How To Stay On Budget While Visiting Family

Don’t return home with a spending hangover.

Visiting family during the holidays is one of my favorite activities. I enjoy the chance to revisit my hometown, meet up with friends, and let the kids soak up all the precious grandparent time (while I sit back and read a book). Luckily my family is only a 4-hour drive away, but that still requires some serious planning with three young kids. Another thing it requires? A set budget.

Often, I’m so happy-go-lucky when visiting my family that I completely forget that I still have to stay on track financially. I’ll return home with a spending hangover, wondering how I spent hundreds when we were only out of town (and staying in my parents’ house) for a mere weekend. If you’re planning a trip to visit family over the holidays, here are a few things to keep in mind while planning your budget:

Travel Costs

Whether you’re traveling by plane, train, or car, figuring out your travel costs should be the first (and easiest) item to check off your budgeting list. Are you going to need to factor in a lot of extra gas for your car? Are you staying with your family or will you need to get a hotel? These things should be easy to figure out ahead of time as you craft your family trip budget.

Date Night

Since we don’t live near family, going to visit my parents is often a special treat for my husband and I to catch some alone time. When my parents offer to watch the kids so we can go out to lunch or dinner, you better believe I seize that opportunity. It’s important that I set aside money “in case of spontaneous date night” because visiting my family is the only time that situation is a possibility.

If you want to set aside some of your family trip for some one-on-one time with your significant other, make sure you plan that into the budget as well – and don’t forget to think about what sort of place you want to go. Grabbing burgers and heading to the park, or going out for a fancy meal? This is something you need to have budgeted in advance.

Friendly Get-Togethers

If your family happens to live in your old hometown, chances are the opportunity for a get together with old friends could arise. Call up whoever may be in town, either permanently or visiting for the holidays, and plan something before you go – and budget for it, too.

Depending on what our budget looks like, sometimes my friends and I will go out to a local pub for drinks and dessert or we might head to the grocery store near my mom’s house, buy some cheesecake and wine and hang out at my parents’ house. The latter always seems to be the most fun and is definitely the most budget-friendly.

Cost of Food

If you’re staying with family, having dinner together may be a given, but if you’re staying for a few days, do your family a favor and budget in some groceries. You’re a grownup now too, so maybe consider making your family dinner (or breakfast). Also plan out your schedule in advance so you know when you’ll be eating out, needing to grab sandwiches for a quick lunch, going to a potluck party, etc. Food can add up very quickly so you want to be prepared.

Special Outings and Unexpected Costs

Heading back to my old stomping grounds often means wanting to take my children back to some of my favorite places that I would go as a girl. During the holidays, planning a trip to the ice arena complete with big mugs of cocoa for everyone from the cafe is a must. Think about what places you might want to visit while you’re in town, and set aside some extra money for those activities.

No matter how big or small your budget is for your visit with family, remember the real reason you are there: to spend quality time with the people you love. Having a strong budget should help you enjoy your time free from financial worry so you can enjoy the holidays with your family instead of dreading your bank statement when you get home.

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