One of the reasons many people don’t travel is simply the cost of travel. Between airline tickets, hotels, food, and attractions, well it all adds up. Then combine that with the expenses you have to maintain your lifestyle at home and it can feel like traveling is out of reach. But I don’t think it has to be that way at all.
Last month I wrote about the 14 Ways I Save Money While Traveling and that’s all well and good you may say, but where do I find the money to get me to the destination in the first place? After all the bills are paid it might not seem like there is much left to put in that travel fund but I bet it is there somewhere just waiting for you to find it. It all comes down to what you desire the most, and then make top priority.
Most of us aren’t so wealthy that we can buy whatever homes we want, closets full of designer clothes that are trendy at the moment, and have unlimited hobbies that we fund with “fun money”, so we have to make some decisions. We need to decide what will take top priority (after our basic needs are met, of course) and then direct our extra money in that direction. Basically, we can’t have it all, but we can make our travel dreams a reality.
So where to begin?
Personally I think the very first thing you need to do is to make a budget and then spend a month or two tracking your spending. By doing this you’ll know where all your money is going so you can start making some changes to your spending, and tweak your budget to better align it with your expenses. And then you decide what goes and what gets to stay. Remember, it all can’t stay.
There are as many articles written about how to cut household expenses and save money as there are people in the world that you’ll encounter once you are doing more traveling, and they have tons of great ideas. So after you’ve made your budget and tracked your expenses I then suggest going online ,with a pen and paper handy to capture all the ideas that you can put into practice, and doing some research on the topic of saving money. (Here’s one list to get you started with 100 ideas!)
Many that I’ve read start with the basics like cutting out smoking, drinking expensive cocktails with meals, and the daily Starbucks fix. All great places to start that you’ll start to reap the rewards pretty quickly but what if you don’t do those things, or after cutting them out you still need some more ideas? Well let me share a few of the things that have worked for me.
Reducing my clothing expenses
Stereotypically, or founded on the truth, women are usually known for spending lots of money on designer clothes, expensive purses, and tons of shoes. While I adore some Coach bags (Turnlock Borough bag I’m looking at you!) I just can’t spend $500+ for a purse. Maybe one day, when L and I win the lottery, but for now I have to look at that price and make a decision- one purse or half a flight to London? London it is. The same with shoes and clothes. I have what I need, and yeah I may get a little bored with the selection from time to time, but at the end of the day if it’s a choice between a little autumn shopping spree for the newest trends and the other half of that flight to London….well London wins again. That’s a little trick I play with myself too- putting bigger purchases in terms of what percentage of a flight or trip they are. Once I look at it like that then the choice is really easy. Clothes come and go. Experiences and memories last forever.
Be Selective with My Hobbies
I like to do a lot of things- crochet, scrapbooking, reading, home decorating and crafting, traveling, and now, blogging. But you know what? I just can’t afford to do them all so I’ve had to pick the few I just can’t live without- reading, blogging, and traveling. And then I’ve had to find ways to do them as inexpensively as possible. I think I’m getting pretty good at scouting out travel deals, and finding ways to get the most value for my money but I’ll keep learning about that. For blogging I try to keep those expenses down and remember it is a hobby! If it is ever a business then I can spend a little more money on it but for now, just go with the basics. And reading? Well that’s the toughest one for me. I adore books. I love reading them and having them in my home and giving them as gifts so, as they do tend to cost money, I’ve gotten really good at finding the places to get them free or inexpensively.
One thing that helps a lot is OverDrive which is the service my library uses to provide eBooks and audiobooks to its patrons and it is fantastic! They have tons of selections and, although they aren’t always available there is an easy option to get an email when it’s your turn and you can just download it then. They also have another service called Hoopla to borrow books (though I haven’t really used this one much) and then they just told me about a new service called Flipster that allows you to borrow magazines. So many choices! I also use the heck out of Kindle and they have oodles of free books to read. There are also lots of free books on BookBub that can be had. Really it’s a wonder I still buy books eh? Ah but I do. But when I do I try to always buy used. That’s good right? :-)
Saving on Household Utilities
One thing we lived quite a long time without was cable TV and I don’t mean we had basic cable (like we do now) we had none. As in we used an antenna. Yep, an antenna. But hey cable can be well over $100 so I felt like that was money well saved. We do now have the most basic cable package my company offers but the only reason I got it was because I called to see about saving on my internet and they offered a package for the two that was cheaper than what I paid for internet alone. When we want to watch a movie we can just choose from Netflix, Amazon Prime, Redbox, or our wonderful library that has lots of choices.
For electricity I try to save on costs by keeping the AC a little warmer in the summer and the heat a little cooler in the winter. I figure I can always adjust my clothes as needed. I also bought a little pop-up clothesline a few years ago and think it is probably the best $40 I’ve ever spent. I love to regale my coworkers about stories of hanging my clothes outside to dry (for free!) because they seem to think it is such a foreign concept. But I would say I have saved quite a bit over the past few years by not running the dryer for hours on end each weekend, as it is one of the higher users of electricity in my home. Plus I get that “fresh from outside smell” for my clothes and sheets. Bonus!
Purge, Purge, Purge
This has been by far the thing that has made the most difference for me and I think it can be summed up best by a quote I found recently-
“The more you own, the more it costs to keep it. Keep less and you’ll have more money to do the things you love.”
I couldn’t agree more. In 2013 I set out on a purging mission to donate, sell, trash, or give away 2013 things in that year and it was awesome! You might think that you don’t have that many things but I bet you do and I actually ended up purging even more (with more still to go). Besides saving money on now not having to keep those things, the more things that left my house the less I wanted to bring back in. I also took the time to keep track of every item I donated with ItsDeductible because in the US charitable donations can be used for tax deductions to save some money. In addition to the Goodwill, you can also donate books, magazines, and movies to your library and they’ll provide you with a receipt for your taxes. Between all the donations and selling some items on Amazon I was able to put some money into my travel fund and set myself up nicely to spend less money on the 2013+ things around my house that I guess I didn’t need because I sure haven’t missed anything!
I remember the day I opted not to go out with my colleagues for lunch. I don’t always turn the invitations down but on this particular day I was coming up on a trip to Iceland and England and was saving up spending money for it. One colleague kept saying “just come, it’ll only cost $10” but I said no because I could put that $10 in my trip fund. A few weeks later when I was having my first afternoon tea outside Windsor Castle with my friend (and it cost about $10) I knew I had routed those funds well. Sometimes all it takes is considering a possibility like that and the decision is instantly easy to put that $5, $10, or $20 into the travel fund and save it for what will most likely be a GREAT memory.
The bottom line is it really is all about your dreams and goals and what you’re going to give priority to. Most of us just can’t have it all so we have to direct our energy and resources to what will ultimately make us happiest and the most fulfilled. If that is traveling the world for you, you can make it happen and you’ll always be glad you did.