January, as you know, is the time to hit the refresh button on life. To wistfully set goals and imagine what it will be like if you actually reach them. To pretend for a moment that all of your wildest dreams just might come true.
What you may not realize is that February, March and the many months that follow are your opportunities to make it happen. To progress through the Baby Steps, sure, but also to start a family, buy a car, or—gasp—go on a dream vacation.
You’re gasping too, aren’t you? After all, you can’t be gazelle intense while backpacking through Europe. You’re head-down, working the debt snowball or saving up for your emergency fund or paying off your home early. Who has time for daydreaming?
Well, we want to encourage you to set the big goals. A dream vacation might seem forever away, but you can begin planning for it right now. Focusing your thoughts on end goals is a great way to stay motivated no matter what Baby Step you’re on!
Follow our “reward as you go” strategy to engage your whole family in the fun.
Make a dream board. Long to find yourself sittin’ on the dock of the bay? Print out pictures of San Francisco and make a collage to hang in your home. It’s a beautiful city, so the inspiration can also serve as décor. Each time you see it, remind yourself that your current sacrifices are totally worth it.
Baby Step 1 Complete
Have a themed night. One of the best parts of vacation is experiencing a new culture. Find out what your destination is known for and plan a themed night accordingly. If Italy is calling your name, whip up a feast of spaghetti and meatballs, complete with homemade sauce and freshly grated parmesan cheese. Pop in an Italian movie, and finish the evening with tiramisu.
Why do you handle money the way you do? Break bad money habits for good.
Baby Step 2
First debt paid off: Buy something small. Hoping to leave home for the winter lights of New York City? Grab a pair of fingerless gloves to cut the chill on your trip. You’ll be ready to chow down on hot dogs, pizza by the slice, or pretzels dipped in mustard. You could also download an album that oozes NYC and Americana. Think Simon & Garfunkel or Frank Sinatra for easy listening tunes.
Second debt paid off: Learn the language. If you’re traveling to the French countryside, you probably want to know how to ask for directions and carry on a simple conversation. Check out a book at your local library or find a free program online to begin learning important phrases. Make a game of it by practicing your skills during dinner. Bon appétit!
Third debt paid off: Discover the best local food, shops and activities. You can find to-do lists for most major cities, but they often leave off spots that locals love in favor of high-priced tourist attractions. Fortunately, a little research goes a long way. Scour blogs, post a status on Facebook, and talk to friends and family to gain insight on the best places to go. You’ll likely be surprised and delighted by their suggestions.
Debt free: Book an outing. As a family, pick one thing you’d all love to do on your trip. Although you won’t actually pay for a zip line adventure through the Caribbean rainforest at this point, you can find out what it costs and set aside the money. Then, nothing can hold you back—except maybe a fear of heights.
Baby Steps 3 through 7
Start planning. Okay, you have $1,000 in the bank. All of your debts—minus the house—are paid off. It’s time to celebrate! Everyone rejoices in different ways, but if your family would benefit from a dream vacation, then we say go for it! Just remember these key details:
- Budget for the trip. Treat your vacation money just like your monthly income. Decide on a set amount and stick with it by budgeting ahead of time. Consider all of your expenses: travel, food, overnight accommodations, shopping, souvenirs and activities. Remember that travel includes how you’ll reach your destination and how you’ll get around once you arrive. Food includes meals, snacks, drinks and dessert. Plan ahead and avoid these vacation nightmares!
- Continue working the Baby Steps. A vacation is an escape from regular life. That’s easy to remember when you’re out there but harder to recall when you return. It might be tough at first, but be sure to get right back in the groove of working the Baby Steps when you get home. As you progress, your dream board may become a paid-off home, an exciting retirement, or even another trip. Do what it takes to reward your efforts and stay motivated all the way to living and giving like never before.
Related: Learn about Baby Steps 3 through 7
So go ahead and dream. Think about where you’d like to travel with your family. Write it down and see how it fits into the timeline of your Baby Steps. Then, make it happen!
Need more help setting money goals? Find out how to save for that dream vacation, an emergency, and more.