Thursday, April 17, 2014

tips + tricks: how do you afford travel?


Sometimes people from back home tell me how much they would love to travel and see the world and it makes me a little sad because most of the time they have defeat in their voices as though that is a total impossibility for them. 

And I don't really think that is the case. 

So, with that in mind, I have decided to share some details of our life so people can see what it takes for us to do what we do: travel + see the world. 

Our biggest secret is cutting back on daily expenses and living far below our means so we can save more of our monthly paycheck. 

Here's how we stretch our [one] monthly paycheck to cover our globe trots:

We don't have a TV or cable bill 
We don't watch much TV anyway. Anything we do watch is online and free. In Taiwan, some channels are not accessible online but most things can be found with a bit of creativity. 

We don't have a cell phone bill
We use pay-as-you-go cell phones. We find we don't need to be connected all the time. In fact, we kinda like that we're not. Plus, not having to pay a smart phone bill each month makes us happy. 

We budget our weekly expenses very carefully
We only spend $100/week on food + household expenses. We get cash out for the week and that is all we get for the grocery store. For more about our system, read this

We set aside money each month
We put aside $500 each month for travel. We have a separate account for our travel money too. We never touch it unless it's for something related to travel. 

We find cheap + free things to do for fun
Most of what we do over the weekend is cheap or free. We scoot up into the hills, go on walks, explore local markets, etc. We rarely spend more than $20 on an outing. 

We indulge once a week
We allow ourselves one day a week to go out to eat, go to a movie or go crazy and buy three bottles of nail polish. Not being a complete scrooge with our money allows us to feel like we still can do what we want but within reason.

We use things until they bust
We do not buy new electronics or household items until we wear out our old ones. We also do our best to revive things once they die so we can postpone having to buy a new, expensive items. 

We shop sales
When we do buy new things, we poke around before we make a purchase to make sure we are getting the best deal. We also usually buy things like clothes in bulk so it's not something that happens every month. 

We buy cheap airfare
We always fly economy and we always book through either cheapoair or jetscoot. Usually we fly at odd hours and sometimes there are long layovers but we.don't.care.

We don't buy junk
We stay away from chips, soda, beer, ice cream, candy, wine, fast food, etc. We only get those items every once in a while on one of our splurge days. 

We intentionally put ourselves in a profession + situation that allows for our desired lifestyle
Moving to Taiwan was partly an adventure and partly a good economic investment. We worked hard to put ourselves in a situation where we: get free housing, pay $1 USD every time we fill up our scooter's gas tank [which is about once a week], can live cheaply due to the low cost of living, could enroll Sean in a BA program and incur only a little debt, have three months off every year and yes: travel, travel, travel. 

All of these things allow this single income household the opportunity to travel and see the world. We have financial obligations: my student loan and Sean's university fees take up nearly half of our one paycheck. Despite that, we prioritize travel and find ways to set money aside so we can globe trot. I think you would be very surprised to see how just cutting back on a few things each month can really start to add up to the point that in a few months you could have saved for a plane ticket to a place you've always wanted to go!

What about you? What are your tips + tricks for saving for travel?





40 comments

  1. Great tips, and kudos to you for saving so much each month. I think you're right - being able to travel is largely a matter of discipline and not necessarily an impossibility.

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    1. I think given our awesome situation, $500 a month isn't too painful! But even just a little bit helps!

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  2. I just got done talking with someone from back home who said they wish they could travel! What a fantastic post. Everyone can afford to do it if they make changes in their lives.

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    1. I agree completely. I had to reframe the way I think: I can buy a pair of shoes I don't need or save $50 for vacation, which is often a night's stay in a decent hotel. It helps to think in those terms.

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  3. These are perfect tips! Prioritizing travel is really the way to make it happen. I remember that even as a kid my family would take trips each year even if it was just camping in a nearby state. Their example really made it clear that no matter how much money you make each year you can travel if you make it your priority.

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    1. Yes! We would go camping + hiking too. My first "real" trip was to Hawaii when I was in high school. But prior to that, we actually traveled a lot but just locally!

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  4. I love these tips you've shared and not just for the purpose of saving for travel but for everyday living. Way to go with staying so unplugged, my family's not there but I admire those that are. :)

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    1. I agree. When we lived in the US, we were on a tight budget and living pay check to pay check and this system allowed us to cover all of our monthly costs with enough to have a date night one a week or so.

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  5. Fab tips! I am not sure that I could be so strict, but see look where it takes you! Thanks for linking up with us for #SundayTraveler

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    1. It was really hard at first to stick to our budget but then we saw the results and we were both sold. In four month's time, we had saved enough to fly to New Zealand, which has been a dream trip of ours. Before the budget, it seemed insurmountable but now we are used to it and still find that we enjoy the small things and daily life.

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  6. Great tips, Jackie! And like Daidri has already pointed out, not only for the purpose of saving to travel, but as general life tips. I don't think this is actually cutting back, just being smart and avoiding to spend on things that you actually don't need. And spending a 1$ a week on gas sounds totally unreal and so, so great :). Thanks for linking up with us for the #SundayTraveler!

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    1. I know! I will be so sad to leave Taiwan [whenever that happens] because then I will have to get rid of my scooter and say goodbye to $1 trips to the gas station. It really is so hard to describe what that alone has done for our finances.

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  7. I'm really impressed with how you're able to set aside a whopping $500 a month for travel. You go, girl!

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    1. Thanks! We have thoroughly enjoyed all of our globe trots made possible by our budgeting! :)

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  8. Great tips! I think that, often, people don't realize that it is possible to travel if you make it a priority!

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    1. I agree! And when you're smart about choosing a destination, your money can go so much farther too! So many people miss out because they just want to go to Europe or somewhere super, duper expensive and they miss out on so much of the world.

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  9. These are fantastic tips! Thanks for sharing! I know that I could save extra money by cutting back on certain things too, which I'm starting to do.

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    1. I think starting is the hardest part.

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  10. Hi Jackie! Whoo there are so many comments, I hope this one doesn't get lost :)
    I really love your blog and I hope you don't mind that I nominated you for the Liebster award! If you would like to participate you can find the details on my blog, if not I still wanted to nominate your lovely travel/expat blog.

    My blog is: http://pinkmacaron.weebly.com/

    Have a beautiful day!

    Patricia

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    1. Wow! Thank you! Of course I would love to participate! :)

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  11. Thats are all great tips that even the frequent traveller could use a reminder with. Great tips.

    #sundaytraveler

    www.itsallbee.com

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  12. Great tips! Setting a budge is so key to save money for travel!

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    1. Yup, that's what I always tell myself. Travel won't happen just because I want it to happen, it will happen because I make it happen!

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  13. These are such great tips! I am an English teacher in Madrid currently, making just enough money to pay my bills, cook well, & travel a bit! I have had to curb my shopping habit since moving here (I looove clothes!), and I have also learned to think twice about buying other *want* not *need* items like certain health food things I love to buy at home, and dinners out. I like the idea of one splurge day a week! Having that set keeps the temptation low. I'm so happy to have found your blog through the Travel Tuesday linkup! xx

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    1. Oh wow! Madrid! What a dream. I will definitely check out your blog. I love, love, love connecting with other international teachers :) And I so understand the clothes addiction, for me it's anything + everything Anthropologie. I have had to seriously cut back on my online ordering but traveling makes it so worth the sacrifice!

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  14. Admire your determination to save money! I should work harder on saving money every month just for travel. I'm also trying to save money to pay down a mortgage though. I guess it's just a matter of sorting out your priorities!

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    1. You are so right: it is all about priorities. I know a lot of people think it's wacky to value travel so much but I think we all have our own dreams + goals. We know that someday we will want a house/to lay down roots somewhere and then I'm sure our saving plan will change dramatically.

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  15. These are amazing tips and I follow a lot of them myself! Some of them can be really hard but so well worth it in the end! Thanks for linking up to the #SundayTraveler!

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    1. It can be very hard. We struggle a lot with sticking to our budget when things get hectic around here. It is so much easier to just go out to dinner than to grocery shop, cook and clean. But we have saved so much money by only eating out once a week that even when we're super busy we still generally stick to our budget.

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  16. These are a bunch of really great tips - most of them I follow. I don't think I could entirely give up wine, or the occasional bag of chips. I find that if you avoid putting yourself in a situation where you could potentially spend money really useful. Don't go to the mall if you don't want to spend money. That is just asking for trouble. Thanks for linking up again! See you next week :)

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    1. I could not give up certain things entirely either, which is why we give ourselves a splurge day. We would be toast if we didn't do that. And I think this is a lot easier for me to do here than in the states because there is nothing I could really buy at a Taiwanese mall because I am a size 12 and Taiwan in general does not make clothes for women with curves. Otherwise, my love for clothing would probably overwhelm me :)

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  17. I definitely agree on all you have suggested! I think unless you're completely broke, there are always ways to make travel happen - as long as you make it a priority. Travel is nothing that just happens, you do need to go ahead and find ways to make it happen. I also think that a lot of people assume that travel is much more expensive than it actually is and that's obviously an image that is encouraged by seeing super expensive resorts in the media - you don't see a lot about hostels on TV! ;) Great post!

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    1. I agree. There are hostels on agoda.com for $10/night in a lot of SE Asian cities! That's how we traveled for months and months when I was unemployed.

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  18. Handy tips indeed! In France, where I currently live, there's a special tax for owning a telly and cabel subscription's quite pricey.

    And I totally agree with you on buying new stuff. I don't own the latest smartphone 'cause I don't need it and I've cut down my clothing budget and don't buy new pair of flats or another dress just because it's so cheap, or looks cute or whatever. Again, anyone can save more cash for traveling in case they just learn to say no to impulsive shopping.

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    1. That has been our experience too. When we stopped purchasing random things like DVDs and excess clothing/shoes/newer iPods, we suddenly had a nice little savings that we grew into a travel budget.

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  19. These are fantastic tips. I have a separate travel bank account as well- best idea! <3

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    1. Yes, this made a huge difference. At first, we did dip into the travel budget for other things and each time we felt terrible. Eventually we learned to honor that account and only use it for travel.

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  20. This is a nice list, but not to have cable at home is like having a house without a life.. but you're right, sacrifices must be done and focus on what is most important to you: traveling.

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    1. I guess it just depends. We find we're far happier and lively without the boob tube. Plus, it really is so easy to find almost anything you want to watch for free online. But I can most definitely live without the additional monthly fee in order to have extra money to jet set.

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