I arrived back in the arctic Minnesota tundra last night from a 7 day vacation out west. What a beautiful and relaxing time it was. It was just my girlfriend and me that made the trip. Everything worked out perfectly with the exception of my camera breaking and a few clouds on the last day. How great is it when you can escape the below zero January Minnesota weather and head to the sunny, 60-70 degree whether in California? Pretty great indeed.

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This was my first vacation while being debt free. It’s only been two and a half years since my last vacation when I was stressed about money, but it’s been what feels like decades financially since then. We managed to plan this so frugally (with the help of my girlfriend’s great family and my frequent flier miles) that it cost us basically nothing, which is how a vacation should be. It shouldn’t set us back financially. We work too hard for that and deserve an escape once in a while.

How Do We Know If We Should Take the Vacation?

The question of whether we should be taking the vacation is an interesting one. It obviously depends on our financial situation. If you’re financially independent and the vacation fits within your preplanned lifestyle, then sure, it won’t hurt you at all to take it. On the other hand, if you’re in debt, you may want to think again. In fact, being in my position of far from in debt, but still far from financial independence, I go both ways on it.

The thing is, for every $1,000 we spend in a year’s time on vacations, $25,000 is required in investments (using the 4% withdrawal rate) to earn that income in financial independence. And $1,000 is a cheap vacation for most people (although mine was closer to $300). Let’s say we were able to keep our vacations to $1,000 each and only one per year. We would then need to save $25,000 more (on top of our normal retirement nest-egg) to pay for those vacations each year. How long does it take you to save $25,000? If you’re saving 50% of your income, maybe not much longer than a year. If you’re saving less, it will take you longer. The big question is, are those vacations worth another year (or more) of working?

I know how much most of us deserve vacations. It’s just that we’re giving up our future time to take them. It’s something to think about. I sure have.

Since I kept the expense down to around $300, I feel okay about taking the vacation. In fact, I got a lot of much needed relaxation, reading and reflection in while out there.

Me Vs. Everyone I Know – What Is With Me?

At the start of the trip, my girlfriend became quite frustrated with me. It seems I couldn’t escape my save for retirement mode long enough to buy a $3 Snapple Iced Tea. Thinking back on that, I wonder, how the heck am I so different from her or from everyone I know for that matter. It seems I’ve gone off the deep end.

Here I am not buying a Snapple Iced Tea because it’s overpriced by $2. Seriously? And I’m only taking a vacation because it’s $300 instead of $1,000, even though I haven’t traveled on a relaxing vacation for almost 3 years. That’s a little odd and even I’ll admit that.

My Friend’s Unemployed and Stressed About Money. This Is Why I Do It.

My good friend picked me up from the airport last night. He recently was laid off from his job. He’s hurting financially. I listened to his struggles with finding employment for a while. It clicked with me once more why I’m doing this. Because I don’t want to go through that.

I don’t want to struggle finding work, just to pay the bills. I don’t want to feel at the mercy of everyone else for my livelihood. I don’t want to feel like crap because of my struggles either. I’m not going to be in his situation. Not because I’m any more special than him, but because I’m proactively taking my life by the horns and ensuring financial independence.

I’m often made to feel like I’m crazy for not wanting to spend money. Yes, I may in fact be a little coo-coo. But if coo-coo is what it takes to never have to worry about money again, to never have to be made to feel like I’m untalented or unwanted and to never have to be in a position like my friend is in right now, then it’s worth it.

The worst part about my friend’s situation is that he isn’t realizing there is a better way. He isn’t reading this blog post or the blog posts of all the other inspiring folks in the personal finance/early retirement online community. He isn’t asking me about my progress. He doesn’t have a clue that I’m well on my way to a worry-free financial future, not because I keep it from him, but because he just isn’t interested. He’s far from being on his way to a stress-free, peaceful and financially free future. I’m going to keep seeing what I can do in getting him over to this side of the fence.

On this side of the fence, we watch our spending. We also learn to be content with what we have. We pocket and invest our earnings for the future. Over there is where they spend all they make, get laid off, and get in tight spots financially. Over there is where they feel like crap all the time. It’s not where I’m going to be. Those $3 Snapples are things they buy over there, not over here.

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