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Taking a trip you can’t afford? Join the club

You may have earned a vacation this summer for all your hard work, but have you earned enough money to take one?

Family vacation, motorhome trip
Iuliia Sokolovska, ThinkStock

In a national survey from financial planning company LearnVest, 74 percent of respondents said they’ve gone into debt to pay for a vacation. On average, that debt topped $1,100.

While two-thirds of Americans said a week-long vacation would cost more than their monthly housing expenses, more than half have forgotten or failed to include a vacation as part of their annual budget.

Paul Oster, president of credit repair company Better Qualified in Eatontown, said folks who’ve spent beyond their means for a trip — or plan to do so this summer — should set up an “aggressive post-vacation payment plan” to avoid getting buried with fees and interest down the road.

“You should have a plan in place to pay off any of the expenses that you’ve incurred within a six-month period of time for sure,” Oster said. “One thousand dollars on a credit card can quickly become $1,200, $1,500, $1,700 and even $2,000.”

Oster said a repayment plan could mean cutting back on other, smaller expenses, such as the daily coffee run on the way to work, or buying lunch.

In the LearnVest survey, 50 percent of respondents said they attempt to save money before a trip by skipping restaurant outings.

Ideally, you’ve saved enough money to take a well-earned trip to the shore or beyond New Jersey’s borders, Oster said. Similar to a Christmas Club savings account, he said, figure out how much money would be needed to get away, and set aside a certain amount per month. And that grand total doesn’t only include the hotel and transportation; meals, drinks and entertainment should be part of the math.

“If you put the pen to the paper and the numbers don’t work out, then don’t go,” Oster said. “Going on vacation when you really can’t afford it … The whole time you’re there, you’re going to be thinking about that anyway.”

If you’ll be conducting your discretionary spending on a debit card, or digging yourself deeper with a credit card, Oster advises you to use one card and one card only. It’ll be easier to track incidental spending and limits the likelihood of identity theft.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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