If you’ve been a YNABer for any length of time, you know a few things to be true: it’s very hard to remember what you bought from Amazon two days ago (and very hard to find the price of whatever you bought), you can’t just “get” a YNAB t-shirt, and saving for a vacation to pay for it in cash is just a thing you do.
In the middle of all this chaos, we’re thankful and grateful for our humble budgets and the peace of mind they’ve offered. Sometimes it doesn’t feel right to be asking this out loud at the present time—but we’ve still got this question:
“We had this vacation planned but we don’t know if it’s going to happen. What should we do with the money we’ve been saving for it?”
Or maybe your trip already got cancelled, or maybe you were already on your trip and it got cut short. Should you leave the money in that vacation category? Should you move it somewhere else?
Let’s walk through this decision:
First, You Can Be Bummed
We want to address the fact that it’s a bummer. Yep, there are bad, scary things going on in the world and that’s really hard. You can be sad about that and bummed for your own plans too. You can hold both of those feelings at that same time as one big womp-womp bundle.
That family road trip you had planned was going to be awesome…and you can be sad it’s not happening on the original timeline.
Then, Take Stock of Your Current Reality
When you’re deciding what to do with vacation savings, it’ll be uber-duber dependent on your current circumstances. Maybe you lost your job, maybe you’re on furlough, or maybe you’re lucky and your income is steady and secure.
Depending on your circumstances, you will prioritize different things. If you’ve just had a wild swing in income, you might be craving more stability and security.
If you’re stressed about your unpredictable income, you should do this little exercise of creating a hunker-down budget. It will give you clear direction for what your money needs to do next.
Those with a steadier, more predictable situation might be craving normalcy above all else.
What Are You Craving?
The decision of what to do with your vacation savings may not follow a logical path. It’s 110% about feelings and what you need right now.
Craving Security? Build Your Cushion
If you feel entirely crumblesome about your financial future and seeing a big cushion of money for whatever you need feels like a weighted blanket on a cold winter’s night, then by all means—give yourself that comfort. Move that vacation money over to your emergency fund category.
Craving Normalcy? Forge Ahead
Maybe your income level is quite manageable for the near future and you just want to stay the course. Our community manager Ben was planning a vacation for the end of June. They’re not going, but they’re leaving the category funded, because it brings him joy just to see it there.
These are pencil-with-eraser decisions, not penned-in-ink decisions.
We’re doing the same with our upended vacation. There’s something so hopeful about just seeing that balance and dreaming up a new vacation that we’ll someday, some way take. It feels emboldening to defy the uncertainty of the times and leave a little pot of confidence that yes, someday we will see the mountains again. Yes, someday we will drink overpriced slushies on a white sand beach. Right now, it feels good to just forge ahead and leave that vacation fund holding steady and brimming with possibility.
Change Your Mind, Change Your Budget
This isn’t a set-in-stone decision—take some of the stress away from this question. We’re talking about money that is saved, not money being spent, and thus the decision is quite flexible. These are pencil-with-eraser decisions, not penned-in-ink decisions.
When life starts thrumming again with the new normal and you decide to completely change your mind about whatever you just decided, just change your budget. You need not worry or add drama to your decision—it can be wonderfully wishy washy. Just move dollars back to that category whenever your situation or priorities change. You can move it tomorrow. Move it back the next week. Do that four more times if you want.
And at the end of the day, whether that money is used for cocktails by the pool or to cover your necessities for one more month, both decisions have equal power to give you that stress-free vacation state of mind.