My partner, Cheri, texted me a page from a Life Hack daily calendar with the premise that if Americans weren’t too lazy to cook, we could afford plane tickets to exotic travel destinations.
Good idea for a column, right. With some research, here’s what I discovered:
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American household annually spends:
$4,049, or $337 a month, on food at home.$3,154, or $263/month, on food away from home.$2,913, or $243/month, on entertainment.That’s a total of $10,116, part of which you could spend on a well-deserved vacation next year.
A little more research convinced me that for $3,000, a couple could enjoy a week at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico, go sightseeing in London or explore Thailand.
Yes, you could spend more. And, if you have kids, you may need to pick a vacation within driving distance.
Here’s the challenge: Plan ahead, save for and go on vacation over Labor Day weekend in 2019.
PlanThis is the fun part, and it’s free. Go online, browse travel books at Maria’s Bookshop or visit the library. Where have you always wanted to visit? What have you wanted to do but have never done?
Make the plan real by picking your travel dates and creating a travel budget for:
transportationlodgingfoodactivitiesSaveSticking with our idea of saving $3,000 to enjoy a vacation over Labor Day next year, you’ll need to save $250 each month to arrive home without any credit card debt.
You can do this by reducing your spending on groceries, eating out and entertainment. Using the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ averages above, we need to cut all spending equally by 30 percent or dramatically reduce eating out and entertainment. Your choice.
Here are 10 ideas for cutting back so you can go on vacation:
Skip the coffee shop and drinks with your meal.Share an entree.Bring your lunch to work four out of five days each week.Go on a picnic instead of eating out.On the weekend, cook for the week ahead.Skip the movie theater.Make your gear last another season.Enjoy a free event or concert.Go for a hike.Use the library for books, movies and audio books.If you find that the vacation you’ve planned will cost more than you can afford to spend, scale back by:
Reducing the number of days. Choosing a less expensive place to stay for part or all of your vacation.Limiting the number of excursions and activities.Changing your travel dates and going in the offseason when you’re more likely to get a deal.I was planning on going out to eat after finishing my column, but now I’m going to cook at home so I can go on vacation.
Durango resident and personal finance coach Matt Kelly owns Momentum: Personal Finance. www.personalfinancecoaching.com.