Rearranging My Financial Priorities

by Elizabeth on December 3, 2012 · 4 comments

It’s my single biggest regret of my college years. Not drinking too much (though I did), not dating the wrong guys (did that, too), or even wasting thousands of dollars on sorority dues. Nope, my biggest regret from those four years was passing up on my chance to study abroad.

When I chose my university, I did so – in part – on the strength of its international studies program. Whether you wanted to study art history in Rome, economics in Edinburgh, or cultural anthropology in South Africa, my school had something for everyone. In fact, just shy of 70 percent of students took part in some sort of study abroad program before graduation.

That was my plan, too… until life and, I’ll admit it, love got in the way.

I was all set to travel to St. Petersburg (as in Russia, not Florida) the fall semester of my junior year, in hopes of furthering my Russian history major. But as I was signing all the paperwork the previous spring, my boyfriend and I started having troubles. I couldn’t imagine moving 7,000 miles away for five months and coming back to an intact relationship, so I did something stupid: I gave up my dreams of traveling abroad for a guy. I cancelled my plans and decided to stay on campus the following fall to work on our relationship.

Of course, we ended up breaking up before the fall semester ever arrived, but by then it was too late. My space in the St. Petersburg program had been filled.

That decision to skip studying abroad had a huge impact on my future travels. Because of my mom’s fear of flying, we’d never traveled anywhere on vacation where we couldn’t drive to. After graduation, I settled back into my family’s travel habits, opting for beach and theme park vacations in the continental United States. Sure, we made it to Canada once or twice – as a native Ohioan, it was only a two to three hour drive – but I didn’t step foot off the North American continent until I was 28 years old, when my husband and I took an anniversary trip to the Bahamas.

I’ve been lucky enough to see snippets of just about everything our country has to offer. I’ve visited 42 of the 50 states, and been to just about every major National Park you can think of, and some you probably can’t. But I don’t want to limit myself – or my children’s – future travels out of habit.

So my husband and I have made the conscious decision to revise our financial priorities, and put our travel budget front and center.

We’re working to shed our dependence on things – a new TV, a bigger house, a better car – and focus on experiences instead. We know it’s going to be a long process, especially because our children are still so young – a trans-Atlantic flight at their ages really isn’t all that feasible – but the point is we’re plotting and planning. We’ve agreed to start budgeting for travel into our monthly budget. It will no longer be part of our discretionary spending and, like our retirement investments, will actually be a budgeting priority. My husband and I are going to start by putting $100 a month into our travel budget; it’s not a ton – and definitely won’t get us to Europe any time soon – but it’s a start. We hope that by the time our kids are old enough to appreciate it, we’ll be able to experience the sights and sounds of Europe’s capital cities and cultural meccas together for the very first time.

Reader, what are your financial priorities? What “fun” stuff do you make a point of including in your budget?

 

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Emily @ evolvingPF December 3, 2012 at 1:11 pm

We save $300/month for travel but we’re not going to Europe anytime soon, either! We just have a lot of domestic travel priorities for weddings and family events and such. That is our big “fun” expenditure.

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2 krantcents December 3, 2012 at 4:03 pm

You really should not have regrets, it sounds as though you had the full college experience. I think all of us save for the things we individually find important. Experiences do not have to cost much, but you need to take the time to make it happen. We accumulated a huge numbe rof experiences with and without our children. It ranged from a beach vacation to travelling overseas. We still travel overseas every other year. I am doing it now because I won’t be able to do when I am much older.

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3 The Happy Homeowner December 4, 2012 at 9:05 pm

Not sure I could love this post more! I am an avid traveler, and I’m always saving for/planning the next great adventure. While I make sure to still have my financial house in order, I’m all about the experiences in life and making memories with those I care most about. Can’t wait to hear about your trip(s)!!!

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4 Brick By Brick Investing | Marvin December 10, 2012 at 9:50 am

As a former military brat and soldier myself I have seen my fair share of the world. There are some truly beautiful places out there and some not so nice places as well. My wife is in the same boat you are in. She has only been on a cruise to Jamaica, but I politely remind her that doesn’t count as out of the country ;-) We are looking to travel soon as well after our second child is born in early 2013. We do have the concern that you have traveling with young children. But we do want them to see the world. In a long distant future I would actually love to relocate my family and live abroad for a couple years.

Unfortunately I don’t have too much to offer you in regards to traveling as a family but Craig Ford at http://www.helpmetravelcheap.com provides AWESOME ways to travel the world for pennies on the dollar. Because our family is so young we’re starting to save up miles and reward points now so we can cash in a year or two from now. Hope that helps! I look forward to hearing about your trips

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