Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Budgeting for Your Dream Vacation

For those of you who don't know me personally, let me put this right out front for everyone to know. I am not rich. As a matter of fact, I made my very first trip to Europe while I was in the middle of bankruptcy (the kind you repay, not the kind where all your bills are written off).

I share this information with everyone because the most common statements I hear from people when they begin talking about their dream vacation is "I don't make enough money" or "I can't afford that kind of trip right now" or "Maybe when I'm retired".

So I'm asking you...if you can't travel right now, when will you be able to travel? If you can't afford to travel right now, when will you be able to afford to travel? If you aren't making enough money right now, in this economy, what are the chances you will be making a lot more in the years to come?

I ask you all this because I know from experience that for most of us living in the mid to low end of the middle class, these opportunities will probably never materialize. We will probably never get that fantastic paying job making a six-figure salary and as we grow older, our time will probably never be as free as we envision it being in the future. So I ask you, WHY WAIT?

Why wait until you have that job paying 100K a year? Why wait until you retire to take the trip of a lifetime?

I've learned a few things from personal experience that finally sunk in after it seemed everything was falling down around me and I'd like to share these things with you in the spirit of travel and adventure.

  • There is no time like the present. You hear this saying all the time but do you ever really stop to think about it? My mom and dad had so many dreams for their retirement. They were going to travel throughout the U.S. My mom loves New Mexico and they really wanted to spend a good deal of time there. My dad retired a few years before my mom did so he had some time to bum around and live the carefree life for a bit while mom finished up her last few years of work. In the middle of waiting, my dad suffered a couple of strokes that incapacitated him and eventually led to his death. All their dreams gone in less than 2 years. I learned several things from my parents and from this experience: First, my parents instilled love of travel into me. We always took summer vacations to where ever my aunt happened to be stationed so I got to see a lot of the U.S. and Mexico this way and we always had a free place to stay. Second, life isn't going to stop just because we think we're finally ready to do what we've always wanted to do. If we don't do it now, we may never get to do it.
  • If you think you'll never have the money to travel, you will never have the money to travel! As I said above at the opening of this post, I'm not rich. I don't have a rich mom or dad or grandmother or aunt or uncle to hand me money whenever I need it. What I make is what I live off of and if I need more, I take on more jobs. A few years ago, I bought a house. Owning a home when you're single isn't always easy but I felt I was up for the challenge. A few years after buying my home, all hell seemed to break loose at one time. The sewer line broke, my roof was leaking torrentially into my home, and all of a sudden, my tightly wrapped budget was coming apart faster than I could pick up the loose ends. I didn't have a contingency savings plan for emergencies. The only way I could do the major repairs on my home was to get behind on my house payments. The bank was about to foreclose so I filed for bankruptcy and went for the option that allowed me to pay my creditors back. The only problem was that the courts, in all their wisdom, garnished OVER HALF of my paycheck. With what was left, I had to make a house payment of over $1,000.00 plus my utilities, food, and gas. There was no way I could make that work so I began seeking part-time employment. The Lord blessed me with a second job and I began working evenings and weekends in addition to the occasional consulting I'd been doing for the last 15 years and my full-time job. It was not easy. I worked anywhere from 80-100 hours a week and was so tired I wasn't sure how I would continue to do it but I pushed myself to work day in and day out. It was in the middle of all of this that I would re-visit my old dream of traveling to Italy. I wasn't sure when I would make it there, my bankruptcy was a 5 year ball & chain and I could barely see myself making it out of my financial predicament anytime soon. But the more I worked, the more I wondered what I was doing all of this work for with nothing to show for it but a house, a car, and some material objects. It was about this time, my thinking began to change. If I was already making some changes in my spending habits, why not make more changes. The time was ripe for it and if I didn't do it now, then when???
These two times in my life were the impetus I needed to push me forward and propel me where I wanted to go...and where I wanted to was ITALIA!

Now that you know a little bit more about me and how I gave myself the opportunity to travel, in my next post, I will share with you some hints and tips that worked for me and helped me move in the direction of my dream vacation.

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