Debt-Free Vacations

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared in 2010.

“95,555 & Counting.” That’s what I posted on my Facebook page today. It’s the mileage on my black Envoy. And today, I’m grateful for it. Not so 48 hours ago. When I stepped into my friend’s brand new sporty car, I had five minutes of a covetous spirit. I got in and took a deep breath, inhaling the crisp new car scent, and greed got the best of me. It’s been 15 years since I’ve had a new car. Just love the way those cars actually look clean. (Mine looks just a tad worn, even after it’s been detailed.)

As I sat there holding a bit of a grudge for all the nice things we miss out on because of the four-letter “d” word (debt), I remembered: We chose this! Bob and I chose to give up the new car scent 15 years ago when we were tired of the great burden debt puts upon us. (We were living under the great emotional strain that God writes about in Proverbs 22:7 when it says that the borrower is slave to the lender, and we were tired of it.) My husband, not one to delay taking action on decision, drove his car straight to the dealer who bought it back and then bought the cheapest car in the lot. It was a car he could pay cash for and was “holey” enough, but not in a spiritual sense. The floorboard soon rusted out, and we had a view of the highway … or the option to save on gas and just run the car like the Flinstones did! Since that first cash-only purchase car, we’ve had a handful, and we’ve worked up to something much nicer. However, I can’t imagine ever having the cash up front to buy myself the new car scent my friend is enjoying right now!

During that five minutes of coveting my friend’s car, God reminded me of all the things we have as a result of giving up that great new car feel (and a lot of other stuff to live completely debt-free!). They included:

  • The freedom to help others by giving. It was hard for us to give when we were in debt. Each month, we send the equivalent of a car payment to a family in Zambia who desperately needs it just to eat. Wow! Does that feel good.
  • Fear-free cash outs at the register. I no longer have that sick feeling in my stomach that the cashier might have to whisper in embarrassment that my debit card was declined. I’m confident that the account is full, not because we are wealthy. We live below our means, and that gives us margin.
  • The joy of sending a son to college debt-free. So far, we’ve been able to pay Rob’s tuition each semester, and he doesn’t have any debt. Under our old mentality of borrowing, it would have been easy just to build debt for him, but we’ve avoided it. I’m so happy that his summers of work are building a savings fund for him to start out on his own with some capital.
  • Better vacations! Now, we’re talking! We used to—you guessed it—build up credit card debt to go on vacations each summer. That habit somehow stole the joy from us. Now we pay cash up front, and it’s great. We have a blast. We don’t go on bigger vacations, but they are better. Renting a little cabin and playing games with our kids was never so much fun!

As the economy begins to stabilize, people are going to vacation a bit more this summer. But the news reports that the vacations will be economical, since we’re still crawling out of the recession. Here are some ideas I’ve heard of among my friends:

  • Stay-cation. Just take your week off, pitch a tent in the backyard, and enjoy the sound of the summer nights as you camp in your backyard for a week (with the joy of knowing that a shower and your blow-dryer aren’t far away!).
  • Drive instead of fly. We’re planning one week this summer at a Christian conference with our girls. To save cash, we’re driving the school van. If nothing else, we’ll be bonded by the scent of one-too-many teenage boys’ basketball shoes left in that van overnight! (Who needs fresh car scent when you’ve got that?)
  • Share a vacation. Bob and I are planning a weekend getaway in the fall to attend a special wedding in the mountains of Northern California. Who could resist taking an extra day to enjoy it? We got free flights with frequent flyer points, and we’re sharing a rental car and other costs with some friends. Not only will it be more fun to go with Chris and Colette, but it’ll save us a lot of cash.
  • Vacation frequently, but cheaply. I am dreaming of a summer in my 95,555-and-counting Envoy. Weathered as it may be, we’ll just hitch our little speedboat (bought with cash) to it and hit a local lake to ski, jump from cliffs, and survive Bob’s “raft of death” two or three evenings a week and every Saturday. We might even pull together the cash to pitch a tent or rent a cabin for a few days.

With the money I’ve saved living debt-free, I could even buy a “New Car Scent” deodorizer to hang from my rearview mirror!

What ideas do you have for vacationing without going into debt? What other benefits have you enjoyed as a result of debt-free living?

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One thought on “Debt-Free Vacations

  1. My husband and I have always had a debt-free point of view, and we have vacationed very simply. We tent-camped with our kids many times. We all loved it, and we had many more vacations than we could have afforded otherwise! Also, renting a cabin at a state park can be very affordable, and tons of fun, with hiding trails, horseback riding, lakes and historic sites nearby.

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