Monday, March 7, 2011

How We Can Afford Vacatons

I get asked this a lot by people who know me in real life, so... why not share with my blog readers as well.

Jason and I both love to travel.

We also share a hobby that is difficult to do where we live.

But mostly, we love to travel.

Last year we went on five trips.

I know. That's a lot, right?

It's funny, because the people who ask me how we can afford trips usually make significantly more money than we do. Which makes me laugh.

You see... like most things in life... it's about priorities.

Our house is a foreclosure that we are renovating.
We bought a lot of the materials for our renovation at huge discounts, some at auctions.
All of our vehicles were purchased used. Meaning that out of three vehicles we are only paying on one.
We I clip coupons and watch sales.
We wear our clothes until they're hole-y. And sometimes still wear them after that.
We don't have cable. Not even basic.
The primary heat source in our home is a woodburning fireplace (ie free).
Almost all of our furniture (excluding Jena's) is a free hand-me-down or purchased used from a friend or family member.

One of the people who asks me this question hasn't been "able" to take their family on a vacation. Ever. Even though they say it's a priority for them.
They also make more than twice what Jason & I do.
They also live in a much larger, newer, nicer home than we do, in a nice neighborhood. Their mortgage payment is more than double ours.
They have one leased vehicle, which has to be replaced every three years.
Their other vehicle they bought brand new, fully-loaded.
They dress much nicer than we do.
They not only have cable, they have one of the premium packages.
They She clips coupons when she "has time" (ie. rarely, if ever).
The last time they moved they opted to buy all new furniture to furnish their new home instead of moving the old stuff. And not cheap stuff either.

Those are choices. Those actions are statements about your priorities.

*note* no judgement here. It's a matter of personal choice. Just stating the facts of the situation.

But really, how did we afford five trips in one year? Do firefighters get paid that much?

Um... nope. Not hardly.

In fact, the reason I moved in with Jason when I did (before we were married), was because he finally had a job offer for a full-time firefighting position. But he couldn't pay the bills with the 40+% paycut he would have to take to accept the job. So I moved in and we split expenses.

Now, his pay covers most of our basic household expenses. But not all. That leaves my income to cover the rest of the house hold expenses, plus for our "extras". Like trips.

We also utilize points for hotel stays. Our bank allows us to accumulate points for each transaction. Once you accumulate so many, you can cash them in for "prizes" (sort of). We always cash these in for stays at the same hotel chain.
Our primary credit card, which we didn't use too often until the home renovation, grants points towards the same hotel chain.
Combine the two, and we rarely pay for lodging.

But let's look at last year's trips, specifically.

In January I surprised Jason with a trip to Florida for a week, snorkelling & diving, for his birthday.
I secretly tucked away cash for over a year to pay for this trip. We used points for one hotel night, the rest of the trip we paid in cash. Four night stay.

In March he took me to Iowa to visit my sister, for my birthday.
We used points for our one hotel stay, gathered coupons for the attractions, and slept on the floor of my sister's house while there. Four night stay.

In April we went to Indiana for a fire convention.We used points for our hotel stay, wrote off his portion of the entrance fees as a business expense, and paid cash for our food. One night stay.

In May we went to the Smoky Mountains with both sets of parents.
I spent a lot of time researching lodging options, and found a deal on a cabin that cost each couple less than $40 per night. Paid cash for food. Used coupons for attractions. Two night stay.

In November we went to Columbus for our anniversary.We used points for the hotel night. I had also found a great deal on gift cards for dinner & a movie, and we actually based our destination on where we could utilize both gift cards in the same area. One night stay.

We drive to all destinations, whenever possible (all five trips last year).
We ask friends & family to take care of the pets, to avoid boarding charges.

Travelling, even on short stays, even on driving-distance trips, is important to us. So we spend a lot of time planning. A lot of time. Researching options. Looking for discounts. Even determining destinations and time of travel based on the discounts available.

And that, dear readers, is how we afford to go on trips. No, we're not rich. Nor do we go into debt to pay for them* . We determined it was a priority for us, and we plan accordingly.

It really is as simple as that.

* the one exception to the not-going-into-debt: our Bahamas trip in 2009. Jason won a cruise. Like seriously, actually won. But it had to be taken within a certain timeframe. We had not planned on such a large trip for another few years, but decided it was an opportunity we wouldn't likely have again. So we put the airfare & my cruise fees on credit card, paying both of those off within six months of the trip.

1 comment:

BlazinMama said...

You so sound like me sometimes. I love it!

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