How to Budget Better Before a Big Trip, According to a Financial Expert (Video)
2020 is well underway, and it already seem like quite a while ago you set a New Year’s resolution to travel to a dreamy destination (and save the funds to get there).
However, as the motivation to keep those promises we made on Jan. 1 starts to dwindle — Jan. 17 is known as National Quitters Day for a reason — it can be hard to maintain, even when “it” could lead to Eiffel Tower views.
Cue financial expert and author Nicole Lapin, who is a firm believer in indulging in fancy coffee all while keeping your spending habits in check, even after the first month of the year is over.
“I think the first thing is to remember that it’s not sustainable to cut something out cold turkey,” she told Travel + Leisure. “You want the long gain where something is not just for a couple of weeks.”
Lapin says keeping yourself focused on a goal, such as a big trip ahead — like one she took right before Christmas to Sumba Island in Indonesia — can help you change your mindset around money.
“I like to rethink saying the word ‘budget’ and saying a ‘spending plan’ because just like you’ll hear advice about creating an eating plan that’s sustainable, a spending plan feels like something that allows your indulgence so you don’t end up binging later.”
Considering that 85 percent of millennials had to cut back after spending during the holidays — with over a fifth having exceeded their budget by $500 or more — according to findings from an American Express holiday survey, Lapin’s tips are coming at a great time.
Lapin says that when it comes to financial prep for a big trip, it’s important to factor in every step of your trip and to not fall for seemingly cheaper options.
“A lot of folks could look at alternative airports and maybe those are less expensive, but what a lot people forget, [is] it takes longer to travel from that airport, so what you’re saving on flight fares you’re going to spend for checked baggage or ground transportation.”
“Trying to skimp may cost you longer in the long run," she added. "If you’re trying to go to Midway instead of O’Hare, you may end up spending more money on an Uber."
And when it comes to more day-to-day spending, like online shopping, Lapin recommends a 24-hour "cooling off" period.
"When you're stressed or in a bad mood it's easy to get very trigger happy," she explained. "I say give it 24 hours and if you still want it, then make sure it's in your budget; if you forgot about it you didn't even want it in the first place."
As a partner with American Express’ Pay It Plan It program, which lets participants split up large payments over time with fixed monthly payments, Lapin is precise in her planning.
She advises people to divide their finances into “The three E’s”: endgame, extras and essentials. She says 15 percent of income should be going towards retirement or savings, 75 percent going to essential living needs including food and housing, and the remaining 10 percent is for the fun, or what Lapin describes as, “whatever it is that will keep you going.”
“I really do love planning ahead and breaking things down into baby steps that make it feel less overwhelming,” she said.