The number one thing that people always wonder about my travel is how I afford to do it. Especially how I was able to take a year off to travel and freelance. And my simple answer is that I saved.
But it is always more complicated than that.
I spend a lot of time reading personal finance blogs. And the most popular posts are always titled How I Saved $XX,000 Dollars in X Number of Months towards whatever personal goal that person was trying to reach. It’s usually always for travel, to pay of a large debt or to save for a big purchase like a down payment. The most clicked on ones though have the additional And Quit My Job added onto the title.
Let’s get real here. There are two things about every one of those articles that must be acknowledged.
First of all you have to WANT to save money for some goal, to travel, to pay off debt, to make a large purchase. You can’t just be lying on the couch with your laptop thinking, yea it would be nice to have so and so but not be willing to do anything about it. I think most people fall into this category. Saving money a lot of money is hard. If it was easy everyone would be doing it.
People are constantly telling me I wish I could do what you did but you know what? I know that they don’t really want to, if they had the desire to do it then they would.
Second, most of these articles are for people with a single regular nine to five salaried job that can currently pay all their bills and have an Netflix account. They’re for people not making minimum wage, just getting by with the multiple jobs they already have. These articles are for people who regularly go to happy hour, dinners out and have an active Amazon account. Having the financial means to be able to save any large sum of money comfortably is a privilege.
If you have both the desire and the privilege then there is absolutely no reason why you can’t achieve a large savings goal. But don’t kid yourself that it will be as simply as giving up your daily latte. Here’s how I saved for my year off of travel and freelance.
One thing that I found that every article has in common? It’s always about making MORE money in addition to cutting back. No matter what job they have, whether is pays a lot or a little reaching their savings goals ALWAYS involves a side hustle.
And for me the same was true. The biggest ways I made more money to travel had nothing to do with my day job.
I did cut back on things like going out for expensive drinks and shopping but I didn’t stop buying my daily latte or lunches. I know, I know, every personal finance blog ever is pointing their finger at me right now. That is where my laziness comes in. For me there was a limit to how much I could cut back on in my daily life.
80% of the money that I spent traveling the past year though was money that I saved from sources outside of my regular paycheck.
I worked on nights and weekends.
I took any work I could find. I have a job that allows for freelancing more easily but nowadays there are so many ways to make money on the side. Proofreading on Upwork, selling your skills on Fiverr, you could even babysit or do errands for other people with services like TaskRabbit or Uber. Or it could be as simple as just getting night and weekend retail job.
I sold my stuff (and other people’s stuff as well).
If I was going to travel I definitely didn’t need as many designer handbags or clothing items as I had. I also helped others get rid of their stuff who were too lazy to do it themselves.
I hoarded all my rewards points.
Nothing I ever bought didn’t collect some sort of reward mostly through my credit cards. I was able to buy my most expensive plane ticket to Argentina for almost free with the miles I had collected.
I never paid full price.
This is just a general rule of my life but I try and never pay full price for anything when it comes to retail shopping. If I am looking for a more expensive item I always check Poshmark or eBay first to see if someone is selling it for less.
I believed that every dollar (or even quarter counts).
Some people think returning that $5 item you didn’t end up using or saving just a few dollars doesn’t matter but in the end it adds up.
Slowly but surely after about a year I was able to save enough to quit my full time job. The first thing I did? I spent two months in South America, a month in Central America and another in London. In between I’ve been able to freelance but am glad that I saved an extra cushion in case the jobs didn’t come through.
These days I’m spending more time in NYC and less time traveling but I always keep a separate bank account that I put away any extra money I have into that I use just for travel. My next trip? Mexico City!
Saving is hard, there were countless times that I felt like I was missing out on something because I was trying to save money or that I had to curb my desire for a random food craving or shopping impulse. But you know what? It was worth it. I don’t regret a second of it.
Have you ever saved for something big? How did you do it?
SEE ALSO: How to Save More Money to Travel