19 April 2009

Affording that dream holiday

I recently learned of a "vacation calculator" designed to help people see where they can make savings in their spending, so that they can save for their dream vacation. The Yaycations Calculator goes through a series of questions, asking how much you spend on various products and services over certain periods of time, then adds up the amount of money that you will save over a year if you opt to go without those things.

Seems like a great idea. I decided to give it a go. I went through all the questions, and I saved...

...precisely nothing.

Its not that I'm not willing to do without stuff. Its that I'm already doing without, and that's how we can afford our family holidays.

Last night I was looking at the monthly credit card bill that had arrived yesterday. Apart from one or two more unusual expenses, all our money was spent on groceries, petrol for the car, and medical expenses. It was quite amazing. I hadn't realised that we lived quite so simply.

Without trying or wanting to sound "holier than thou", here's how we do it.

We have a car, and a mortgage, but we manage to live without lots of the "added extras" that so many people have. We have no TV, so we don't need cable. Neither of us has a mobile (cell) phone. We make sandwiches to take to work and school. We don't buy a daily coffee when out. Instead of buying CDs, we mostly listen to the radio - and purchase music infrequently. We borrow books from libraries - only buying the rare 'must-haves'. We don't need DVDs because we don't have a TV to watch them on. We only purchase clothing when we absolutely need to, rather than just because we want to and minimise the purchase of "label" clothing. I even sew some of our own clothing sometimes. We don't go out to clubs or the local pub.

We still have hobbies, (I do lots of embroidery), we are in the process of renovating our house (we're very much DIYers so we save heaps there), we occasionally will have a meal out or takeaway (about once every one or two months), we have a lawn mower man (John is allergic to grass). We give money to carefully chosen causes on a regular basis. Our kids do extracurricular activities like music and sport.

But far from having a terribly boring and sad existence, we enjoy our lives. We enjoy each others' company, and we enjoy going on holidays together, as a family. We can usually manage a big overseas holiday about once every 2-3 years.

So if your wish list includes a vacation, and you don't think you can afford it, how about firstly trying the "Yaycations calculator" to see what you can save. Then why not take a careful look at your expenses to see what you can do without? As you'll see from the calculator, even small weekly expenses can add to a lot over a year.

For us, holidays with our kids are a priority. We learn heaps about the world around us from our travels. Our family vacations also create shared memories that help to bind our family together. So for us, putting aside money to pay for our family holidays is also a priority. It means that in some ways we "do without", but we can only see great big benefits from doing so.

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