How to Save
We already talked about WHY we want to travel and while there are a million other reasons why we want to see this beautiful world we live in, hopefully the main reason is pretty clear as to why we are embarking on this journey. What most of you are probably thinking "Yea, everyone wants to see the world but only few can afford it." "Travel is expensive." "I just can't afford the plane ticket." " I just can't afford to take time off work." We have all heard these same words from ourselves or someone else. And yes, travel could be expensive but it can also be very affordable. There are plenty of different options out there and if you do not need to stay in 5 star resorts or eat at the best restaurants every night then travel is just as doable as buying that new TV you saw at Costco yesterday. This post, however is not about our style of travel (we haven't left yet so we can't really talk about that yet :) ) but about HOW we saved $40,000 in a year.
A little bit of background about us: Loren is a retail Store Manager, works about 45 hours a week and gets paid $30 per hour. Viki is a General Manager of a restaurant with an annual salary of $58,000. We own a home, we pay for car insurance, health insurance, 401k, phone, internet, utilities, medical bills, school loans, and we eat out and go to the bar occasionally. Just a regular couple in America. And yet, we managed to save $40,000 in a little over a year without making too great of sacrifices to our lifestyles. So here how we did it...
We had just come back from our last trip to Europe and the bug was planted. We knew we wanted to travel but we had no money to afford it. We knew we either had to get second jobs and make some major changes to our lives or our dream was going to be just that - a dream. So I decided to create a budget and while I was researching online I stumbled upon Mint.com. Most of you have probably used it or at least heard of it but for those that have no idea what I am talking about - Mint.com is free budgeting tool available to anyone with a computer or a cell phone and internet. It connects to all of your bank accounts, tracks purchases, labels those purchases by category and gives updates once a budget has been exceeded. It took me some time to really fine tune our own budget in order to be accurate and realistic but once it was up and running it was really easy to identify where our money was goingand believe it or not our mortgage was NOT our biggest spending category. Eating out and going to bars and restaurants was waaaaaay more expensive than affording a house apparently. So we decided to start cooking at home and pack lunches for work. Pretty easy, right?! By doing that we were able to save over $1000 a month. We still went out, we still ate out, we just limited ourselves to doing it once a week rather than every day. We were eating better and we were saving money! Win, win!
Another small change that we made was not getting coffee (or chai for Loren) every day - Starbucks (or insert here whatever coffee shop you go to) can add up really quick. So we started making coffee/tea at home.
Another big expense of ours was impulsive shopping - clothes, household items, electronics, books, accessories... We implemented the old but oh, so good policy of "buy it only if you need it." It also helped that we knew that we can't take everything with us considering we are leaving in basically one backpack each so we only bought things we needed for the trip or work. Downsizing was one of the best, most liberating things we have experienced so far in our lives - things as sentimental as they might be are still just things. They might bring memories but you still have those memories even without the item itself. We saved some things that we couldn't part with but for the most part we have either sold or donated 90% of our belongings.
I hope this helps you believe in your own ability to afford whatever is that you might want. We are not millionaires, we are not better than anyone else. We just committed to the idea of a year long trip and we worked hard to afford it. If we can do it, anyone can do it.
We will be more than happy to answer any questions you might have as well as provide some advice if needed.