Fact: We live in a consumer society. We buy something, and the next week there’s a better version of it on the market. So then we buy that one too. It’s a vicious cycle really. I get it(I really do), trust me. The 80 some odd pairs of sneakers I own didn’t buy themselves. Consumerism aside, unless you were born rich, the only way you’ll be able to travel repeatedly and continuously is to save. Here’s how to go about it.
Step 1 – Evaluate Your Monthly Expenses:
Sit down and figure out where your money is going. If you’re like me, you’re in your 20s living alone doing the young adult soon to be grown up thing. And all things considered it’s pretty awesome. But it can also be pretty expensive.
Here’s a quick list of typical expenses to get the ball rolling;
Rent: This needs no explanation.
Utilities: Electricity, water, heating, Internet and the like.
Credit Card: Self-explanatory
Social/Entertainment: Netflix, movies, dates, bars/clubs, concerts etc.
Health/Fitness: Gym membership, yoga classes, protein shakes etc.
Food: Groceries and eating out at fancy (or not so fancy) restaurants.
Transportation: Bus/train pass, car, car insurance, gas, tickets, maintenance.
Phone: Cell phone bill
Other: Bank loans, gifts on birthdays, romantic occasions or holidays, impromptu road trips, retirement savings etc.
Copy and paste this list. Write down how much each category costs you every month. You may also want to jot down your monthly income. Feel free to include any other non-salary income; anything from recycled bottles to investment dividends is fair game.
Step 2 – Draw Up A Budget:
Now that you have the details of what you make and spend, you can make a budget for yourself. Ask yourself, how much can you realistically save every month? A good rule of thumb for beginner savers is to save a least 10% of all of your income. Really aggressive savers can save anywhere from 50% to 80% of their pay.
If you’re no good with numbers, have someone you trust and whom is good with numbers create a budget for you. You can even book an appointment at your local bank branch with a financial advisor for expert advice. The amount of money you make does play a small (emphasis on small) part in the amount you save, but the biggest influence on your savings is you. What are you willing to sacrifice and for how long are you willing to make said sacrifice to go on your dream vacation or backpacking around the world for a year? The more you give up now, the more you enjoy your trip in the distant or not so distant future.
Step 3 – Open A Travel Account:
If you’ve made it this far, you just might be serious about this travel thing. Pat yourself on the back. A lot of people will think about their expenses and let themselves be overwhelmed by the budgeting aspect. But not you, the force is strong in you. Opening a travel account is the easiest part of the saving process. Pick a bank, any bank, and have them open up a savings account for you. A few suggestions; ask the employees about high interest savings accounts. Why not get a few extra dollars just for saving your money. Also, open your travel account with a different bank than your checking account. In the age of online, well everything, you may be tempted to transfer funds from your travel savings onto your credit card or into your checking account after you’ve paid off a few online bills. If you really want to practice restraint, decline to take a bankcard to go with the savings account. This means if you want to withdraw money, you have to go into the bank in person. Alternatively, you can take a card and hide it. If you can’t remember where you put it, you can get a new one from the bank. The first thing you should do every payday as soon as you wake up is transfer a chunk of money into your travel account.
Step 4 – Work More, Play More
More work, more money, more travel, more fun. Boost your work schedule to get those extra dollars rolling in. If you work part-time, ask your boss to go full-time. If you’re already full-time, clock in some overtime. If you don’t get paid for over time or you’re already working overtime, get a second job. Think of it this way, going the extra mile at work means adding way more mileage to your trip. All of a sudden, working doesn’t seem so bad, does it? Check newspaper ads, Craigslist & Kijiji postings, and notify friends and family via social networks (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc). If traditional work isn’t really your thing (it isn’t mine either if we’re being completely honest) there are other ways to bolster your income. Whatever your talent is, find a way to get paid for it. Don’t have any skills? Learn one for free online with courses on platforms like Udemy and Skillshare. The point is, the more you work, the more amazing your next trip will be.
Step 5 – Be A Cash Cow:
If you want to see the funds in your travel account stack up as quickly as possible you can use what I like to call the cash cow method. It’s simple; now that you have a budget, take out a set amount of money to account for your entire week of spending. I used to do this on Sunday night or Monday morning. Make sure you give yourself a bit more cash on weeks where you have more spending to do, to account for things like weddings or birthdays. Once that’s done, leave your bankcard and credit card at home. Do this every week and your money’ll pile up in no time. At the end of the week or month you’ll have a few options for your left over money. You can deposit it into your travel account (this is obviously the best option) or you can let the money roll over to the next week so you can have a bit more money to spend. Either way, you’re spending less and saving more. The trick is not to be too generous with the weekly allowance you give yourself, but don’t be too cheap either. You don’t want to become resentful of living in a less than luxurious fashion and then give up, or even worse turn that resentment towards travel. If you do this honestly and properly, you’ll find yourself weighing the things that you want and picking either/or as opposed to all. This is good, it’s called sacrifice.
Step 6 – Fire sale! Everything Must Go!
Okay so maybe you’re too lazy/busy to evaluate your expenses, or draw up a budget. Maybe cash really isn’t your cup of tea and you’re more of the plastic swiping type. Maybe you’re not so keen on spending more time working and would rather workout or marathon the latest season of whatever it is you watch on Netflix. You can still make some quick cash by selling things you already have. Those barely worn gym shoes, that video game you never got around to playing, that gift you never got around to re-gifting (we’re all guilty of this) – sell them all and put the money into your travel account. Have a garage sale, post your items online and take them to consignment stores. Who knows? The money you make may be the difference between a first class and coach seat.
Saving money is no walk in the park. I’ve been there. You will at times feel like you’re at the bottom of the barrel. But keep reminding yourself what you’re saving for. It could be one of your greatest memories or a life altering experience. In that sense, a little sacrifice will take you a long way.