Post-Vacation Money Blues: Those Beachside Splurges May Be More Costly Than You Think

Nearly half of Americans spend beyond their means on vacation — and suffer guilt, stress, and financial consequences because of it.

Everyone knows the feeling: It’s your first day back after a relaxing vacation and you just can’t deal. All the worries you left behind are there waiting for you, but sometimes there are new ones, too — money woes.

We surveyed 7,480 American adults and found that a shocking percentage (43%) admitted to spending beyond their means on vacation. And many came home to a rude awakening because of it:

  • 27% suffered financial consequences that included excessive credit card debt, missed payments, or being forced to borrow money from family or friends.
  • 49% reported spending-related guilt.
  • 46% experienced stress from their spending, with more than half (55%) of those losing sleep because of it.

The state where residents ranked worst for managing money while on vacation? New Mexico, which also holds one of the highest percentages of credit card debt in the country. At the top for guilt was West Virginia, and Utah ranked No. 1 for post-vacation money stress.

Surprisingly, the states where residents had poor money management habits weren’t necessarily the ones where they had the highest levels of stress and guilt. In fact, New Mexico ranked No. 1 (followed by New Jersey and New York) for poor money management but relatively little guilt. At the other end of the spectrum was Iowa (followed by Oregon and Nebraska), where residents had good vacation money management but still felt guilty about their spending.

Money Blues: Which States Feel Most Guilty About Vacation Splurges?

Post-vacation money blues

Excessive Vacation Spending

According to our survey, almost half of Americans spend more on vacation than they should.

  • 43% of respondents admitted to taking a vacation they couldn’t afford within the past five years.
  • 43% said they typically spend outside their means on vacation.
  • 59% of respondents indicated that a “vacation mentality” causes them to make poor spending decisions.

To pay for out-of-budget trips, many respondents in our survey said they rely on credit cards or loans — 42% said they’ve used one or the other to help fund a vacation they couldn’t afford otherwise.

Financial Consequences

While vacation purchases may feel innocent at the time, breaking budget can cause serious money troubles. Twenty-seven percent of respondents in our survey said a vacation splurge in the past five years had led to negative financial consequences. The most common problem they encountered was high levels of credit card debt.

  • 49% of respondents reporting financial consequences took on excessive credit card debt.
  • 34% missed important payments.
  • 16% took out a loan.
  • 35% borrowed money from friends or family.

Stress and Guilt

In addition to a financial toll, overspending can have a psychological impact, too. About half of survey respondents reported experiencing guilt or stress from their vacation splurges within the past five years.

  • 49% said they have felt guilty about vacation spending.
  • 46% said they have suffered stress from overspending on vacation.
  • Of those who have suffered stress, 55% said they’ve lost sleep because of it.

Of those who experienced guilt, 83% said it primarily set in after vacation — not when they were spending.

  • 49% of respondents reporting guilt said it typically set in once they returned home.
  • 34% of respondents reporting guilt said they usually felt most guilty once they saw their credit card statements or checked their bank account.

In Which States Are Residents Best at Managing Money on Vacation?

Overall, our survey revealed a nationwide trend of risky vacation spending. However, residents in some states practice better vacation spending habits than others: they were less likely to take vacations they knew they couldn’t afford, experience financial consequences because of their vacation spending, or use credit cards or loans to pay for out-of-budget trips.

States Where Residents Are Best at Managing Money on Vacation

  1. New Hampshire
  2. Wisconsin
  3. Connecticut
  4. Louisiana
  5. Vermont
  6. Idaho
  7. North Dakota
  8. Alaska
  9. Minnesota
  10. Iowa

States Where Residents Are Worst at Managing Money on Vacation

  1. New Mexico
  2. Maryland
  3. New Jersey
  4. Kentucky
  5. West Virginia
  6. New York
  7. Nevada
  8. Arizona
  9. Florida
  10. Arkansas

States Where Residents Feel Most Guilty About Vacation Spending

Guilt was a common emotional consequence of vacation overspending. West Virginia came in at No. 1 for states with the highest levels of post-vacation spending guilt, and Louisiana was No. 1 for low-guilt spending.

States With the Highest Levels of Guilt

  1. West Virginia
  2. Utah
  3. California
  4. Oregon
  5. Iowa
  6. South Carolina
  7. Nebraska
  8. Nevada
  9. Missouri
  10. Indiana

States With the Lowest Levels of Guilt

  1. Louisiana
  2. Connecticut
  3. New Hampshire
  4. Rhode Island
  5. Oklahoma
  6. Colorado
  7. Ohio
  8. Massachusetts
  9. Alabama
  10. Michigan

States Where Residents Report the Most Stress About Their Vacation Spending

The top 10 states where residents reported spending-related post-vacation stress were led by Utah while those with the lowest levels of stress were led by Ohio.

States With the Highest Levels of Stress

  1. Utah
  2. West Virginia
  3. Wyoming
  4. Montana
  5. New York
  6. California
  7. Pennsylvania
  8. Arkansas
  9. New Jersey
  10. Kansas

States With the Lowest Levels of Stress

  1. Ohio
  2. Louisiana
  3. Alabama
  4. Michigan
  5. Rhode Island
  6. Texas
  7. Mississippi
  8. South Dakota
  9. North Carolina
  10. Nebraska

States Where Residents Are Too Hard on Themselves — Or Not Hard Enough

One interesting finding from our survey is that the states where residents were most likely to overspend were not necessarily the states with the highest levels of spending guilt. And the reverse of this is true, too — some states spent responsibly but nonetheless had high levels of guilt.

Iowa led the country for states where residents had relatively good vacation money management and disproportionately high levels of guilt. New Mexico led the country for poor spending but low levels of guilt.

States That Are Too Hard on Themselves

  1. Iowa
  2. Oregon
  3. Nebraska
  4. Alaska
  5. California
  6. North Dakota
  7. South Carolina
  8. Vermont
  9. Wisconsin
  10. Missouri

States That Are Too Easy on Themselves

  1. New Mexico
  2. New Jersey
  3. New York
  4. Maryland
  5. Ohio
  6. Texas
  7. Rhode Island
  8. Louisiana
  9. Massachusetts
  10. Florida

How to Bounce Back After Vacation Spending

For vacation-goers who overspend while away, the flood of bills and a depleted bank account can be a harsh welcome home. But there are ways to get back on track. We asked Len Hayduchok, founder and president of Dedicated Financial Services, for his best advice. Here’s what he recommends.

1. Go on a spending ‘fast.’ To get your budget back on track, cut your spending to the essentials. Separate ‘need’ expenses (rent, utilities) from ‘want’ expenses (lattes, eating out). Do this for a week and see how much you save. Rinse and repeat as needed.

2. Break it down. Change large annual payments on life or auto insurance to bite-size monthly installments. Keep in mind that the additional cost for spreading out the payments should be less than the monthly finance charges on the credit cards.

3. Put the piggy bank on a diet. Especially if credit card interests are high, temporarily put savings strategies on hold. Even contributions to 401(k) plans should be limited unless matched by an employer. Feel free to pork up the bank again once credit card balances are back under control.

4. Channel your inner minimalist. Take some time to look through your closet for those items that haven’t seen the sun in a few years. Make some quick cash by bringing them to a consignment store, co-hosting a garage sale with some friends, or selling them online!

5. Think outside the wallet. In addition to reducing your spending and boosting income, find potential borrowing sources (if you must) such as 401(k) plans or life insurance policies as a temporary financial buffer. Caveat: Make sure you pay those loans back as soon as possible!

Len HayduchokLen Hayduchok is a Certified Financial Planner™ practitioner with over 25 years of experience. A graduate of the Wharton School and a Master of Divinity recipient, he is the founder and president of Dedicated Financial Services. His firm advises clients on taxes, income, retirement, estate planning, and asset management and protection. He and his wife live in Princeton Junction, New Jersey, and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, and are the parents of four adult children.

How to Relieve Post-Vacation Stress and Guilt

According to our survey, about half of Americans have recently suffered post-vacation guilt or stress from their spending. How can they beat their blues? Here are five tips from Raffi Bilek, director of the Baltimore Therapy Center.

1. Harness the guilt. It’s normal to feel guilty after overspending. Use the discomfort to motivate yourself. Sit down and create a budget. Call up a financial coach and request an appointment. Make a change, no matter how small. Harness your feelings and turn them into action.

2. Engage in self-care. Life is stressful enough, even before you upped your budget problem. Take care of yourself by engaging in the things that help you keep an even keel — whether it’s yoga or painting, mountain biking or meditating. Everyone needs to manage their stress. This is all the more important when your stress is on the rise.

3. Allow for imperfection. Everyone makes mistakes. Remember that even your friends who look like they have it all together on Facebook sometimes mess up — they just tend not to post those moments. You shouldn’t ignore problems, financial or otherwise, but you also shouldn’t allow them to consume you. You’re human. It’s OK.

4. Get some perspective. How bad is it really? What are the ramifications of your overspending? Going over budget by $100 is different from going over by $1,000, and it certainly depends on your individual financial situation. Don’t assume the worst — crunch the numbers and see whether you’re actually in hot water or you just dipped your toe in it.

5. Start saving up again. There’s a Japanese proverb that says, “Fall down seven times, get up eight.” If you’ve overspent your budget, the time to start saving back up is now. Skip the Starbucks today and put $2.10 aside. Consider this financial misstep the beginning, not the end.

Raffi BilekRaffi Bilek, LCSW-C, is a clinical social worker and director of the Baltimore Therapy Center. He graduated from Brown University with honors and has a diverse professional background that includes clinical experience in psychiatric outpatient settings, family therapy institutes, domestic violence units, community service agencies, and private counseling practices. He lives in Pikesville, Maryland, with his daughters and wife.

How Do the States Stack Up?

Alabama
No. 11 for responsible spending
No. 42 for guilt
No. 25 for should feel less guilty
No. 48 for stress

Alaska
No. 8 for responsible spending
No. 15 for guilt
No. 4 for should feel less guilty
No. 15 for stress

Arizona
No. 43 for responsible spending
No. 24 for guilt
No. 11 for should feel more guilty
No. 19 for stress

Arkansas
No. 41 for responsible spending
No. 11 for guilt
No. 24 for should feel less guilty
No. 8 for stress

California
No. 27 for responsible spending
No. 3 for guilt
No. 5 for should feel less guilty
No. 6 for stress

Colorado
No. 14 for responsible spending
No. 45 for guilt
No. 17 for should feel more guilty
No. 35 for stress

Connecticut
No. 3 for responsible spending
No. 49 for guilt
No. 22 for should feel less guilty
No. 40 for stress

Delaware
No. 13 for responsible spending
No. 39 for guilt
No. 24 for should feel more guilty
No. 39 for stress

Florida
No. 42 for responsible spending
No. 29 for guilt
No. 10 for should feel more guilty
No. 23 for stress

Georgia
No. 39 for responsible spending
No. 26 for guilt
No. 12 for should feel more guilty
No. 34 for stress

Hawaii
No. 34 for responsible spending
No. 16 for guilt
No. 23 for should feel less guilty
No. 30 for stress

Idaho
No. 6 for responsible spending
No. 40 for guilt
No. 18 for should feel less guilty
No. 21 for stress

Illinois
No. 16 for responsible spending
No. 33 for guilt
No. 20 for should feel less guilty
No. 24 for stress

Indiana
No. 22 for responsible spending
No. 10 for guilt
No. 11 for should feel less guilty
No. 29 for stress

Iowa
No. 10 for responsible spending
No. 5 for guilt
No. 1 for should feel less guilty
No. 14 for stress

Kansas
No. 36 for responsible spending
No. 22 for guilt
No. 16 for should feel more guilty
No. 10 for stress

Kentucky
No. 47 for responsible spending
No. 14 for guilt
No. 13 for should feel more guilty
No. 26 for stress

Louisiana
No. 4 for responsible spending
No. 50 for guilt
No. 8 for should feel more guilty
No. 49 for stress

Maine
No. 30 for responsible spending
No. 35 for guilt
No. 14 for should feel more guilty
No. 20 for stress

Maryland
No. 49 for responsible spending
No. 23 for guilt
No. 4 for should feel more guilty
No. 27 for stress

Massachusetts
No. 29 for responsible spending
No. 43 for guilt
No. 9 for should feel more guilty
No. 16 for stress

Michigan
No. 19 for responsible spending
No. 41 for guilt
No. 19 for should feel more guilty
No. 47 for stress

Minnesota
No. 9 for responsible spending
No. 30 for guilt
No. 13 for should feel less guilty
No. 36 for stress

Mississippi
No. 35 for responsible spending
No. 20 for guilt
No. 20 for should feel more guilty
No. 44 for stress

Missouri
No. 24 for responsible spending
No. 9 for guilt
No. 10 for should feel less guilty
No. 17 for stress

Montana
No. 33 for responsible spending
No. 21 for guilt
No. 22 for should feel more guilty
No. 4 for stress

Nebraska
No. 12 for responsible spending
No. 7 for guilt
No. 3 for should feel less guilty
No. 41 for stress

Nevada
No. 44 for responsible spending
No. 8 for guilt
No. 21 for should feel less guilty
No. 13 for stress

New Hampshire
No. 1 for responsible spending
No. 48 for guilt
No. 14 for should feel less guilty
No. 22 for stress

New Jersey
No. 48 for responsible spending
No. 31 for guilt
No. 2 for should feel more guilty
No. 9 for stress

New Mexico
No. 50 for responsible spending
No. 25 for guilt
No. 1 for should feel more guilty
No. 12 for stress

New York
No. 45 for responsible spending
No. 32 for guilt
No. 3 for should feel more guilty
No. 5 for stress

North Carolina
No. 17 for responsible spending
No. 37 for guilt
No. 25 for should feel more guilty
No. 42 for stress

North Dakota
No. 7 for responsible spending
No. 17 for guilt
No. 6 for should feel less guilty
No. 38 for stress

Ohio
No. 31 for responsible spending
No. 44 for guilt
No. 5 for should feel more guilty
No. 50 for stress

Oklahoma
No. 15 for responsible spending
No. 46 for guilt
No. 15 for should feel more guilty
No. 31 for stress

Oregon
No. 18 for responsible spending
No. 4 for guilt
No. 2 for should feel less guilty
No. 18 for stress

Pennsylvania
No. 40 for responsible spending
No. 13 for guilt
No. 23 for should feel more guilty
No. 7 for stress

Rhode Island
No. 20 for responsible spending
No. 47 for guilt
No. 7 for should feel more guilty
No. 46 for stress

South Carolina
No. 25 for responsible spending
No. 6 for guilt
No. 7 for should feel less guilty
No. 33 for stress

South Dakota
No. 26 for responsible spending
No. 19 for guilt
No. 19 for should feel less guilty
No. 43 for stress

Tennessee
No. 28 for responsible spending
No. 28 for guilt
No. 21 for should feel more guilty
No. 25 for stress

Texas
No. 37 for responsible spending
No. 34 for guilt
No. 6 for should feel more guilty
No. 45 for stress

Utah
No. 38 for responsible spending
No. 2 for guilt
No. 12 for should feel less guilty
No. 1 for stress

Vermont
No. 5 for responsible spending
No. 27 for guilt
No. 8 for should feel less guilty
No. 28 for stress

Virginia
No. 21 for responsible spending
No. 38 for guilt
No. 18 for should feel more guilty
No. 32 for stress

Washington
No. 23 for responsible spending
No. 18 for guilt
No. 16 for should feel less guilty
No. 11 for stress

West Virginia
No. 46 for responsible spending
No. 1 for guilt
No. 15 for should feel less guilty
No. 2 for stress

Wisconsin
No. 2 for responsible spending
No. 36 for guilt
No. 9 for should feel less guilty
No. 37 for stress

Wyoming
No. 32 for responsible spending
No. 12 for guilt
No. 17 for should feel less guilty
No. 3 for stress


Methodology

Money Management Score

The Money Management Score is based on 7,480 responses to the following questions and calculated as follows:

“In the past 5 years, have you taken a vacation you knew you couldn’t afford?”

  • 0 points were assigned to those who respond, “No, I haven’t.”
  • 50 points were assigned to those who respond, “Yes, but just once.”
  • 100 points were assigned to those who respond, “Yes, multiple times.”

“In the past 5 years, have you used a credit card or loan to help fund a vacation you couldn’t otherwise pay for?”

  • 0 points were assigned to those who respond, “No, I haven’t.”
  • 50 points were assigned to those who respond, “Yes, but just once.”
  • 100 points were assigned to those who respond, “Yes, multiple times.”

“In the past 5 years, have you suffered negative financial consequences for vacation spending?”

  • 0 points were assigned to those who respond, “No, I haven’t.”
  • 50 points were assigned to those who respond, “Yes, I’ve suffered mild to moderate financial consequences.”
  • 100 points were assigned to those who respond, “Yes, I’ve suffered severe financial consequences.”

Each respondent’s Money Management Score was calculated as a weighted average of the points assigned to their responses for each of the three questions: (0.25)(Q3) + (0.25)(Q4) + (0.50)(Q6).

Each state’s Money Management Score is equal to the average of all the respondents’ scores from that state. Within each state, responses were weighted based on gender so that males and females received equal weight. After weighting, the effective nationwide sample size for the Money Management Score is 5,948.
The states are then sorted by their score from low to high and ranked such that Rank No. 1 is the lowest score (best money management) and Rank No. 50 is the highest score (worst money management).

Guilt Score

The Guilt Score is based on 7,480 responses to the following question and calculated as follows: “In the past 5 years, have you felt guilty about spending too much on vacation?”

  • 0 points were assigned to those who respond, “No, I’ve never felt guilty.”
  • 50 points were assigned to those who respond, “Yes, but only once.”
  • 100 points were assigned to those who respond, “Yes, after a few or more vacations.”

Each respondent’s Guilt Score is equal to the points they were assigned for Q8 (0, 50, or 100). Each state’s Guilt Score is equal to the average of all the respondents’ scores from that state. Within each state, responses were weighted based on gender so that males and females received equal weight. After weighting, the effective nationwide sample size for the Guilt Score is 6,055.

The states were then sorted by their scores from low to high and ranked such that Rank No. 1 is the lowest score (least amount of guilt) and Rank No. 50 is the highest score (highest amount of guilt).

Stress Score

The Stress Score is based on 7,480 responses to the following question and calculated as follows: “In the past 5 years, have you experienced stress from overspending on vacation?”

  • 0 points were assigned to those who respond, “No, I’ve never experienced stress from overspending on vacation.”
  • 50 points were assigned to those who respond, “Yes, I’ve experienced mild to moderate stress from overspending on vacation.”
  • 100 points were assigned to those who respond, “Yes, I’ve experienced severe stress from overspending on vacation.”

Each respondent’s Stress Score is equal to the points they were assigned for Q10 (0, 50, or 100). Each state’s Stress Score is equal to the average of all the respondents’ scores from that state. Within each state, responses were weighted based on gender so that males and females received equal weight. After weighting, the effective nationwide sample size for the Stress Score is 6,107.

The states are then sorted by their scores from low to high and ranked such that Rank No. 1 is the lowest score (least amount of stress) and Rank No. 50 is the highest score (highest amount of stress).

Guilt vs. Money Management Gap

The Guilt vs. Money Management Gap is calculated as Guilt Score – Money Management Score.

The Gap is highest if the Guilt Score is high and Money Management Score is low, meaning the respondent has high guilt, but good money management. They should feel less guilty. The Gap is lowest if the Guilt Score is low and the Money Management Score is high, meaning the respondent has low guilt, but poor money management. They should feel more guilty.

Each state’s Guilt vs. Money Management Gap is equal to the average of all the respondents’ gaps from that state. Within each state, responses are weighted based on gender so that males and females get equal weight. After weighting, the effective nationwide sample size for the Guilt Score is 6,093.
The states are then sorted by their gaps from low to high and ranked such that Rank 1 is the lowest score (too easy on themselves) and Rank 50 is the highest score (too hard on themselves).