My Not-So-Frugal Vacation

by Beth · 13 comments

in Living Frugally,Money & Spending

We recently returned from a month-long visit to the U.S.  It was our first trip back in two years, and to say we were looking forward to it would be a bit of an understatement.  For months we’d been planning and dreaming about what we wanted to do and see while we were there, how we would pack in all those American favorites we’d missed while living abroad.

Unfortunately, “pack it in” is what we did.  When the final days of our vacation arrived and it was time to collect all the things we’d bought, we realized that we needed more room.  A whole other suitcase, in fact, thoughtfully provided by my family when they saw our predicament.  And while we didn’t have to purchase it or pay extra to bring it with us, it did shed light on just how much stuff we’d manage to acquire over a four-week period.

Some of it was for friends and French family members, items they’d requested that we bring back for them.  Some of it was for my work, educational materials that are costly to ship.  A lot of it was books (heavy!) and grocery store items that we can’t find here.  We hadn’t felt that we were doing that much shopping-just a little here and a little there-but it really added up in the end.

We also did a lot of dining out on our vacation.  We rarely eat at restaurants in France, but something about the relaxed “vacation” atmosphere made spending money not such a big deal, and hey, we weren’t spending it on groceries, right?

Because we were staying with family, we avoided paying hotel costs, and we had our own on-site laundry (and sometime laundress).  We didn’t go to any big amusement parks or other expensive outings.  And sure, the airfare was outrageously expensive for a family of four, but that had been paid for months earlier.

Since we would-be frugalists saved all our receipts, I could do the responsible thing and tally up exactly what we spent, but after being back for over a week now, I’m not looking forward to the prospect.  The truth is, I don’t really want to know how much this vacation cost us, because I don’t think, given the chance, that I would do anything differently.  I can say that from the (perhaps naïve) perspective of someone coming back to a secure job and a decent emergency fund in the bank.  For me, it was worth it.  (Although we did come home to several unexpected and rather large expenses, and it remains to be seen what effect these will have in the longer-term.)

What do you think?  Is it acceptable to be “willfully non-frugal” from time to time?  Do you make exceptions to your financial rules when it’s a special occasion?  What situations can present a temptation for you to temporarily loosen the frugal belt?


1 Christina Rebuffet-B August 11, 2010

Yes, definitely! This article just described my trips back to the US EXACTLY! So, I say, yes, you have to let go occasionally. After all, isn't that what vacations are all about?

2 Nancy August 11, 2010

I say, "Don't beat yourself up over it!" It's vacation. It's not as if you live like this on a daily basis. Just enjoy the fact that you got to go "home."

3 Christina August 11, 2010

We did the same exact thing on our vacation this summer! We wanted to have fun and not worry about staying in a budget. 🙂

4 athina August 11, 2010

Just enjoy the vacation you had with your loved ones Beth, we can't -and shouldn't- deprive ourselves from everything… especially when you are employed and have your emergency fund in place.
Moments like these are what we work for's not all about saving.

For my part, I too am "willfully non-frugal" when I go to my home country for a visit and I allowed myself to enjoy it, as I cut back mercilessly on many other areas.

5 Mickey August 11, 2010

You didn't have to pay extra for the extra suitcase? OK, not sooooooooo bad! Like you and Christine I always find I accumulate too much stuff on trips stateside, but have had to apply some strict discipline since the international airlines now allow only one free piece of stowed luggage…good for the wallet, but frustrating.

And of course you dined out, and I hope you enjoyed every bite! (Also important for your girls' American acculturation!)

6 kellyrigotti August 11, 2010

This is one of those times that having children comes in handy. OK, so you have to pay for their plane ticket, but you get the extra suitcases!

7 Kayla K August 11, 2010

I read once that "the most frugal thing is to go nowhere and do nothing. Sometimes frugality is not the answer."

Enjoy your vacation of a celebration of your frugal ways which gave you the ability to afford it. Good for you!

8 LBC Teacher August 11, 2010

I think as long as you save for your trip and are not going in to debt for it, it’s fine to splurge. That’s part of why I choose to be frugal…so that when I want to I have the means to spend a little extra. Sounds like a great trip!

9 leslie August 11, 2010

I will still be resourceful on vacations but not cheap. When I budget for vacations, I add a lot of padding for splurges. When on vacation, I just want to relax and not think about the little things I worry about at home. It is all about the experience, so what is the point of saving $20 but being downright miserable when you're supposed to be on vacation.

10 Kate Kashman August 11, 2010

I think it is absolutely OK. Going home is a big deal and money will be spent, no doubt about it. The memories for your family are worth every penny.

11 Cynthia August 11, 2010

Part of the reason for being frugal is to be able to afford doing the things that are meaningful. I agree with Leslie…experience is what vacations are all about. Money well spent, I say.

12 Judy August 12, 2010

absolutely. I save year round for vacation, so we pay 100% cash when we go. My husband doesn't like to cook while on vacation, because we do that everyday at home. We eat out, see the sights, and have fun as long as we don't go over the specific amount of money we saved.

13 Chris @ How We Save Money August 26, 2010

Sometimes you just have to let loose, and enjoy yourself. I’m trying to talk myself into this idea at least once a year on vacation.

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