Vacation – An Investment?

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I was flipping through the Sunday paper (looking for the coupon inserts) when I came across the USA Weekend section. Boldly splayed across the cover was the headline “More Money.” The subtitle said, “It's what we all want. And it's what you'll have, if you follow these 8 rules from personal finance guru Jean Chatzky.” It certainly got my attention, so I flipped to the article to read more.

Jean Chatzky has a new book out titled Money Rules: The Simple Path to Lifelong Security in which she discusses some simple financial rules to improve readers' bottom line. In this article she discussed eight additional rules. Most of them are common sense principles, but one surprised me somewhat:

“Buy experiences, not things. Spending on experiences makes people happier than spending on things. Things get broken and go out of style. Experiences get better every time you talk about them.”

What surprised me was not the rule itself, but the source and context. A financial guru writing an article on rules to grow your money is actually telling us to spend money on vacations and other experiences? A caption in the article says “Vacation memories grow in value.”

What an interesting concept: vacations as an investment. I've long believed that vacations have educational value and bring our family closer together, but I'm not sure I ever saw them as a financial investment that retained or grew in value. Even though I had not considered those an investment before, I have been reaping the benefits of others who may have.

We've been blessed with some wise people in our lives who have made experiential investments in our family.

  • My daughter's Godmother once gave my kids the gift of baking and decorating cookies together. They enjoyed the experience of time spent together. (And they got to eat some yummy cookies too!)
  • My parents have made some incredible memories for my kids with Easter egg hunts and other traditions.
  • My in-laws have also gifted our family with some memorable travel experiences. Several times they have taken all their children and grandchildren to an indoor water park for the New Years holiday. The kids enjoyed that so much more than they would have another toy. This past Christmas they treated all of us to a Caribbean Cruise. We made memories that will last a lifetime.

I know many people who eliminate a family vacation when they need to cut back. Maybe if they saw it as investment, they would look at cutting back in other areas instead. Even if the vacation budget is small, there are many wonderful experiences that don't cost any money at all. There are many free parks, museums, and historic sites that can be combined with fee-based attractions to stretch the vacation budget.

How would it change your financial decisions if you started thinking of travel and other experiences as an investment and cut back on other “things”?

Terri Weeks is a family travel writer in the Cincinnati area, and is also mom to three terrific kids. Her family is on a mission to visit all 50 states by the time the kids graduate from high school. She blogs about family travel in the US at Travel 50 States with Kids. She is also the co-author of the book, Adventures Around Cincinnati: A Parent's Guide to Unique and Memorable Places to Explore with your Kids.

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One Comment

  1. Great points Terry! I am a firm believer that giving people experiences outlasts the memories of gifts. I am still working on convincing our families that I would much rather all of us go away for the holidays rather than purchase each other gifts! Being able to cherish those times we spent on the islands together will well outlast that shirt and necktie.

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