Think vacation and tiyulim and what does your mind conjure up? Possibly images of sea, sand, mountains, waterfalls, laughter, ice-cream. Maybe plane journeys, foreign destinations, adventure, travel. Exotic experiences and food.
The possibilities are endless and can be tailor-made to your requirements. But while only matching your vacation to your needs or wants can provide for some great entertainment, most people also need to consider the financial implications of their potential options.
The purpose of this article is not to put a damper on your vacation before it officially begins. I would like this column to inspire you to ensure that your summer not only offers you and yours a great time, but also allows you to live within your financial means. With sufficient planning you can avoid long term financial problems including rising debt and stress levels which can occur when people overextend themselves.
There are certain times of year that naturally involve increased expenditure. Pesach is certainly one with its myriad of unique expenses, and the summer vacation months are definitely another.
The summer offers a financial challenge on two fronts. The first is if you are planning a family vacation away from home, and the second is how the remainder of the vacation will be spent while the kids are out of school. In Israel the summer vacation is long and hot, and depending on which schools your children attend, there are a fair number of weeks when they are unoccupied.
Obviously each family has its own unique dynamics, and different financial ability. The key is coming up with a plan to accomplish your family’s goals (whether it’s just keeping the kids busy, visiting family or exposing your children to new experiences) while not breaking the proverbial bank. Too often a family will make decisions based only on needs or wants without considering the long term implications. Just start by asking yourselves the following question if you’re considering financing your summer plans with another loan. If you haven’t managed to save money during the year to pay for your summer plans, why do you think that next year you’ll be able to afford to pay off that loan?! By breaking the budget families don’t realize that they are beginning a trend that will take them in a downward spiral into overdraft. But it is avoidable, and now is the perfect time to start planning the details so that your summer works out optimally.
There are a huge variety of destinations, within Israel and abroad, that can involve very different financial outlay. Decide which aspects of your family holiday are most important to you, and those that you can compromise on. If going abroad or on a ritzier local vacation is that critical element, you can ensure that other features of the holiday are low key to ensure you stay within budget. So a large trip might be accompanied by more stay-at-home free activities. If an expensive trip is not critical, you might be able to spend more on smaller trips and/or treats.
Don’t forget to research the places you are planning to visit. Some countries offer free/reduced travel for children if organized in advance. Some tourist sites are free on certain days. Maximize those kinds of opportunities and you have found a way to reduce costs without compromising on your holiday. Self-catering vs eating out can also save you a significant amount of money.
In some ways the less structured parts of the summer are harder to budget. Obviously your needs and options vary depending on the age and range of your kids, and whether or not there will be a responsible older child or adult around. As with the family vacation, there are many childcare/day camp/sleep away camp/parent camp options available. Shop around. If you can’t find something that suits your lifestyle and budget, speak to likeminded parents, or share your needs via social media and you might find that a group of parents together can create something that suits your needs and saves everyone money.
And finally, consider giving your children some money towards a budget. I have spoken several times of the importance of educating your children so that they become financially responsible adults. Summer is a great time to start.
Decide on a weekly or monthly allowance, depending on the age and needs of your child. Sometimes less can be more as it can inspire them to be more creative and resourceful in earning their own money. Agree what you anticipate their allowance will cover, and what, if anything, you are prepared to fund. And after they have decided how much they want to supplement, let them start planning.
The actual planning will become an activity in itself, as they work out the different options open to them. And in addition you will be training your next generation to budget from a young age – one of the best skills you can give them.
Budgeting can be viewed as limiting or empowering. It’s all a question of attitude. But now is the perfect time to invest energy into maximizing your money to ensure a great summer.