When I made the decision to head off on a long-term trip I had to first work out how much it was likely to cost me, how much I wanted to save and if I was willing to work on the road. Once I knew what my saving goal was I then set out to work out achievable ways to get there.
This outline might not be relevant for everybody as I do confess to having quite an indulgent lifestyle. These costs are also all in Australian dollars and you might not be aware but us Aussies get charged way too much for things.
Step 1: Cut out the small things
My very first step was to identify what spending I could cut-out of my life without drastically changing my lifestyle. Here are some examples of what I found in my own life that I could do without or have less of:
Spotify subscription $9.99 pm
Other subscription services (online magazines etc.) - $15 pm
Daily coffee $4 pd
Daily lunches $8 pd average
Occasional breakfasts - $15 pw
Drinking during the week (unless it’s for an occasion) - $30 pw average
Total saving - $444.99 per month!!
Basically, I started cooking more at home so I could have delicious left overs for work, switching to yummy flavoured tea instead of suffering the office's instant coffee and finding free alternatives to paid subscriptions.
What about the big stuff?
Everyone has different goals. If you're like me and travel is a major goal you could consider making some bigger changes to your lifestyle. Consider getting some financial advice and seeing where you could adopt an alternative lifestyle to start putting money away for a big trip or even many small ones.
To provide further context on my personal situation, I had already gotten rid of my car when I first started travelling ten years ago and rent instead of owning. Where I live in Australia, I could save a lot more money by renting an apartment than paying a mortgage. When considering home owner costs like insurance, rates and body corporate fees I decided to put the amount that I saved every month directly into a savings fund specifically for travel that I never touch.
Likewise with car ownership, as a depreciating asset that only costs you more money to maintain, I opted to become one of the few of my friends who waked, biked or used public transport. The important thing is to consciously make the decision to take the hundreds that you would save from these major expenses and put them away.
Step 2: Be more mindful about casual spending
I wasn’t super frugal but I did make an effort to really think about whether I needed the “nice-to-have” items that I encountered during the day.
If my friends were having delicious bubble tea, did I have to have one? Could I just sip on my water bottle?
Do I really need that chewing gum? The answer could be yes if I cooked the night before as I am pretty heavy handed with the garlic.
Do I actually need 3 glasses of wine with dinner or could I be happy with just one?
I’m also a big reader and instead of picking up a new book anytime someone recommended one to me, I put out a call to my friends to lend me any they thought I would like.
More often than not it was pretty easy to abstain if you give yourself some guides to measure against. Here were some of mine:
Two lunches = one night in a hostel in Antigua, Guatemala
A bubble tea = Dinner out
Two glasses of wine = A one hour horse ride in the Nicaraguan countryside
Step 3: No more Shopping
The lifestyle I had grown accustomed to saw me buying what ever caught my fancy. I loved “sales” and quickly accumulated a wardrobe filled with more clothes than I could ever need. Once I made the decision that I was going to be travelling long term, I enforced a “No New Stuff” rule.
No house stuff; and
No electronics (unless I would be taking it with me).
To be perfectly honest, it started to feel very liberating. I realised I was under the control of big corporate marketing, getting excited every time I got a sale email or spotted a 2 for 1 deal and by allowing myself to step outside of that space, I felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders.
I no longer needed to think about whether I should buy something new to go to a friend's wedding or if I should replace my ailing frying pan. Buying something new was no longer an option, I just had to make do.
These are just some of the things that worked for me. I do know that I could have made some more drastic changes to save much more money but for me it was important to find a balance. I started planning for my trip a year out and I knew that if I made too big of a change I would just be miserable for a year.
I could have moved in with my parents, who live 40 minutes away from the city and my work, but I would not have been able to see my friends as much or as easily and I wouldn’t have the privacy that I am used to.
I could have also eliminated more socialising from my life but again I didn’t want to treat that year as a waiting period. A whole year in my life that I was just wishing away waiting for it to be over so I could start travelling.
I hope that these points at least give you some ideas to help you with your own saving goals.
Create a budget and be aware of where your money is going.
Start looking for the small things in your life you can stop paying for.
Look for cheaper transport alternatives, could you ride a bike or walk instead of public transport?
Have a clear idea in your mind how much certain things will cost when you’re on your trip to help make quick decisions about casual spending.
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