Summer is almost here. And that can only mean one thing: your head is somewhere else, probably on a beach somewhere, or maybe in the mountains or a theme park with your kids.

We always talk about how expensive the Christmas season can be with all the gifts, but summertime brings its own share of money challenges.

The Expectation of Summertime

Whether you have a family with kids, or whether you are single and loving life, there's an expectation that summertime has to include going somewhere for a week, staying in a hotel and eating nice dinners.

There's nothing wrong with any of that. I love a relaxing vacation as much as anyone else. But the problems start when you go on vacations that you can't afford. Those bills start piling up around the time you're Christmas shopping. By January, you've got bills for all those Christmas gifts while you're still trying to pay off last year's vacation.

It really doesn't have to be that way. It's absolutely possible to take a summer vacation without going into debt.

1. Plan

I've said this so many times, but I can't emphasize it enough, unless you have a tablecloth made of $100 bills, you'll need to save for your vacation. This requires time, which might mean you need to start budgeting for your next vacation, right now.

2. Stay Home

You don't want to go into debt. So, if the numbers don't work, there's nothing wrong with taking a year off from traveling and going on a "staycation" instead. Treat your home like a condo: no major chores or do-it-yourself projects. Just relax and explore some of the activities you can do right in your hometown.

3. Research

If you have a little money saved for vacation, you want to stretch it as far as possible. Use the internet to look for freebies like breakfast or additional nights at hotels. Search for coupon codes or discounts if you're going to a place like a theme park. When it comes to researching good deals, you can never be too thorough!

4. Change Your Thinking

If you can't afford a week-long vacation at the beach, what about a three- or four-day weekend in the mountains? How much money could you save by not eating out on vacation—or by staying in the garden-view room instead of the ocean-view room? Or, instead of going on vacation in summer, what if you planned an off-season trip, maybe during fall break, when rates aren't as high? Be open to alternative, cheaper options.

Final Thought: Vacation Is a Want Not a Need

Remember, the purpose isn't to spoil your fun. The purpose is to set you and your family up financially to have even more fun later.

If you simply can't afford a vacation without pulling out your credit card, just take a year or two off from traveling. It won't kill you. Don't forget that a vacation is a want, not a need.

The best vacations are the ones that don't follow you home.

Article courtesy of HomeLife magazine.

Rachel Cruze is a seasoned communicator and presenter, helping Americans learn the proper ways to handle money and stay out of debt. She co-authored the New York Times best-selling book Smart Money Smart Kids with her dad, Dave Ramsey. You can follow Rachel on Twitter at @RachelCruze, at her official site, or on Facebook.