A Vacation (From Our Budget?)

It’s that time of year when backpacks gather dust, popsicles become an acceptable breakfast choice and the sun blazes through our shutters no later than 5:30 in the morning.

You got it—summer!

Summertime has extra value for us, as well as for most families, because along with the later bed times, the pool parties that take the place of bath time (or am I the only mom who thinks that counts?) and consuming unnatural amounts of watermelon, we also escape for our hallowed family vacation.

In our pre-YNAB days (we call them “The Dark Ages”) we would be meticulous about planning every detail of our trip: Where we would stay, where we would eat, what activities we would do, and the ever important, what we would wear. I would pack for every possible type of weather condition weeks in advance, new shoes were worn in, snacks and back-up snacks were dutifully placed in plastic containers. Not a detail was left to chance!

Oh- well, except one…..our budget. (Insert sheepishly grinning emoticon.)

We always planned a ballpark amount ahead of time to spend on our little adventures, but the truth is, it didn’t take much for us to go over and above that amount.

“What’s that? You forgot your sweater at the hotel? No problem. We’ll just grab one of these here, massively overpriced gift shop sweatshirts. No big deal! We’re on vacation!”

“A dozen of Disneyland’s hundred dollar churros? You betcha! After all, we’re on vacation!

“Monogrammed specialty keepsakes, eating out for every single meal and impromptu purchases at every turn? Why the heck not? WE’RE ON VACATION!

Whatever modest stipend we’d set aside for our trip would quickly expand without much thought, because, well… we were on vacation.

We are a few months into YNAB and have already seen huge changes in our finances as well as our daily habits. I don’t want to undo the good that has been done here. We are days away from our first post-YNAB getaway and I can already hear the vacation party monster whispering in my ear, “Ooh wouldn’t lunch with Shamu be amazing?!”  (I know, I know. I’ve heard all about “Blackfish”. Insert penitent emoticon.)

Here’s where I need your help: Obviously the longer we’re with YNAB, the more of a “vacation cushion” we’ll have to work with, but how do you keep from going overboard budget-wise on your vacations? Are we “rolling with the punches” or “giving every dollar a job?” Or both?  

Tell me, lovely YNABers: Do you stick to a certain, regimented plan or do you leave it up to chance in the name of “fun” and reconcile it later? I don’t want to be a vacation Scrooge, so how do you find the balance? Is vacation a proper excuse for leaving the budget behind and loosening the reins a bit?  (I fear an “Anti-Budgeters Anonymous” meeting may be in order before our trip to protect me from any upcoming spending triggers… eek!!  I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.)