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Monday, February 2, 2015

Taking Vacations With the Baby Steps

A Maui vacation reward
Jake and Danielle on vacation in Maui.
If you're like most people, you can only work, eat, sleep, and play through your weekly grind before the itch to "get away" starts making your insides raw.

But how do you take a vacation and have a good time when you're working your way through Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps to financial peace? I mean, the Baby Steps aren't exactly the best place to be when you want to blow $5,000 on a tropical getaway. Well, here's the good news: you're a fool if you sound like this *in a nasally tone* "We can't go on vacation. We need to save our money. Dave Ramsey says so."

Chill, bro. Or sis. Whoever you are. Vacations are not NOT possible. They CAN happen no matter what baby step you're in. But here's the tough news: you're going to have work at it.

Obviously, the decision to take a vacation is dependent on where you're at financially. If you’re on Baby Step 1 or 2, you’re either building a $1,000 emergency fund or paying off your debt with the debt snowball. In other words, your budget is probably tight—especially if you’re paying off debt aggressively, which you should be. In this case, your options might be limited, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a fun, relaxing vacation. For now it might have to be a staycation, or an inexpensive camping trip, but it's not impossible. Get creative!

If you can manage—and budget for—a short weekend getaway, then go for it. Just remember, the beach and the mountains and all the fancy resorts can wait until you’re out of debt. They’ll still be there, and they will be an awesome reward for busting it and getting out of debt. The main thing is that you don't incur MORE debt by going on vacation.

If you're into Baby Step 3, you’re out of debt and starting to save your big emergency fund, which is three to six months of expenses. Now you can take a little bit of a breath. You’re still saving aggressively and putting all that money you were using to pay off debt toward the emergency fund. But you are also in a good situation where you can take a little bit of that and go on a vacation paid for with CASH. No credit cards here. Woot-woot!

It's important to not go too crazy though. Give yourself a budget, and keep yourself within that budget.

By the time you're into Baby steps 4 through 6, you're in an awesome spot! You’re out of debt, and you’ve saved up a large emergency fund. You’ve started the process of investing 15% of your household income retirement and you've begun saving for your kids' college funds. An annual summer vacation shouldn't be a problem. Just put it in the budget and set a little money aside every week. Even if it's just $100, that's $5,200! Pack up the van and take the kids to Disney!

Your income will determine what’s reasonable for you to do when it comes to vacation spending. Higher earners will obviously be able to afford pricier vacations, but the point here is to go somewhere and remain debt free. Say it with me now: No. More. Debt.

When you've made it all the way through the Baby Steps, don't forget to be generous. Take some family or friends with you on some of your vacations. Be an encourager and a motivator to people who haven’t reached this point in their journey yet. Be generous with your money and even more generous in your spirit. Everyone’s journey will be different. Some people are able to go through the Baby Steps quickly, while it takes much longer for others.

Keep that dream vacation in mind and use it to motivate you to work through the Baby Steps. Remember, getting out of debt and learning to live debt free won't take you forever. This is just a phase of life. The good times will come. You just need the dedication and a little patience to get there.

Keep pinchin :-)

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