Family on a pier, Sunset

How to Budget For Your Family Vacation Without Bleeding the Bank Dry

Family vacations—they’re extremely necessary, but we never remember that until after we come home from one. You take a step back and tell yourself, “We really need to make this a thing.” Maybe you only go once a year. Maybe you splurge and go twice a year. The point is, it’s expensive every single time, and you have to know where you’re getting the money from. There are two models here that we recommend, so take a look and decide which is right for you.


The “Ante Up” Method

This is a more aggressive approach that involves taking your lifestyle, and making it a more minimalistic mantra. You’re probably going for two decent vacations per year if you select this method.

“Josh, I thought this was about keeping the bank in the green,” you may be thinking. It is, but if you want two vacations per year, and you’re making the median income (is there even a middle class anymore?) then you’re going to want to pay close attention to your finances. If you want this bad enough, you’ll be able to do it.

The first thing is this: cut back on your cell phone plan. Go for the most minimal option available. Most providers usually have talk, text, and unlimited data (slows down after X amount of GB), but it’s a surefire way to cut out, on average, about $360-$600 per year. That’s a few nights in a hotel and some road food depending on where you’re going.

Next thing, you’re going to take a closer look at your food budget. You want to keep the house stocked, but could you skim $10 worth of items from your list without it killing you? See what you can’t live without, cut back on those foods that aren’t necessary (even if you love them) and stick to meal staples and hearty ingredients. You can usually skim about $10-$25 per week off of this method, averaging a total of $520-$1,300 per year, which can account for a good amount of spending money and some travel expenses.

The big thing to remember is that you’re not going to auction off your stuff, no matter how bad you want that vacation. Don’t let the desire for it rip away the possessions and the lifestyle you currently have. You’re trying to add vacations to your lifestyle; not make a deal with the devil for them.

How many other things in your current budget can you think of that could be lowered? Do you have a monthly free-spending amount? Can you trim that? Assess your budget and really trim it back. All meat, no filler.


The “Micro Wager” Method

One stellar vacation per year for you. Doesn’t have to be too long, doesn’t have to be extravagant, but you need that time with the family. If you’re all about the bonding time and less about the destination and the amenities, you’re probably looking for a once-yearly trip that you don’t have to budget for.

In just about every household in America, we can think of one to five things, in the last week alone, that we shouldn’t have bought. Whether it’s a few $2 cups of coffee or take-out when we didn’t feel like cooking a meal, it’s important to take those moments, stow away the cash you would have spent, and call it a day. Distract yourself so you don’t reach into your back pocket and make that unnecessary transaction anyway.

If you’re usually seeing about $200 or more in free-spending per month, you’re going to restrict that number. Divide the average cost of your ideal vacation by twelve, and stash away one-twelfth every month. This won’t be enough alone, because you may just want to make that purchase from time to time, the one that will put you over. That’s why, on average, you’re stashing away those $2 blocks of money, to account for buffer room.

This method is all about being stress-free and making it work inline with your lifestyle so you can take a much-needed vacation without worrying all year long on how to achieve it. Calm mind, calm life.


Either Way, Enjoy Your Time

Family vacations aren’t supposed to be about work or devices—enjoy the time you have with your wife and children, because those days of fun in the sun are only around for so long before they start leading their own lives, or your other prospects start taking up most of your time. Enjoy it now, or you’ll miss it later.