How to Save for a Vacation while Having Student Loans

Apr 20

Balancing new experiences such as traveling and finances is important to get the most out of life.

Ms. RtR and I have been dating for nearly three years. I was and still am focused on paying down my student loans aggressively. She wasn’t as concerned when we met, but now is just as aggressive as I am toward student loans.

When we first met, we had a different philosophy on traveling. A few months before we met, she had traveled to Bali on her own for a week and had the time of her life. I, on the other hand, had only been out of the United States twice… and one of those trips was to Canada when I was 10. The other was a cheap tropic vacation with no real cultural experience.

Most of our domestic travel piggy backs off of work travel, and we’ve never really done an out-of-state vacation due to financial concerns.


Should Someone With A Negative Net Worth Be Able to Justify Large Travel Expenditures?

The short answer is, YES. However, it needs to be properly planned. If you would have asked me just a few years ago, my answer would have been no.

Two years ago, when RtR brought up going on an international vacation (Thailand at the time), I resisted and said no way. At the time, I barely had $10,000 in liquid assets and not much more else than that to my name. I wasn’t enjoying my job and psychologically didn’t feel great about my financial situation. How could I justify spending over 25% of my assets on a vacation?

The topic continued to get brought up after we purchased our home. I was even more depleted of liquid assets after the down payment. But travel was important to her and I also like the idea of traveling, but never had felt I had enough money. This was a problem we needed to solve.



How Did we Do it?


Essentially, it boiled down to a compromise, but below was our thought process.


Step 1: Identify the Real Problem

My problem, like many young professionals, was an inadequately funded emergency fund. Over the first year of our relationship, I built up my liquid assets, but the new bought our house and most of my liquid assets went toward a down payment.

Our house also is 70+ years old with an old water heater, furnace, roof, etc. I wasn’t comfortable being short on cash with so many opportunities for large expenses.


Step 2: Set a Goal

The solution was easy. Save money!

However, the targets were heavily discussed. How much did we need to save and how much to save per paycheck were the main questions we needed to answer.

We decided if the water heater, furnace, and roof (we have a small house) and any other repair at max would cost $10,000 at one time. Saving this amount would dramatically reduce the stress of homeownership and unexpected costs.

We agreed that a realistic and reasonable timeline was one year to save this amount.


Step 3: Set a Plan

We opened a joint savings account and we saved $200 each per paycheck (26 paychecks) which got us just above $10,000 in a year.

We decided once we saved $10,000, we would continue the $200 per paycheck (recently reduced to $100) and anything over $10,000 would be used on travel.


Step 4: Enjoy

Neither of us are in a great financial situation, but both of us understand our situations and are in control of our financial journey.

I am excited to say, in April, we purchased our plane tickets for a two week international trip.

It’s a great feeling knowing we deliberately set a goal and are will be able to experience things I never thought I would.



There is a book called the Science of Happiness that discusses prepaying for experiences increases happiness (I haven’t read it, but have seen it referenced). The anticipation of knowing you get to do something new or exciting is fun in itself.

I agree with this. After we booked our flight, we spent an hour at a coffee shop doing a rough plan for the trip and plan on doing that a few more times. It’s fun to plan and read various blogs for recommendations.

If you plan ahead, I don’t think you should put off unique trips or experiences. Life is unpredictable, so enjoy it. At the same time, don’t go into debt for travel and build your basic financial foundation to a comfortable level.


Leave your thoughts below!


  1. I think that the way you decided to pursue this goal was the right approach. For those of us trying to squirrel away every penny in the pursuit of financial independence I think it can be easy to forget that it’s actually important to stop and enjoy life at the same time. I’m not saying blow it all on a really expensive holiday, but don’t deny ourselves completely. In saving ahead for your travels and planning for them, you can not only enjoy your trip, you can do it safe in the knowledge that you’re not jeopardising your financial future.

    Out of interest, did you choose Thailand in the end or somewhere else? I hope it’s wonderful wherever you go!

  2. My only impulsive expenses are tied to my trips. This post will definitely help me strike a balance

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