Give yourself a (spring) break

With spring break just weeks away, most people I know (myself included) have no plans to travel to a warmer climate. It seems the staycation trend is here to stay, at least for now.

If you told me a few years ago I’d be planning to hang out at home on Easter week, I probably would’ve called you crazy. Long after I graduated, I was still high-tailing it down to San Diego – my favorite quick getaway – for a week of sun and sand (not to mention fish tacos and beer). Now that seems like ages ago.

Sure, air fares are at an all-time low, but there’s still the cost of a hotel, food, a car rental, etc. In this economy, I just don’t have that kind of extra income. Hey, I’m still recovering from the splurging I did during the holidays.

I’m trying not to look at it as a budget cut, rather a choice I’m making because I’d rather save the money or spend it on the stuff I need. If I don’t pay for a vacation now, I’ll have more money to allocate towards retirement, meaning I’ll actually be able to afford the fun stuff when I’m old (though I’m booking my San Diego adventure as soon as the economy picks back up). But just because I’m not leaving doesn’t mean I can’t take a vacation. Here’s some advice, taken from my own staycation plans, on taking a break without skipping town.

If possible, take a few days off from work. If you’re cutting back on vacations, you likely have a lot of time built up – why not use it before you lose it? Of course, I also realize most of us are walking on eggshells around the office because of the possibility of layoffs. If you know your boss won’t go for a vacation right now, at least give yourself a mini-break on the weekend. Turn off your cell phone and step away from the computer.

Once you’ve temporarily severed yourself from the work world, it’s time to get outside.

Wherever you live, chances are you get tourists right in your town, or at a destination less than a day away. Find out what where they’re headed and why. I’ve found that the most interesting things about my home are often right under my nose – I just don’t notice because I drive by them every day. Local hotel lobbies will often have pamphlets and flyers on stuff to do nearby. You can also type your town or city into the Google search bar along with words like sightseeing, attractions, tour, museums, etc. And try using the word “free” – you might be surprised at the cool options you find.

Don’t forget the potential of in-home entertainment. Do you normally dream of somewhere tropical? Have a Cancun “escape” in your backyard or patio. The cost of taco ingredients and Mai Tai mix is a heck of a lot cheaper than a flight to Mexico. Wishing you were in Las Vegas? Invite your friends over for a poker night and have them bring potluck (that will be the authentic Vegas buffet).

Saving money doesn’t have to be a drag. For tips on ways to have a good time on a budget, take a look at our Give Yourself a Raise flyer, one of the money-saving tools in our free Financial Toolkit (you can order one here) or join our DebtStoppers Community for access to even more financial information. Worried that you’re too deep in debt to benefit from advice alone? It’s never too late. Sign up for our free one-on-one debt analysis or reserve a spot at our upcoming free community workshops (check our website for dates). You’ll learn how to save so you can start paying down debt and preventing consequences like foreclosure. Lifting your financial burden will ensure that when you do take a vacation, you’ll have the peace of mind to truly enjoy it.

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