Summer certainly doesn’t feel the same as it has in the past, and your vacation budget might be sitting in an account unused. Usually, summer is a time for family vacations planned months in advance. It’s a time to look forward to. Instead, this year we’re all dealing differently. Many places are in different phases of opening up, and airplane travel and vacations are largely not happening right now.

So, what if you had saved up several thousand dollars for a vacation, but now it’s on pause? Here are seven other things you can do with your vacation budget.

1. Enjoy an intentional themed staycation 

It seems like we’ve been forced into a kind of staycation, but one thing you can do is have an international themed one. So, instead of using your vacation budget on airplanes, hotels, and attractions, you can use that money to enjoy your neighborhood and support local businesses that have international flair.

For example, have a date night and get takeout from the local Italian restaurant. Think of things you were planning on doing on your vacation and do your best to replicate it at home.

Were you looking forward to seeing lots of art? Why not try PaintingtoGogh.com? Were you thinking of doing wine tasting? Why not buy several bottles and get some nice cheese and have your own tasting? 

The key is to use your money to do activities or buy food and drink that you were looking forward to on vacation. It might not be the same, but it can be a compromise to still take some time off and make quarantine more fun. 

2. Pay off debt 

If you have several thousand dollars saved up, but no plans to travel any time soon, you might want to reroute your money. One good option is to pay off debt. Debt costs you even more money because of the interest, and the monthly payments can take a bite out of your budget. 

Look at how much you have saved and do some calculations. How much further will you be if you use all of it toward debt? Do you know how much will you save in interest? How much time will you shave off of the repayment period? 

After answering these questions, you may want to decide to put all of your vacation funds toward debt or maybe a smaller portion.

For example, maybe you had enough money to travel to Italy as a family. But, instead of putting all of that money towards debt, you can put a portion toward debt and then plan to go on a smaller domestic trip in the future with the remaining funds. Get clear on your financial goals right now while many of our travel goals are on hold. 

3. Open a 529 account for your kids 

If you have kids, a smart move could also be to open a 529 account for each of your kids. A 529 account is an education savings account.

There may be some tax benefits as well. Given the cost of college currently, this could be a great tool to help lower the financial burden for your children. Each state has its own specific 529 plans, so look into what options are available. 

4. Make 5 friend’s day 

If you’re in a good financial position — meaning employed, with a stable job, and no debt — you could do something unique to help others. During this pandemic, many people are hurting.

Unemployment is sky-high, and many people haven’t received their benefits. You could divide up your vacation budget by five and give five close people in your life some financial assistance.

You could drop a quick Venmo payment just because. Buy a Trader Joe’s gift card. Buy Instacart groceries or Postmates delivery.

In other words, there are ways you can make an impact on people close to your life with your money. I kid you not, at the beginning of the pandemic, a friend of mine sent me money just because they knew freelancing was hard. It was so out of left field and generous, it’s something I won’t ever forget, and it certainly helped me during the early days of these hard times. 

5. Donate

If you want to support a specific cause, you can use your vacation funds to donate to organizations doing work that aligns with your values. Right now there are numerous causes that could use your support. 

You can look at food banks, organizations working against homelessness, or supporting domestic violence victims.

Whatever cause you are passionate about, you can use your funds to make an impact. Check out Charity Navigator to help make an informed decision. Be sure to keep your receipts to see if it’s possible to get a tax deduction. 

6. Invest 

Your vacation funds might just be sitting in a savings account, not earning very much. But, if you’re not going on vacation any time soon and want to make your money work for you, consider investing the money. 

You can see about adding contributions to your 401(k) or Roth or Traditional IRA. Investing may lead to a higher return. Of course, things are volatile right now, but sticking to a long-term plan can help you build wealth and get the most out of your money.

7. Buy something you’ve always wanted 

Have you always wanted a big screen TV for movie night? Or, what about nice patio accessories? Whatever it is that you’ve always wanted, maybe now is the time to get it.

We all have certain things we want and think, “If only I had the money.” Now that you have extra vacation funds that you might not be using, you can use it to fund something you’ve always wanted that will bring you joy. 

Final word 

Not being able to go on a proper vacation the way you want can be disappointing. This is especially true when everything feels uncertain, and we can’t effectively plan or reschedule things. But, instead of sitting on your vacation funds, you can try to make the best of it and use your money for any of these seven options.  

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