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Q&A: We desperately need a vacation but don’t think we can afford it. Can we take one, anyway?

Hey, it’s Doug. Before we begin this eighth issue of The Joint Account, please know that Heather and my hearts ache over the brutal acts of terrorism in Israel. There can never be any possible justification these murders, rapes, or kidnappings, but that should go without saying as human beings. We are deeply saddened for every innocent life lost. We all should be.


My wife and I are frazzled AF. We desperately need a vacation but don’t think we can afford it. Can we take one anyway?


Burnout has real consequences. The World Health Organization estimates that each year, $1 trillion in productivity is lost due to workplace burnout. Those are staggering financial costs, only trumped by the impact burnout has on our mental and physical health. We often read platitudes like “health is wealth,” but in this instance, it’s kind of true. Relationships and our financial well-being suffer when we’re running on fumes.

Clients often come to me seeking “permission” to take a vacation. I think what they’re looking for is a stamp of approval for something that wasn’t accounted for in their financial plan. To some extent, your bank account has to dictate what you are able and unable to do. However, a much-needed vacation is as much an investment in your mental health as it’s a luxury, and the short-term costs associated with getting away are small compared to the long-term costs of hitting a wall. Your goal in planning a vacation under these conditions should be to return stronger, recharged, reconnected, and ready to be productive again. That’s how you get a return on this so-called investment of funds you may or may not have.

First, you and your partner must discuss what you both need out of this. Are you trying to rest? Spend time with family out of town? Eat your way through a city? Seek out an adventure? If you’re aligned on what you want, you can ensure that no one will be disappointed and whatever money you’re about to spend will be worth it. Despite what Instagram tells us, most people don’t need to travel across the world to recharge. If you’re both just looking to rest, your ticket might just be a short drive away at a bed and breakfast or spa. Get on the same page and see what the lowest-cost options are to meet both of your needs.

Making a reactive decision with your money is never ideal, but burnout can creep up when you least expect it. If an unplanned vacation is really out of your budget but nonetheless feels critical, discuss what you’re willing to sacrifice to make the trip happen. You might dip into your cash reserves, temporarily reduce savings, or reduce spending elsewhere for a couple of months. However, credit card debt should be avoided whenever possible. I repeat – do not go into credit card debt for a vacation!

The best way to plan is by looking ahead. Each fall, Heather and I typically map out all of our vacations for the next calendar year. We don’t necessarily book them upfront, but we try to gain an understanding of when they’ll fall and how much they’ll cost. This not only puts us in a great position to take advantage of deals on flights and hotels but gives us something to look forward to. Of course, plans change and opportunities arise. We get burnt out, too. But taking a holistic approach really helps in more ways than one.

Well-deserved vacations help preserve your mental, physical, and even in a sense, your financial health. But before you book, take each other’s temperatures for what you actually need, and plan around that. Treating the expense as an investment in yourselves is key, which means the dividends come in the form of your rest, rejuvenation, and ability to refocus upon your return. Bon voyage!

Send us your couples-n-money questions for the next Q&A: [email protected].


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Do you have a money question you’d like answered in a future issue? We know you do…

Source call for the book: Does your significant other come from money and you don’t? How does that impact your relationship?

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The content shared in The Joint Account does not constitute financial, legal, or any other professional advice. Readers should consult with their respective professionals for specific advice tailored to their situation.