One of the reasons I had a difficult time taking budgeting seriously was because I didn’t want to be captain buzz kill. My overall thought was that you couldn’t have fun and also be on a budget. However, ever since I became serious about budgeting, I’ve actually been able to plan and do more of the things I want while staying within budget. For example, this year we were able to book our 2021 Summer vacation to Hawaii without breaking the bank.
The reason we budget is because we have a monthly savings goal that needs to be met for us to be able to reach our financial independence number within our 7 year plan.
Knowing this has forced us become more creative and smart about how we handle our finances. Here are a couple of hacks that has helped us do more of things we love while staying on track:
Find Free/Low Cost Local Attractions – One of the reasons we chose to move to Georgia was because it is bordered by several states which made road trips more likely. Tennessee, Alabama and Carolina States are just a couple of hours always. We like nature and Georgia has a lot to offer in that regards. Most of these attractions are free or low cost like State and National Parks. We created a list of local attractions that interested us and have scheduled monthly trips. Rather than eating out during these trips, we will either buy a Publix Sub/Chicken or pack lunch from home. We all know how eating out expenses tend to creep on you.
Use credit card points – Most of you are most likely familiar with Credit Card Travel Hacking. Basically, you get a credit card with rewards that you can then use to pay for travel. This is how we fund our larger trips. On 2018, we decided to invest in the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card which has an annual fee of $475. When you add all of the perks, the card pretty much pays for itself. I also have our Realty business card with Chase and I am able to combine them with our personal points. Chase gives us bonus points when booking travel with them. In 2019, we went to Europe and our flights were fully paid with points ($1,400 worth) and the annual travel credit paid for 1/3 of our stay. In 2021, we are going to Hawaii and these flights were also fully paid for with points ($1,500 worth).
Set a Fun/Travel budget – In my previous failed attempts to budget, I would have $0 allocated to travel or fun spending which is unrealistic knowing me. Currently, we have a Fun/Travel budget category and we actually transfer part of this money from our checking account into our Ally savings account and allocate it to the Travel category for future trips. Whenever, we plan on a vacation, we take the funds from this savings account rather than plunging the budget for that month. This is how we paid for the Airbnb for our 2021 Hawaii vacation without going over budget. If you give yourself a Fun/Travel Budget then you are able to better plan how to spend the money and not have to be worried about whether you are spending your grocery money when you are out having fun.
Share expenses with others: Want to go spend a weekend in a Cabin in the woods? Invite some friends and split the cost of the cabin and gas. Even though we don’t do this often, this has been great on the budget every time we do it.
Prioritize what matters most: Depending on the destination I may prioritize convenience over luxury. For example, for Hawaii, we could have chosen a $300/night luxury hotel. Instead, we went with a budget-friendly hotel 2 blocks away from the beach. It’s not ocean view, but it had a bar downstairs (priority for me 😝) and it was walking distance to several local attractions. We are going to spend most of the time outside and as long as the place is clean, has good reviews and a comfortable bed (read reviews), we are okay. Ryan and I are not fan of hostels or shared apartments, so we do have an overall preference we generally stick to. For example, when choosing cabins for a winter vacation, we might lean over to luxury since we will probably be spending most of the time in the cabin itself. We like to keep flexible, but budget conscious.
Side-Hustle money: Another way we pay for vacations is by increasing our income. In our case, that would be coaching or accounting. We use the extra income from these sources to fund our vacation savings account and then use when needed.
As you can see, being on a budget doesn’t have to be boring!
I hope you found this helpful! This is all I have for now. I just wanted to share that it is possible to have fun while budgeting. While I would love to mindlessly splurge on vacation, we don’t have that luxury. Unfortunately, we are not rich and swiping away during vacation to then come home and cry is not such a great feeling (I talk from experience). We have a goal in mind and we just have to get creative to get the best of both worlds: Having fun while saving lots. Some may argue that I could reach my goals faster if I extreme budgeted and didn’t leave room for fun, but I believe that enjoying the journey is more important than the destination. What are your thoughts?
Do you have any tips you can share with us? We are always looking for new ways to approach our Financial Independence Journey.