tourist destinations you haven't explored. Give them a try. You might be surprised at how wonderful your own backyard really is. What about planning several long weekends, instead of taking a whole week off? Use these weekend getaways to take the kids camping, or go hiking in a local state or national park. Maybe check into a nearby bed and breakfast. Consider trading houses. If you live in the mountains and would like to visit the beach, trade houses with a seashore dweller. There are numerous websites devoted to helping you explore the wonderful world of house-swapping.

Step 2. Start saving for next year right now...

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