Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Travelin' Money

My wife and I love to travel, especially to the coast and to cities steeped in history. But a journalist doesn't make travelin' money, and that was even more the case early in our marriage, and when our daughter was just a little thing.

But we've always traveled. How?

Early on, we received some wonderful advice that went something like this: You ought to decide what character your family will have, and then work to make that happen. On the ground, that meant for us to become a family that traveled. By necessity, that meant finding a way to make that happen financially.

Since we didn't have a lot of extra money lying around or flooding over the transom, we became intentional about saving for travel. It's easier than you think.

For instance, we got paid every other week, for a total of 26 paychecks. But we budgeted our mortgage on a 24-pay-period basis. What to do with the money from those extra two paychecks? We put it in a special fund, and used it to take quick long-weekend trips with our daughter. It worked for spring break, for instance. Or a fall trip to the beach. On occasion, we'd combine it with other funds for a longer vacation. The point is, it was a painless way to finance a get-away.

Another funding mechanism was our annual tax return. We intentionally set our withholdings slightly higher than they needed to be, so that we'd get several hundred dollars back each year. That went straight into our vacation fund, which financed our longer vacations. Sure, the federal government got to keep some of our income interest free for the year. But it was, again, a painless (but surefire) way for our family to have ready traveling money.

That's still one of our strategies. This year, we've spent a week at the beach in June and taken our extended family on a three-day trip to Fredericksburg, Mount Vernon and George Washington's Birthplace. Sweet!
Here's another idea:

If you and your spouse work, and each squirrel away just $5 a week for travelin', that's $10 a week, $40 a month, $120 a quarter. That'll get you a hotel room and a few dollars toward a tank of gas, to spend some family time far from the homestead for an overnight. Maybe to the foothills. Or Wilmington. Or a shopping trip to Concord.

Little things, in other words, add up to a road trip.

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