Dealing with financial matters is stressful. There’s a lot to do, know, plan, and track—and there are endless decisions to be made without the benefit of sufficient knowledge and expertise. Looking for a temporary break? Take a vacation from your money. You know: Shut it down, get away, let it go… at least for a while. Your reaction might be, “Great! I’m ready, but seriously…how can I take a vacation from my money? It sounds preposterous!”
But yes, there’s a pathway to this very wonderful state of separation and it’s not an irresponsible thing to do. But like all vacations, an appropriate amount of preparation is vital in order to really take away the stress and make the most out of your time away. After all, you wouldn’t show up at the airport and hop on a plane without taking all the steps necessary in advance.
Why do we take vacations? Reasons vary, but some common ones are: To change the scenery, rest, recharge our batteries, experience a change from our routine, allow our bodies and minds to relax and, as Stephen Covey says, to sharpen the saw. Take this list and transfer it to reasons behind taking a money vacation.
By taking time away from our money, we can take some of the ever-present pressure off and, as a result, have a more objective view of our money life. This bird’s-eye view gives us a better idea of what works and what might need fixing.
Let’s first address the steps necessary to take this 30-days money vacation. After you’ve taken care of these steps, you’re free as a bird (well, almost).
- Automate everything, from your utilities to your mortgage payment. Online banking and most companies provide the mechanism for autopay—and it’s easy.
- Set up direct deposit for your income. If you’re self-employed, set up the system with your bank to have customers send checks electronically or use credit cards to remit payments.
- Create a list of expenses that are outliers and cannot be automated. You’ll need this for peace of mind while you’re “away” by prepaying or making payment arrangements in advance.
- Reconcile your bank account to ensure that you know the exact amount in the bank. Then add the income you expect and subtract the autopay amounts due while you’re on vacation. This number will show you what your balance will be in the account when you “get back.” Again, for peace of mind.
- Create a special email account for all your bills. Direct these bills towards somewhere dedicated specifically to bill payment. This will concentrate your attention and reduce the possibility of missing something important.
- Convert paper billing to paperless. Let’s stop the flow of wasteful paper and make it an e-bill.
Now it’s time to assess your plan. You’ve assured your flow of income into you bank, you’ve settled your payments out. You’ve accounted for the outlier bills that cannot, for whatever reason, be automated and you’ve reconciled your bank balance to provide peace of mind. In addition, you’ve segregated all your bills to one email account so as not to lose or miss anything important and you’ve helped the planet by going paperless. Now, look for any last minute details—you know, like that insurance policy that only comes in once a year or the bill from the landscaper or repairman.
Time for Vacation!
Let your 30-day money vacation begin. Your role for the next 30 days is to forget everything about your money life. Let the system you’ve carefully designed work for you. Any errant bills or notices are to be stashed away for the next 30-days. Of course, we all want some kind of “insurance policy” against unexpected problems, so any IRS notices or registered letters need to be addressed, even while on vacation. The time you’ve previously devoted to dealing with money issues can now be focused on your relationships, leisure, fun or anything else that is not money-centric. You are to avoid making money decisions at almost all costs.
The Important Takeaways
After your vacation, take some time to assess so you can put yourself on a better money path moving forward. What did you get out of this experience? What did you learn? What needs to be addressed, altered or fixed? Consider how your attitude, attention, and point of view has been shifted by taking this time away from the day-to-day. Maybe you’ve found that you need some help or guidance of a professional who can assist you in wading through areas in which you lack expertise. Schedule your money vacation at least twice a year to help keep your “saw” sharp and attuned to what you really value.