Back in the summer of 2013, I was elated to finish school and move home to San Francisco. What I wasn’t so happy about was the $30,000 in student loan debt that followed me. I had only six months on my grace period before I had to start making monthly payments. Needless to say, I was anxious about getting a job and starting to pay it off as soon as possible. How would I do it? Besides cutting back on everyday spending, one major commitment I made was to take no vacations until my loans were paid off.
According to this recent USA Today article, 74% of Americans have gone into debt to pay for a vacation. To add to that, 55% of Americans forget to include their vacation when budgeting for the year. And it takes about six months to recover financially from a vacation.
When I read this article, I wondered to myself, “Would I go into debt for a vacation?” and “How often do I really need a vacation?” The truth is, I would love to take a major vacation every three months or every six months at the least. It can seem like you’re missing out if you don’t.
Nowadays, it looks like everyone is taking endless vacations. Browse travel blogs and writers are highlighting places and food you’re missing out on. Browse your FB feed and it’s filled with pictures of other people’s beach vacations and European holidays. Talk with friends and they’ve just come back from another tropical resort getaway. Believe me, I know how depressing it can be to feel like you’re the only one not traveling.
You can say a much-needed vacation is good for the body and the mind. I completely agree with you for so many reasons. You only live once and you want to travel when you’re young. Vacations build family memories and create rich life experiences too. You have a fear of missing out. You need a break from everyday life. I know all those feelings because I’ve felt them at one time or another too. But I’m going to take a very unpopular opinion here. When money is tight, the best vacation is a no-cation.
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Tips for how to get through a no-cation
Commit to it
Make a commitment to no vacations for as long as you need. For me, I estimated it would be 2-3 years until I paid off my student loans. Let yourself feel sad or disappointed if you are. Then remind yourself how good it is to be working towards your financial goals. I got through a lot of disappointment by imagining the day I clicked “send” on the computer to make my last loan payment.
Tell your friends and family
The people in your life may be surprisingly supportive of your decision. I told my friends and family that I wasn’t taking any vacations soon in order to focus on paying off my debt. Instead of hassling me, they were supportive and respected by decision. My boyfriend understood too. He didn’t ask me to go on any trips, even though that meant he didn’t get to travel much either.
Sleep, rest, and recuperate
Job burn out is real. As a speech language pathologist, I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I’ve heard people talk about it, and I know people who have left their jobs or the field because of it. If your job is stressing or burning you out, time off can do wonders. Take that time to sleep, rest, recuperate, or whatever you want to do that doesn’t include traveling or spending a lot of money. I can think of nothing more restorative than getting a restful, uninterrupted night’s sleep every night for a week.
Pick up a side job
If you are able to take time off and want to earn extra income, try pursuing a side job. Freelance with the skills that you have. Go thrifting and sell your finds online. Drive for Uber of Lyft. Try out something different for a new experience. You might like it so much that it sticks.
Pursue your hobbies and interests
Because I didn’t travel when I was off from work, I filled my time with other things I found fulfilling. I explored my city, met with friends who were off or worked odd hours, exercised more, and laid the ground work for this blog. Ideally, hobbies and interests would be low-cost or free so that you could save or put money towards debt. Think about what hobbies and interests you would pursue if you had more time. Now is the time to start them.
Vacation on the cheap
Sometimes we really do need a vacation. I was fortunate that I only planned to do no-cations as long as I was paying off my loans, which I calculated would be 2-3 years. Vacations were on my horizon. But if your debt is long-term, you may not want to partake in no-cations indefinitely. The next best thing is to figure out ways to vacation on a budget, like going in the off-season and using credit card points.
It’s been a few years since I graduated school, and I’ve since paid off my student loans. Honestly, I don’t feel that I’ve missed out by taking no-cations. I feel so much relief from having paid off my student loans. Now instead of worrying about my next loan payment, I think about all the places I want to go in the next few years and how to make it happen. Next up is Mexico City!
How do you prioritize vacation in your life? How do you manage to go on vacation when money is tight? Would you go into debt to take a vacation? What do you think of a no-cation and would you do it?