Saving for Long Term Travel
There are two things you can do to quickly to save for long term travel. You can increase your income, and/or you can reduce your expenses. There is nothing more to it; it’s that simple. These are the only two sides of the equation. Both of these have their advantages and disadvantages and many people are better at one than the other.
I believe the easiest way to save for long term travel is to cut one’s expenses. This is what I did first. There are many things that you can cut out of your life that aren’t going kill you. Below is a list of things that I cut, or considered cutting. I broke these up into monthly bills, and lifestyle changes.
- Reducing your rent/housing expenses – You have many options in this category. If you have a spare bedroom, you can get a roommate. I did this for a small period of time which allowed me to save $500 a month. You can also move to a cheaper location. There are places that may not be as desirable and as a result are cheaper. If you can stay with your parents or with a good friend, go for it! Don’t be a freeloader though, pitch something in.
- Cancel or change your cable subscription – Do you really need all the channels, that DVR, and that many boxes?
- Reduce your internet speed – Yeah I said it, do you really need all the bandwidth you’re paying for? You’re likely out of your home most of the day anyway. If you are really a maverick, just go with your phone and cancel your internet connection.
- Cancel your gym membership – This may not be possible if you are locked into a membership but if you can, work out at home.
- Change your phone plan to something cheaper – I changed carriers and also moved from an individual plan to a group plan with a friend and my mom. If you are not already on a group plan see if you can join someone’s, it’s a lot cheaper.
- Cancel Subscriptions – You can do without magazines, newspapers, netflix, audible, spotify, wine of the month, etc.
- Car Insurance – This one does not have to be monthly but many pay their premiums monthly. Shop around for insurance plans to see if you can get a better deal. I personally increased my deductible to lower my premium. Also a lot of plans cost less if you pay 6 months at a time. If you know you are going to have your car for 6 months, consider doing that.
- Eating out – This is a joy for a lot of us but when you factor in how much it costs, it’s really a detriment towards saving for long term travel. In the past I had most of my meals outside of home. I began cooking more and reduced the caliber of restaurants I ate at. I would often partake in cheap eats but not sit down restaurants.
- Buying “things” – Reduce the things you buy. It might be cute, shiny, and exciting but it won’t get you closer to long term travel. I tried to stop buying things that were not necessities. Just think of this, am I going to take this on my trip? If not, you can probably skip it.
- Drinking – If you must drink, buy a bottle between friends and do it at home or only go during happy hours. I almost cut out drinking altogether in saving for my trip. Sometimes I would still go out to the bars with my friends but would abstain from drinking. I would just enjoy their company 🙂
- Cab rides – Don’t take them unless absolutely necessary. Take mass transit, a bike, or walk.
- Smoking – Ideally eliminate this but I know that is not feasible for some. It’s like my coffee addiction, it’s hard to kick. Just cutting down though could have a dramatic effect on your pocket. Especially if you are in a territory where they are heavily taxed.
- Buying Coffee – This is my personal vice. I almost stopped buying expensive coffee during my year lead up to my trip. I can’t say I liked it or that I didn’t slip up from time to time but I probably saved over $500 in that year.
- Sell things – Sell your car. Have a garage sale. Sell things on ebay. You may not get a ton but I got a couple of hundred bucks doing this.
- Work Overtime – Not everyone can do this. I was straight salary so it didn’t matter how many hours I worked, I would still get paid the same. However, if you have the ability to work overtime, go for it.
- Get another job – Not everyone has the hours in the day to do this but if you do, it’s going to get you there much quicker. You could drive an Uber, join a freelancer website like upwork, Ifreelance, or freelancer. This is just to name a few. For a few others see https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/276990
- Vacation Payout – If you are planning on leaving your job, look into vacation/paid time off payouts. Some employers will pay you out for unused vacation time. If that’s the case, abstain taking vacation/PTO.
- Open up Credit Cards and use them for ALL purchases– I am including this one in income even though it’s tied to expenditures. The reason is that points or airline miles are a form of currency. You can also get substantial cashback rewards if you choose the right ones. If you are not already doing this, it’s a no brainer to start. Nerdwallet.com has several cards listed showing the different spending thresholds and current offers. The lowest is getting $15o cashback when spending $500 in your first 3 months of signing up. There are few people that don’t spend this in 3 months. There are other offers with higher thresholds that can generate you up to $725 with $3,000 spend in the first three months. A trick to get to that threshold, if you don’t spend that much normally is to overpay your cell phone, utility bill, cable bill, etc. You could also ask a friend or family member to allow you to pay for a big item and have them pay you back. There are some rules to keep in mind. ONLY spend what you would normally. Never pay interest by paying your bill in full each month and only use the card if the benefit outweighs the fee. Sometimes there is a transaction fee attached to the use of the card so be careful of this. At a later point I’ll write an article on how I use my cards.
- If you itemize on your taxes – Make many goods contributions to a charity such as the Salvation Army. You won’t get a huge amount in returns but several donations could add up to a couple of hundred dollars in tax savings a year. Last year I helped a friend clean out her spare room in exchange for all the things she no longer needed. I promptly donated those goods 🙂
- Reduce your Utility costs – If you pay for your own heating, drop that thermostat down and wear a ton of clothing to stay warm. Doing so could save you several hundred dollars in a season. Also don’t run your AC all day when you are not home. Only turn it on when you are there if at all.
Many people make excuses saying that they can’t afford long term travel. Yet they have money to go to out and eat several times a week, hit the bar, or club frequently. Perhaps they are still paying for a gym membership that they never use. They take cab rides and drink expensive coffee (the latter of which I am wholly guilty of). These things are big drains on one’s pocket. In a year they can be several thousand dollars. If traveling is a priority for you, make decisions like it is. Life is a series of tradeoffs. Time for money. Speed vs. Accuracy. Flexibility vs. commitment. I cut a bunch of things out of my life for the year that preceded my trip. It wasn’t always easy or popular with my friends but when you start equating your purchases directly to days on the road, it makes those trade offs easier.
Where to start?
Make a budget! Find out where your money is going and cut accordingly. If you don’t get turned on by spreadsheets like I do there are phone apps, and financial aggregators like mint.com that can help. I set a financial goal for myself through mint prior to leaving and it helped keep me motivated. The closer I got, the more excited about my trip I became.
In closing sometimes you have to live the life that others won’t so that you can live the life that others can’t. (not my quote)