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$25,000 Paid Off, and How We’re Going to Fit in a Vacation: Joan’s Mid-July Financial Update

in Joan's Posts, Our Financial Journey, Pay Off Your Debt

Note: This is a post from Joan Otto, Man Vs. Debt community manager. Read more about Joan.

$64,321.03 in debt to go. As of last month’s update, that number was $65,876.32, so we’re down an additional $1,555.29 this month, and we’ve hit another milestone.

We’ve now paid off more than $25,000 in debt! ($25,366.20, to be exact.)

I’m so glad we happened to hit that, because it’s the only “big change” this month. We haven’t yet hit any of our “V.N.S.,” or Very Next Step, goals, a list of baby steps for each of our seven debt accounts that you can keep up with here.

That’s hard – because even with steady forward progress, we quickly get derailed when we feel like we haven’t done anything notable.

I like celebrating wins. I like “checking off” steps from a chart. I need that external success to keep internally motivated. And lately, while we’ve certainly been dropping major payments against our debts, we’re just not hustling as much as we could be.

Beating the summer debt-repayment doldrums

Part of the problem is, it’s summer. We’re busy almost every week with extra events; we’re in the middle of a Pennsylvania heat wave; and our motivation to make extra effort on our debt repayment is a little lacking.

We’re still committed – but we need to mix things up a bit.

That’s why we’ve decided to invest in a four-day family vacation to Washington, D.C., and we’re hitting the road today.

That’s right – we’re going to spend some money and have some fun. I believe that it’s OK – and in fact very worthwhile – to keep some fun in the budget when you’re in the midst of debt repayment.

It’s all about balance, of course. We’re not going to take off for Tahiti and buy a Ferrari, or even do any major remodeling to the house (so my icky pink carpet will have to do for a while longer).

But we’re also not going to eat rice and beans and curtail any travel beyond the county line for the next two to three years. We’ve tried that in the past – and we quickly get unmotivated and go “off the wagon” when we go too frugal. (And, hey, this is a war we’re fighting against our debt – even soldiers get R&R time on a long tour, right?)

The ground rules for our vacation

In order to make a trip this summer feasible, we DID set some parameters.

  • Cash only. Hopefully, you guys know me well enough by now that this goes without saying, but any trip had to come from existing funds, not any kind of credit cards (or our emergency fund).
  • A mix of free and paid attractions. One of the major things making Washington, D.C., a good fit is that most of the places we want to go are free – various parts of the Smithsonian, the National Archives, and so on. Some other things we do won’t be, but we’re not locked in to anything costly.
  • Reasonable lodging costs. This is probably the area where we’ll spend the most on our trip – and we’ve found what looks like a great place through Airbnb that is as cheap as a chain hotel – and with many more amenities, including (drumroll please) free parking!

The thing is, we’ve put more work into researching this trip than we have any travel in the past five years. It’s worth it, though, when you find ways to have an amazing time for relatively little money.

Where we’re getting the money

We expect the entire four-day trip to cost a little under $750. The trip has its own “budget,” so we’ll be sure not to spend money that’s needed elsewhere!

Here’s how we’re making that work.

  • About $200 will come from a cushion we have in the checking account.
  • About $250 will come from extra money we’ve made in the past month – an open house I had to sell some Mary Kay products, some books my husband sold, a bonus of his, etc.
  • The remaining $300 or so will be used from the money we often pay above the minimums on our credit cards. We normally pay about $600 to $700 total above minimum each month across several accounts. This month, we’ll make that $300 to $400 instead.
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Why I believe a little spending can be good in the long run

Just planning the trip and posting here about it has gotten Chris and me excited about saving money again. That alone is priceless.

It might seem counterintuitive, but the idea that we’re spending this money has made me WANT to be more frugal in other areas to help offset the cost.

And most importantly, I love knowing that we can live abundantly – have a good time – AND still make progress toward our family debt-free goal.

When you spend your time thinking about all the things you “can’t afford” to do, that’s what I call the “broke” mentality. I’ve been broke – and it feeds on itself.

When I feel “broke,” I get defeatist. “I’ll never pay off the debt anyway, so why pay extra?” “I can’t get ahead on the bills no matter how hard I work, so why do all these side hustles?” You’ve probably been there too.

When I feel abundant, I get motivated. “We’ve paid off $25,000 in debt and have enough to take a vacation? SWEET, how can I make some extra money to help keep our momentum going?”

I’m curious which strategy you prefer during a massive war on debt.

Splurges? No splurges?

Would love to know what you think!

{ 70 comments… read them below or add one }

Holly@Clubthrifty.com July 17, 2012 at 9:17 AM

Vacations are essential for my family’s well being. I think that splurging a little helps people stay on track….as long as you can get right back on the wagon when you get back home. A life without vacations isn’t one worth living if you ask me. You have to treat yourself sometimes!

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Joan July 21, 2012 at 10:41 PM

Holly, I’m glad I’m not alone! I think you’ve nailed it – staying “on track” at home is the key. If going on vacation meant we’d come home and buy every little oddball thing we think we’d need, I’m not sure I’d be able to do it! :)

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Cathleen July 17, 2012 at 9:19 AM

Have a wonderful vacation, Joan!

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Joan July 21, 2012 at 10:41 PM

We did, Cathleen – thanks!! :)

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Matt July 17, 2012 at 9:23 AM

If you’re visiting Smithsonians, the best 3 (in my opinion!) are the Air and Space museum EXTENSION (aka Udvar-Hazy Center) out by the Dulles airport, the Natural History Museum, and the American History Museum. The Udvar-Hazy does charge for parking, but is otherwise free.

Another frugal tip for DC: If you know your itinerary (even vaguely), check out the value of day passes for Metro and/or temporary memberships in CaBi (DC’s bikeshare). Driving around the city is not fun and parking is rarely free. You can also walk many places – it’s not a huge city – but if you’re trying to hit a bunch of things in short order, you won’t want to walk everywhere!

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Joan July 21, 2012 at 10:44 PM

We are headed out to Udvar-Hazy another day, Matt – we actually ended up coming home a day early because I got a bit sick unexpectedly (am doing much better now!), but that had been going to be our day Friday! The good news for us is that especially is an easy day trip, so we’re for sure going back.

We did love Natural History, and spent some time at American History too!

We parked (for free, with a permit) on the street at the Airbnb place we stayed at, and then walked a couple blocks each day to the Metro, rode it wherever was closest to where we were going, walked a little more, and so on. It was great – and the car stayed parked for three and a half days… LOVE IT!

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Danigirl July 17, 2012 at 9:27 AM

Hi Joan, I agree that doing a little something within reason is a good motivator to stay on track. I love that you have budgeted and researched..Enjoy!!!

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Joan July 21, 2012 at 10:41 PM

Thanks, Dani!! We had a blast!

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Jenny July 17, 2012 at 9:31 AM

I alternate between splurging and not; but the key I find in avoiding falling into the broke mentality is this:

Being in control of, or more importantly, FEELING in control of the decision making that goes into where your spending happens. When I make plans on my own, and am not just going along with other people’s expectations or plans, I feel much more in control and less of a broke mentality (usually), or at least, I feel ownership of my broke-ness (which is sometimes worse than saying well, family obligation and societal expectation lead me down the path to broke, because it comes with more personal guilt…both are probably about the same).

That said, sometimes you still find yourself placed in situations, which for social nicety and/or social expectation, you really still should stay in (the situation) even if you do your best to resist the spending urges (and man, what a trap!) And that’s hard, because you feel you need to be polite, even if you’re secretly thinking crap crap crap this goes against my budget plan, this is my tempting place and I’m going to bite the apple…

Pressure to make a trip, because family expects it – when you feel it’s out of your budget? Broke mentality and inner conflict.

Group shopping? *sigh*
Being hosted on a shopping excursion (nice, because it helps to have someone that speaks the local language bargain for you), but feeling you’re over your budget and over your spending limit – broke mentality.

Getting an awesome deal on hostel accommodation, that means you get five nights’ stay for the price of one night at a hotel – awesome I can save money and still travel like I want mentality!

Really, it’s all about the perception of control.

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Joan July 21, 2012 at 10:48 PM

Jenny, i think that’s exactly it – CONTROL! If I had an unexpected bill for $750 this month, a car repair or whatever, that I wasn’t in control of, I’d have still come up with the money, I’m sure, but I’d have felt more “broke.”

The great thing is that, the more money I get in savings and emergency funds, etc., the more in control I feel of even my unexpected expenses, which is a GREAT feeling!

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Martha July 17, 2012 at 9:56 AM

I’m with you Joan! Your trip sounds like just what you need to get the mojo flowing again and attack your goals with renewed motivation.

It’s so easy to lose motivation when you get into the doldrums, and sometimes you have to shake things up to get things moving again.

Sometimes you need to splurge just to remind yourself that there is life after debt – and to remind yourself of where you are headed. The only trick is to make sure not to splurge too big, and to do it mindfully – which it sounds like you’re doing. I know from experience that you just have to be real careful to do “planned splurges” and not to let the splurges become the new reality.

Have a fantastic trip! Will we see pictures?

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Joan July 21, 2012 at 10:51 PM

Martha, it was amazing!! I’ll see if I can get a few photos together – from the 1,045 we took (!!!)

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Becky July 17, 2012 at 10:42 AM

I recently discovered this blog when I was looking for websites on frugality and simple living. It will now be one of the very few I visit for inspiration and positive reinforcement.

While we have no debt other than a small mortgage, when we got married we had very little in the way of assets. One of the first things I did was set up a spreadsheet for our budget. Slowly we saved, and finally had enough for a house downpayment and a contingency fund. And so on….

Anyway, i wanted to add my two cents that a vacation and a break from routine can have a very positive impact–especially doing it the way you are and not adding to your financial stress. My husband and I recently took a long weekend trip (part of our exploration of where we’d eventually like to relocate) and it was so energizing. It enabled us to hit the “reset button” for our next phase of hunkering down and saving.

Thanks for sharing your story.

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Joan July 21, 2012 at 10:51 PM

Thanks, Becky! I think you’re right – that “reset” is a great point to start the next phase from!

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Rachel July 17, 2012 at 11:00 AM

We had $40,000 still to pay off (originally $82,000) when we blew $4,000 on a last minute vacation.
Was it stupid and did we regret it?
No.
We needed to escape our life for a week. My husband was stressed out and we were grieving my father-in-law’s death. We were on the edge and my husband couldn’t concentrate enough to work.
When we got back our minds were a bit clearer and we were ready to move on and keep paying off debt. It took another year but we got there.
Gazelle like intensity is tough. We all need breaks sometimes.
Enjoy your vacation!

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Joan July 21, 2012 at 10:55 PM

Rachel, we had a great time – and I’m so glad you guys were able to “come up for air” in the midst of a crisis! It really sounds like your escape did what it needed to do – and you got to your “destination” in good time anyway! Good for you.

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Helen July 17, 2012 at 11:21 AM

Have you ever seen Zeitgeist or the money as debt series? Its a real eye opener…money is essentially debt as its created out of thin air so if their was no money, their would be no debt…confusing I know, but its good to know that the game is rigged as it only benefits the owners of money (the masters who control money and keep us enslaved through debt). Great goals you guys have though! Very commendable!

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Joan July 21, 2012 at 11:15 PM

Helen, I’ve seen a lot of things like that – and I guess my take is, there’s always been “debt” – I love to read the Little House on the Prairie books, which deal very little with money, and there’s the idea of indebtedness for help when someone helps you, and things like that. I figure the money part of it is kind of like time – it’s a construct we as a society put on a setup in order to help organize it a bit.

That said – I want to bring back the Biblical Old Testament concept of Jubilee – every 50 years, total debt forgiveness! (There was a LOT more to it than that – but I’d just take the part I like, ha!)

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Jason Clayton | frugal habits July 17, 2012 at 11:55 AM

I 100% agree with this decision to go on vacation and take a break for a month from paying down your debt. Paying down debt is psychological as much as anything else, and what you are giving yourself is a psychological boost by taking a ‘vaca’. The way you are budgeting for it is fantastic, and will give you the ‘break’ you need to refresh and refocus on your goals. This in itself may even cause you to get out of debt faster. Good luck and great advice. Cheers, Jason

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Joan July 21, 2012 at 10:56 PM

Thanks, Jason! Though I can’t put an empirical number to it, I have a “feeling” we’ll come up with more in extra money than we would have for the next few months, so who knows, maybe we’ll still come out ahead!

And if not, hey, that’s OK too!

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Isarian July 17, 2012 at 12:35 PM

After paying off my auto loan at $6000, I took this month off to invest in some nice new bathroom hardware (hangers and the like) as well as install new bathroom vanity lights and paint the family room and dining room. I still smile when I see the work I did, which was very fulfilling and also provided a great value to my home and to myself in terms of remodeling experience. Thanks to this I am charged up to dig into my student loan debt – only $11,000 to go!

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Joan July 21, 2012 at 10:58 PM

Isarian, that’s awesome! I said in one of the other comments that for some people, a “splurge” is travel, but for others, it might be remodeling, new clothes, whatever is most motivational. I love yours in particular because you can SEE it – which is a great tangible thing!

It makes me think I’d like to frame a couple of our vacation photos and put them out prominently – because then I’ll have a tangible reminder of the kinds of experiences that we’re working so hard for! :)

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Kathleen @ Frugal Portland July 17, 2012 at 12:50 PM

A vacation for every $25K paid off sounds like incentive enough to me!

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Joan July 21, 2012 at 10:58 PM

Ha, thanks, Kathleen! I hadn’t thought about that – but by the time we’re down $50K, I have a feeling we might be due for another one!! :)

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Leah July 17, 2012 at 12:59 PM

Good for you Joan! Have a great time! I agree, you need to reward yourself a bit along the way. If you’re never doing anything fun or taking a break, shit will hit the fan at some point and you’ll go way off track. Sticking with the budget and saving up cash for the trip is the perfect way to make it work. And DC! Awesome. That’s on our list of places to visit sometime in the not too distant future. :)

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Joan July 21, 2012 at 11:11 PM

Leah, you’ll have to let me know how your own trip goes when you get there!! We had a wonderful time and I hope you will when you go too. It was awesome.

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Tara July 17, 2012 at 1:24 PM

I think it’s a lot like trying to lose weight…if you restrict yourself too far and don’t allow occasional and reasonable treats you will fall of the wagon more easily. That said, I think the mentality of broke vs not broke can be damaging. I think the hardest things to overcome are beliefs and emotions about money. You aren’t broke. Broke implies broken. You are in a position where you are and have taken control of a situation. You are in a process of growing and becoming stronger! My husband used to look at new trucks and long for one and envy the driver. Now he looks at a shiny new truck and realizes that that person may have a shiny truck but they more than likely have an enormous truck payment monthly on that. It makes him appreciate his 15 year old paid for truck and treat that truck like his baby. It was just a matter of learning to see things differently. When we were getting out of debt (we just finished) we splurged on little things like occasional day trips-hikes and picnics and local free museums and zoo days. We made a habit of learning to use what was local and inexpensive to feel like we were getting away from the mundane. We ate “al fresco” in the summer on our back patio. We made a habit of creating great dinners out of farmers market fare. We’d drink sparkling water our of our wine glasses and listen to lovely music. All on our own patio. We invested in making the little things feel special without spending on them. Have a lovely vacation and when you get back try and find little “treats” within your day or week-it will help. They don’t have to cost a dime! It will help. A lot.

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Joan July 21, 2012 at 11:16 PM

Tara, that’s awesome – we are huge on exactly those sort of “treats”! Experiences that don’t cost much, but that mean a lot! We hike a lot in our local parks, and those days cost nothing but the gas to get there, but mean so much for our family… it’s amazing! :)

So glad you are debt-free now – and can’t wait to join you there!

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Regina Fetherolf July 17, 2012 at 1:42 PM

I am glad you decided to reward yourself with an awesome (pretty frugal) vacation! I am curious if you have teenagers.We have 2 teenagers and a pre-teen. I find it extra challenging. They are in sports and always have some new expense around every corner. We cannot afford vacations. :(

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Joan July 21, 2012 at 11:19 PM

Regina, my daughter is 12 and a half – and while we don’t do a lot of organized “stuff,” she and I are both active tae kwon do students and enjoy the somewhat expensive at times hobby of scrapbooking.

Basically, we’ve made a choice in our budget to fund that expense for both of us, but we wouldn’t if the cash wasn’t there for it, or if it meant we couldn’t do something we liked MORE – like traveling!

I think it’s obviously a different story with MULTIPLE kids – but I definitely know families that are making it work, with some choices on the part of everyone. It’s not always easy, for sure, but I figure it’s worth it!

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Cat Alford @ Budget Blonde July 17, 2012 at 2:14 PM

Joan – I am so excited for you! I have been reading about your journey, and I have to admit – it’s a little addicting watching you slash away that debt! I am rooting for you! I completely agree with you that you have to have rewards. My husband taught me this. I would be a frugal and miserly old soul (at 25 mind you – haha) but my husband always reminds me that we need to have little rewards to allow us to keep going. I hope you have an amazing time in D.C. Before I became a writer full time, I was a park ranger and I know that the National Parks in D.C. are an affordable way to see the city! Please write in when you get back and let us know how it went!
Best,
Cat Alford
aka
Budget Blonde

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Joan July 21, 2012 at 11:20 PM

Cat, that’s awesome! We had a great time at the parks – and may I just say we LOVE the ranger programs, especially the one with trading cards for kids (not sure how long ago that started). My daughter has had a blast at all the national parks in the area collecting them, which is an added bonus for us in homeschooling because they really spark her interest in research!

Anyway, thanks for the kind words – and for cheering me on. We REALLY appreciate it!

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Bilgefisher July 17, 2012 at 2:25 PM

We have many mini rewards via the puzzle system I talked about earlier. Anything from a coffee date to heading to a symphony. When we paid off my wife’s car, her reward is diamond earrings. She figures she will buy them within the next year. No hurry at the moment with an 8 month old who is very grabby now. For helping her with the car, I bought 3 ounces of silver as I enjoy coins from varies countries. The funny part about both rewards is we are not really spending money. We are trading paper for items that retain value. She can sell her earrings for more then her purchase price due to discounts she gets. Save for the dealer markup (usually $1-3 dollars of spot price) my coins will hold their value through inflation.

Our big reward is still a European vacation.

Jason

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Joan July 21, 2012 at 11:22 PM

Jason, I definitely love your puzzle system! And I can’t wait to hear about the vacation – bet you’ll love it!

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Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager July 17, 2012 at 2:35 PM

I had the same conundrum last week. Last year I created a “Do Not Settle” list of things I wouldn’t settle on (duh!) One of my things was “I will not miss a summer on the Cape” (where my grandma lives and is basically my “happy place”) although this year I bought a house and money is super tight I decided to go ahead and buy a ticket to spend quality time with my family. The way I see it, the house will still be there when I come back (and for years to come) having a week of memories with family once a year won’t happen until next year. Definitely worth it.

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Joan July 21, 2012 at 11:23 PM

I think that’s a great way of putting it, Jenna – kind of like how I talked about clothes, what we will and won’t “settle” on!

I find that to be so important, because otherwise, what are you getting out of debt “for”, you know? :)

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Rebecca July 17, 2012 at 4:14 PM

I say splurge a little and heck if you can still make the minimum or even go $100 or even $50 above the minimum due then I think you are doing great. Granted the broke mentality sucks and sometimes you just gotta splurge even if it is to just buy that one new thing that you have had your eye on for awhile even a better bonus if it is on sale.

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Joan July 21, 2012 at 11:24 PM

Rebecca, thanks! I am so proud to be leaving my broke mentality behind over this last year – which is a wonderful feeling!

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Mary Ann July 17, 2012 at 5:07 PM

Joan, I definitely agree with you. Even though we are working toward paying our debts, and we have paid a little over half. We still allow ourselves some entertainment and vacation time. Mostly quick trips to see family or the beach. We try at least one night out a week, just so we can talk and relax away from home, usually at our local pub, very cheap. Without these things to look forward to, sitting at home and only thinking about our finances would be a disaster mentally to keep the momentum going. Enjoy Washington DC, we went there two years ago for a wedding and had a great “budget friendly” time!

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Donna Reynolds July 17, 2012 at 11:26 PM

What a great idea. Baker stayed at my house which is listed on Airbnb. It is a great way to save money, instead of a hotel. Some places listed on the site have kitchens, so you can cook you meals instead of spending a fortune on restaurants. And like you said, just about everything you want to see here is free. I live just outside of Washington. Having said all that, your list of “reasons this is an OK thing to do”, sounds like a whole lot of rationalization. We can rationalize anything and make it OK. Like your husband buying you a very expensive purse for your birthday. You didn’t buy it; it was a gift, (from your husband, which is still part of your budget), so the money spent is OK; rationalzation. How about just saying, I need a break and I’m taking one. Instead of making a list of 10 reasons to convince myself and everyone else this is a good idea.

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Tony @ A Young Investor July 18, 2012 at 6:43 AM

I was in Washington last summer, and the place was crawling with police (probably due to the 9/11 scare 10 years ago). I had to stand in line for half an hour (security gates) just trying to go to the washroom.

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Joan July 21, 2012 at 10:40 PM

Wow, sorry to hear that – we had an awesome time, very little crowds or anything (as compared to what we have experienced in the past!) The funniest part for us was that the reflecting pool is under construction, so it was more of a reflecting puddle, and my daughter was like, “Wait, what’s that big … space?”

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Debt Free Teen July 18, 2012 at 9:43 AM

So cool that you guys have paid off over $25,000 in debt! Have a great vacation and keep up the hard work!

Chase Miller

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Joan July 21, 2012 at 10:39 PM

Thanks, Chase – it was awesome, and we’re back to rockin’ it now! :)

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Liz July 18, 2012 at 10:59 AM

This sounds like a *brilliant* idea — a vacation that is fairly affordable and not too far! I love it when people pick my city to come visit. :D I agree with Matt, Air and Space museum is one of the best. Natural History is also super-enjoyable!

If you need any tips on getting creative with Metro fares, let me know, and HAVE FUN!

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Joan July 21, 2012 at 10:38 PM

Liz, thanks!!! I wish I’d have seen that it was your city earlier – we could’ve met up for lunch or something! We had a ton of fun riding the Metro – the car sat parked (for free!!!) the whole time. My daughter loved Metro so much, actually, that she wants to write to them and tell them how great of a job she thinks they do.

We enjoyed Natural History the best, I think, especially the live butterfly experience. Was worth the $!5 – Sarah has talked about it nonstop ever since!

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Tania Belkin July 18, 2012 at 12:49 PM

WOW, it is a such a great thing, great vacation on a budget!

I recently took my kids for a week-long camping trip. It was a transformational experience.

For under $200 we spent an exiting time camping and hiking in the mountains of New Hampshire. We went on challenging but beautiful hikes.

My kids become more loving and understanding.

BUT the BEST PART is when we came back home we cancelled our seaside vacation. It was out of our budget and I was worried about that.

What a relief!!!

I promised to my kids another week in the mountains at the end of the summer and they are exited as never before!

We are very exited too..

Especially the part of $200 or less :)

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Joan July 21, 2012 at 10:37 PM

Tania, that’s awesome!! I am so thrilled – about the whole thing. I think we all came back from our trip nicer to each other than when we left, too, which is awesome.

You rock!

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Anne October 6, 2013 at 10:26 PM

I love camping. I’m 57 and have arthritis and for a while I would be miserable with just my foam pad. We fixed that – We got a double air mattress, not the camping kind, but the kind you would put in your den for a guest. It makes all the difference.
For 3 summers now, my husband and I have packed our gear in his little car, sat in the driveway and flipped a coin about which direction we will head out of town for the next week. We mostly camp and occasionally stay in a motel or cabin. No planning allowed and this has become my favorite vacation ever!

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Dana Leavy-Detrick July 18, 2012 at 1:17 PM

You definitely need that time to step back, whether it’s to reflect and prioritize, to regroup, or simply break from work, life and other day to day weight. It’s hard to do that when you’re running a business, and often your time is connected to your revenue (in my case), but I’ve discovered in the past months just how valuable that “break” can be. Even if I don’t come home completely relaxed (tough, with 100 things waiting on your plate when you get back), I always come back with some fresh perspective around things I want to change, or new things I want to do or implement. That in itself is refreshing. Enjoy!

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Joan July 21, 2012 at 10:34 PM

Dana, it’s amazing, but I think I have done some of my best thinking this week – no emails to worry about, no pressing “have to be here at this time” whatever-it-is to contend with, the whole works. Now, just need to be sure to carve out time to put these ideas into action!

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Travis Scott July 18, 2012 at 1:50 PM

This is a great idea….you deserve to reward yourself and you will create some great memories with your family!

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Joan July 21, 2012 at 10:32 PM

Travis, we did – and we have SO MANY awesome, priceless memories. I appreciate the kind words and am thrilled to be back!

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David Neff July 18, 2012 at 5:31 PM

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
Enjoy your vacation!

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Joan July 21, 2012 at 10:32 PM

We sure did! ;-)

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Julie July 18, 2012 at 11:41 PM

I agree with you. We are working on our debt but there have been a few times we have needed to take a vacation while still paying it off. It is a hard decision to make but after the trips it is much easier to focus on the debt.

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Joan July 21, 2012 at 10:33 PM

Julie, I’m so glad I’m not the only one! I am guessing for some people it would be something other than travel, but for us, that’s “the thing” that gets us going! :)

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Izzy July 19, 2012 at 4:04 AM

I think when it comes to money, everyone has a unique relationship with it. I think a key of becoming successful with our own finances is learning that relationship.

Some people are able to go completely cold turkey, go crazy and kill all their debt while living on rice and beans. For some other folks that just doesn’t work.

I think you bring up a key point! You are paying for everything in cash, and this is money you are able to spend. Paying cash is critical because once it’s gone… It’s gone.

I have friends who claim they are killing their debt but then they continue to use their credit cards. This doesn’t make any sense to me. As far as I am concerned this is like trying to lose weight by dropping 2 pounds Monday thru Friday and gaining 1 pound on Saturday and Sunday. It just seems counter productive.

Your idea doesn’t seem counter productive at all. Instead, it seems very well planned. I also like that you are honest about the burnout that can come with going too crazy.

Good post :)

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Joan July 21, 2012 at 10:32 PM

Thanks, Izzy! I also have friends who are “paying down” debt while still using their cards, and while I’m definitely supportive that they’re in the paying-down mindset at all, I can definitely say that wouldn’t work for us personally!

I appreciate the kind words – and we enjoyed our vacation and are back and energized!

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Kurt Smith July 19, 2012 at 2:37 PM

I just signed up for this blog’s posts and am enjoying it. Probably a little late jumping on, but have you considered a game at Nationals Park? There are lots of ways to save money at the ballpark. Hard for some to believe, but you can do a ballgame really cheap at some places these days, and the Nationals are in first place and having their best season yet.

A bit off-topic I know, but if you’re interested in doing D.C. frugally, that’s one attraction you can enjoy without spending too much $$$.

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Joan July 21, 2012 at 10:31 PM

Kurt, that’s a great idea – and if the Phils had been playing the Nats, we’d have done it (we’re Philly die-hards). :) As it is, one thing we DO love to do is go to the Atlantic League games in our town – they’re like $5 if you DON’T have a coupon of some sort, and it’s not bad baseball!

We are just excited for the “down” year for the Phils – means tickets next summer might be in our price range! ;-)

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Kurt Smith July 22, 2012 at 9:15 AM

Abolutely, the minor league games are great…I went to see the Iron Pigs in Lehigh Valley last night…that ballpark is fantastic! I’m from South Jersey too, about 15 minutes from Citizens Bank Park. VERY affordable Phillies tickets on StubHub if you look on the day of the game…nowhere near as much enthusiasm for the Phils this year. Saw standing room for Friday night’s game for $3!

Love this blog…keep up the great work!

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Martin July 24, 2012 at 2:05 AM

To be honest, I have never been on debt, but when I’m in full-on savings mode I don’t splurge. I work and save like a mad man until I reach my goals. But after reading this post I realize that it makes sense to actually enjoy yourself to be reminded of why you do what you do.

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Joan August 15, 2012 at 9:41 PM

Thanks, Martin!! There are definitely different ideas in this realm that work for different people!

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Gillian July 25, 2012 at 8:01 AM

I had to chime in on this one :) When we were getting out of debt we did reward ourselves when we hit a goal but it was with a pizza night. For us we needed the intensity to keep going. We had 65K in debt and honestly if we had let up I think we could have lost our focus. …We paid off all our debt but still haven’t taken a vacation though. The time will come for that and it has been an wonderful lesson for our kids to see how we had to sacrifice to clean up the mess we made. Blessings~ Gillian

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Joan August 15, 2012 at 9:42 PM

Good for you for hitting it hard – that is AWESOME!

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G Smithwick September 17, 2012 at 4:46 PM

Taking vacations you can not afford and/or buying thiings you cannot afford is how you got in this mess. Once you are out of debt, if you can afford it, THEN you go on vacation. Vacation is not a right, it is something you do if you can afford it. Getting out of debt is correcting a mistake you made. Should you reward yourself for correcting a mistake?

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Joan September 17, 2012 at 4:58 PM

Boy, I wish that’s how I got into this mess! I hope you’ll check out some of the earlier posts – sadly, being hospitalized repeatedly (in my case) and going to college (in my husband’s case) are how we got here – but I appreciate the sentiment. You’re right – vacation is a choice, not a right, and I’m so glad we COULD afford it this time without incurring any debt whatsoever! (We actually still made our full extra payment against our credit card the month we did this, which we talk about in our next update post!)

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Vincent September 26, 2012 at 2:15 PM

Definitely with you on the “mix of free and paid attractions”. It’s amazing how many ways there are to have a fun family afternoon without paying a single penny! Usually whatever city I’m traveling to I look up the county’s main site and search for “events and attractions” that are going to be held that weekend. I live in South Florida and was able to go to an Art, Food & Wine Festival for free! I would have never known about it had I not checked the county website.
Hope you guys had fun in D.C.! It’s definitely one of the places on my “to-visit” list.

How was the Smithsonian?

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Joan September 28, 2012 at 7:45 PM

We had a BLAST!

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