You’ve read our articles. You did the math. You figured out exactly how much you need to book that vacation you’ve been dreaming of. You are waiting for the trip to go on sale. You’ve earmarked in your budget! Super awesome you!
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Right before reading this you went and looked at your bank account only to find the money is gone! You are sitting there, reading this article after looking at your bank balance for the third time in a row, wondering where it all went. You had over $200 earmarked for your travel fund. After paying all the bills, it’s gone into thin air. Or has it?
It took reading this article for it to dawn on you. The fact is, that $200 has gone towards all those unexpected expenses that you didn’t make room for in your budget. Your dreams of taking a Disney Cruise or that trip to Paris went the way of that one night last week you splurged on takeout. It got cut down by that piece of jewelry you bought to support your friend’s party. Then there is the worst offender of all: your kid’s school fundraisers. These take both your time and your money before you even realize it.
$5 to get your car washed by your daughter’s dance troop. You spent the night baking those four dozen cookies, plus at least $20 in supplies, not to mention the fact that you gave each of your kids five bucks to buy something at the sale. You end up buying four items when your kids come home with only one or two sales and fallen faces for not getting the $1000-scholarship level like all their friends. By the end of the year, the average family of four with grade school kids will spend $500 per child.
You think to yourself, “If I sell this at work for my kids, then I won’t spend as much.” But there is a flaw in this logic. When it is time for the other parents at work and their kids’ school fundraiser, they too will be expecting you to buy. They bought from you, after all. That is if your work allows you to. Most workplaces have banned these kinds of sales. There is a great episode of Better Off Ted that explains why better than I can.
All of this leaves you and your kids disillusioned and sad. They always seem to fall short. Here are some tips for getting past these overspending potholes and staying on track with your goals!
Tip 1: Just Say No! You know your priorities. It is not to be nickel and dimed out of family fun in the name of school programs, friends’ parties, or any other multi-marketing systems. Be firm in your convictions. We stand behind your goals. You want to grow together as a family through travel. That is something to support. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
*Some people will never respect your choices because they are not their priorities. They will give you all kinds of excuses while trying to guilt trip you into changing your priorities. The fact is what you value and what they value are different. That’s not a reason to let them spend your money for you. You work hard and have the right to shape your life the way you want to. Don’t forget it!
Tip 2: If you must go, take it out of an existing budget. If you must go to that “party” for work or to maintain a friendship, go smart! Look at what they are selling ahead of time. Look at your budget. Make a decision about buying cloths or kitchen gadgets out of the funds you predetermined for those areas this month. If you don’t have anything in those budgets, then that’s what you have to spend. It’s that simple.
*Peer pressure is a big deal. We think that once we are out of school it goes away. There is nothing further from the truth. The fact is, peer pressure drives us our entire lives. These guilt trips can come from our family, friends, work groups, social groups, pretty much anywhere we allow other people a foothold. And it costs money! Every time we give in, we slide further away from our dreams and ambitions. So be careful; it is a very slippery slope. That fun time at the farmer’s market might become an over-budget shopping trip that sets you back another month. Soon enough another year’s gone by and you still haven’t booked your family trip.
Tip 3: Budget a dedicated amount and stick with it! Dedicate an amount that you will donate to the school or groups in your children’s lives. Budget it ahead of time, and give them the cash up front. Then when asked if you want to participate in x, y, and z fundraisers, decline. Say, “I’ve already donated.” It’s hard to argue with someone who gave.
*Stay out of the game by not bringing it to work, selling to your relatives, or any other kind of sale tactic. If you feel pressured, call the person out or walk away. You shouldn’t feel guilty for not participating in multi-level schemes that are marketed at parents and students of grade age children. No one wants the stuff. It would be easier for you to buy the prizes. What kids and parents like is winning, and most of the time you and your kids will come out feeling like losers. There is more guilt for participating than if you’d just said no. The cost of saying yes is high.
Tip 4: Make the trip the prize. If your kids get hooked on “all the things that they could win,” ask them to see how many of their fellows actually won something. Then add something to the upcoming family trip that is a “prize” just for them for not giving in to the peer pressure.
*Guilt is a double edge sword. If you choose to ignore the guilt, you are also choosing to ignore the praise. On those rare occasions when the bake sale is an overwhelming success, or your kid does get one of those upper-level prizes (I’ve never seen this happen, but these systems live on hope) if you participate you get praise. That is why we keep baking cookies, selling cookies, and pushing magazines on our friends we haven’t seen in 12+ years. We want other people’s praise.
You get caught in the cycle of guilt, praise, guilt. When you decided to fulfill your dream of family travel, this is something you need to put aside to meet that goal. Find an alternative that brings you praise. Like your kids’ smiles when they get to see something so few others experience. Don’t let the guilt cost you your travel fund. Make the trip the prize. Turn down all of these guilt trips knowing you are doing the right thing by your kids.