The most common question I get asked is, “How do you afford to travel non-stop?”. So it seems, there are a lot of people who love the idea of an extended holiday or turning travel into a permanent lifestyle, but very few go on to actually live the dream. They’re adamant they can’t afford to. I’d argue that’s simply not the case…and it’s not the big issue.
Apart from fearing the unknown, the most common thing holding people back from long-term travel is their ability to prioritise and save. If a life of nomadic adventure was something they really wanted (more than keeping up with the latest technologies, being at the forefront of fashion trends, dining at the best restaurants, maintaining the perfect body, growing a big and beautiful family, or keeping up appearances with the best of everything), they’d find a way to make it happen.
If you genuinely want to spend time exploring planet earth, I have a few tips to help you find the funds. Essentially, everything stems back to the advice my mum gave me as a kid with pocket money:“Don’t buy what you don’t need”. This mantra has guided me for the past two decades and helped me achieve my most important goals, from buying a house to enjoying a year of travel. Read on to find out how I lived and breathed this savings strategy on a day-to-day basis…
#1 Exercise: I opted for the great outdoors and free apps (e.g. 7-Minute Work Out andSimply Yoga) instead of the gym and PT sessions. Who needs to perv on hotties with muscles on their muscles, anyway? You can find motivation staring at skinny trees, right?
#2 Alcohol: Decadent drinking sessions were limited to special occasions (around half a dozen times a year). When these moments came around, let’s just say I made the most of them. Beyond parties, I didn’t crave or need liquor in my life – I mostly stuck to tea, tap water and the odd softy.
#3 Clothing: I made do with “old” stuff in my wardrobe. I wasn’t fussed about keeping up with the latest trends. If I desperately needed something due to wear ‘n’ tear, I hunted out sales and opted for classic, simple pieces as much as I could. For basic items, such as socks, undies and bras, I was happy to shop in cheap places like Target – they offer more than granny panties these days (as least that’s what I told myself)! Packing my life into a suitcase for a year of travel made me realise how much clothing I actually needed – a molehill not the mountain I’d accumulated. Consider selling forgotten items you rarely wear – I made some extra cash through eBay and other online trading hubs. You can also sell second hand clothes through vintage/swap shops, local markets and garage sales etc.
#4 Transport: My preferred mode of transport was a scooter or a motorbike, followed by the power of my own feet. The whole sweaty cycling thing wan’t for me (I couldn’t even rock the hipster look), but it’s a good option too as it eliminates the cost of rego, petrol, parking and insurance. Scooters and motorbikes rock because the rego is cheap, they’re super efficient to run, you can suss out free parking spaces, and they provide a convenient way to get around. My hubby and I sold our inner-city vehicles before flying out to generate some extra travel cash.
#5 Food: Ben and I almost always prepared our food at home. We enjoyed a date night once a week, when we’d search for cheap, tasty eats online. We leaned towards Vietnamese and Thai restaurants, as they served delectable meals we’d struggle to make at home, so the experience felt like a special treat. I never dined out for breakfast, as it’s pricey in Australia and easy enough to prepare at home – I couldn’t justify the expense. When it came to catching up with friends, we hosted BBQ’s or dined at people’s houses as much as possible. At work, I usually took a packed lunch and snacks with me. Ben and I bought our fruit and vegetables from a local market, rather than a super market, and always looked at the “must clear” discount wall first (yes, we’re complete tight-asses). We never wasted food and were happy to eat leftovers throughout the week…or, at least, Ben was. Hubbies make great Hoovers.
#6 Beauty: I took low maintenance to a new low. My hair was lucky if it got professionally cut once a year – I’ve never had it died. Every few months, I’d trim my hair over the bathroom sink and watch a YouTube video on how to eliminate split ends or create a fringe. My make-up stash was modest, as I knew what daytime and night-time looks suited me best and stuck with them. I didn’t need a dozen shades of lipstick “just in case”. If I needed to replenish anything, I’d search for discounted items in stores or online. I’ve always shaved my legs rather than wax them or opt for the latest high-tech hair removal treatments (though, I must admit, IPL would be amazing for long-term female travellers). I’ve never religiously splurged on things like fake tans, eyelash extensions, facials, massages, manicures or pedicures etc (man, I must look like I’ve really let myself go!). Many of these treatments can be done at home, offering all of the relaxation, but not the escapism, you need for a much cheaper price than a salon.
#7 Gifts: I’ve never really been a massive gift buyer. I figure, most people don’t need extra stuff in their lives; plus, the process of finding the perfect present stresses me out – eek! For my closest loved ones, I opted for homemade goodies (e.g. I’d bake them a cake or give them a jar of honey created by our busy bees – yes, Ben got into DIY bee-keeping!). These gifts were received with much more enthusiasm than vouchers and dust-collectors, as they were made with hard yakka and lots of love…then again, maybe the recipients were just being polite. Baking isn’t my natural forte.
#8 Technology: I wasn’t desperate to have the biggest, newest and best of everything. I opted for products which looked stylish, did what the box said and were affordable. Both Ben and I have a weakness for Mac products (God, they’re sexy) and state-of-the-art cameras. We needed these things for work, so we were happy to splurge a little for the sake of professionalism. But, our rule of thumb was, “Sell the last before buying the next”. If technology wasn’t being used, it needed to get cashed in…usually on eBAY or another online trading site.
#9 Communication: Like many people these days, I haven’t owned or used a landline for yonks. A few years ago, I bought a second hand iPhone online (it was in perfect condition) and opted for the cheapest monthly plan I could find. I rarely called people – most of my communication took place via Facebook or in person. I swear I wasn’t a complete hermit.
#10 Luxury & Pampering: For the moments when I wanted to treat myself and not worry about money, I dipped into a separate pool of funds. I saved this cash stash by doing occasional weekend work on top of my regular job. This included burlesque performances, graphic design jobs and writing tasks, which were like hobbies, so I didn’t feel like I was working seven days a week. My main income was allocated to travel savings and things I needed. My second source of income was spent on whatever the heck I wanted – guilt-free.
#12 Money: Beyond buying a house with the support of a bank, I’ve never spent money I didn’t have. No credit card debt. Pure and simple.
After reading this blog you’re probably thinking, “Wow! Sophee must’ve had a really dull life before she started travelling”. I can promise you that’s definitely not the case – life was awesome, just a little too routine for my liking. At the end of the day, I think it’s important to live in the moment, let your hair down and be carefree every now and then. Fun shouldn’t be completely eliminated from your life in order to save for travel. Everyone has their guilty pleasures, and I certainly had mine – I just kept them in check, made sure I was money-conscious most of the time, and found clever ways to pamper myself on the cheap.
I hope my tips help you save for the epic journey of your dreams. I also have advice for budgeting during travel, so you can extend your adventures abroad. But, they’ll have to wait for another blog!