Saturday, June 7, 2008

Vacation fantasy and money reality

One of my cousins announced that he and his fiancée were planning on getting married in Jamaica in April 2009, and we (his extended family) were all invited. With the magical e-mail address, information would be passed to us and we could learn all about the location and the expense for joining him and his future wife at this location. I have not been to Jamaica but it would be something different under the guise of attending a wedding. Therefore, I shared my e-mail address and waited for the information to arrive.

About a month later, an e-mail from an unknown person came to my inbox. Once I figured out the strange name was my cousin's fiancée, I clicked the link, waited forever for the image-heavy web page to load and then scrolled for what seemed like several minutes to get to the details. Turns out, there were no details and I had to submit information on the web page to get a quote for airfare and hotel, a couple's resort.

It has taken another five months, but I finally received the numbers involved in this destination wedding. From my location to the resort and back, including airfare, I could pay $3,400 to $4,000 per couple (depending on if the room has a garden view, ocean view or beach-side placement) or $1,700 to $2,000 per person. This may not seem like much, but does not include incidentals and spending money. Taking the larger number ($2,000) and dividing it by the number of pay periods between now and the wedding, I came up with the magical number of $85. This means I have to save $85 per paycheck between now and April 2009 to pay for this trip.

Broken down into the small number $85, this does not seem too intimidating. However, even if I gave up my entertainment money, my eating out allocation and most of my miscellaneous money, I would not fund even half this vacation. To fully fund this trip, I would need to cut my spending plan quite thin and steal money that I was sending to various savings accounts (general, house and car). Not only would I not be able to enjoy a meal with a friend without having to borrow against savings, but I would compromise my current savings goals. This seems quite short-sighted: make me feel pinched immediately and decrease funding of other items.

The $2,000 I could save for the vacation could also fund replacement windows or attic insulation, an investment in making my house more comfortable and energy efficient, something I could enjoy every day rather than once. I was really excited (and anxious) about my first overseas trip to Germany last year. I saved for 15 months and had more than enough money for my trip. I am glad I went and enjoyed the experience. This trip to Jamaica has not generated the same amount of excitement, and I have mixed feelings about weddings and family. The fantasy of a tropical trip is lovely but the financial realities are I am better off staying home and saving my money for other long-term goals.

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