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Frugal Rules: Can I go on summer vacation if I’m still in debt?

by John, Dimespring 30 (@FrugalRules)

I shared last month about how I became a pro at flexing my credit card muscle while in college. Some go to college to learn, others to start out life on their own for the first time; I went to college to party. Whatever I wanted, I flexed my plastic muscle to get it.

Most of the purchases, sadly, were on items that were really just junk, but a few of them were nice, like one of my still-favorite things to do  go on vacation.

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Those trips were not always planned (though I did that as well), but were trips that I took on a whim. If I was bored and stir crazy then what better way to rectify that by going on a weekend trip to Vegas, or a summer vacation to Chicago?

While I had fun during those trips they were all on borrowed money that took me several years to pay off.

I look back on some of those spending blunders I made time and again and wonder what I was thinking. I was using my false belief of “free” money found in credit cards to fund something I have always enjoyed doing  traveling  and not being disciplined about it.

Now that I have thankfully grown past that and make much wiser financial decisions, I see the prudence of planning for events like a summer vacation. I see that there are many summer vacation ideas out there that my family and I can enjoy, as long as we save and budget accordingly.

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The beauty of this is that you can take this planned approach to many bigger things in life. Whether it be buying a new (or new to you) car, buying a new house or building a home-repair fund, you can take this practice of saving regularly to help reach your goal.

But what about my debt?

If you do find yourself in debt, I would say, without a doubt, that you should be focusing on paying that off, especially if it comes in the form of some sort of consumer debt like credit card debt. Beyond that, it becomes more of a gray issue.

If you’re a reader of many personal finance blogs, you know that you can pretty much find at least one person who’ll agree with you no matter what side of the issue you land on. That said, the question of going on a trip or a summer vacation is one that can be a tricky subject.

While I would be cautious about going on vacation while in consumer debt, I do also know that life gets awfully boring awfully quickly if you’re all work and no play. Take it from someone who has been through it: debt payoff fatigue is real and you want to avoid getting close to it as it can possibly impact your debt repayment.

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If you find yourself in debt and wanting to go on a summer vacation I encourage you to weigh the costs and ask yourself if it’s worth it. I also encourage you to look at what other options you have at your disposal. Can you do a staycation, or is a short one- or two-day trip an option? Both can allow you to have fun during the dog days of summer without costing you too much and should be doable with a little bit of saving the months leading up to the trip.

The key is to analyze if that fun will be worth the cost and give you a breather in the debt repayment game.

What are your thoughts? Have you ever gone on a summer vacation while in debt? Do you wish you would’ve stayed home instead?


John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a blog created to help people experience financial freedom through frugality. John is passionate about budgeting, saving and investing and enjoys sharing his knowledge and experience with others so they can avoid making some of the mistakes he made. A veteran of the financial services industry, John has an MBA in finance and experience as a licensed stockbroker. John is a member of the Dimespring 30, a community of bloggers sharing their thoughts, experiences and perspectives on personal finance.