Traveling for Tokens

by Dave Ramsey

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Twenty years ago, when Sharon and I got married, our concepts of money and vacations were considerably different. Yes, sir. When we got hitched, we got into our 1974 Pinto and pulled off from the church to embark on one of life's little adventures - the honeymoon. This honeymoon was a lot like many others. It was filled with goo-goo eyes and go-go credit cards. That's right, we financed the whole thing. And I do mean the whole thing. If memory serves me right, we had less than one hundred dollars cash to make it to Key West. We bought everything, hotels, food, trinkets and travel on one poor, worn little Visa. When the card reached its limit, we resorted to buying everything on the Amoco card. Did you ever try to get a good meal at a gas station? Well, we made it a whole week on $100 and two cards, and of course, this honeymoon followed us around in the form of payments for about two years. Great honeymoon, but financial holocaust.

For years to follow, we took vacations that took us. Took us at 18 percent and took us years to pay off. When I look back on those trips, the scariest part was that I always felt "forced" to travel with my master, debt. I felt indignant that anyone might imply that I shouldn't travel unless I paid for it. After all, I worked hard, I worked real hard, and I did deserve a break that day. Well, that attitude gave me a break - it broke me. We quickly went broke from making bad decisions in handling money. The vacation alone didn't cause us calamity, but it was one in hundreds of examples of wrong philosophies of handling money that eventually broke me.

So, we learned to travel for tokens. You know, using real money not cards and actually having fun paying in advance or as we went. We learned to pay cash for travel because we had to, but we also learned this neat side benefit: paid-for vacations are more fun, like paid-for Christmas. If we couldn't pay cash, we didn't go. Wow! Not very new millennium, but when we arrived home, our travel didn't follow us around bothering us for months afterward. Warm Caribbean water just feels more relaxing when it is paid for.

We also learned that bargains can be had when you pay cash. Have you ever stayed in a $200 per night for $60? I have seen it happen. You should see some of those snobby clerks' faces when the manager gives a bargain for cash. Also, all the studies show that you spend less if you are using cash because it hurts to see those twenty dollar bills leaving your hand. Another way to save big time is if your time is flexible. If you are willing to accept short notice and let tours or cruises use you as a fill-in, you can purchase these trips for pennies on the dollar. The cruise lines are very flexible and a cruise is probably one of the best vacation dollars you can spend. More bang for the buck.

Now years later, we have the debit card to rent cars and hotel rooms with, but still no credit cards. The Visa debit or check card is taken anywhere Visa is, but when you use it, the charge is removed from your checking account overnight. The debit card, traveler's checks, cash, and prepayment will make your travel cheaper. And, with no debt, the travel is just more enjoyable. Please, for the sake of your financial peace, don't let that arrogant child down inside you throw a travel fit and cause you to go into debt. In other words, please do leave home without it.

Dave is the author of The New York Times best-selling book Financial Peace. He is also the host of the nationally syndicated The Dave Ramsey Show, and is a regular guest on television. Many national corporations as well as tens of thousands of individuals have benefited from his Financial Peace University Program and his LIVE Events. Visit Dave at

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