Saving for a Life of Travel and Happiness

Saving money is hard!! Saving money in the US is even harder!! Its especially hard when you’re bombarded with marketing and advertisements everywhere you turn. The question we had to ask ourselves was: Which would you prefer, the latest iPhone or iPad or would you rather travel to experience a once in a lifetime opportunity? This is the question Karl and I have pondered for years. 

To make our dream of traveling become reality, the first thing we had to do was to change our attitude towards saving money. It’s so easy to live paycheck to paycheck and spend money on the same routine. I was making way more than a small hourly wage that yielded paycheck to paycheck living, but yet I managed to live right at my means for years. This was leaving no room for savings.

The distractions are everywhere.  I can’t walk into a yoga studio or even Target without being bombarded by the newest trendy clothes or cute yoga pants. My husband reminds me all the time for every $50 dollars I spend on yoga pants, that could’ve been a week’s worth of rent in Cambodia. I reluctantly put the yoga pants back (most of the time) and begin thinking about the days ahead I’m going to spend in Cambodia, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, etc.

It wasn’t until I took a step back and began looking at my lifestyle choices that I started to save money. It was very tough at first!! It helped that my too-big-for-me house fell down (that’s a different story for a different blog) forcing me to move into a smaller and less expensive house. I also came to realize that I didn’t need a new car, my car works fine and it gets me from point A to point B with no issues. I don’t need the newest iPhone6, my iPhone4 works just fine. 

Everyone knows that the world runs on money and it takes money to travel. But, if you could start saving now, you could travel sooner. When we decided to get serious about traveling, we came up with a fifteen month plan. Here’s a few minor things we started doing to help build our “Travel Fund”:

1. Shut off your cable now. This was the first thing we did. For some people this could be tough but if your cable bill was like ours, it was ridiculous. Not only was our basic package over $100 /month, but they kept raising our premiums each year. So we said f*** you to the corporate gouging and just finally cut it off. We found streaming is the new and better way to go. Hulu, Netflix or any other streaming service is about 10-20% the cost of basic cable or any other satellite service. Also, if you have Amazon Prime, they show lots of free movies and shows already. Cutting off our Directv saved us over $110 per month that went directly into our “Travel fund.”

2. Ditch the gym membership. Don’t get me wrong, I am a fitness junkie. Exercise is very important but so is getting outside and enjoying the fresh air.  Luckily, we live in Colorado where we get 300 days of sunshine per year (don’t tell anybody)!!  So even if its a little chilly we can always bundle up for a nice brisk workout or go on a hike. If you live in a not so great climate think about putting the membership on hold during “nicer” months and starting it back up when winter comes around. If you’re one of those with the New Years resolution people, stop kidding yourself and stop paying for something you’re only going to use after a few months. You can still find a workout that works for you without paying to go to the gym. Go dancing, play soccer with the kids, start a walking group with your neighbors.  If you still need some weight training, you can buy cheap gym equipment on craigslist or at a yard sale.  People are always getting rid of workout equipment and they will almost give it to you just to get it out of their home. If space is an issue, try buying a home suspension system (much like the TRX bands at the gym). The best thing about TRX bands is that you can even take them with you while traveling. They’re small, packable and can provide a variety of fun and challenging workouts. I strongly encourage you to keep exercising but do it while saving $80 per month into your “Travel Fund.”

3. Eat at home. Not only is it cheaper to eat at home but it can be much healthier. First off, you prepared the food so you know what ingredients went into it. Secondly, you saw the packaging and the product before it was prepared. Not only eating at home saves money but it also allows your family to spend more “quality” time together. It allowed us to have more meaningful conversations with a lot less distractions. Who would have thought eating at home would have strengthened our relationship and saved us money? On top of that if you’re like us, you’ll probably drink less alcohol when you stay home, hence spending less money.

4. Stop the shopping habit. This was the hardest one for me. I recognized my want for new things happens at the same time I’m feeling a little anxious, restless or depressed. It’s that brief moment of serotonin release that makes shopping feel good and thus makes it a habit. I think shopping and neurotransmitters has even been researched. It’s a real thing. So replace shopping with another “feel good” less expensive habit like yoga, walking, meditating, reading (books from a library), hiking, painting, writing or whatever it is you do to feel good. Just no more shopping to boost the mood. Buying unnecessary things will help you save A LOT of money!!

5. Don’t ever start wearing yoga pants. You will become obsessed and addicted. Okay this is personal but point being just don’t start shopping for yoga pants. For me, I have to opt out of shopping completely or the urge and need hits me like a ton of bricks. Yes, I admit it I am a yoga pant addict. The first step in recovery is to verbalize your addiction. Done!! 

6. Sell the stuff you don’t use. We started doing this about a year prior to leaving on our trip. We had a very basic yard sale and made $900 extra cash just selling stuff we weren’t using anyway. It’s amazing how much stuff can accumulate and then not miss it when it’s gone. If you don’t like yard sales, take your stuff to a local consignment store, auction house or put it up on Craigslist. Do not rent a storage unit! Think long and hard about whether you really need that stuff or not. I know it’s challenging but check out our blog about Experiences vs. Stuff to find some inspiration in minimizing your life.

7. Set a gift registry. This one is unique but this is where people (friends and family) can donate to your “Travel fund” rather than getting more unnecessary stuff or gift cards. We set one up for our wedding but kept it going after our wedding was over. Since we were already living together before we got married, we already had everything we needed. We didn’t need or want anymore stuff!! We used a website called merciregistry.com. It was easy to setup and it cost only $30 per year to maintain. Once you have an account, you can post excursions and adventures on your personal site instead asking for different products. It was really fun thinking about all the excursions we wanted to do during our travels. When an excursion gets purchased, the money goes into your Paypal account and realistically you can use the money to spend on anything you want. The only downside is that Paypal does charge a 3% fee but the feedback I got from our guests was really positive.  Every guests enjoyed “shopping” for us and felt like they would be a part of our trip. My mother in-law requested we keep the site up and running for future holidays, birthdays, etc. We agreed!!

Savings money has been challenging and it didn’t happen over night. But so far the rewards have been plentiful. The more we give up now the longer we will have to travel soon. Saving for a life of travel has improved our overall quality of life and we haven’t even started our trip, yet!!

Maybe you’re like my husband on the opposite extreme and you like to save a lot. All the time!! Never has fun. Ha. Just a joke. Karl has fun but his priorities have always been to save money for travel. He never shops and in fact still owns and wears polo shirts from high school. He never buys unnecessary items. In fact, when we cut off our cable his biggest concern was how he was going to watch Tennessee football games?!?! Once we decided to do this, we have never looked back!!.

I work with the geriatric population and I often think about retirement. It’s staring at me every day. I work with lots of people who don’t have money saved and often live their “golden years” pay check to pay check. This makes me feel vulnerable. If you’re a saver and waiting to retire before you travel these feelings are valid. Will we have enough money when I retire? We have been asked lately what happens when the money runs out? Am I willing to risk my retirement to live my dreams now? The answer is yes. At the age of 34 this is something that I am willing to risk. My mother in-law always has good advice and loves to say “you can’t take the money to the grave.” And how many retired people really do travel with all the money they saved? Is the motivation still there into you 60’s, 70’s, 80’s? And lets be honest it may take most Americans into their 70’s and 80s before they will ever retire. So why the hell wait? Do it while you can! Start saving and live out your dreams now.

We don’t know what will happen if and when the money runs out. We hope this blog takes off which would allow us to keep traveling. (So keep reading, please) I’ve come to the point of trusting myself and knowing things will work out the way they are suppose to. (Yoga has helped with this. Keep checking in to the blog as a post about how yoga helped me is in the future) I’ve developed skills in being okay with uncertainty. It’s taken a long time to get to this point but I AM OKAY WITH UNCERTAINTY! The process of saving for a lifetime of travel has helped us improve our quality of life now. I will forever value experiences over stuff. In reality we have already won regardless of the future holds.

2 Comments on “Saving for a Life of Travel and Happiness

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