Husband vs. Wife: Vacation Battles


Lori and Marek Fuchs have never fought in their 16 years of marriage—except over money. In this column, Mr. and Mrs. Fuchs, a real-life married couple with three kids (ages 12, 7 and 5), articulate their very different approaches to personal finance.

Mr. Fuchs says: Its fun in the sun time, Honey. We’re going on vacation and that means giving in to the temptations to let loose, right? Loosen up on everything from bedtime for the kids to diets to budgeting! Temptation is in the air! Break out the bubbly! High end bubbly too!

Mrs. Fuchs says: Wow! That sounds like fun. I’m on board. But wait – have you figured out how we are going to pay for all this frivolity? The bills will come when we get back you know.

Mr. Fuchs says:
Worry about bills? We don’t need to worry about no stinkin’ bills.

Mrs. Fuchs says: Been there, done that.

Mr. Fuchs says: Don’t remind me. Actually, I was just trying to get your attention, Honey, forgive me. I got carried away. Look: I know what you are saying. Many families scrimp and balance all year long, only to see the fruits of their labor get swallowed up by an oversized beach rental and frequent lobster dinners. It’s happened to the best of us, right?

Mrs. Fuchs says: I know and it gets all mixed up with that feeling that we’ve worked hard all year and therefore “deserve” our indulgences.

Mr. Fuchs says: Is this column really that hard?

Mrs. Fuchs: Don’t get us in trouble. Instead, listen to Tony Taddeo, the director of financial planning at Financial Planning Associates in Tarrytown, N.Y, who says that indulging yourself on vacation is very “psychological,” a basic human instinct. But it’s an instinct you need to take care to guard against, or it’ll throw your whole yearly budget off. “Broken down in its most simplistic terms: whether you are a multimillionaire or someone starting out in life, give it thought,” he said, adding that many don’t or, worse, underestimate the price of a vacation, so they won’t feel guilty about going, then tell themselves while they are there that they will pay it off when they get home.

Mr. Fuchs: But vacations do tend to be expensive.

Mrs. Fuchs: But while you might get hit by big rental, gas or airline ticket charges, you don’t have to be swamped by the little ones. Taddeo, for example, is looking to go away with his wife and daughter to Rhode Island or the Jersey Shore, and is on the hunt for an economy unit, with a kitchen. Not only will they cook food themselves, but they’ll shop at home and bring it along. “On vacation,” said Taddeo, “it’s often the micro decisions that put you over budget.”

Mr. Fuchs: Don’t we know it. I think we’ve spent a semester’s worth of college tuition on snow globes alone. But we can do better—more like Patrick McNally, an Austin, Texas schoolteacher who recently traveled to see his parents in New Jersey. McNally feared he might get stopped by airport security over the juice boxes in his carry-on. But he would rather sell his soul than buy drinks for himself and daughter Kira at inflated airport prices—or anywhere else along his journey. McNally also keeps a “cooler the rental car,” stocked with Kira’s favorites. Those roadside meals are a killer. We’re feeding five and end up paying a premium (multiplied by five) for junk. That’s why we veer for hotels like Holiday Inn Express which tend to throw in free breakfast. It saves dropping 50 bucks for some crummy eggs somewhere, before the day of spending even begins. McNally even talks about the importance of “mooching” off of family and friends, when you can. He stays at his parents and swims at his sister’s club. I could warm to that!

“It’s a state of mind,” said McNally. “Everything in terms of discipline is sort of suspended when you are on vacation, but you can’t let totally loose, at least with the purse strings.”

Mrs. Fuchs: You know, honestly, I think it’s like everything else. You have to strike a balance. In this case, between the feeling that you are able to relax and have fun and the mindset that while you may “deserve” indulgences, your budget still applies and your indulgences need to be shaped by realistic financial limits.

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