In last week’s blog I discussed how we budgeted for 2 months of travel across the U.S.A., but what I didn’t discuss is how we saved the money in the first place. It’s not easy saving over $7,000. So, this blog post isn’t so much as a travel blog, but more of a money saving guide in order to help you travel more!
First, I’ll give you a little background on me and my husband, A.J. We were high school sweethearts, dated for 6 years and got married on the day of our 7 year (dating) anniversary. I went to a community college for 2 years that cost me nothing because of my good grades in HS, transferred to a very expensive college for one semester and used up all of the money my parents gifted to me for ALL OF COLLEGE in one semester, then transferred to a cheaper school for my last two years. I graduated with no debt, even though I had to pay for 2 full years of college on my own. How did I do this? Well, I finished up my degree with an online program that the college offered, lived with my parents during this time, and worked my butt off as a waitress/bartender. I lived with my parents for 4 ½ years after high school, only leaving for one semester when I went to the expensive college. Do ya’ll have any idea how much I saved doing this? At a very low price of say $400 for rent per month x 12 months = $4,800 per year, multiply this by 4 years: $4,800 x 4 = $19,200. Did I love saying that I lived with my parents until I was 24, NO, but am I happy as hell I saved nearly $20,000 because of it, YES!! Now obviously some of you reading this are already past this point in life, but the point I’d like to really stand out throughout this blog is that sometimes we have to make sacrifices in our daily lives in order to travel more. Keep open minds to money saving options! Now, I didn’t get off completely scotch free because of my husband. He did not live with his parents during college and racked up quite a bit of debt from his private school education, rent, and everyday life. During our road trip, he signed up for a deferment program because he was currently unemployed; this basically means that he didn’t have to pay his debt for those two months. Also, after he graduated he moved back in with his parents/my parents.
The main points of me sharing our backgrounds is to say that I had no debt, my husband had some debt we had to worry about, but we lived with our parents for almost a year while planning the wedding and road trip. Side note: we were going on our road trip as a honeymoon, but even more so, we were exploring different cities and states to see if we wanted to move there after we got married. We had three cats, my parents watched 2 of them while we were gone and my husband’s mom watched 1 of them. Our main obstacles for the trip were our cats and my husband’s college debt; however, both were handled pretty smoothly. A lot of people will make up excuses for why they can’t travel, but to be frank, I don’t think they truly want to travel if they can’t/don’t find a solution for their obstacles. Isn’t this true in everything, though? If you truly love something, you’ll find a way.
Obstacles I often hear:
College Debt: The government offers many options to help with loans and debt. We chose to defer A.J.’s loan temporarily, but they’re a lot of other options, as well. There are forgiveness programs, income-based repayment, forbearance, etc. As an alternative, can you save enough to continue paying the debt off even while you’re traveling?
Other Debt: Have you tried getting some of it forgiven? Can you afford to continue paying it off during your travels? Have you considered finding a job where you want to travel to? Lastly, have you considered working virtually? Virtual positions are jobs where you can work off of a computer anywhere in the world. You can still travel while you are paying off your debt.
House/rental payments: Do you really need a house or place to rent? Can you sell all your stuff and become a nomad (someone who has no ‘home’ and travels full-time)? If you do still want a place to call home, you’ll have to figure out how you’ll make your payments each month. Can you rent it out? Could you rent to a family/friend? Recently, this was a big debate for me and my husband. My husband wanted a house, a spot for all of our stuff, and a home for our cats. Meanwhile, I want to continue traveling and know we can’t afford traveling full-time if we have a house payment each month. We compromised! His mother happened to be looking for a place around the same time we were planning on buying. She splits rent with us so our payments are very affordable, she watches our cats for us while we’re away, and we have the added bonus of security while we’re gone! There are tons of other options, as well. You could list your place on AirBNB, you could find a place with roommates, you could work on the road in order to afford monthly payments, you could save enough before your vacation to pay next months rent in advance, you could rent/buy a mobile home (they are so cheap) or buy a fixer upper for an affordable price, etc. We once considered flipping houses in every city we wanted to see. We would buy a house near say Chicago, fix it up, and hopefully sell it for more than we bought it for. Not only could we make money doing this, but we would also get the chance to experience new cities every 6 months. Another thing we considered is being a house parent. This often requires being married, but this is a job where you get paid and they provide your housing. There are actually a lot of jobs that will provide housing such as maids, butlers, personal assistants, au pairs, work with hotels/motels, etc. If you’re interested in jobs that provide housing, use that in your job search ‘keywords’ option. These are just a few options we have thought of as a compromise to traveling and still having a place to call home.
Children: I don’t have children yet, so I can’t say much for this one except for I’ve seen other people do it. Get out there and look for traveling parent blogs. I remember reading one during my research where a family of six was going on a 2 month long road trip in a van! So, it’s possible!
Pets: I don’t see too many people traveling with their cats. We’re still figuring out how we can carry our six cats around with us. However, it’s not uncommon to see people traveling with their dogs. There will be different things you have to think about if you travel with your pets such as whether the place your sleeping allows pets, can you sneak them in, will your RV be hooked up in order to provide A/C for your pets, can you fly with your pet (I once heard that pugs are literally not able to fly or it will kill them!), etc. Another option is having a pet sitter. If you have a home, there are tons of websites that offer pet sitters. If you don’t have the extra money, would a family member or friend take care of them for you? It’s worth a shot asking. Maybe you have no family or friends, would about the little neighbor girl/boy down the street? They would probably be thrilled to make $10, plus let’s be real; the parent will likely be walking them down to the house and making sure the kids took care of everything (I know my mom would have). As an added bonus, kid’s loves pets, so they’ll probably love doing this and your pet will love them, too. Lastly, if you have cats (so independent), how long will you be gone? Is it short enough that you can just put out extra food and an extra litter pan that you don’t even need a sitter?
You already have a steady job: Most careers don’t let you leave for 2 months; however, you guys do get some vacation time, USE IT! If you’re absolutely headstrong on keeping this steady job of yours, have you considered transferring departments? Is there anything that can be done virtually? Would about transferring to another city that the employer has work in? Maybe you don’t love the company you work for but you love what you do. Start checking online job searches that include 100% travel in the keywords. Don’t change the job you do, but consider changing the company you work for in order to travel more. Maybe you hate the job you do, then QUIT! Get a job serving or bartending. I love bartending. You can make great money and it’s needed in nearly every city in the world. Recently, I got back from a 2 week vacation and my grandma said ‘now you’re not working at that place anymore?’ and I said ‘yes, I am’ and she said ‘oh I’m just surprised, I figured you going on a two week vacation was your transition into a new job’ then in shock she asked ‘they were okay with you taking another 2 week long vacation?’ This year I took 5 vacations all over a week long. We ‘request off’ days with our manager. Oftentimes, we request off during slow periods, so we’re really not even missing out on money because if we stayed we really wouldn’t be making much anyway. Serving and/or bartending aren’t the only jobs that are universal. There are tons of jobs that you can get from city to city.
Your parents suck, are unhelpful, and are not there for you: We got lucky with 2 awesome sets of parents. They are very helpful, loving, and kind. But that’s not to say that we don’t have brothers, sisters, friends, aunts, uncles, and grandparents that we could ask for help if we needed it. We are both blessed with loving family and friends. Maybe you don’t have an overwhelming number of people that are there for you, but there must be at least 1 or 2. Maybe you don’t even have 1 or 2 people to help, but I know for a fact there’s always a church around the corner willing to give a helping hand. Most churches I know go on missionary trips (where you travel to countries and spread the word you follow to the people who live there and volunteer your time). Who knows where this path could take you or who you could meet while doing this.
You may try as hard as you can, but there’s probably no obstacle that I can’t find a solution for. Always brainstorm, keep trying, keep an open mind, and always ask for help. There were many different things that helped and/or hindered our opportunity to travel and travel savings. The difference with us is that we didn’t let anything hinder our opportunity to travel. We created our own opportunities and didn’t let anything stop us. We asked for help where we needed it and found solutions however we could. I think the biggest thing that helped us save money was to NOT do a lot of things. We didn’t buy brand new cars just because we could, we didn’t rent an apartment together as soon as I graduated high school so that we could party every weekend, we didn’t get a dog (I’m actually a dog person) because we know they are more dependent off of you vs. cats, etc. They’re a million things people choose to do that will hinder their opportunities to travel more. A lot of people will look at some of our circumstances and say “they can travel because they had this, I don’t have that.” I’m not saying we don’t have a lot of opportunities that others may never get; however, I will say we created a lot of our opportunities and make a lot of sacrifices. Most people don’t want to live with their parents after they are 18, I DID. Most people don’t want their mom, or mother-in-law, to move in with them in their first house they own, well we did that too in order to save money and travel more. There are a lot of things you can choose to do or not do that could literally save you thousands of dollars, in which you can then invest in more travel. Listed below is a lengthy list of tons of different options I have done, considered, or seen other people do in order to save more money.
List of ways you can save money:
-Live with your parents.
-Live with another relative.
-Live with friends or find a roommate (this can at least lower your monthly rent).
-Rent your place or AirBNB it.
-Do you qualify for government assistance in any way?
-Save your income tax money every year specifically for travel.
-Buy a fixer-upper home for cheap.
-Live somewhere cheaper than you are currently. Boats, RV’s, mobile homes, tiny homes are just a few options. Average rent to live in Key West is $1,500 a month. We met a guy who lived on his boat for only $200 a month. It’s a known fact that bartenders can make over 6 figures if they find a good job in Key West. Do you know how much travel could be done if you were making/saving that much?
-Live in a cheaper city than you are currently. We all know a place within an hour of us that probably costs half the price we’re currently paying for rent. Do you have to live in that high rise apartment building with the marble counter tops?
-Quit your crappy paying job. A.J. worked at a job making only $9 an hour for longer than he should have. You don’t need any specific set of skills to serve or bartend, it’s easy and you can make good money. I advise serving/bartending, but there are a ton of other high paying jobs that don’t require degrees or college education. If you’re making more, you can save a hell of a lot more, too.
-Date or marry someone, splitting the costs of everything will give you a lot more money. That’s the only reason I took the plunge ;) Just kidding!
-Don’t buy a brand new car! My parents have bought several used and new cars in their time, for themselves and their children. My dad, who is quite dorky, started an Excel sheet that listed all the costs he has put in to every used and new car he has owned to see how much they cost in the long term. He has found over and over again that used cars are the more affordable option. New cars are expensive and you now have interest and a new monthly payment.
-Better yet, don’t own a car! Gas is expensive, getting them fixed is expensive, whether it’s used or new, you’re usually looking at a few thousand dollars you have to pay up front, and you constantly have to maintain them with new tires, oil changes, etc. How would not having a car be possible? Can you carpool? Can a friend or family member give you a ride to work? Can you bike or walk to work? Are there buses or subways in your city? If I didn’t own a car, do you know how many beer runs I wouldn’t have been able to go on? I could be saving thousands in beer and wine costs without the convenience of being able to buy it whenever I so pleased!
-Stop buying ridiculously priced technology. It all practically does the same thing anyway and in a month, there’s going to be something better. If you really want to save money, stop using your smart phone! This will save hundreds of dollars in data fees and probably a lot of your time, as well.
-Stop paying for cable. Cable is very expensive and there are so many streaming options available to us nowadays. How often do you even watch your cable?
-Stop paying for that gym membership or tanning package you never use. You either go or you don’t, be honest with yourselves and don’t waste your money because you’re in denial. If you’re really committed to working out, there are a lot of at home work outs that you can do that will give you your desired appearance for no money at all
-Don’t go on an unnecessarily expensive vacation. Luxury resorts, spas, fancy restaurants, etc. are all going to cost you. Also, one island compared to the next may cost you thousands of dollars extra, and in my opinion, for no real good reason. Most islands have beautiful blue water and sand covered beaches. If you go to one that costs you $1,000 instead of $5,000, you now have $4,000 more to spend on your next vacation! There are many bloggers out there that share content covering cheap cities and destinations to travel to.
-Sell your stuff on Craigslist, buybacks, Plato’s Closet, Face book marketplace, etc. I see so much stuff on the side of the road, but even listing something for $5 will make you that much richer! Garage sales are also another option to get rid of all that junk in your attic and make some extra spending money.
-Stop drinking! I would have so much more money if I weren’t obsessed with craft beer.
-Stop smoking! I’ve seen people share on apps how much they’ve saved from not smoking for a year and man does that money add up. Plus not to mention that you’ll be paying lots of extra money in health bills if you keep it up.
-Limit how many times you go out to eat. It’s expensive and mostly unhealthy.
-What else can you cut back on or save money on by changing habits? Do you drink a lot of pop? Starbuck’s coffee? Red bull? Bar-fly? I oftentimes find that it’s the little things that add up quickly for us.
-Avoid interest as best as you can! I know sometimes this isn’t an option, but sometimes you can avoid it and you’re choosing not to. With house and college loans, you’re oftentimes paying half as much in interest. Every month, we pay a certain amount on our house mortgage and nearly half is paying just for interest alone. I literally can’t stand to think about how much money we waste in interest. So, how can you avoid interest? Save up and buy a cheap house. A friend of mine found 2 separate houses, one for $8,000 and one for $12,000 that they bought both. Another option could be having someone help you out. Do you know anyone that can spot you the money temporarily that won’t charge you interest?
-Don’t go to college! Neither I nor my husband is using our degree. Having a degree may come in handy eventually, but as of right now, not at all. Think really hard before you invest that much time and money into something. Is it even something you want? I have a lot of opinions on college and why you shouldn’t go; I won’t even get started because you would have switched over from a blog to my novel. The main point is that you can save a lot of money if you skip college. I know a friend who got into the construction industry right out of high school, makes $60,000 a year, and doesn’t have to work the entire winter. There are a lot of options out there for people without a degree.
-Don’t spend a ton on your wedding day. People waste so much money on flowers that die and centerpieces that end up at Goodwill. What’s the day really about? Don’t get caught up in what everyone will tell you “you have to do” and do whatever you want! Just know that weddings don’t have to cost you $20,000.
-DIY! DIY EVERYTHING! Do it yourself can save you money sometimes, but don’t assume it always will. I wanted to be cheap for a Halloween costume one year and most costumes at the stores run about $50, so I decided to make my own. By the end of making it, it took a whole lot of time and ended up costing me $100 because all the spray paint, fluff, paper, and fabric costs added up quickly! Pick and choose your DIY battles; some may save you a lot while others end up costing you more.
-Bargain shop, go to thrift stores, go to garage sales, buy used items off of apps such as Let Go or Face book’s marketplace. I can’t tell you how much money we have saved buying used. Also, don’t forget to ask people for help or mention what you’re looking for on Face book to your friends and family. We wanted a pool table for quite awhile and we were close to buying one new (generally they cost around $1,000). We mentioned it on Face book and three people offered for us to take their pool tables for FREE! We ended up getting one from an aunt and uncle of ours that was practically brand new, they couldn’t use it anymore because they had kids and ran out of space. We never would have known this unless we put it out there. Most apps and websites where you can buy and sell used items have a category where you can write what you’re looking for; you never know what someone might have to offer.
Now that you all have several ways that you can start saving money, I’ll share how we saved enough to travel U.S.A. for two months: We were both bartenders, we lived with my parents (so we had no bills), we didn’t go out to eat often, we didn’t buy brand new cars, we were working a lot of the times when our friends were off (this saved us so much from not spending too much on going out), we bargain shopped and bought used items, we hardly spent any of our own money on our wedding (my parents had a set amount they were going to give us and anything over it, we were to pay for), and we did things as affordably as we could. So, there you have it! It may sound simple and you’re probably thinking ‘well, duh, that’s obvious.’ Try doing it, though, because it’s not as easy as it may sound. Good luck saving money for your travels and please share any money saving habits you use!