It’s easy. Just stop going to Starbucks, right? Twelve months ago I read posts about funding long term travel and it inspired me to save. Nothing I’ve outlined is earth shattering, but hopefully makes saving feel manageable.
I should note that I have a real job. I’m no longer a starving student or an entry level employee just trying to make a living. I work at an office, people report into me. I guess you could say I’m a grown up. If I weren’t traveling I’d probably own a condo and some shiny trinkets. But that said, the more money you make, the more money you spend and the harder it is to walk away from it all. So the tips below apply even if I earned half my salary.
How I Saved
Paid off debt – After 10 years of chipping away, I finally paid off my massive university debt and set aside the loan payments for travel. As the money was already exiting my account I didn’t miss it.
Committed to a budget – I allocated how much I would put in my savings each pay and it was the first thing I transferred out of the account on pay day. Under no circumstances could I remove money from savings, even if it meant I carried a credit card balance.
Sold my junk – And I really do mean junk. Kijiji and Craigslist are my BFFs. They took my Ikea collection and found new owners who would pay full price for them. The hardest thing to do was to sell my books, but once they were gone everything fell into place.
Announced I was now broke – The people important to me knew I was saving for the trip and had a budget. There were times I was invited to do things and I had to turn them down because it wasn’t in my budget.
No cable – This was actually easy as I’ve never had cable. I use rabbit ears and watch TV online.
No movies – I’ve never been a mainstream movie goer but I do enjoy rainy day DVDs. For this I “borrowed” movies online from torrents. It also justified my Internet bill; I could not live without home Internet.
No car – Okay cheating again here. I live in Toronto about a block from my office. The subway is the fastest way to reach any destination, and despite what Torontonians say, public transportation is a pretty good deal.
No shopping – This was really hard. I didn’t stop shopping all together, but Old Navy was a frequent choice for a cheap wardrobe. It was heartbreaking not to get new cute boots or the desperately needed black heels for work. Some of my work clothes are pretty scruffy but in the end I got over my vanity and it was worth it.
Prehistoric phone – The plastic coating is peeling off its exterior and it only has 10 minutes of battery life. It randomly shuts down when I’m in the middle of a conversation. It’s my only phone as I have no landline. I’m actually not sure if it will survive the remaining 40 days until my trip but I love this phone because it’s free. I received it 5 years ago when I signed up for a two-year plan.
After two years I kept the phone and negotiated a better month to month plan with the carrier. When you’re not sucked into a plan, telcos will do anything to keep you.
Esthetics – I used to get my hair cut, coloured and eyebrows waxed every four weeks. I shifted to every six weeks and started colouring my own hair.
Food – This was tough as I’m a foodie and I love to cook. I gave myself an ambitious weekly budget of $30. I signed up for a weekly organic food box (they decide what comes each week) and the decision to eat organic meant I could only afford to eat meat once or twice a week. I learned to love beans, casseroles and my slow cooker.
Eating out – I love food but since I cook I knew I should cut back on it. I didn’t eat out more than once a week and I cut out brunch all together; I can make my own eggs.
Entertainment – My friends are social and I would often go out because I had nothing better to do. Every time I turned down an event I moved the money I thought I would have spent to my savings account. It really started adding up.
Alcohol – I’m completely unapologetic about my drinking habits and justify it by proclaiming it’s my East Coast heritage. But I had to acknowledge it accounted for a significant chunk of my spending. I wasn’t about to cut back so I started making wine. I also researched great wines under $10 bucks because no matter how good you think your homemade wine is, you can’t bring it as a gift to a friend’s party.
How I Spent
I was sacrificing so much, mostly my appearance, for this trip but I wasn’t prepared to cut everything. I didn’t want to feel deprived for a year so I decided what was important. I go to hot yoga, it’s ludicrously expensive but it keeps me sane. So does going out on Saturday night, but I learned to stop dropping my credit card down for a tab and stuck to a drink budget. In the end I did everything I really wanted to do and cut out the things I was spending money on but wouldn’t miss.
One Item Most Travelers Miss
One thing that people never discuss is the return fund. I need a stash of money to make the resettlement a little less stressful as I try to conform to everyday life especially as I won’t be working in one of those cool travel jobs. Long term travel is a dream but talking about coming back isn’t much fun. I set money aside so let’s leave it at that.
With 40 days and two more pay cheques to go, I’ve reached my goal. I’d love to hear how others are faring.