This month my husband and I will be taking a 20-day vacation to Australia and Hawaii. I’d be lying if I told you it was inexpensive. The trip consists of a total of 10 flights and 17 nights of hotel stays. We are not in the top 1% of earners. We did not receive an inheritance of some sort. We did not win the lottery. We have no debt associated with the trip. You may be wondering, then, “how in the world are you affording this trip!?” The answer is we have been saving for almost 2 full years for it.
Once a month for 23 months, we have had an automatic transfer set up from out checking account to an online savings account (currently earning a 1.75% APY). Some people may think this is nuts. Two years of saving just for one vacation? It may sound silly, but we wanted this trip, bad. And honestly, we didn’t feel like we were sacrificing anything. In the past two years that we have been saving we have gone on other vacations, eaten at several restaurants, gone to multiple weddings, celebrated lots of gift-giving occasions, donated to charity, completed projects inside and outside of our house, contributed to both our employer-sponsored retirement plans and our own IRAs, and lived our lives just as we normally would.
If we didn’t set this money aside for our vacation each month, I’m not so sure we would have been saving the full amount instead. If we didn’t have a specific goal in mind for the money, we probably would have ended up spending money on things we don’t need, rather than creating memories that will last a lifetime.
The thing is, when you want something bad enough, you make it happen.
A friend of ours mentioned to us that he could never save for two years the way we did. He explained that if they set a goal to save $10,000 for a trip to Italy, for example, by the time they saved $5,000, he and his wife would end up spending that $5,000 on a different vacation instead. Why would he spend that money, though, when he’s halfway to his savings goal for Italy? Because he doesn’t want it bad enough.
The problem with not wanting something bad enough is that when you don’t have savings goals, you end up spending your money on other things and, many times, having nothing to show for it. I know so many people who say “I wish I could afford to go on vacation.” A majority of these people do not budget, do not set goals and do not save. They are not taking responsibility of their financial decisions and are not holding themselves accountable. They don’t realize how quickly little things add up, such as multiple trips to the grocery store, getting a drink with friends, picking up a new shirt for yourself when you go to the store to get a gift for someone else.
In my friend’s case, going on a trip to a different destination makes sense for him. He’s been to Italy once before and, although he loved it, other destinations are more appealing to him, so he’d rather spend the money to see something new. He would prefer to experience the gratification earlier because for him, it can come from somewhere else. It doesn’t need to be Italy.
My advice is find something that you DO want bad enough. Use that motivation to help you form good savings habits. A few ideas for saving motivation: early retirement (the FIRE movement), down payment for a house, vacation (my personal favorite clearly), a car or a wedding. It can be hard to motivate yourself for extremely long-term goals, so for some it may be better to start with something shorter term then use those habits formed to work towards your long-term goal. For me, two years falls into my shorter-term goals. For someone else, it may need to be a 3-month goal. Whatever the case, find what you want bad enough and work towards saving for that. NO EXCUSES! 🙂