America, you need a vacation. Seriously, you earned it, and according to Project Time Off, you’re not even using it. As the project found, more than half of American workers left vacation time unused in 2015, adding up to 658 million unused days. Clearly, you also need assistance in planning a vacation, and we have plenty of advice for you, but the most important thing to remember is this: Do not give yourself a budget for your vacation.
“I think the entire concept of budgeting is flawed,” Brad Klontz, a psychologist and certified financial planner, told New York Magazine. “Your emotional brain responds to the word budget the same way it responds to the word diet. The connotation is deprivation, suffering, agony, depression.”
According to Klontz, the idea of limiting ourselves for short-term gain (i.e. with a diet or travel budget), only leads to an inevitable sense of failure when you eat a piece of cake, or splurge on a massage during your Hawaiian getaway.
So how can you enjoy an epic vacation without totally blowing your entire life savings?
For most of you, you know you have a set number of days off each year. At the beginning of the year, calculate just how much time you have off and divvy up how you’d like to spend it: A few days for three-day weekends, a chunk of time for the holidays, and a week off just for you.
Next, think about where you want to go. Live in New York and want to head to Paris for week? Great! Check out the flight options, hotels, and even a few discount sites like LivingSocial Escapes to see if there are any deals available. Tally up the total and make it a benchmark savings goals.
2. Squirrel away cash.
Each day, week, or month, put away a small amount of money into a separate savings account (better yet, try a money market account like Betterment to invest your vacation savings to potentially make a few dollars from the stock market along the way). Thinking in small increments will make paying off your vacation less stressful in the end.
3. Don’t forget to save for something special.
You know you’re going to Paris, but maybe there’s one restaurant you’re dying to try. Make sure to add in a little buffer to eat all the Coq au vin your stomach can handle.
4. Make peace with going over.
Hey, you saved all this money for your trip already, so when you see a beret in the window of a Parisian boutique you just have to have, go for it. It’s your vacation and your memories. Research even backs this one up: According to a study out of San Francisco State University, people who spend money on experiences rather things are happier and feel better about the money they spent. So go ahead, and have the time of your life.