When my boys were three and nine years old, I read an article about the value of giving children experiences over material things. I was a single mom who was not able to shower my kids with material items, so I felt like vacations were for sure out of the picture. I couldn’t get the idea out of my head though.
One night I couldn’t sleep, so I sat up and made a plan to save every extra penny I had. I was determined to take my boys on our first family vacation. My oldest had become fascinated with the arch in St. Louis, which was a seven-hour drive away. I wrapped my mind around saving and then traveling with two little boys alone. I printed off some pictures and a map, which I hung on our refrigerator for motivation. We were going to St. Louis!
My plan was to save enough for the trip in one year. We decided as a family that we would save money by only drinking water anytime we had fast food or ate out. Then I would turn around and transfer $7.50 into my savings—because soda is about $2.50 a person. It seemed small and we didn’t eat out often, and I wasn’t sure if it would make much of a difference, but my boys were all in.
I also set up a bi-monthly auto-transfer of $25 to my savings account and put every bit of extra money I received in this account. We had a garage sale and made homemade lemonade, which we greatly overpriced and sold to our thirsty patrons.
Six months in I decided that we had been so dedicated that we should save a little bit longer and fly to our destination. The idea of flying alone with two kids made me anxious, but it seemed way more fun for them. After a year and a half of bank transfers and tiny deposits of $7.50 a time, a garage sale, two dozen lemons, and a lot of passed-up items I really wanted to buy, we did it. We had saved enough money to fly to St. Louis and stay three nights in a hotel!
I recently showed my boys the pictures we took that week and neither of them remembered our trip! At first, I was a little shocked as I kept recalling memories I just knew had been etched in their brains forever. Nope, nothing. My youngest looked at me and said, “Do you feel like you wasted all of your money?” “Of course not,” I said. “I remember!”
They both laughed and went on their way, but I sat there thinking about that trip. It was then I realized it was more than a vacation to me. You see, it was the first vacation I had ever taken my boys on, and I did it all on my own. I saved on my own. Made the plans on my own. I got them there and back on my own. It was one of the most empowering moments of my life. That trip proved to me that I could handle being a single mom. I’m not sure if others around me doubted me, but I know I had doubted myself.
That trip was nine years ago, and I’m still riding the wave of courage and empowerment it gave me as a mother. I make big goals and take big risks, and I still go out of my way to make experiences with my kids.
I don’t know where you should go or what you should do to save $2.50 at a time, but I do know you should absolutely do it—even if it’s a small road trip. Select the place. Make the plan. Dream big or dream little, but make sure you are dreaming with your kids. One day when they’ve forgotten it all you, can stand next to them empowered because you will remember every bit of it. I promise you it will be more than a vacation.
About Mel Hiett
Hi friends, I’m Mel Hiett. I like to believe that my nine years of being a single mom to two rowdy boys helped prepare me for Arise MInistries. Just in case raising those two wild boys wasn’t enough training God allowed me to work with teenagers in the local church for sixteen years. If nothing else I have a handful of wild stories and God moments to share with all of you. My husband Trae and I decided to make life more interesting in 2017 when we got married. Together we have five children, two dogs, and some chickens. We have a family group text affectionately named “The Zoo”. Please feel free to follow my adventures on Facebook or Instagram @themelymel.