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How One Family Manages to Budget for Travel

Tina Ricks, a legal editor, and her husband Allen, a nurse, call Beaverton, Oregon, home. But it’s not necessarily where they hang their hats, if they can help it. See, the Ricks family has a taste for travel.

Tina grew up in a family that prioritized worldly adventures. She said, “We went to Europe for the first time when I was in the seventh grade on a blue-collar salary. There were holes in our kitchen linoleum, and the house needed painting, but we went anyway.”

And she and Allen have raised their children the same way. Since 2009, their family has visited Thailand, Hong Kong, Cambodia, England and France. Tina said, “We started traveling internationally when our kids were old enough to pull their own suitcases through an airport. At the time, they were ages ten and 12.”

There Was Just One Problem.

…as the stamps on their passports racked up, so did their debt.

Tina said, “Our first few trips were financial disasters. We used the credit card too much and felt frazzled and overstretched when we got home. Then we’d spend months paying off the travel bills. It didn’t feel very good at all.”

Still, seeing the world with their kids remained a top priority. Tina said, “There are too many reasons not to travel, and we try hard not to listen to them. There’ll come a time when we can’t travel anymore. We want to do it now, while we’re healthy.”

To Make It Work, They Turned to YNAB.

Tina said, “Starting in about 2014, and with YNAB, I started funding our travel category and really using YNAB to analyze every expense.”

And she loved it. Tina said, “I used Quicken off and on for years, which gave me great reports about what I’d already done, but it didn’t give me any information about where I wanted to go.”

YNAB helps Tina keep track of where her family spends money so that she can align their travel goals with the reality of their money situation. One of her favorite things about YNAB’s method is Rule Three. She said, “I have the flexibility to move money, say, out of the ‘vet’ category and over to ‘home repair.’ ”

She added, “I feel like I can wrap my head around things better. Financial events like property taxes don’t take me by surprise anymore because we planned ahead.”

Panicking About Money Is a Thing of the Past.

Since they started using YNAB, Tina and Allen have completely paid off their credit cards. She said, “I’m embarrassed at how much we put on cards and how long we kept the balances. We put a giant vet bill on a credit card, once (an artificial knee for our beloved labrador). We were still paying it off after the dog died four years later.”

But, that’s not all. Tina said, “We have a solid plan to pay off our mortgage in 10 years and get our kids through college (so we can travel more, of course!).”

Plus, they’re considering the possibility of retiring within ten years!

That’s the Power of Prioritization.

With a clear view of their entire financial picture, Tina and Allen’s conversations about money have improved. She said, “It’s making us focus more on our hopes and goals, instead of obsessing about how we’re going to pay for a new roof. We talk about that, too, but we do it rationally (not in a panic or anger because we’re surprised).”

And spending decisions have become clearer, too. Tina said, “Travel is something we’re willing to prioritize over a lot of other things…I get books from the library. We make everything last as long as possible. I shop at Goodwill and Value Village.”

Of course, they feel the sacrifices. She said, “There are so many things I’d like to do in our backyard. We have an old cracked patio, no deck (we went to Egypt, instead!). But we’re not doing those things, and the patio will last a while longer.”

And those sacrifices all add up to make their traveling ambitions a reality. Tina said, “We make sure that we get to go somewhere every year—even when the plumbing backs up and all sorts of other stuff happens. That other stuff always happens.”

What Are You Waiting For?

Since they began paying cash for their trips, Tina and Allen enjoy traveling more than they ever could’ve imagined. If you’ve got big ideas and feel too strapped to bring them to life, Tina said, “Get YNAB, and spend a day on the website watching videos and tutorials. Set it up, and do it for a month. Stick with it.”

She added, “We’re not rich. I know we have friends who look at our exotic-seeming travels and think we must have inherited a bundle from somewhere, but we didn’t. It’s all about priorities.”

If you’d like to learn more about how Tina’s family plans their trips, she wrote a blog post about it.

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How One Family Manages to Budget for Travel