1. Money

Reader Story: Budgeting Let Me Take My Dream Vacation

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Afford the Life You Want by Setting Priorities.
About.com Guide Paula Pant

One of my readers, Travis, posted a story online describing how budgeting helped him take his dream vacation with his wife and children.

I’m paraphrasing his story here for you.

We Wanted to Take the Kids Somewhere Fun

For years, Travis’ wife has wanted to visit a small town in south-central Wisconsin, a place called Wisconsin Dells. This little area has a big reputation: it’s home to the world’s largest outdoor waterpark AND the world’s largest indoor waterpark. It offers roller coasters, go-karts and a petting zoo for the kids, casinos, golf courses and spas for the adults. Its winter attractions include indoor water parks, haunted houses, skiing and snow tubing.

In short: this small Midwestern town is the perfect family destination.

But Travis – like most Americans – has bills to pay. He has a family to support, and basic expenses like groceries to consider.

Travis’ friends started floating the idea of taking a trip to Wisconsin Dells. What if they could find four families to share a massive hotel “room” that sleeps 20 people? And what if they went in January, during the off-season?

(Read more about how to save money on vacations, and discover six types of entertainment that won't break the bank.)

They started crunching the numbers, and discovered the cost of the trip was quite reasonable. Which made everyone happy – for a minute.

But then Travis and his wife started thinking a little harder. Sure, the trip cost was inexpensive. But could they afford it?

Their budget was already tight. How could they splurge on a family vacation – even if it did come at an ultra-reasonable price?

The answer was simple. It wasn’t easy -- it required work and sacrifice -- but it was simple.

“I asked her what she was willing to give up in order to go on the trip,” Travis said. “We could afford the trip, or we could afford the little ‘extras’ from now until January. But not both.”

Travis and his wife combed through their budget. They found tiny “extras” in their spending -- An occasional restaurant meal. The typical “fun” spending on a weekend. (Check out this worksheet on budgeting for fun expenses.)

“We went through our budget and made a list of all the "extras" we could cut or reduce temporarily,” Travis said. “(We calculated) how much money it would save us, and added it up.”

Their findings?

“If we truly cut out the things on our list, we would have sufficient funds to go on the weekend getaway.”

They stuck to the plan. They cut the extras, and watched their savings grow. And that January, they took their children on a weekend the kids will remember for years.

“When (my kids) are excited,” Travis said, “I smile on the inside.”

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Read about Travis' quest to manage his family's budget on his blog, Our Journey to Zero.

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