I initially wrote this before taking off for an extended, open ended, around the world trip. Thus some things might not be relevant to all scenarios.
When we first started planning for the trip, we didn’t tell too many people. One of the main reasons is this illusion that in order to travel, you need a lot of spare cash (which is true) and therefore you must be earning tons of money (fortunately not true).
We don’t earn anything close to 6 figure salary. But we’ve been pretty good about saving up what we can by prioritizing certain things. Because of that, even with some setbacks, we managed to stay on track with our saving goals.
Here are some money-saving tips that you can use to fund that travel fund:
Lay The Foundation
Pay yourself first. Contribute to 401k, buy stocks, antiques (I’m kidding), or other types of investment. A portion of your paycheck MUST go to post-travel life. Very fortunate few get to travel for a living, most likely you won’t be one of them. I love apps like Acorn or Stash because it’s proof that you don’t need a lot to start investing (and that compound interest really does work).
Pay off your debt. Or even better, do not get into debt. Jack paid off his student debt within 6 months, most of it from the money he saved while in school from the loan itself. We have lived debt free ever since that. Being in debt also means being in a commitment (to pay it off), which brings me to the next point:
Do not get anything that require commitment. Do not buy a house, or a car, or a 2 yr cell phone contract… Do not get pets who live for a very long time either. If you can not imagine living without animals (like me), consider fostering for your local animal rescue. It’s a win-win situation. BIG BONUS: You also get to save a life.
Save, save, save
Downgrade. Move to a cheaper place. It’s the easiest way to trim your expenses. We saved $200/mo by moving to a smaller AND closer-to-work apartment. And saved further when we re-negotiated the rent after noticing a price drop in the neighborhood.
Find a cheap hobby to keep yourself away from movies and malls on weekends. Do not get into rock climbing like we did. It’s addicting and expensive. You end up driving very far on weekends, spending money on food and gas. Not to mention the equipment. (But we still love it!) Check out Skillshare to pick up new skills or Meetup.com for activities in your area. Boredom is expensive.
Cook more. You can save tons by not eating out, more than you’ll think. I used to pooh-pooh this idea because it seems so obvious (and because I hate cooking). Then we lived in a converted van for one year and we had to learn how to cook (the food scene in the middle of national forests is seriously lacking). That was how I discovered the joy of putting simple meals together and it’s still something I carry with me nowadays. It was truly one of the most awesome and unexpected take away from our year-long van trip. Now, we eat maybe once or twice a week (compared to 6-8 times previously), and save close to $600 a month (eating in San Francisco is $$$).
Check your credit card balance daily I have a lot, a LOT, of browser tabs that I keep open on my laptop and one of them always shows my credit card balance. I look at it every morning. Nothing like seeing your increasing credit card balance to curb random, impulsive purchases.
On similar note, choose credit cards smartly We use Chase Ultimate Rewards. We did the math and figured that despite its hefty annual fee, we’d actually be able to get more dollars in rewards compared to free cashback cards. (If I were to do it all over again, I might’ve opted for Uber Visa card though.) We also use Schwab debit card that refunds all ATM fees anywhere in the world (and you’re allowed to us any ATM machines).
Sell your unwanted stuff. We live in a 600 sq ft apartment in San Francisco. It’s TINY. It forces us to evaluate every purchase and be diligent in getting rid of unwanted items. I sell our old stuff on Amazon (camera, lenses, and old guidebooks), Craigslist (furniture), and Swappa (phones).
Cashback program is a no-brainer. We used cashback program such as Ebates which gives you 3-10% back of some online purchases. Considering we do most of our shopping online, this adds up quick.
So, that’s the short list of things that have worked for us. I wish I could give an insider tip on what to invest, or some other big money-saving revelations. But unfortunately, it’s just a matter of making sacrifices (but not too many of them), and attempting to strike a balance between living in the now and saving for the future.