Here we are. Newly married and on a dream honeymoon of two weeks in Paris with a quick jaunt to Rome for a night. We are walking up and down the Seine and eating a lot of chocolate croissants. We are happy, euphoric and yet… something nags at me as I fall asleep at night.
Something isn’t quite right. I’m not as carefree as I should be. I’m not enjoying this vacation as much as I could. The coffee isn’t as soothing, the sleep isn’t as restful and the great meals often leave me with a heavy feeling in my stomach.
The not quite right feeling: the whole vacation is on credit.
Yes, we were those people. We saved some cash for our wedding, we had a bit of help from family, but most of it including our honeymoon was on a credit card.
Despite getting a lot of Aeroplan points it didn’t feel good. It was stressful. It knocked some fun out of the honeymoon and when we got home I was not awash with honeymoon love but awash with credit card dread.
It was a hard but good lesson to get.
While we didn’t pull ourselves out of consumer debt we did start saving for vacations. We opened a travel savings account and had a designated change jar.
In the next two years we saved all of our change and any random income for a future vacation. Canadian change adds up fast with $1 and $2 coins so we made progress quickly.
When we had a healthy amount in our account we used all those Aeroplan points to book air travel for a trip to Italy, Spain and Morocco. As we accumulated more savings I booked more pieces of the trip and took our change into the bank and exchanged it for Euros. It felt good.
Flights to Rome and Morrocco, ferry travel from Tanjiers to Spain, our spending money, rental cars we picked up in Rome and Marbella, entrance into the Alhambra and Segway tours in Florence, all paid for in cash.
While I will always cherish our honeymoon, the trip we saved our change for for two and a half years is my favourite travel memory so far. There were no dark thoughts on that trip, except maybe when I was throwing up on the rocky ferry taking us from Northern Africa to Southern Spain (pregnant + easily sea sick), and we didn’t return home to buzz killing credit card bills from our adventure (though we did still have consumer debt).
Paying with cash is powerful. We’re going on a beach vacation next month, a want not a need, and while it was a huge chunk of our annual travel budget, we were able to pay cash. We booked it five months ago and had enough in our travel account to pay the deposit. Last month we made the remaining payment. With cash.
While we haven’t given up credit cards completely we have given up buying anything we don’t have cash on hand to cover at that very moment. We don’t carry credit card balances and we don’t buy something unless we can pay for it that month.
It might sound boring or restrictive to some people but it has been the most freeing financial rule we’ve made. It gives us all the power in our spending and our financial life. It takes away any discussions or disagreements on if we can afford something. Either we can or we can’t. There is no maybe only yes or no.
Anyone else living cash only? Anyone trying to make the transition?