Every January you get a new calendar or day planner. Many psychologists say the first thing you should do is block off your vacation days. We all need the break for our emotional health. And often a vacation allows time to reconnect with friends or family.

But what about the money?
Vacations do not cost what they cost. They cost what you decide to spend. With a little planning you can create a trip that works within your budget. We suggest using a free website such as, www.budgetyourtrip.com to explore how much different vacations cost, based on what other travelers say they spent. You can input your trip and track your expenses. The site will compare your expenditures to what others spent so you can see when you’re going overboard.

You may choose to save up for your vacation. Or you may use a credit card or home equity line of credit (usually a lower interest rate). By deciding early what you’ll spend, you can determine how much you’ll have to set aside each month to reach your savings goal or to pay off your loan in a timely manner. You don’t want last year’s vacation to become this year’s mounting debt.

Financial guru Suze Orman agrees that vacations are necessities, not luxuries. But, she reminds us, not luxury vacations. She cautions against the I-work-hard-so-I-deserve-it thinking that gets people into trouble.

But rather than deprive yourself because you can’t afford a vacation, find a vacation you can afford. From national parks to off-season cruises, the internet is full of websites with suggestions and options to save on travel. You just have to look. And if you don’t like hunting, maybe there’s a teenager in your family or community you trust who would love to earn a few extra dollars surfing for you.

North Carolina vacation places