posted: Sep. 6, 2013 @ 3:46p
I have spent a lot of time thinking about this over the last few weeks - and I have even done quite a bit of research on this. I know there is no right answer to the questions I will pose, but perhaps hearing different people's philosophies toward it can be helpful.
There was a thread similar to this on a Disney Board with good datapoints, but I find these people are different than Fatwalleters:
The question is in essence - how much will you allow yourself to spend on luxury items like vacations? What rules would you apply in different scenarios?
I grew up extremely poor - our household income growing up was probably 15,000 as a family, so the idea of spending $15,000 dollars for ONE vacation is a bit nauseating to me. I have been collecting miles - and have over nearly a million miles - but if dates don't line up and things to that end - you gotta pay for airfare and things to that end. But, one thing I've learned from reading many threads is that the one thing that people will spend money on are experiences. I try to budget miles like cash, so I don't want to spend miles if I'm only going to get a penny a point value - I try to save the miles for the saver flights.
My personal situation - we are debt free other than the mortgage. As my primary job is a college professor, I have 4 months a year to basically travel. (3 months in summer, 1 month in December/January - and Spring Break). As a family (wife, me, 2 kids), we value traveling and enjoy it. I don't have any other hobbies, and really don't spend much on anything else.
We love traveling but have been doing it super cheap. We have used timeshare deals, last minute traveling and driving instead of flying to score some killer deals on travel. This past summer, we spent 7 straight weeks on "vacation" - at Marriott's, Disney resorts using RCI points, Starwood hotels while driving - and probably only spent about $7000 dollars (entertainment, hotel cost, gas cost, car rental) for 7 weeks - I ignore food in that budget because at most timeshares, we shopped and ate at the condo and we were going to eat anyway. To me, I can wrap my head around that because there's value - just about everything was a good deal (had a friend get us in Disney on a military pass, scored great deal on the minivan, used 5% cards for gas, used points when we stayed in hotels, etc..). I'm thinking a 7 week trip to Europe next summer could run as high as 20-25k.
We are now to the point where we have been to 49 of the 50 states. We've done Disney. We've done oceans and beaches. It's time for international travel. It's time for Hawaii. It's time for that world. Even though we have the money, I can't wrap myself around $4,000 dollar flights for 4 people (just in Coach!) - or multi-thousand dollar cruises. I know many of you would then say "Use miles!" - but generally speaking, as a teacher, most of my travel availability is when everyone else is traveling, so good luck finding a trip to hawaii one can use on miles from December 13th to 21st, for instance.
It would be helpful to know some of the rules that middle class to upper middle class people use - and maybe you don't value travel - but might have a hobby that is expensive similarly that you do value. We make around 150-175k a year - and generally after retirement and bills/utilities have anywhere between 2k and 4k left over in a month. We recently (in the last couple of months) just became debt free. We could easily have a $25,000 dollar a year travel budget putting aside $2000 a month - but is this ridiculous? Should one wait until literally every bill (including the mortgage) is paid off before starting to do that level of travel/luxury spending? Would you require a certain level in 401k's before doing this? What rules have you applied to the financing of things you value? If you're a deal hunter like me - will you forego a trip because there's no deal available? Or do it because it's what you want to do?
Like I said, I know there are no "right" answers to this, but hearing how others handle this could be helpful in developing my own philosophy - since this wasn't something I necessarily had growing up or even have friends who role model this type of behavior. I know many of you are very financially fortunate and well off and may have had a chance to develop philosophies on this.
I don't want to be the one at 60 who says "I wish I would have seen the Great Wall of China.." - but I don't want to be stupid and extravagant, either..