We all prioritise what we spend our money on to have the life we want. You won’t be surprised to read that I have always prioritised holidays over pretty much all discretionary spending. Despite living on an average or low income for 40-years we have always travelled. Firstly, some background … when I first started work and living alone I had little money to spare so marriage to Mr BOTRA was a big plus financially [and in many other ways]. Even with below average salaries we were much better off living as a couple. We had our son in the Thatcher years and so received only a few weeks maternity pay, had to fight for one week of paternity leave, received no Family Tax Credits and the only state help we received was Family Allowance that was frozen in the late 1980s. And yet we managed to afford holidays, how did we do this?
Through all those years we prioritised holidays over living in expensive houses, buying new furniture and cars and posh frocks. This was our choice and whereas we would probably be better off now if we had made different decisions no one can ever take all those holiday memories away from us. We had a ‘big’ holiday every year and these were often adventurous holidays abroad. After paying the mortgage and the utilities, holidays were our next priority and we saved a set amount every month that was earmarked specifically for holidays. This amount was put in to a dedicated savings account and such was our determination to explore foreign places that we never dipped in to this money for other financial emergencies.
Our holidays were never expensive and luxurious trips, it was always the travelling that we were interested in. We enjoyed camping and before our baby was born we bought a high quality tent and acclimatised him to camping from being a toddler. We chose wisely, buying a Saunders Spacepacker lightweight back-packing tent, widely recognised as the best available in the 1980s and beyond. We could carry this and our ‘gear’ for our trip in two big rucksacks. When our son outgrew our shared Spacepacker we bought him his own.
Travelling and seeing new places was what mattered to us, taking walks costs nothing and our holidays were about hiking in the mountains and enjoying fresh air and new experiences. The budget rarely ran to eating out; the exception was our trip to what was then Czechoslovakia and is now the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1992. Back then eating out was so cheap in those countries we could indulge. We slipped up when we visited the Black Forest in Germany the following year, assuming the same budget as we had spent in Czechoslovakia and finding out that Germany was much more expensive than eastern Europe! With no credit card to prop us up we had to stay within budget and it was a tight fortnight. We discovered Germany’s budget supermarkets, spent the days walking, playing in the parks and visiting free museums and pitched up on a scruffy, anarchic and most importantly cheap campsite; it was an interesting trip.
It was 1991 when we first went abroad to Italy [see the photograph above] and this trip set the pattern. We took the train to Verona, which had been on my list for many years and I thought I had arrived in heaven. Camping Castel San Pietro above the town turned out to be the perfect place for two young parents and their five-year old child. Set inside ancient walls this was a relaxed, welcoming and slightly quirky campsite. From here we made our way on public transport to the Dolomites and spent our days walking in the dramatic and unbeatable mountain scenery.
As well as these train and backpacking holidays we would visit Scotland every Easter, sharing the cost of a large self-catering house with friends made it affordable and we would have numerous weekends away with the tent in the UK. These were the days before Facebook but if we had been able to post about our holiday activity you would have thought we had loads of money!
These adventures and trips to all corners of Europe would not have been possible without that discipline of regular saving over twelve months. We didn’t consider ourselves natural savers and we certainly didn’t save for anything else at this time, there was very little spare. Our desire to travel gave us the motivation and we continued this monthly saving plan even as we became more financially comfortable.
Think Save Retire recently blogged about earmarking your money a well-timed post as I was drafting this. Completing Steve’s statement clarified for me that holidays have always been our priority and made me realise how we continue to make sure that our money supports that priority.