Pay For Your Vacation With Cash, Do Not Gamble More Than You Can Lose

by Hank Coleman

This is the very first vacation that I can ever remember where my wife and I have paid for the entire thing in cash. I can remember using my credit card for past vacations and having to continue paying on the trips for the next year. Those were some of the most expensive photos that we ever took. At the end of our past vacations, we would buy a t-shirt and take some photos, and then we would not have much else other than our memories and the payments to remember the trip. There is nothing wrong with having great memories, but it really sucks when you are paying for them years afterwards.

This time it was different for my family though, and the feeling was liberating. We paid for the entire trip with cash during this vacation.

Budgeting & Planning. So, how did we accomplish this amazing feat? We had a plan several months in advance going into it. We had a budget, and we stuck to it. While we did not have every dollar earmarked for certain events, we did have several general planning guidelines such as spending $500 on gambling, $800 on our plane tickets and hotel room, and $500 on meals and entertainment. Some nights we would splurge on a big meal, and then other days we would eat a cheap sandwich in order to say within our budget.

You should know your spending limits when you going on vacation. You should not spend more than you can afford to lose (either on the gaming tables or on the restaurant’s dinner table). You think that that would be simple advice, but so many people do not save for their vacation and spend wildly on their credit cards. Studies have shown that people spend more when they buy things with plastic instead of cash even if they pay their balances off at the end of the month. McDonald’s found that the average price per transaction went from a little over $4 when the restaurant chain only accepted cash to over $7 per transaction when they started taking credit cards. There is a reason that casinos only let you spend your money with chips instead of greenbacks. It is a lot harder on the psyche to lose a $100 bill with Ben Franklin staring back at you than a ceramic clay round disk with a happy hotel logo on it.

Two Ways To Save. My wife and I love to save for vacations with our spare change. I have talked about it before, but it is worth mentioning again. You can save a lot of money without even realizing it if you pay for all of your purchases with dollar bills and pocket all of the spare change. At the end of the day, my wife and I always put our coins in a change jar. Over the course of the year, the change really adds up. Another great way to save is to budget your vacation throughout the entire year. We knew that we wanted to spend approximately $2,000 on a vacation. So, we just divided that amount by the number of months left until we left and saved a little each month. The real trick is to make the savings automatic every month or every two weeks. An automatic deposit into a vacation savings account will help you save. We also used our income tax refund to help fund a large portion of our vacation as well.

Know Your Limit. How much can you afford to lose? When I went to Las Vegas, I took $500 out of the bank in cash, and that was my gambling money. That is all I wanted to lose. That was my limit. I would not go back to the ATM machine, and I would not go back into my wallet for more money. I left my checkbook and credit cards at home as well.

It takes discipline to know your limits and how much you can lose. You can get swept up on the excitement and thrill of receiving money that you did not earn. But, the game is rigged against you. And, it is in your best interest to realize this going into the game. The mistake that a lot of people make is that they fail to realize that they are going to lose their money. They are not losing their money per se but actually paying the casino for the thrill. It is no different than riding Space Mountain at Disney World. It is the same thrill, but it is a different payment structure and time requirement.

Vacations do not have to follow you home. With a little prior planning and budgeting, you can have the vacation of your dreams while paying for it entirely in cash. You will feel a great sense of relief as you are heading home knowing that you will only have pictures and souvenirs as memories of your trip instead of piles of debt.

This is the sixth post of a seven part series of what Las Vegas can teach us all about personal finance. Check out the others in the series below…

Just to be clear….in no way am I advocating gambling. If you think that you may have a gambling problem, you should find help as soon as you can. There is help available. You can find help andresources at the Gambler’s Anonymous website, the National Council on Problem Gambling, and the National Center of Responsible Gaming.

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