Summer is finally here and thoughts of taking a vacation and heading to the beach are on the minds of a lot of people right now.
Many Americans spend countless hours planning and organizing the perfect summer vacation for their family. But one thing they forget to do is to create a plan for how to pay for it.
About 74% of Americans have gone into debt to pay for a getaway, according to a new study from financial planning company LearnVest.
The study, which surveyed 1,000 adults, showed on average, Americans take on about $1,100 in debt on their excursions.
Bankrate.com chief financial analyst Greg McBride said that isn’t surprising considering the increasing levels of household debt.
“One major factor in rising consumer debt burdens has been the very sluggish growth in household income,” McBride said. “People’s expenses are going up and people's income is barely keeping pace if at all.”
One of the major holes Americans dig themselves into when it comes to vacationing is not planning ahead. According to the study, 55% of Americans forget to even consider their vacation when laying out a budget for that year.
“It's a lot like the holiday season, where you know it's coming all year long, and a lot of people don't save for it and end up putting it all on a credit card,” McBride said.
Another concern is that many people prioritize saving for vacation over their other goals, said LearnVest CEO Alexa von Tobel.
According to the study, about one-third of Americans say saving for vacation is a top financial priority, ranking it higher than saving for a house or retirement.
“This is not a pretty picture of priorities,” she said.
So what should you do when you want to take a vacation but don't want to go into debt?
McBride advises treating vacations like another bill you have to pay each month; setting aside incremental amounts of cash regularly can help offset the cost of going out of town without jeopardizing whether or not you can pay the rent that month.
“Make it part of your regular expenses. That way, vacation is paid for either by the time you go or the day you come back, and it doesn't linger with you long after the sunburn is gone.” McBride said.
Relying on accumulated savings rather than debt can be a healthy mindset, McBride added.
Prioritize your goals and Increase your savings by cutting the nonessentials, such as cable. Von Tobel maintains that making that small change can amount to about $100 in savings a month towards a hotel room or a flight.
One of the biggest mistakes made by vacationers is putting everything on a credit card, which can have bad short-term and long-term effects, von Tobel said, advising Americans to keep an eye on their credit score and pay off high-interest cards first.
“Credit card debt is bad debt, so monitoring your reports is like visiting your doctor,” she said. “Your financial health should be given the same TLC.”
So if you are thinking about getting away but haven't saved anything for vacation, remember this: It takes about six months to financially recover from a vacation.