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Welcome to This Awful/Awesome Life! My name is Frances Joyce. I am the publisher and editor of this magazine. We'll be exploring different topics each month to inform, entertain and inspire you. Meet new authors, sharpen your brain and pick up a few tips on life, love, entertaining and business. Enjoy and please share!

What to do When the Furnace Eats Your Vacation Fund by Fran Joyce

“It’s always something.” Many of us remember this catch phrase from the Gilda Radner character Roseanne Roseannadanna on SNL’s Weekend Update.

Through the years, I’ve learned Roseanne was right. The best laid plans for a fabulous vacation in Europe or on some tropical island can be obliterated by a costly repair to your car or house. A sudden family illness can deplete your savings and quickly eat up sick days and vacation days. 

Maybe it’s just been one of those years and dozens of small expenses have made it impossible to save for your dream vacation. Perhaps you lost your job or changed jobs and have no vacation time accrued? 

What do you do after you decide to sacrifice your vacation fund instead of racking up credit card debt?

First, congratulate yourself for making a sensible decision, and then plan a staycation.

In Europe, a staycation is considered any vacation not taken abroad. In the United States, a staycation is a vacation where you plan local outings, but sleep in your own bed at night. A staycation can also mean staying home and bringing the vacation to you.

With the right  planning staycations can be fun!

With the right  planning staycations can be fun!

With some creativity and a little planning, you can still have an enjoyable break from your routine.

Establish how much time and money you have for your staycation. If you have no vacation days, you can plan a few fun activities for your days off whether they fall on a weekend or not. One of my friends is off Tuesdays and Sundays which makes planning short getaways hard. Holiday weekends are great, but during the year, he often works Tuesdays to make up losing Monday. His Tuesday off is attractive to people wanting to extend their holiday weekend. When he needs a break but doesn’t want to use a sick day or vacation day, he arranges to switch days with co-workers and takes Sunday, Monday, Tuesday off or Saturday, Sunday, Monday.

Make a Plan

Once all the planning and switching is covered, you need to set a budget. Are you limited by time, financial constraints, or both? Decide where can you go and how much you can afford to spend.

I recommend traveling two hours or less by air or ground transportation to your destination for a weekend getaway. After you have shopped around for the best value for your airfare and hotel/BNB, plan out your itinerary. Order tickets to a sporting event, concert, play or musical ahead of time, to save time and money. Make dinner reservations, so you don’t get turned away at the door or waste time waiting for a table. Budget for taxi/Uber fees and any gratuities and have at least $100 cash reserved for the unexpected.

Match Your Activities to Your Budget

What can you do when the budget is practically non-existent? Rediscover your city or the largest city near you. Scour the internet for free activities or activities with nominal fees. Allot money to cover parking or the expense of public transportation. Pack a few healthy snacks and look for inexpensive places to eat. Sleep in your own bed, but put on your best sheets.

Camping, hiking, biking and nature walks can be fun and inexpensive. Each offers the opportunity for a change of scenery and a new adventure. There are companies that specialize in providing fun outdoor recreation at affordable prices (see our article on Steel City Outdoor Adventures LLC).

If you have no extra money for a vacation, don’t fret, this is where you get creative. Make a few playlists of your favorite songs, crank up the volume and dance Baby out of the corner.

Visit your public library and pick out a couple of beach novels; borrow a few DVD’s for your nightly entertainment or binge watch an old favorite on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime. Most people have one of these services. Netflix also has some foreign programs you can watch with English subtitles, so you can take in the sights and sounds of a foreign city. I’m a fan of the Finnish drama Bordertown about a homicide detective who moves his family to a small town to escape the fast pace of Helsinki only to discover equally disturbing crimes in his new city.

Embrace Your Choices

Take a daily walk or a bike ride. Hit the local hiking trail.

Who wants to cook during vacation? The week before vacation make extra food and freeze leftovers for vacation meals. The night before vacation, cut up fruits and vegetables for snacks and put them in mason jars or plastic bags for the week. Layer vegetables in mason jars and top with lettuce, kale and spinach for grab and go salads during the day or a quick salad with dinner. If you decide to cook, grill fresh fruits and vegetables in addition to fish and meats. It’s delicious and clean-up is a breeze.

Eat dinner by candlelight and use the good china. All foods taste better when they are presented well - even Oreos taste better served on a fancy dessert plate. Uncork that bottle of wine you’ve been saving and enjoy. Sit on your deck or your front porch and watch the sunset.

Work in your yard and create a beautiful garden or declutter a room in your house. Work a jigsaw puzzle, master Sudoku or play your favorite video game. Read a classic or a trashy romance novel.

Plan a day of home pampering. Soak in the tub, give yourself a facial and paint your nails. Lie in the sun and savor the sensation of doing absolutely nothing or meditate. It’s your party.

If doing nothing seems redundant, consider spending your vacation volunteering. You can read to the elderly, build houses for Habitat for Humanity or volunteer at an animal shelter or soup kitchen. If you want to be of service to your community, be sure to explore these options in advance. Find out what’s needed in your community and how to become a volunteer.

In honor of the new furnace I gifted myself at Christmas and the new brakes I treated myself to at inspection time, my Oreos will be on the fancy dessert plate this year, and I might just become fluent in Finnish. From my staycation to yours – ENJOY!

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