Everyone has pipe dreams, and mine are usually travel-based.
Right now, I’m sitting in a coffee shop on a rainy Friday morning, but I’m daydreaming of sunsets on California beaches, plane rides to exciting new destinations and all the places on my bucket list I’m yet to see.
You know those places you always dreamed you’d get around to seeing someday, but that day never quite seemed to be within reach?
Our Travel Pipe Dreams
Right now, my travel bucket list starts with New Zealand. Then Tokyo. And maybe a round-the-world trip between school and university.
Shorter term, Flea and I have a dream of spending Christmas somewhere really snowy, and doing all that festive “snow” stuff.
Living on the Lancashire coast means we almost never see snow. It blows through the air sometimes, getting your hopes up, but it never sticks.
So we’re plotting to make 2018 the year we take our bucket list Christmas trip to Colorado. I’ve wanted to go for years, while Flea’s wanted to go since she saw that’s where the Kardashians go every year.
Both of us want to go somewhere that we can take ski lessons. Tour the mountains on snowmobiles. Go on sleigh rides. Ride through the mountains on a sledge, pulled by huskies.
Who doesn’t want to cuddle some Huskie puppies?
Also – snow tubing. I have a deep conviction that I would be awesome at this, what with my natural grace and sense of direction.
At Beaver Creek*, you can ride inflatable tubes down the snowy slopes, then head into the resort for hot chocolate and cookies. (* best town name EVER)
Just thinking about it makes me happy inside.
Then I think about how much it costs to go to Colorado in the middle of the winter season. Ouch.
Christmas like a Kardashian
So it turns out that if you want to Christmas like a Kardashian, then you need to get serious about your financial planning. That hasn’t always been my strong suit.
Back in my 20s, I had a financial advisor who urged me to think about pensions and insurance. I ignored him because I was 23 and wanted a bracelet from Tiffany’s and furniture from Heals. He said the same when I was in my 30s, but I ignored him because I was newly divorced and completely broke.
As I approached 40, I finally started to think about this stuff. How will I pay for Flea’s university fees? Will I want to buy her a car? Will I help her with a deposit for her first flat?
Travel gets more expensive as your children get older. At 12, Flea needs an adult ticket for most flights now, and a lot of excursions and activities only offer kids’ pricing for those under 12.
Plus she’s 12. So naturally she needs the RIGHT ski clothes, and an iPad to entertain her on the plane, and a phone so she can constantly WhatsApp with her friends.
What can you do?
For us, it’s all about the budgeting.
Travel is something that’s really important to me. I would always rather spend my spare cash travelling somewhere than having nights out, or doing home improvements.
So when I did finally sit down with my financial advisor at 40, travel was at the heart of my planning. I have a 5, 10 and 20 year financial plan. At each stage, I’ve identified that a chunk of my budget will be spent making some of those travel pipe dreams a reality.
I have a rough annual target “travel spend” and that’s built in, with a monthly sum of money set aside, along with an annual lump sum during my busiest time of year work-wise. This also helps because for big trips, I can pay for things in stages over several months.
I might pay deposits for flights in January, book some accommodation in February, an activity in March, and so on. It’s also really motivating to know you’ve got those things “banked” to look forward to when you’re desperately craving a holiday.
It’s not a magic wand, of course.
There are still months when I accidentally splurge on some weird candlesticks from a Twilight movie. And who knows what the economy will do over the coming years? I’m self-employed so there are no guarantees when it comes to my income.
But if travel is my priority, then I need to budget.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the ten years since I got divorced, it’s that money only controls us if we let it.
For more years than I care to think about, I avoided opening letters from the bank. I paid bills as I got final demands. Or I would splurge on a trip, and then panic about how to pay the council tax bill I’d forgotten was due.
I was too scared to have a credit card for many years, because I didn’t want to go into debt and not be able to pay it back.
The #MyDataSelf Campaign
Eventually though, I realised that’s no way to live. So I took control.
I used Experian to get my credit file and address any bad marks on my file. The Experian website showed me which would be the best credit card for me. Armed with that info, I took out a card to build up my credit score. Then I worked out which debts were most expensive, and paid those first.
It took a few years, but I did get back on an even keel. And now Experian is there to allow me to track my credit score. You can also use the site to identify the best rates you’re likely to get for financial services. I also love the company’s identity theft tracking service, which could give you a heads up if someone tries to apply for credit in your name.
As a travel fan, I also look for cards that work well overseas or let me collect points towards travel purchases.
This year, Experian has launched a #DataSelf campaign encouraging more people to take control of their finances. If you’re like me and tend to stick your head in the sand and be afraid of financial planning, this is the campaign for you! Check out the Experian website for more info.
I have been on the wrong side of financial planning just as much as anyone. But the two things that will help you are being informed, and having a goal. No matter what your pipe dream is, it’s only going to happen if you plan for it.
For me, that means I’ll be focusing this year on NOT buying any more super-expensive film memorabilia. Instead, I’ll be putting my spare cash towards snow shoes and Huskie rides. I might not earn like a Kardashian, but I can definitely see the world like one.
Disclosure: I am pleased to be working with Experian to promote their 2018 Pipe Dreams campaign, which aims to inspire you to plan your finances so you can achieve your own pipe dreams this year.