4 Smart Ways to Manage Your Money So You Can Actually Relax on Vacation

man riding scooter on phone in venice beach calif
Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder


Grace Greenfield understands the importance of a good vacation, especially when the weather's bad.

Greenfield, now 27, grew up just outside Cleveland and says her family always took annual vacations. During spring break, the family usually trekked out West for a ski trip.

“Spring in northeast Ohio can be pretty dreary, rainy and cold,” she said in an email. “Taking a vacation over spring break allowed us to have a break from that. We absolutely looked forward to these trips.”

Then, for about a 10-year stint, the family of five would pack up and drive to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, each August.

Some of her most notable memories from those times include playing card games (Gin Rummy, anyone?) and riding bikes.

“We would bike along the path from where we stayed to the Salty Dog Cafe for lunch,” she says. “Even today when I smell sea pines anywhere, it still reminds me of our bike rides during these summers in Hilton Head.”

How to Manage Your Money Before Going on Vacation

If you have big plans for a getaway like Greenfield’s family always did, take a second to think about your finances before packing up.

To guarantee full relaxation — taking in those deep breaths of sea pines and letting out that financial stress — make these simple money moves to help you manage and save your money.

1. Show Your Credit Score Some Love

Jerry and Vivienne Morgan spend the morning showing off their beautiful home in New Port Richey. New Port Richey, Fla., February 24th, 2018.
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

Some people want to ignore their credit score. Maybe they feel as though it’s irrelevant. Maybe they feel like they’re being unfairly judged. Maybe they’re just plain embarrassed — like Jerry Morgan was.

“Frankly, with the experiences we have gone through, I was embarrassed to even check my score,” Morgan said in a recent interview with The Penny Hoarder. Through the years, he and his wife faced hard times: each losing their jobs and facing foreclosure on their home.

Before signing up with Credit Sesame in September 2017 and raising his credit score 120 points in a matter of months, Morgan couldn’t remember the last time he’d checked that three-digit number.

Now, he logs into his account regularly to keep tabs on his credit report card, which grades each of Morgan’s credit factors — A through F. If, for example, he has an F in credit usage, he can click “View Details” to read an explanation of credit usage and actionable recommendations.

2. Face Your Debts

Woman running along Ohio River in downtown Cincinnati.
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A not-so-fun-fact: The average vacation ends with $1,108 of debt, according to a 2017 LearnVest survey.

And many of us already carry debt.

Before heading out on your trip, address your debt situation.

Don’t feel like you have to pay it all off immediately. That’s likely not possible. Instead, hash out a plan!

One of our favorite ways to make debt more manageable is to refinance or consolidate it. When you refinance your debt, you’re taking out a new loan — one with more favorable interest rates — to pay off and replace an existing loan (or credit card debt).

When you consolidate your debt, you’re combining multiple loans into one. The idea is to make them more manageable with only one interest rate.

If debt refinancing or consolidation fits your needs, shop around for the best rates using an online marketplace like Even Financial.

Even Financial searches the top online lenders to match you with a personalized loan offer in less than a minute. It can help you borrow up to $100,000 (no collateral needed) with fixed rates starting at 4.99% and terms from 24 to 84 months.

Once you’ve nailed down your debt-repayment plan, we guarantee you’ll be able to unwind a little extra while on vacation.

3. Make Sure Your Retirement Is Still on Track

couple doing some paperwork and calculations at home
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If you’re saving for your retirement with a 401(k), awesome.

But when’s the last time you truly checked in on your account, adjusted your allocations, addressed any fees and all that other fun stuff?

Try using a robo-adviser to make sure your 401(k) is on track with your retirement goals. Blooom is an SEC-registered investment advisory firm that’ll optimize and monitor your 401(k) for you.

Your initial account checkup is free, and you can do it online in less than five minutes. This will help you get to know your account a little more intimately. Find out if you’re paying too many investment fees or if you have the appropriate amount of money invested in stocks versus bonds.

If you’re satisfied with the outcome of your initial check up, great! If not, you can enroll in Blooom for $10 a month (Penny Hoarders get one month free). It’ll automatically adjust your 401(k) to best fit your needs all the way up to retirement.

4. Hide Your Money So You Don’t Touch It Until Vacation

Full of coins in clear bottle with yellow label note with Travel word and passport on wooden table.
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Vacations typically mean splurging, at least a little. So go ahead and start a hands-off vacation fund so you’ll have some extra spending money.

You’ve got plenty of options, but let us throw out a recommendation: Chime is an online-only bank account that acts as a one-stop shop for all things banking.

When you open a Chime account, you’ll gain access to a Spending account and a Saving account. The Spending account has a ton of perks: no overdraft fees, no monthly maintenance fees, no minimum balance fees.

But the Saving account is what’s really going to help you here.

Chime’s Saving account allows you to round up your debit card purchases to the nearest dollar. Any spare change will trickle into this account. You can also opt to automatically deposit 10% of each paycheck into this (ahem, hands-off!) account.

It’s Time to Pack Your Bags!

Mother and daughter packing their bag
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If you make your way through this list, you will have addressed your credit score, mapped out a debt-repayment plan, cut back on any “unavoidable” expenses, checked in on your 401(k) and started a vacation fund.

This is an awesome start, and we guarantee you’ll feel better next time you make your great escape.

Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. Although she’s from Florida, she grew up vacationing in Hilton Head, too, and invested in a new Salty Dog T-shirt each year.

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