Although my financial state in 2018 is really no different than in 2017, last month I booked up caravan holidays for the entire period to early November, carefully taking into account all other known appointments and commitments, and (so far as possible) friends' birthday celebrations, but ignoring the effect on my savings account balance. I thought it would all come out fine.
The total number of nights away in my caravan was quite impressive: 107 nights; fifteen weeks. Not far short of one third of the year on the road. Now that's travelling. OK, it would all be on the UK mainland, and nowhere exotic by many people's standards. But to me, a Sussex resident, the West and the North are exotic, and I always look forward to seeing them again. This year would include visits to the far west of Wales (Pembrokeshire), the best of the middle Pennines, the Peak District, and Suffolk. Places not seen for years.
It felt so good to get all that booked up.
It was, frankly, a defiant gesture against necessary but irksome financial restraint. I'm quite tired now of being short of money through having to repay the bank loans taken out from late 2015 so that Fiona could have a new automatic gearbox (I'd worn the old one out with the demands of caravanning) and then, one year later, a new rear differential unit (itself a kind of automatic gearbox, all to do with traction control, and also worn out with caravanning). I was over halfway through the repayment schedule, and the outstanding balance had dropped dramatically, but the relentless need to make monthly repayments was squeezing my ability to spend. That's why I was getting fed up with owing money to the bank and having to repay it. Never again, if I could help it. Next time - when the house needed a new boiler, say - I'd cover the cost with cash from savings. The loans had squeezed me for all of 2016 and all of 2017. No wonder I felt rebellious and badly wanted to be on holiday more. Long-term prisoners must get like this. Stir crazy. So booking 107 nights away felt sweet.
But a niggling voice in my mind said 'You'd be sensible to extend your income/expenditure/savings spreadsheet into the next few months, and be absolutely certain that you can afford all this holidaying.' I am a sensible person. I listened to that voice. I worked out how things would go in the months ahead. It was going to be a year of heavy expenses: new tyres, front brake discs and pads for Fiona (possibly a new exhaust too); new specs and a dental filling for me. And I discovered, to my chagrin, that my savings account would go into the red in the early summer - an impossible situation. Damn.
So the grand 2018 holiday plans had to be pruned. I couldn't possibly forego my usual trips to the West Country in spring and autumn, nor to south Wales. And the basic integrity of the Northern Tour I'd planned had to be preserved. But I saw ways to cut away days and destinations, and whittled it all down to 88 nights away. I have sacrificed Pembrokeshire, the mid-Pennines, the Peak District and Suffolk. The Northern Tour is now more correctly a North Eastern Tour. No commitment to meet up with friends is affected. It's still a good programme. And while my savings account sinks low for half a month, it doesn't go into minus figures, and it recovers nicely.
All the rejigging took hours, and it gave me a mild headache. But I think my meaner, leaner holiday plans match this year's financial resources much better. By August 2019 those pesky loan repayments - and some other cash-draining items - will be gone. Finished, or greatly reduced. From then on I can genuinely afford to travel about much more. I just have accept that no really ambitious trip will be feasible before August 2019. That moment seems a long way off, but the months will of course fly by fast enough.
And 88 nights away in 2018 isn't by any means starving myself of holiday time. It's twelve and a half weeks. Well, I know people who can't get away for even two weeks. I'm lucky, and should keep that thought in mind.