Want to Improve Your Financial Skills? Try Going on Vacation!

by Travis Pizel · 19 comments

If you’re a fan of reality television, you’ve probably seen a show with contestants who live on a ranch working day after day to lose weight and get healthy. I’ve often thought to myself that I could easily lose weight and achieve an incredible level of fitness if I were given the opportunity to leave behind all the responsibilities of real life for a few months, and instead, concentrate every waking thought and action to my health.

The goal is for contestants to use their time on the ranch to develop healthy eating and exercise habits. The hope is that contestants will see how much better their lives can be with their new habits, so that they’ll find a way to integrate them into their daily lives once they return home.

How This Applies to Financial Habits

Though it’s the most common excuse for being out of shape, lack of time is also a reoccurring offender on the list of financial excuses.  People may blame time as the reason why they’re not reviewing their finances, creating a detailed budget, or dealing with other bad habits. Believe me, I understand.

Reconciling the checking account, paying the bills, and creating a spending plan takes a significant amount of time. Add in the potential of needing to discuss and agree on financial issues with a significant other, and it’s easy to put finances on the back burner in favor of something else.

It’s easy to think: “If only we had more time, we could develop those healthy financial habits, too.”

The Perfect Time to Work on Financial Skills

Would you believe me if I told you that many of us have a perfect period of time each year to work diligently on the development of those habits? It’s a time when we leave the worries of our jobs, and even our day-to-day lives, behind us.

It’s called vacation.

Raise your hand if you just grunted or scrunched your face in disapproval. I know vacation is supposed to be complete and absolute time off from responsibility and worry. There should be no concerns about money, and everything you eat is “calorie-free.” But don’t call me crazy just yet; hear me out.

Put It Into Action

While you’re on vacation, decide to work on your finances, your fitness, or whatever goal you’ve been avoiding. Vacation days are filled with leisure, so you don’t have all the responsibilities of day-to-day life to eat up your time. Commit a small amount of time each day towards the goal, and make it happen. On the last day of your vacation, think about how you’ll integrate your newly found routine into your normal life.

I think it’s important that you know I practice what I preach. Last week, I was on vacation with my family in Florida, and I exercised every day first thing when I got up. It took about an hour, and then the rest of my day was open to do whatever I wanted.

My wife and I typically have budget discussions on Thursday and Sunday evenings. Like clockwork, even though we were on vacation with friends, we disappeared for 30 minutes to go over our finances. Granted, we were maintaining habits we’d already formed, but it’s just as important to stay in the groove while out of your element. Otherwise, your habits (both old and new) may disappear once you return home.

It’s spring, and many of you will soon be planning your summer vacations. What new habit will you form this year?

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Nik @ Midlife Finance April 10, 2014 at 9:07 pm

People often go to vacation just to relax and you’re right that it can be used as an opportunity to assess everything in our financial life. It’s very similar to a resolution that you are making when a new year is coming.

I haven’t done it before, but having an idea like this from you is definitely something that I will try doing.

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Travis @debtchronicles April 11, 2014 at 5:34 am

If you give it a try, come back and let us all know how it worked out for you, Nik! There’s no reason why a person can’t use vacation to work on a goal….AND relax – that’s what I did. thanks for your thoughts!

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David Ning April 11, 2014 at 9:36 am

Definitely let us know. People often join yoga classes on vacations, so why not try to exercise (physically or financially) while at a resort too!

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Jamie V April 11, 2014 at 7:12 am

When we went on vacation, we lived in a 15’x15’ single room hut with screens for half of each wall (and no privacy curtains), no A/C (this was in the jungle), and our furniture consisted of a full-sized bed, a shelving unit four our clothes, a stool, a table, and a basic loveseat. We had just a few pairs of clothes and none of our other belongings. It was pure paradise. We know we can exist like that if we wanted, and that we loved it so much, but upon returning and getting back into the daily grind, it became harder to see how we could possibly live without all our crap. Now I think about trying to just get rid of a few things each week to remove some clutter and I freak out: “I can’t get rid of that, it has sentimental value!” Le sigh.

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David Ning April 11, 2014 at 9:43 am

Maybe you just need a longer vacation so you can get used to not having those items you want to throw away! :)

But realistically, why not try to pack those items into a big box and hide it in a closet? If weeks (or months, years) go by and you just don’t need anything in there, then it’s safe to say that you can get rid of the entire box.

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Jamie V April 14, 2014 at 11:56 am

Hmm a longer vacation couldn’t hurt to see how long I could go without it all..!

I start to wonder if I have somewhat of a beginner-hoarder mentality? I tried typing out a few honest responses and it kept boiling down to, “I can’t live with *not* having them in my possession somewhere on the planet” for some reason or another for whatever object is in question. I might want it later down the road – years, in fact. That’s sort of scary, to put my reasoning in that kind of perspective. I guess I have some thinking to do when I get home.

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Travis @debtchronicles April 14, 2014 at 4:51 pm

I’ve actually done what David mentioned a few times. If I find a box of stuff, and I haven’t looked at it years – it’s gone. period. I dunno about a “beginner-hoarder” mentality though….some people are just a little more sentimental than others. :)

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David Ning April 15, 2014 at 4:26 pm

If you have hoarder mentality, may I suggest that you start hoarding financial assets? You’ll have just as much of an issue when you are uber rich because you won’t let go, but in the mean time you can quickly become wealthy :)

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David Ning April 11, 2014 at 9:41 am

You got me. I had to raise my hand for “scrunching my face in disapproval”. The idea of working on my finances while on vacation isn’t an idea that immediately pops into my head, but I can see the benefit.

After all, you are really trying to recharge your batteries while being away. So why not make the road towards financial independence smoother so you won’t need to use as much battery to walk the path from now on?

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Travis @debtchronicles April 14, 2014 at 4:54 pm

LOL, thanks for being honest, David. The thing about vacation for me is, I tire of it easily. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a HUGE fan of sitting on a beach with a pina colada, but after about day 4 I’m ready to get back into my regular day to day routine. My wife on the other hand would love to take vacations that are weeks in length. This particular vacation had us away from home for about 10 days – having a goal of some sort helps me appreciate the relaxation time while still being productive. The nice thing about finances is, once you spend some time up front to get in a rhythm you wouldn’t have to spend EVERY vacation working on it – just that first time (hopefully). for people like me, who have to be busy doing something while on vacation, having extra time on your hands is the perfect time to work on some kind of goal – whatever it may be!

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David Ning April 15, 2014 at 4:27 pm

I’ve been known to “want” to go home after a few days on vacation too, so you aren’t alone there.

I wonder if it’s common for guys since I know my wife would be happy to be on vacation all the time!

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joe April 12, 2014 at 11:52 am

While I don’t take vacation often, I find when I’m on vacation I tend to splurge. However, midway I start to have a little bit of guilt. This causes me to have some of my deepest thoughts on personal finance and commit to implement an action plan to make up the costs and then some. Long term I come out ahead.

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David Ning April 12, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Motivation in savings/tackling debt almost always trumps everything else. Awesome that you are able to turn a bad situation into a good one!

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Travis @debtchronicles April 14, 2014 at 4:56 pm

The greatest inventions are born out of necessity, right Joe? We tend to have a budget laid out before we go on vacation, the trick is to take the time and spend the effort to STICK to that budget – thanks for sharing, Joe!

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Jayashree April 14, 2014 at 2:57 am

I need to try this in my next vacation and check how it works. When I am vacationing I always think in back of my mind how much expenses we will have this vacation?

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David Ning April 14, 2014 at 9:48 am

I think about how much things cost during vacation too! I don’t’ think it’s healthy though, so I’m planning to have a budget beforehand next time and then just relax and spend :)

I’ll let you know how it works out!

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Travis @debtchronicles April 14, 2014 at 4:57 pm

I used to have those same thoughts….but now we create a spending plan of how much we’re spending, and on what before we step foot out the door. Sometimes we stray from the plan (either on purpose, or because we neglect to keep ourselves on straight and narrow), but we’re getting better!

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Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life April 18, 2014 at 7:37 am

Good point. I think vacations are one of the few times people think about budgeting- probably because they know it’s a splurge and it’s only temporary. If only they could bring that mindset to their day to day afterwards.

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Travis @debtchronicles April 20, 2014 at 8:17 pm

The hope would be that they spend the time to work on their finances while they have more time (on vacation), and then bring those new habits to their day to day life once they return. Building a new action into a habit doesn’t take that long! Thanks for stopping by!

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