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When Andrew and I tell people that we quit our jobs to travel for a year, the number one question we get is, “How do you afford that?” Which is totally fine! I get it. Before we decided to go on our trip, I was always curious about how other people made it work.
The short answer is that we tapped into our pre-existing savings account, spent 6 months saving extra money, and we currently work on the road.
I won’t go into details about our pre-existing savings account or our income on the road (sorry — that would be a bit personal!), but I will share how we saved a big chunk of change in the last 6 months before we left. It made a big difference for us and it could help you if you’re looking for ways to save money, whether that’s for travel or not!
Here’s how we saved an extra $11,000 in 6 months…
Quit buying coffee (Savings = $900)
I used to go to Starbucks three or four times a week. I spent at least $10 on a drink and food. That adds up to $30 - $40 a week and $120 - $160 a month. That doesn’t sound too crazy, but it amounts to $900 over a 6 month period. Now that’s crazy! Almost $1,000! After doing the math, I realized that I needed to break up with the seductive green siren. It was tough, but I held my ground. Every time I thought about buying Starbucks, I asked myself if I would rather have a frappuccino at my office desk or a cappuccino in Paris. The answer was always Paris. Luckily my office had free coffee and tea to get me through the separation anxiety. Confession: I did get a few Starbucks gift cards for Christmas, so I used those when I absolutely HAD to have a decaf mocha and spinach feta wrap. Thank you, Toshia and Gamma!
Only went to restaurants and bars on special occasions (Savings = $3,500)
Andrew and I used to dine out three times a week. We spent $20 - $40 on a meal for both of us. That sums up to $60 - $120 a week and $360 - $480 a month. Not necessary! Instead, we shopped at Costco once a week and bought all of our groceries in bulk. We made our lunches, cooked almost every meal, and ate leftovers. It was so much cheaper. We also used to go to bars with our friends. We largely cut this out. Rather, we bought cheap wine from Costco and invited our friends over for drinking nights. During our 6 months of saving, we saved around $2,500 by giving up restaurants and $1,000 by giving up bars. There was the occasional dirt cheap happy hour, but that was it!
Gave up shopping (Savings = $500)
I’m not really a big shopper, so cutting out shopping was easy for me. The only clothes I bought were the ones we needed for our trip. I’m planning to write a post about what I packed (it’s not very much!), but I saved $500 over the 6 month period by not shopping.
Found alternatives to movies, concerts, and events (Savings = $600)
On average, we used to spend $100 a month on movies, concerts or other events. While we love getting out and having fun, saving for our trip was more important. We sacrificed some fun to be able to afford fun later! To stay entertained, we stuck to movies on Netflix, dance parties in our kitchen, and inviting our friends over for game nights. Turns out having fun can be totally free!
Cancelled monthly memberships (Savings = $300)
Monthly memberships add up quick. We had a gym membership that was $30 a month, a Netflix account that was $10 a month, and two Spotify accounts that were $10 each. Andrew started to workout at home and I never even set foot in the gym, so we decided to cancel it. Andrew’s family has a Netflix account, so we hopped on their membership and cancelled my old one. We also cancelled one of the Spotify accounts. We saved $50 a month and $300 over the 6 month period.
Cancelled Amazon Prime (Savings = $99)
After receiving wedding gifts from our generous friends and family, we didn’t really need anything else. We weren’t buying things on Amazon, so we cancelled Prime. It was $99 a year, so we just didn’t renew it. Easy!
Sold Andrew’s car (Earnings = $750)
Andrew used to drive a sexy, navy blue 2001 Ford Taurus. I was absolutely devastated when it broke down (sarcasm) and the damage was more expensive that the car itself. We listed it on Craigslist and sold it to a woman who fixes cars. Afterward, we carpooled to work and it was actually really nice to start the day together! I dropped Andrew off in the morning and he took the bus home in the evening.
Sold my unused wedding dress (Earnings = $900)
This one is a long story. Basically, I bought my second-choice wedding dress and not my first-choice. I talked myself out of my first choice, because it looked different from the ‘childhood vision’ I had for my wedding dress. So I went with my second choice. P.S. Don’t ever do that. Always go with your first choice, even if it surprises you. My coworkers rightfully talked me into buying my first choice. (Thank you, Ingrid and Nina!) So I did it! Then I sold the other one online.
Sold other stuff we didn’t need (Earnings = $1,500)
When we moved in together after getting married, we had doubles of lots of things. We didn’t need two XBOXs. We didn’t need two iPads. There were also some things that we hadn’t used in years, so we decided to sell them. Rockband equipment, work out equipment, beer brewing equipment. I sold most of it at my office on the classifieds email alias, but also a few things on Craigslist too.
Moved in with my mom the last month (Savings = $2,000)
This was a big one for us. We were paying $1,550 in rent for our apartment in Seattle. We were also paying for electricity, internet, and other random up keep items (i.e. light bulbs, toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning suppliers, etc). My mom was very generous and let us live with her for our final month before we left. Our lease ended in April and we lived with her in May. I think she loved it. ;)
Total savings: $11,050
So that’s how we saved an extra $11,000 in 6 months! We were shocked by the results. It’s amazing how things add up. When we combined that with our pre-existing savings, we had enough money to last us 6 months. Since we wanted to travel for longer than that, we brainstormed ways to earn money on the road. Some things have worked, but some things have totally and utterly failed. I may write about this in the future, but for now I’m still mulling it all over.
Something to note…
In the spirit of honesty, I should point out that we were debt free. We didn’t have student loans, a mortgage, or any other outstanding investments to pay off. Unfortunately I’m not able give advice for this, but fellow bloggers Adventurous Kate and Frugal Frolicker wrote two AWESOME posts about this. Thought Catalog and USA Today also have two great articles on this subject. They are all good reads. It is still possible to travel with debt! Really!
If you’re thinking about leaving your job to travel the world, then I’m giving you solid, fast, make-your-palm-turn-red high five. It’s not an easy choice, but it is probably the right choice. We have a limited amount of time on this earth, so we might as well make the most of it and go after what we want.
One more thing…
We’ve found that it’s best to chase your dreams in a strategic way. Make a thoughtfully laid out plan and set up a few safety nets just in case. (Aka, ask your mom if you can live with her when you get back and continue to work on how you're going to make money in the short term and long term).
At the end of the day, taking time off and traveling has been wonderful for us. We’re healthier (sort of - the world is filled with tasty ice cream), happier (for the most part - sometimes we get lonely), and we’re able to focus on our brand new marriage (it’s required - we’re together 24/7!). It’s not perfect every day, but we are very glad we did it.
In the meantime, we’re traveling on a tight budget and seeing the world in a frugal way. We're currently in Split, Croatia and it is so beautiful. And affordable!
It's taken some creativity to save money on the road, but it's actually not that hard. Especially when there are tons of tips out there from fellow travelers. Our friends Rick and Sandi from the Expedia Viewfinder blog share some great tricks in their Step-by-step guide to vacations on a budget. They show that it’s not impossible to travel on a budget.
So there you have it! A look at how we’re making it work. If you’re thinking about saving up money to travel, do it! You can get some ideas from the points above. Let’s cheers to you and your next grand adventure. *clink*