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4 Ways Junior Officers Can Avoid a Summer Vacation FOMO Budget Disaster

Managing Your Finances

When you first get commissioned you're often wrapped up in training for the first year or two. Before you know it, you're an O-2 and you finally have a chance to take a real vacation. And just like that you're swiping your credit cards like it’s nobody’s business. Something about vacations awakens the inner spender that’s in all of us — it’s as if with more sun and fun, comes more consumerism. 

Our social media feeds often become flooded with vacation pics, delicious cuisine and other-worldly adventures, it’s no wonder many of us find ourselves in a deep hole of debt after our first vacation. In fact, a study by Credit Karma and Qualtrics found that approximately 40 percent of millennials have spent money they don’t have — causing them to go into debt — simply for the purpose of keeping up with all of their friends.1 

There’s no question FOMO — also known as “fear of missing out” — is rampant. And if you think debt is going to scare us away from spending our money on vacation, think again. A 2018 Travelport U.S. Vacation Survey found that millennials are most likely to spend a decent chunk of change on their vacations than older generations, with one-third of millennials willing to spend at least $5,000 on their vacations.2  If you’re afraid of overspending on your vacation(s), here are four key ways you can avoid a FOMO budget disaster.

#1: Factor in “Fun” Money Every Month

While some items and outings are spontaneous, it doesn’t hurt to at least consider what activities you may end up wanting to do each month. Usually, we all have at least some initial ideas of how we want to spend our time, and many of these ideas involve money. So, at the end of each month, map out some potential expenses you will have along the way, and then write down a dedicated amount of money you’re able to spend that month (after paying your bills and buying any necessities). This is a beneficial exercise because it forces you to be mindful of your spending, as opposed to ignorant and oblivious of how much money is truly going out the door every month. Over time, you will notice a pattern in your spending habits, which will help you effectively prepare for next year’s sunny season.

#2: Consider Free Outings First

Before you and your friends spend $50 each on food and drinks, research some events online and see if any free ones are of any interest to you. Many times, businesses will host free events for the purpose of simply gaining awareness and exposure. Additionally, some outdoor venues will occasionally host some kind of summer series of concerts, which can offer free entry at times. Many people assume free entry to events and activities means they’re not worth attending, but that’s not usually the case. If someone is going to take the time to plan, organize and market an event, they’re most likely going to put effort towards ensuring everyone has a good time. And for the weekends when not much is going on, consider browsing a deals app like Groupon, which often offers special discounts on a variety of items, experiences and more.

#3: Swap Exotic Vacations for Weekend Getaways

We all dream of taking mind-blowing vacations that top any other trip we’ve taken — especially during the summertime. However, because we all know our spending is elevated during the warmer months, consider trading your three-week luxurious trip to Dubai for a three-day relaxing beachside retreat somewhere close by. This doesn’t mean you’ll never visit Dubai; it just means that instead of scheduling a high-end, expensive vacation for the summer, you’ll postpone it for another season where you’re more likely to not spend as much money, like during the spring or the fall. Oftentimes, what we crave isn't a luxury, but rather peace of mind. And there are many inexpensive weekend trips available to fulfill your desire for rest and relaxation — you just have to be open to more budget-friendly adventures that allow you to truly enjoy your vacation.

#4: Share the Cost When You Can

If you and a friend are dying to travel somewhere or do a particularly expensive activity, see if you can round up more friends to join in and help decrease the overall cost. Spitting a $100 per night hotel is a lot cheaper when you have more people to contribute. And even if someone has to sleep on the couch, at least you can rest easy knowing your entire budget isn’t going out the window. Another way to share expenses is by trading off on who pays for what. As long as the costs are pretty much the same amount, you’ll save at least a few dollars here and there. And if no one has enough money to pay for the event or activity, consider planning a free day of sight-seeing, ending the night with a fun picnic in the park. Oftentimes, there are always alternatives to the fulfillment you’re seeking; some just aren’t as obvious as others.

1 https://www.creditkarma.com/insights/i/fomo-spending-affects-one-in-four-millennials/

2 https://www.travelport.com/company/media-center/press-releases/2018-05-17/us-millennials-most-likely-take-spend-more-vacations


If you liked this article, you might enjoy the following blog posts:

10 Rules for Junior Officers to Live By in Order to Achieve Financial Independence


4 Things Every Junior Officer Should Know About Money


5 Financial Goals for Junior Military Officers


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