One of the frequently asked questions I receive in my Restless Feet email box is “how do you afford to travel so much?”. This is a common question amongst people who would like to travel more but don’t believe they can afford it.
Prior to living abroad, I was able to make two to three international trips each year while working full-time. Before I was working full-time, I was a recent graduate with student loan debts and thoroughly enjoyed eating out, partying almost every week and every payday I would reward myself with something pretty from my the mall. That quickly changed because I had made some of the best financial decisions that year. These changes were things that were never taught in school nor was this information I got from my parents.
I had a budget
I had a co-worker who was an accountant, she owned her own place and had traveled extensively. I started speaking to her one day during lunch and I told her that one day I hoped to be a homeowner and travel the world. She explained to me that in order for me to save money to achieve these goals I would need to be on a strict budget. We then agreed that she would make me a budget that I would follow that would help me pay my bills on time, pay off my student loans, save money to travel as well as putting money away for my long-term goal which essentially was to own a place of my own. She asked me to print off three months worth of bank and credit card statements and highlight each item in a different colour: eating out, drinking, clothes, bills, and miscellaneous items. Once I highlighted each item I was to add up each of the categories and calculate how much I was spending a month. I also provided her with my bi-weekly salary amount and how much I still owed to the government for my student loans. When she got back to me she said “you’re spending way too much money by eating out and buying clothes you don’t even need” and my response was “but the food is so good!”. She sent me a document with a budget she created for me and some pay weeks I was barely left with 300 dollars for the two weeks for spending money.
With this budget she created for me, I was able to pay off my student loans that same year and travel to three different countries. Financial and social sacrifices had to be made in order for me to achieve some of my goals.
I lived at home
I know this isn’t a luxury for everyone but for me I was blessed to have an amazing grandmother who I had been living with since the age of 15 who still allowed my old ass to live with her. People always said to me “stay at home as long as you can until you get married” and I would think to myself “Gawd Damn! I’m going to be living at home till I’m 95!” Although I wasn’t paying an exuberant amount of money for rent I would still contribute financially to the household. This is a large reason to why I was able to travel, the money I would have been paying for rent or a mortgage went straight into my savings account. My grandmother knew what my goals were and supported me along the way.
I didn’t buy a car, again
At the age of 18, I had bought my first car. I paid $500 for my 1992 Nissan Maxima and I felt on top of the world! Although this car was cheap, and insurance was affordable, it wasn’t long until I decided I could no longer afford to have a car if I was going to be going to college. After getting into an accident where I rear-ended someone, I decided to sell the car and take that money to buy books for school. Even after finishing school and finding a full-time job I decided that I wasn’t ready to buy another car. I had gotten used to taking public transit. Living extremely close to a subway station made it easy to get around the city. I also had dope friends and family members who would allow me to bum a ride if we ever needed to go somewhere that was outside of my transit comfort zone.
I stopped eating out… as much
I don’t know how I remain to stay as thin as I do when one out of my two favorite things to do is dining out. You can’t really blame me when I live in Toronto which has an array of different restaurants to choose from, thank God for this multicultural city of mine. Again, another amazing decision my grandmother made was to live here, I really do love that woman. This blessing of having so many options when it came to food was also a huge curse for my bank account. After my co-worker had made my budget, I went from buying lunch 5 days a week to once a week and eating out and drinking with my friends and family every other week. Oh man, that was one of the hardest things to stick by but after doing it for some time, making lunch and bringing it to work it actually benefited me in more than one way. Not only was I saving money but I had time to go to the gym during my lunch hour. Having money and having abs seemed like a pretty good trade-off to me.
Choosing between my needs and my wants
With this budget, I really had to think twice about how I was going to spend the little money I had left after this budget was made for me. When I stepped into shopping malls I no longer immediately made a purchase when I thought something was cute. There were days where I even went as far as avoiding the mall as much as possible just so I wouldn’t find myself being tempted to purchase something I probably didn’t need, like another pair of shoes that I would only wear once.
My tip for anyone who wants to travel more is to create a budget and create a plan. If you don’t have a friend who specializes in things like creating a personal budget for you there are many apps you can download to create your own or help you manage your spending.