For most of us, travel is a joy-boosting experience. It takes us out of the daily grind and makes us fully present in the moment. We become awed by the extraordinary beauty and diversity of our world.
But saving up for travel is… a little less romantic.
Saving doesn’t have to be hard – if we deeply understand who we are and what we value.
So why do you value travel?
Seriously…think about it (Hint: If your answer is, “Because it’s fun!”, try to dig deeper).
Knowing WHY you’re making the conscious decision to spend your time and money on travel will make your financial choices easier.
“DOES THIS BRING ME CLOSER TO ME GOALS”?
Once you’ve decided on a destination and know what the trip will cost, you can look at each financial decision through that lens. You can ask yourself, “Does this purchase bring me closer to my goal or further away from it?”
- Your friends want to go out to eat at an expensive restaurant… again. You know the night will end with expensive drinks at bars. You can say no until after your trip, just get an appetizer, or skip the drinks.
- You’re renting a room, and are thinking of renting a whole apartment. You’re fed up with roommates – Steve hasn’t washed dishes in weeks and Jill’s always hogging the bathroom. But how much time do you actually spend at the apartment? Are you always out doing things you enjoy and just need a place to sleep?
- You’re ready to pick up takeout – yet again – because you don’t feel like cooking. What if you could make delicious, healthy meals at home with plenty of leftovers – so you don’t have to buy lunch at work the next day? Bonus: you’ll feel better than ordering a pizza and eating the whole thing even though you said you weren’t going to!
- You need a car, and are tempted to buy a brand new one. But you know the hefty monthly payment will set you back from your travel goal – and that a new car will lose half its value in just four years. So you buy a reliable used car.
- You go shopping and see the latest fashion – pricey jeans, designer handbag or jewelry. You realize you already have more clothes than you could ever possibly need, and say, “Nah”. You know this stuff won’t make you as happy as that unforgettable trip.
- You’re in line for the latest iPhone… you see where this is going.
KNOW YOUR EXPENSES!
To super-charge our savings, we have to know where our money is going. Most of us have a general sense, but we have to dive deeper.
This takes a bit of effort, but it won’t just set you up for your next trip – it will give you control over your entire financial future and get you on the road to financial freedom.
For one month, keep track of EVERY expense – even that impulse coffee purchase.
If you only use credit cards, you can use online banking to see what you spent on any given day or at the end of the month. Otherwise save your receipts and/or write down expenses on the spot.
Can’t think of all the expense categories right off the bat? No problem! Here’s an Excel Chart to make things easier. The chart is editable so you can make adjustments and play with it.
Completing this is a big accomplishment that will set you apart from the vast majority of people.
Once you have the expense chart done, you can get creative!
What do you truly value, and what’s only a superficial distraction? You may even decide to nix those matching hot pink motorcycles!
How can you optimize your spending to set yourself up for success?
For most of us, the main issue is not the one-time purchases, but the recurring costs that add up. Shaving just $50 month will give us an extra $600 at the end of the year.
And if you notice that credit cards are a major source of over-spending, one strategy you can try is to keep a fixed amount of cash in your wallet each week.
This is a great visual management tool – and helps you focus on the things you truly value and to think creatively about meeting your needs and wants.
YOUR SECRET WEAPON IS GRATITUDE
Does optimizing spending sound like deprivation and sacrifice?
Or does it sound like courage and conviction about living your values and realizing your dreams?
If it still feels like you’re giving up too much for your travel dream, gratitude is the solution.
The truth is that we sometimes forget how rich we are.
A hundred years ago, kings and queens did not have access to what we have today.
We have pocket computers with humanity’s combined knowledge at our fingertips, electricity in our homes, foods from around the world at the grocery store down the street, the ability to fly within a day or so to the other side of the planet – and even the ability to wear socks with sandals.
And all this is accessible to the middle class.
Gratitude is more than an attitude – it’s a practice. And to practice gratitude, try this:
Every night, write down three things in your life that you’re grateful for.
You’ll experience more joy and strengthen your ability to live the life you want, regardless of the opinions of others.
What I’m most grateful for is being put on hold for 20 minutes when I call my insurance company. I get to listen to their beautiful music and meditate to the point of reaching nirvana. (If there’s any doubt, I’m joking!)
I’m most grateful for the simple joys – such as laughing with my family, being awed by natural beauty, deeply connecting with other people, and being able to express myself.
Gratitude for the priceless things we have – and a defiant refusal to live a flashy, “advertised” lifestyle – has helped my husband Mark and I live life on our terms.
On unexceptional incomes, we were able to travel extensively, pay cash for a house by the age of 30, and ditch my job so I could spend more time with our kids. We’re currently on track to make work entirely optional for both of us by the time our youngest starts kindergarten.
Whatever your goals are – for travel or for life – be true to yourself, live your values, and don’t let the opinions of others hold you back from reaching for your dreams.