Traveling vs. Saving

by Erika Torres

For every person on a budget, there comes a point where you ask yourself: when do I get to have a little fun?  But how do you justify traveling when you have debt to be paid off and emergency funds to be saved?

I love to travel. My family couldn’t afford to travel much when we were younger, but I vowed that I would travel as I got older. On my own dime (and maybe a little bit of help from my parents here and there), I’ve been to New York, all over Italy, England, the Bahamas, Cabo San Lucas, Hawaii, Seattle. In college, I took out $1300 of my babysitting funds for a round-trip ticket to Australia to visit a friend and we roamed around all over thanks to some great hotel deals through Hotel Club Sydney.

But the point is, traveling is expensive. It’s been no secret that Eric and I have not been on a real honeymoon–a long trip with just the two of us that involves a plane to get to your destination. I’ve been saving all my extra money for us to finally take that trip.

So imagine my sadness when I found out that we would owe a $1200 deposit, plus 1.5 month’s rent upfront to move into our new home. We only have $1500 in our emergency savings account. Where was the rest of the funds going to come from?

That’s right, my side hustle income. A part of me was really sad–there goes the honeymoon. Another part of me was mad–it’s my money! Another part of me was just torn–how do I choose between two things I really want? A bigger home or a honeymoon?

I know other people will say we shouldn’t go on a trip and we shouldn’t move out of our shack. I know the responsible thing is to pay down debt, to save, to pay down debt some more, and save some more.

My Side Hustle Income is hovering a little over $2,000 right now–and remember I started off with $346 in October 2011!  This money could definitely be contributed to paying off our debt. Or at least to upping our emergency fund.

A vacation will always remain an extravagance unless we are perfectly financially stable. I know that people may disagree with our choice, but I am sticking with my guns on this one.

As long as we pay off our consumer credit card debt by April 1str (which we will), and as long as we have $1,000 back in our emergency fund before our trip (we will) and as long as the only debt we’re left with is my student loans (which it will be), I am going to make it happen. We are going to go on a honeymoon. I am not touching our honeymoon fund for any other reason than a honeymoon.

We may be going on a frugal fast these next few months to make it through, but we will make it happen.

How do you justify extravagances when you’re trying to pay down debt and save money?

image found here


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House trumps vacation, but I have a feeling that you’ll find the funds to make it all work out! xoxo

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fabulouslyfrugirl February 6, 2012 - 5:46 pm

I think it’s important to balance what makes us feel good and what is responsible. Whatever you choose to do, it must be something that is sustainable for you and your husband. Have fun! 🙂

Jen February 6, 2012 - 7:15 am

Memories last a lifetime and you never know how long that lifetime will be. We’re not promised tomorrow. My husband and I were really tight with money and aggressively paying down our debt and we realized that for us it was too much. We needed to find a balance of paying off the debt and taking the time to make beautiful memories and focus on our marriage. Traveling together is so rejuvenating! There will always be bills to pay and trust me, once kids come along (planned or surprise!), trips/travel will totally change. And you won’t just look back and say, darn, why didn’t we pay down the debt sooner. More likely it will be, why didn’t we go on x trip???? At least that’s what its been for us. We cherish every single one of our trips and all the memories and no matter what happens to the economy, we’ll still have those memories. In my opinion, it has definitely been worth it to go on all the trips we have been on in the last 3.5 years. We wouldn’t change a thing.

Thomas - Ways to Invest Money February 5, 2012 - 8:00 am

I dont know this is a tough one for me. If you have balance and know when to say NO to traveling because you have something that needs to be taken care of then I am all for it. Some people are easily side tracked and what started as a trip because another then clothing and lots of other things. Mean while things like bills and savings get pushed to the side. You have to have balance but know who you are as a person/couple.

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Miss J February 4, 2012 - 6:00 pm

I love this post as I think about this very often as well. My hubby & I just love to travel. We probably go on an overseas trip twice a year which coming from Australia gets pretty expensive. But this is what we love to do & keep on doing so we could sacrifice a lot of things to do this.

This year alone, we are planning 2 overseas trips but we are also planning on saving a deposit for our own place. If we don’t go on a holiday, we would possibly have an extra $13,000 to put in our house deposit but we would be miserable & where’s the fun in that?


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Paul @ The Frugal Toad February 4, 2012 - 6:23 am

Every budget should include a category for fun and travel. We save enough each month to cover one major vacation each summer so we pay cash. If you are not saving enough you may need to adjust your spending in other areas to make up for the shortfall or look at ways to increase your income. In the end a budget is just a tool to help you spend and save money on things that are important to you.

Melissa February 3, 2012 - 5:40 pm

Honestly, I don’t even think you need to be thinking about justifying a vacation. You deserve one!! As long as you’re on track with your other goals, not putting it on a credit card, etc., I don’t see why you or anyone shouldn’t be allowed to treat yourself once in a while. It’s not like, if you’re in debt, you need to live like a pauper until it’s paid off. It’s all about balance. Especially if you have a particularly high student debt that could take years to pay off. Why would you want to miss YEARS of your life just for the sake of getting a loan paid off in five years instead of, say, five and a half.

I say, go on your vacation. It’s about time!

Teacher Girl February 3, 2012 - 1:59 pm

Life is too short. Yes, saving and paying debt down is important, but as long as you are making smart financial decisions, having fun needs to be a priority. After all, you could be hit by a car tomorrow. Would you want to say, “I had a great life paying down debt.” or “I lived my life to the fullest!”

Kay Lynn @ Bucksome Boomer February 3, 2012 - 1:40 pm

It took me 2 1/2 years to pay off all our non-mortgage debt because we budgeted vacations in along with debt payments.

I agree with some of the comments about how you have to enjoy now while it’s happening at the same time you’re working towards other goals.

Hack @ Smart Money Hacks February 3, 2012 - 11:37 am

We make goals to pay down (student) debt while still saving for our vacations. it’s like a reward for a year of hard work. But, at the end of the day, you ultimately choose what’s a priority for you. A new house might give you more satisfaction than a week’s vacation – all about perspective!

Aloysa @ My Broken Coin February 3, 2012 - 11:21 am

I always consider travel the most essential part of life. It helps us to understand the world better. And people. And ourselves. Great post!

Amy February 3, 2012 - 10:31 am

Traveling was (is) so important to me that when I got divorced in 1997, I bought a 805 sq. foot 1 bedroom condo with a 15 year mortgage. My mortgage payments were $300 a month and I paid it off in 7 1/2 years. I love my little condo, and thankfully, so does my husband of almost 6 years. Keeping this paid off condo has allowed us to travel repeatedly to Germany and the UK. I am an admitted money hoarder, but I keep this in mind. My dad told me while I was in high school, working at times three jobs, “enjoy being young”. Ha. I was more interested in making money. Now I know he was right, so I plead with my husband to wrench the money from my tight fist whenever I backslide and want to “save” the money instead of doing something that we both enjoy.

The other thing is that I traveled with my mom to Wales, Germany and Italy (not one trip!) in the late 90’s. I cherish these memories because she was taken all too soon by a weird neurological disease at 71. You don’t know how much time you have with people you love….so enjoy every bit.

newlywedsonabudget February 3, 2012 - 1:51 pm

that’s true! I feel like in a few years, we’ll be settling down and having babies, and then we’ll just NEVER have a chance to travel. I guess there’s really never a good time to plunk down a wad of cash on something so extravagant, so you just have to make it a priority.

Lisa February 3, 2012 - 9:22 am

I’ve also dedicated 2012 to paying off my own debt (car loan and student loans), and I’m facing a lot of the same questions month to month. I think it’s important to do fun things like take vacations, but if it’s going to break the bank, it’s better to wait. I think you’re doing the right thing.


Dave Hilton February 3, 2012 - 8:49 am

One of the toughest things for my wife & kids was not going to DisneyWorld with the rest of her family in 2010.

Instead of going to the happiest (& really expensive) place on earth, we chose to use our money to buy a house. I like to remind her that we’re still enjoying our great house, but their trip is over & relatively forgotten.

We still plan to go to DisneyWorld before the kids get to old…but I know we made the right decision. She’s just upset she didn’t get to go with her parents, sisters & the rest of the family.

Honestly, I’d rather it just be us- but, then again, I’m totally biased. I’ve been to DisneyWorld & DisneyLand several times…but they’ve never been to either.

newlywedsonabudget February 3, 2012 - 1:52 pm

yeah that would have been a tough choice. the trip may be over, but memories last a lifetime.

Ashley February 3, 2012 - 8:22 am

Traveling is one of the most important things to Joel and I. Other than making sure our bills are paid and we are contributing to our retirement accounts, travel comes next. We realize that shouldn’t be the way it is, but we don’t want to regret missing out on our time as a couple (before our mini-mes in the next few years). I think if it’s important to you, and you are making good strides toward your other goals, then you should take that honeymoon!

Jai Catalano February 3, 2012 - 7:52 am

Sadly my mother never traveled with me. I didn’t go on my first airplane until I was 23. Thankfully since then I have traveled all over the world. I guess my mom preferred to save.

Tanner February 3, 2012 - 7:46 am

Growing up, we didnt really have but one ‘real’ vacation. And since a lot of my friends are out of state, I love traveling to go see them. After making a 30hr round-way trip, I must say I am hooked. My car, however, not so much. But I still like to travel a lot. The way I see it, I don’t have to really justify that I want to spend some money to travel. I am on this journey for a reason (to pay off debt) but I won’t put life on pause until that’s done. I want to look back at these years and say, ‘wow, I had a lot of fun’, not ‘wow, I paid debt.’ Goals (traveling/fun and debt payment) can work together, not just compete against each other.

newlywedsonabudget February 3, 2012 - 1:53 pm

i LOVE this! “I am on this journey for a reason (to pay off debt) but I won’t put life on pause until that’s done”

Hannah February 3, 2012 - 7:14 am

This is a conversation that my husband and I have all the time. While he loves to travel, he is sensible and wants to pay off student debt and hopefully a house before he starts thinking travel. I am totally the opposite and live by the “But why if I die tomorrow” theory. Thankfully, I have a job that sends me abroad twice a year and girlfriends who will travel with me the rest of the year – and the way I afford the rest of the travel is by stocking away some of my weekly allowance into a travel savings fund.

jobo February 3, 2012 - 6:33 am

The fact that you had all that money saved up on the side is awesome and you used it for exactly the right reason! I can’t wait to see your new place and I really hope you get that honeymoon you so deserve 🙂

Michelle @ Making Sense of Cents February 3, 2012 - 6:20 am

As you know, I like to spend any extra money on traveling. To me, traveling is good for the body and soul, so I greatly value it.

KendraD February 3, 2012 - 5:45 am

It’s always been really important to me that we have fun and do/see things even while being responsible with our money. Neither my husband or I want to wait until we’re older or retired to enjoy life – we want to do it now while we’re young. So we budget in for trips, though by budget in I really mean that we decide to take one and then just cut things before and after so that we have the money to do it. And, while we do use our credit cards to pay for plane tickets and hotels, those are always paid off the instant the charge clears our accounts.

I really understand how you feel about the honeymoon. We got married 10 days after getting engaged and moved to Germany about a month later. A lot of people told me that I got my honeymoon on our move to Germany. Or that somehow relocating to live in Europe was my honeymoon. Now, don’t get me wrong, we’ve traveled all over and each trip has been amazing. But none of them was a honeymoon; not to mention that the actual process of moving here sucked and was not remotely romantic.

We made it on our honeymoon cruise 13 months after we got married. And it was everything I was hoping for and looking for in a honeymoon. All that to say, your honeymoon needs to be what you want of it. If that involves a long trip, exotic location, just the two of you, and a plane – then that’s what it should be.

Amanda @ Newlywed Trek February 3, 2012 - 5:31 am

I think traveling and having fun every now and then help keep you focused on the goal – it’s a taste of how much fun you can have when you’re out of debt!

However, I don’t really understand why a “real honeymoon” has to be defined as “a long trip with just the two of us that involves a plane to get to your destination.” My husband and I live in Indiana and we went to Cincinnati for our honeymoon. That was our honeymoon – not a mini moon, not a trip to tide us over. It doesn’t have to be exotic to be enjoyable.

Jackie February 3, 2012 - 4:42 am

Ok I have to comment on your very first sentence (“For every person on a budget, there comes a point where you ask yourself: when do I get to have a little fun?”)

Fun should be included in your budget. Budgeting isn’t about restricting yourself; it’s about making sure that the things you want to have happen…do. Travel is definitely a part of mine, because it’s important to me.

That said, it sounds like paying down debt and saving money are higher up on the list for you right now than travel. (We’ve put getting our house paid off at the top of our list.) So for me, the focus is on meeting my goals in order of importance to me.

Jessica February 3, 2012 - 1:43 am

I read your site but have never commented, until now.

It sounds like you’re doing everything right. Having lived in a place I didn’t want to live, I think it’s the right decision to prioritize moving to a better home. So long as it’s not crippling you every month to pay for it, it is totally worth it.

As for the vacation, it will come. This gives you time to look for travel deals and get excited over it. Instead of thinking “oh I’m not going on a trip”, you can reframe and think “I’m going on a trip *soon*!”. 🙂

Rachael February 2, 2012 - 10:55 pm

I’m very lucky in that I’m a saver by nature, and my only debt is my student loans (but where I’m from [Australia] we only have to pay it back once we’re earning over the income threshold, but it gets indexed every year so it may as well be an interested loan. I’m trying to be responsible and pay it off voluntarily anyway.) I was bitten by the travel bug after studying in Japan for a year and I’m itching to go back.
Unfortunately for me my boyfriend is the opposite: if he has money in his account he’ll spend it. He’s agreed to travel to Japan with me but he just needs to save up. As to whether he actually *will* save up… haha

Earn Save Live February 2, 2012 - 9:29 pm

I also love to travel, and I totally think that you deserve a honeymoon! Do you already have set dates, or could you postpone it until later in the year? I’m just wondering if additional time might give you more time to pay for your move and to have enough money to live it up while you’re traveling.

For us, we’ve put all traveling on hold this year while we pay down $25,000 in consumer debt. (Then again, we recently moved to Australia so there’s still a lot that we can explore in our new city!) Next year, we’re going to add a travel fund and regularly contribute to it, even as we tackle student loans.

Well Heeled Blog is right – it’s all about balance. 🙂

Michelle @ Making Sense of Cents February 2, 2012 - 7:55 pm

I think traveling is good for everyone. Everyone is most likely always going to have some sort of debt (whether it be a house, student loans, car, etc), so you might as well have fun in life as well.

Megg February 2, 2012 - 7:53 pm

Ah, such a hard decision. I think you can do both (or all)!
We have debt we’re working on, and we’re building our emergency fund. We have no less than 4 different bank accounts to filter the money around depending on what it’s for. It’s a little ridiculous.
Anyway, for the past year we’ve been working on the credit card, saving for our emergency fund and setting aside money for new furniture AND a trip to Hawaii this month. We’ve been saving for a year for Hawaii and finally have just about $4,000 (we shouldn’t need ALL that).
Really, I think you can do it all, it’s just a matter of waiting, sometimes. I’d have loved to go to Hawaii 6 months ago, but it wasn’t feasible. So rather than sabotage our other savings, we keep plugging along on all of them.

SWR February 2, 2012 - 7:50 pm

We also love to travel, even though it’s probably not always the best use of our limited funds.

However, we like to keep in perspective the fact that our time is also valuable, and it’s one resource that we have more of now (sometimes) then we will down the road.

SB @ One Cent At A Time February 2, 2012 - 7:44 pm

I have seen 24 out of 50 states so far in only 6 years of my stay here in US. I also seen 6 countries, so yes, I love travelling.

Marissa @ Thirty Six Months February 2, 2012 - 6:30 pm

I love traveling…. It rejuvenates me and I prioritize it every year.

Kris@SimpleIslandLiving February 2, 2012 - 5:54 pm

Go on the honeymoon trip. We have the same type of thing – we have automatically transferred $100 to our anniversary trip fund for a couple years (we were married on leap day, so our “real” 1st anniversary is coming up this year), and we’d already made the arrangements, already booked the tickets….then I became unemployed.

We’re going anyway. The only thing that will stop us is if I get a great job offer that says I can’t take the week off. If that’s the case…it’ll be interesting to see what we do.

The fact is, you saved that money for a reason. I also have a bank account for our son, where I’ve been depositing all the money he’s received since he’s been born. Will we touch it if we run out of money? No, that’s his.

The only thing I would disagree with is the size of your e-fund. I’d start working on making that bigger. Other than that, have fun on your honeymoon. It’s well deserved.

Well Heeled Blog February 2, 2012 - 5:25 pm

I think it’s all a matter of balance, and of trying out something that is SUSTAINABLE. I am doing the same, with money and with a healthier diet.

I’m learning to figure out how I can allow for occasional splurges (dim sum, sushi, Chipotle!) without wrecking all of my diet. Look, I can probably lose all the inches I want in a month if I stick to steamed broccoli and salmon every night, but I know that’s not a sustainable way of eating for me. I’d rather make the process be slow – not too slow! – and steady, rather than try to deprive myself of everything that is good and then binge. I see saving money as kind of the same way.

Sounds to me you are doing a great job. And you will LOVE traveling with your husband. 🙂

Leah @ The Miracle Journal February 3, 2012 - 4:52 am

I think Well Heeled Blog said it really well – it’s about what’s sustainable. I can keep myself on a to-the-penny, absolutely-no-frills budget for about 8 weeks before I go a little crazy in the head and make a big, silly purchase just to prove that I can…and that wrecks the budget and makes me feel like a failure once again. Instead, now I’ve got a budget with a little wiggle room (and includes a line item for fun and a line item for travel). If there’s a month when I’m really tight (since I’m on a variable income), I know that I can pull money out of those lines if I have to, but that’s a last resort. This way I don’t feel restricted and I don’t make the stupid purchases out of desperation.

It sounds to me like you’re doing it just right, because you’re keeping your priorities clear. And all that matters is that they are YOUR priorities, not what anyone else says your priorities should be. 🙂


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