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Stuck on the Treadmill of Life? – Plan a Holiday

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Dave Griffith
Dave Griffith

Ever wondered what happened to your life? We were young once with the world at our feet. We could go where we liked, when we liked and do what we liked. Life was full of promise and adventure.

Some of us studied and some of us worked. Either way the unifying ingredients were partying, travel and partying. To fund this exciting lifestyle we needed a job – any job. They were easy enough to get. It wasn’t about career and length of service anymore. The job was necessary to fund the lifestyle. If we got too bored or we didn’t like the boss we just went out and got another one. We didn’t realize it at the time but the job thing was the first step in pressing the fast forward button on life.
Because we had a job we could get credit. Credit cards were the answer to those cash flow hiccups between paydays that curtailed all the fun stuff we wanted to do. So after a few short years we were well traveled, well hung over and up to our necks in debt and useless gadgets. But we had made some great friends along the way and had enough tall stories to get us through the boring years.
All that lifestyle made us dependent on work to pay the debts. Work by its nature takes all the best bits of the week and leaves us a few scraps of time around the edges to do our own thing.
Some of us ended up falling in love and setting up a home together. We discovered that our indebtedness far from being a turnoff for the banks was in fact seriously attractive to them. So there we were; Student loans, personal loans, hire purchases, credit cards maxed and the ‘big daddy’ of them all – a mortgage.
More often than not when we needed to remain debt reduction DINKY’S (double income, no kids yet) babies started appearing. This slashed our income and our sleep leaving us unable to afford our previous lifestyle even if we had the energy to pursue it.  
The need to focus on the little ones meant we developed a previously unknown sense of sacrifice and responsibility. This often involved sticking with jobs we hated to provide the essentials we needed for the kids. There was still time along the way to have the odd package holiday, upgrading our address to get into a better school zone and cruising around in a half decent car. The banks were always ready and willing to oblige with more credit.
All this activity kept us on the treadmill of debt. Routine born of necessity seems to make one week roll into the next. Before we know it we are going to friends’ 40th birthday parties and wheeling out all the stories from our teens and twenties.
Now as slaves to the bank we can see all too clearly what the future holds. All our best years spent working for the bank, leaving us with a few frugal years of freedom at the arse end of life.
If you can identify with any parts of this somewhat bleak scenario and you are feeling like the treadmill is only getting faster, then you need a holiday.
Here are seven tips to help you get the most out of your holiday without upping the debt.
1. Stay in NZ - The up front price on overseas package holidays might seem cheap compared to local touring but if we look at all the hidden extras then if our credit card wasn’t maxed when we left it will be by the time we get home. Exchange rates, taxes, constant eating out all take their toll, especially when kids are going too.    
2. Try Scenery Not City – Cities are set up to suck money out of us. Shops, cafes, movies, shows etc. The whole lot is a big dose of heavily marketed temptation. If we succumb it is all going to be great at the time but we will be paying for it long after memories have faded. Looking at beautiful scenery is a whole lot cheaper and less stressful than a city. Most of us commute to cities for work. Surely a holiday should be a different experience to that.
3. Plan in Advance – Half the fun of a holiday is deciding where to go and what to do. Planning and dreaming don’t cost anything so why not make the thrill and anticipation last longer. For those of us stuck in an endless routine, the knowledge of a holiday on the horizon gives us the hope of something good to look forward to. Airline seats and ferry bookings are a lot cheaper if we can get in early. Ferries have interest free time payment as well. Paying for things now and enjoying them later is a foreign concept in our society where we are used to having it all now and paying for it later. Knowing we don’t have to fear the post holiday credit card bill is a big stress reducer in itself.
4. Go Low Tech – Yes it can be done. My tribe has just come back from a week in the Nelson area and survived. By survival I mean doing without mobile coverage and internet access where we were staying. They also adjusted without too much trouble to the ‘remote control poverty’ of freeview TV instead of the usual deluge of Sky channels. Even coping with only one TV in the house was managed with ease. Ipods and PSP’s were useful though for reducing in-car friction on longer trips.   
5. Avoid Hotels and Motels. These are expensive especially if children are going as well. Why pay a premium to be crammed into small units in close proximity to other random guests? With the internet and helpful websites like we can find a house to rent that gives everyone space to chill, fits within our budget and is usually cheaper than hotels and motels. Interior/exterior photos mean we know exactly what we are getting, and the easy online booking system means we can get it when it best suits our plans. The house we just rented was set in a private bush clad section with water views and a couple of kayaks to use from our own jetty. It had three bedrooms and a large living area. All this for $30 less a night than a cramped motel unit would have cost us and noisey neighbours were exchanged for native birds and silence. 
6. Get Your Own Food – Restaurants, cafes and takeways are easy but expensive. If we get most of our food from supermarkets and have simple meals and picnics with a few treats thrown in it is going to be a lot cheaper than eating out all he time. There will still be plenty of room in the budget for the odd meal out and some fish and chips on the beach.
7. Get the kids To Help Plan It – shared ownership of the holiday is great way of reducing grumbling and complaining. Get them to look at what there is to see and do in the area you are going to and choose a couple of things they really want to do or see the most then build it into the itinerary and budget. Two of my children choose a horse trek near Farewell Spit and the other two went on a Skywire ride. Apart from a Family trip down the Takaka Hill Caves most of the other stuff we did was free apart from the petrol. A family is going to remember those special activities for a lifetime, but easily forget a trip to a crowded shopping mall.    

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