How to Rebuild Your Budget After a Pricey Vacation

With most vacations, we're going to spend more than we initially budgeted. So the sooner we repair the damage done, the better off we'll be.

Getting the most out of your trip doesn’t have to mean blowing your budget. But it happens all the time. Let’s face it, vacations aren’t cheap. Sometimes, that much-needed break leads to unwittingly breaking the bank. Even if we build a solid travel budget, on-the-go splurging can leave a lasting (and often unforeseen) impact on our financial well-being when we return. But with a little preparation, you can better repair it.

Frankly, it’s easy to overspend on vacation and not even notice until it’s too late. In turn, you can never be too prepared. With your financial stability in mind, you should also mentally prepare to be on a stricter budget when your vacay comes to an end.

If you’re experiencing a hefty financial strain caused by a recent vacation, don’t fret. Rebuilding your budget is always within reach. With a little post-travel self-restraint, careful planning, patience, and self-awareness, you can get your bank account back in order. The key is to start repairing the post-vacation damage immediately.

So without further ado, let’s talk about how to rebuild your budget as soon as you return from your trip.

Pinpoint Where All of That Money Really Went

In the aftermath, you’ll need to start rebuilding your budget by doing the math. If you truly want to repair your financial situation and move forward, be honest with yourself about where overspending occurred and why.

Figure out what you spent money on and where most of it went. And what did you pay with most often? Whether you used cash, money transfer apps, or consistently charged your credit card on a whim, make a note of your most relied-on payment method.

woman sitting at desk with open laptop and calculator, managing finances, calculating budget,

Where was the greatest damage done? For example, if your credit card took the biggest hit, it will likely need the most attention. And don’t delay. Avoiding the problem could potentially make matters significantly worse, especially when interest rates and late fees are involved.

Establish where your money went and where most of the overspending took place. And leave no receipt unaccounted for. Once you know what exactly you’re dealing with, it’s time to start devising a plan to replenish those funds immediately, and that will mean prioritizing consistently putting money back over any and all excess spending.

Stop Splurging And Start Paying Yourself

Again, there’s no time like the present to cease all forms of excess spending. As Ellen Glasglow famously said, “the only difference between a rut and a grave are the dimensions.” So until conditions improve, stop spending money that you can’t afford to, post-splurge.

In other words, the last thing you want or need to do is dig an even deeper financial hole that’s even more difficult to climb out of in a timely manner. So it’s time to become frugal, even if only for a little while. Post-vacation, focus your attention on paying yourself back every month. How much you pay yourself will depend on how much you overspent.

omen looking into shopping bags of her friend near shop

Here’s a good example of how to do it, compliments of USA Today. “If you blew your budget by $1,000 and you want to pay yourself back over a six-month period, set up an automatic transfer to your savings account for $166.67 a month.”

With all of that said, you don’t necessarily need to deposit those self-payments into your savings account. This is about rebuilding what’s been depleted. And so, the best way to pay yourself will most likely be to put the money back in the place it came from. But only you can decide what’s necessary, including what you may need to give up for now.

Make The Necessary Sacrifices

Traveling often goes hand in hand with throwing caution to the wind. On a whirlwind vacation, we often focus our attention on embracing the moment we’re in. In turn, it’s pretty easy to put the long-term financial consequences out of our minds when we don’t want to think about them, and the setting we’re in encourages us to spend, spend, spend.

With your financial well-being in mind, prepare to make some sacrifices, before, during, and after your trip. After all, what might be viewed as a splurge on any given day can look a lot different when we are having the time of our lives. When you return home, it’s probably time to change your way of thinking. Sure, you want to take the best part of your trip back with you.

Of course, I’m not saying to turn your back on living in the moment. But if you’re serious about repairing your budget stat, you have to be willing to make a few sacrifices, especially if you plan to keep traveling.

backpacker hands holding wallet dollar currency money plan to saving spend budget for holiday

Again, now is the time to cut out any and all forms of excess spending. Even if you could afford something before the trip, you’ve returned in a more financially destabilized place. So don’t turn a blind eye to your damaged budget. To get back on your feet and resume your fun, you must acknowledge the damage that’s been done and spend your money accordingly.

If you need to say goodbye to a subscription or cease your weekly takeout feast for a while, stick with it. This too shall pass. But it could take a lot longer without sacrifices. Remember, frugality is your friend. And the rut you’re in is temporary. So rather than continuing the cycle of financial strain, make the necessary sacrifices to get out of it promptly.

Read More: How to Start Building Your Travel Fund Today

Don’t Rely Too Heavily on Your Credit Cards

When we’re far away from home, it’s never a bad idea to keep a credit card handy. However, it might be even more mindful to keep it somewhat out of reach.

Some people even like to carry a prepaid card on vacation to prevent overspending. But only you know your true limits. While you’re out and about, try to use a debit card or cash as often as possible. Credit cards have a way of making thoughtless swiping a little too convenient, especially while we’re having a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Person paying with a black credit card

No matter how “worth it” an expense may seem, interest rates are unforgiving. So instead of relying on your credit cards when you don’t have to, use another method of payment whenever possible. And no matter what you do, don’t swipe like there’s no tomorrow. The charges (and the consequences of overspending) will be there waiting when you get home.

The problem with credit cards is simple: they are not accurate representations of how much money we actually have to spend. Thankfully, with a simple problem comes a simple solution. On vacation, don’t use your credit card unless you have to. Instead, build a more concrete budget with your travel fund, cash, and debit card. If possible, allow your credit cards to function as an “in case of emergency” form of payment, and nothing more. And don’t take your credit card everywhere you go. Remove the urge to impulsively swipe by leaving your credit card back at the hotel, when you can.

Know What to Expect Next Time

In a perfect world, we’d stick to our travel budget with ease, buy everything our hearts desired, and return without doing any real damage. But traveling can get really expensive and so, this is rarely the case for most. There are costs we can’t completely prepare for before the trip. So oftentimes, the travel budget doesn’t cover how much we actually needed to spend on the trip, all splurges aside.

The good news is that a wonderful vacation doesn’t have to include overspending. No matter how much you think you’ll be spending, it never hurts to financially prepare for the unknown. So build a budget with some cushion for those unforeseen costs and potential price spikes. And remember, a little wiggle room can go a long way.

travel fund and hour glass in front of map

Nobody wants to spend their relaxing break number crunching or penny-pinching, so take the stress off of yourself in advance. Find simple ways to stay cognizant of what you’ll be spending and decide what you’re better off saving while on vacay.

If you’re worried you won’t keep up with spontaneous spending, set a daily spending limit and adhere to it. And remove the chance for excess spending where you can.

When I go on vacation, one of my first stops is always the grocery store. In an effort to avoid excess spending, I like to stock up on food and commit to cooking meals. That way, I can spend my money more spontaneously, and primarily on experiences. I still go out to eat (since local dining is one of the best parts of traveling), but I don’t have to eat out, and it allows me to choose where I do dine out more thoughtfully.

a couple enjoying traveling and backpacking

Whatever you do, commit to the budget you’ve built as much as possible while on vacation. Look out for yourself and your finances while you’re living in the moment. You’ll thank yourself for it later. With all of that said, if you wind up overspending, don’t beat yourself up about it. As discussed, it’s easier to do than we often realize.

If you need to get your budget back on track, the power is always in your hands, no matter how big the splurge. It might not be fun to cut out all of the fun spendings for a while, but the sooner you can do it, the better off you’ll be.

Read More: This Is Why You Can’t Afford a Vacation

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