Investing In Memorable Life Experiences

I recently read a sobering statistic that stated that most middle class Americans could no longer afford to travel. I have also read that the United States ranks number two in the world in terms of hours worked relative to paid time off; second only to Japan. Reading these statistics were sad moments for me since the vast majority of my friends are hard working middle class people.

The good news is that while were in Jamaica last week, Joy and I met a hard-working, “blue-collar” middle class family of 4 from Boston who are defying statistics as a result of living frugally. Jim is a self-employed in his plumbing/heating business and his wife Maryanne does mostly unpaid, volunteer civic work with a few job-earning opportunities on the side. Jim and Maryanne have two, fourteen year-old daughters.

We met this family when it was pouring rain at the beach while taking refuge under their leak-proof thatch roof hut. After talking for awhile, they discussed how this was their annual “get away from winter” week-long holiday. I never asked any prying questions but they shared with us how they are debt-free aside from their mortgage but they don’t make a lot (Boston is a pretty expensive city).

Jim and Maryanne’s Story

After they shared stories with us of previous vacations in Punta Cana, Aruba, the Bahamas, and others, I asked them how they could afford a nice holiday in the Caribbean every year. Their answer was simple (with certain sentences paraphrased to the best of my ability):

We don’t have all the expensive, meaningless $h!t that our friends have (the exact sentence they used). In our house, we have one 32-inch TV while our friends have larger TVs and more than one. We don’t need any more TVs or a larger one. At Christmas, we don’t have a lot of presents under the tree because our girls know that in a few weeks, we’re going to have an incredible vacation. We save all the money that Maryanne receives in extra pay and anything extra I make that doesn’t go toward our bills. If I make a few bucks extra on a job, I just stuff that money it a glass jar that we use for our travel fund. Someday, when our daughters meet a guy that they get serious about, if he can’t give them one holiday a year out of the country, it’ll be over. We don’t care about material stuff because having this time together with family is the best way for us to decompress. We tried a few years ago to skip our annual vacation to save money and that was stupid – we were so stressed out and didn’t have anything to look forward to.

The Beautiful All-Inclusive Resort Where We Met Jim and Maryanne

The Beautiful All-Inclusive Resort Where We Met Jim and Maryanne

Dream Trips Require Lifestyle and Budget Changes

In my opinion, this family had their spending priorities in order. They save all year for the $3500 needed for a week-long all inclusive vacation in the Caribbean because they realize how much value is earned in relaxation and time away from ordinary life. Although Joy and I are able to spend less on our holidays than this family due to points and miles, our perspectives are very similar. We have one 42-inch TV, average cars, a house no one would brag about, and barely anything else of high material value. We leave the country often because the change in location and time away from work not only ensures ultimate relaxation but advances our perspective as well.

You don’t have to leave the country to enjoy some good time relaxing and decompressing. Maybe you just need to get a cabin by the lake or in the mountains or a cheap flat walking distance from a beach. Whatever the case, those things cost money. Maybe it’s time to start saving some of your income every month or abstaining from certain purchases so that you can INVEST in a trip that will create great memories and experiences that will last a lifetime. Everyone dreams of places that they would like to visit or things they would like to do that are out of the ordinary.

What tweaks to your budget and lifestyle could you make to make your travel dreams a reality?