How To Save Money to Travel
One of the first things people ask me when I tell them we traveled through Europe for six months is, “How?” Quickly followed by…
“How did you save money to travel?”
“Are you trust fund babies?”
“How do you put your life on hold for that long?”
Well, we aren’t trust-fund babies. In fact, when we decided to plan the trip (six months before we left) we had nothing saved. Zero. Zilch. Nada.
What we had, though, was discipline and desire. Something I am very passionate about and is one reason I believe in raising dirtbags. When your focus and persistence is fueled by your goals, you learn to count on values such as hard work, accountability, and perseverance. Quality that will help you regardless if it’s for saving money to travel, climb to the top of a rock wall, or to write your first novel. So how specifically did we employ these values?
We had already spent the last few years making decisions to eliminate a lot of the non-essentials of our life and downsized many areas of our lives to make us time rich. It really is quite amazing what you can do without, and how much enjoyment I get out of my life when I feel in control of where my money goes and how much joy I get out of it.
For me, it came down to the time value of money and the quality of life that money was providing. I remember constantly thinking how it didn’t make sense for me to work as many hours as I was, just to pay for a house that I was hardly using or wasn’t providing me with enough adventure and spontaneity that made me excited to start each day. Therefore, we started cutting costs . . . big time. Here are the 10 key things we did to be to save money to travel:
1. We eliminated non-essentials such as Netflix, cable, wifi. There were alternatives, though. We started renting movies at our public library and used free public wifi (this was good practice for becoming a digital nomad). We even looked around our house at ways we could eliminate these non-essentials by reducing our footprint (another tool that helped tremendously when we started traveling). We stopped using the dishwasher and hand washed dishes using very little water. We cut back on laundry by only washing things when they were really dirty. We turned lights off when we didn’t need them.
2. Pay off any debt. Luckily when we decided to move into our RV we had no debt. However, on a subconscious level, I had been planning on doing something adventurous as the kids go older and had really been working towards getting us in a good financial position years before we actually made a conscious decision to travel. Besides paying off cars, we stopped using our credit cards altogether. I hated how it would feel at the end of the month when I’d get the credit card bill and be in shock at how much everything added up. In addition, I turn off automated expenses. We had already cut down on how many bills we had to pay, but for things like iTunes, I removed our credit card and instead would purchase gift cards to make sure we stayed within budget. But, overall, this is an easy way to save money to travel.
3. Downsize. For one, we downsized our housing expense and cut all utilities when we moved into our RV. What we pay for campgrounds is about a third of what we were paying for our mortgage so this in itself allowed for a huge amount of money to be saved. Now living in an RV might not be for everyone, and there are days when it is a little tough, but overall, living in an RV is amazing. We also downsized our extracurricular activities. Club soccer, competitive gymnastics, art classes, these things add up and don’t always provide as much happiness as we hope they will. We simplified our commitments and made time for a lot of fun together as a family. We are always out playing together and the trade off has been completely worthwhile for us.
4. Cash is King. In order to save money to travel, I’d put myself on a fixed cash budget for the week. One of the best things I did was stop shopping at Costco. Sure, the wholesale warehouse is more affordable when you look at it per ounce, but it goes completely against my next rule because you will always walk out of Costco with things you don’t really need. Groceries are our biggest expense, but I set up a specific budget for it and stick with it. We don’t skimp on our food, though. I keep our food budget pretty high so that the kids feel happy about how great we eat. We also use up everything we have in our fridge and pantry before I go shopping again so that nothing is wasted. The fewer times you go to the grocery store, the less you will spend.
5. Don’t eat out. We didn’t eat out that much to begin with, but Victor and I had a habit of going out for a beer and burger every Thursday night at a popular gastropub in Coronado. By just cutting that out we saved over two hundred dollars each month. I’m a strong believer in quality of life, so now we buy beer at Trader Joes at the beginning of the week and just go sit on the beach with a picnic.
6. Needs versus wants. We try to only buy what we need and only fix things if they are truly broken. I remember walking through Pier One Imports and buying pillows and candles just because they were cute or smelled good. Now, we don’t. It helps that we try to avoid places that create unnecessary wants. After how much my kids enjoyed traveling through Europe, they became good about understanding that their sacrifices allow us to what we do and I think they enjoy the sense of empowerment that gives them.
7. Prioritize Savings. We don’t get paid by a paycheck, so instead, I had to be disciplined about how much money I would set aside from our business. If you get regular paychecks, I’d recommend deciding on a dollar amount to automatically put into your savings. If you don’t see it, you won’t be tempted to spend it, therefore you will save money to travel.
7. Use spreadsheets. I love budgeting and record keeping so this was an easy, and very important element, to save money to travel. Use spreadsheets to project and record your expenses as detailed as possible. Then, make sure you make adjustments in your spending habits to try and keep yourself on track.
9. Sell what you can. We had an extra vehicle that we didn’t necessarily need and didn’t want to see it just sit for six months, so we sold it, along with our trailer that was storing our belongings that we realized we really didn’t need anymore. I loved the book The Art of Tidying Up where the author says, “Hold your belongings and ask yourself, ‘Does this spark joy?'” This trick helped me get rid of A LOT of our stuff.
10. Side jobs. Use your talents to create products or offer services that make extra money. For us, this meant offering more clinics and camps that we don’t normally count on for our regular expenses.
While traveling through Europe we applied a lot of these same tricks to make it so that we didn’t run out of money half-way through. It’s also how we slowly became dirtbags. It’s important that you are disciplined enough to get close to your goal without making so many sacrifices that you aren’t enjoying your life on the way. The best advice I can give is to think outside the box. A lot of things in life can be redefined and you can create the same result by choosing various paths. Make sure your path is intentional and that you are creating the life you’ve always dreamed of. If you do, skipping the latest gadget or newest restaurant won’t be that hard because the memories you’ll create and the excitement you feel will be worth the pennies saved because when you save money to travel, you are saving that money for something greater than instant gratification.
As far as putting your life on hold for six months, I’ll save that for another post 🙂
While you are saving money to travel get in the best shape of your life with Vic’s Coaching Series. It’s like having a trainer, physical therapist, and nutritionist all in one. You will be able to take that active holiday you have always wanted to take.