I had a friend tell me that vacations are her escape from her stressful life.

I totally get it, this girl works full-time, is in school full-time, and just moved into her own apartment. Overworked, underappreciated, and completely stressed out, sound familiar?

Last year she took three big vacations and had a trip to Europe planned for this summer until she looked at her bills and her bank account and saw she couldn’t afford it.

There’s no question that this woman, like so many of us, works hard and deserves a vacation. But when making money becomes so demanding that “escaping” takes priority over saving and investing, are we missing the bigger picture?

Millennials are notorious for working side jobs, taking on overtime, and going back to school, all to increase income. But don’t let the extra hours leave you broke. Things, like picking up a latte on a break or ordering dinner because you’re too busy to cook, are sneaky ways to lose that income.

Consider if it’s worth it not to take on more work. If you’re in a season where you’re juggling several things at once, throwing something else in – even if it’s a good opportunity – could be a bad thing.

Don’t have the option to work less? Try morning meditation. Experts say meditation will increase your focus and efficiency, making for a more productive day. Even if meditation sounds hokey give it a try. There are different variations and meditation apps to help you get started.

Make to-do lists and try time blocking to make sure you get everything done, or at least the most important stuff. Then when you’re done with work, be completely done. Separating work from non-work time is essential in getting the rest and relaxation you need.

Sometimes you just have to get away. We should all be able to take advantage of our vacation days, but you don’t have to get on a plane to do it.

Try a staycation. Take a day off work and have a drink poolside, go on a hike, or be a local tourist. The possibilities are endless and staying home is more relaxing than planning a full-length vacation. If you do want to leave home, try a destination off the beaten path, Budget Travel has some great suggestions. While you’re there, stick to free activities instead of costly ones.  Most importantly, don’t put your vacation on a credit card. A weekend cruise will never quell the financial stress of coming home with more debt than you left with.

A budget can be a great place to start to see the cost/benefit ratio of your work. If you’re able to work less, you’ll end up spending less on some things and feel less need to “escape.” You can always cut out smaller trips you would’ve taken and save up for a bigger trip or vice versa.

If you’re working long hours, don’t let “treating yourself” hinder your financial goals. Use the extra income to pay off consumer debt & student loans or invest. Think ahead, so you won’t be working the same long hours in 10 years.


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  • Jen Smith

    Jen Smith is the creator and writer behind Saving with Spunk, a personal finance blog encouraging millennials to have open and light-hearted conversations about money. She paid off $53K of student loan debt in a year and lived to tell the tale.