I get countless DM's, text, and comments when I 'm on a trip and all of these messages pretty much consist of the same thing. "HOW!? How do you go on so many trips Chantel, and how do you afford it"? I'm not some secret millionaire, and no my parents and relatives do not pay for my frequent vacations. Traveling is something I have always loved since I was small. Now, while in my twenties, I have made it a priority. Why? Because I realize there will come a time I will no longer be able to jet off and travel as I please. There are several factors that go into how I plan and save for small and big trips and I will share them all with you. For today I will answer the number one question. How do I afford it? It's simple (annoying right? ) I budget, like hard core. My way of thinking has always been if I really want something I'll find a way to get it- short of anything illegal of course. First,
Cut down on small expenses.
I do this before even knowing where I want to go and how much it will cost. That may sound weird, but here are two things you already know. 1) Where ever you are going is going to cost money, and 2) you will need to set that money aside so start now. I start by thinking of all those small little purchases I would make everyday through out the week.
1. Breakfast on the way to class (5x a week) $6.00
2. Coffee between classes (5x a week) $2.5o
3. Vending machine during school (5x a week) $1.25
4. Oh! random sale for something I definitely did not need $15.00
5. Lunch once/twice a week (or more) $25.00
That's $88.75 a week--> $355 a month! ( I paid $350 for my round trip ticket to Costa Rica in 2015, my ticket to Cuba was $250, and my round trip ticket to Europe this past October was $400)
You get the picture. Also, During this time there is absolutely no unnecessary or big purchases either. Unless you ripped a hole in your only pair of pants you do not need a new pair, and nope you do not need the shoes just because they are on sale and you're trying to build your capsule wardrobe. Skipping your afternoon caffeine jolt and zooming past Target is not enough. What happens is the money is still sitting in your bank account and you'll end up spending it on other things.
Open a Separate Account
After tallying up what my expenses would have been I then remove that amount of money from my account into a separate savings account. Now, I suck when it comes to spending and I'm working on that. The best way I kept from spending my little nest egg was opening up a separate savings account at another bank that was not my main branch. Talk about trying to resist temptation. I would simply make the deposit each week and leave. No ATM card, no withdrawal slip, zero easy access. Give it a few weeks and you'll be surprised how much you save.
Side Hustle Shuffle
Find a side job or jobs. Notice I didn't say second job. You don't want something that is going to require you to be there for a specific time of day or a certain amount of hours. We're already to busy for that now. You want to find a side job that you can pick up and go to when you happen to have the extra time, or one that only requires maybe two or three hours of your time once a week. I found plenty of these when looking to make some extra cash. I cleaned houses, ran errands, did private tutoring, babysitting, picked up extra shifts at work, did freelance work, and more. There is always someone looking for some extra help around town so get on Craigslist, or your schools odd jobs page, and make yourself available. Remember, you're not rolling in the dough now. Put that extra cash in the bank where you cannot touch it and pretend it's the pile of clothes on the chair you've been meaning to fold- it doesn't exist.
I also find other ways to save and invest. For me it's really important that saving can be automatic because like I said I suck as spending. So some ways I've saved and paid for trips is through savings apps. I personally use Acorns. This is an app that rounds up your spending to the nearest dollar and once your change equals $5 dollars they make an investment on your behalf. That's the basic idea. My dad told me about it because he is always trying to improve my financial literacy. I still don't quite understand investing, but I do know that after a year with Acorns I had $700 saved and didn't really do anything. If you want to check it out I'll attach a link.
On paper, or should I say on screen, this is simple but not easy. It's not and here's why. There is a reason you spend your money the way you do most likely has to do with 1) convenience and 2) instant gratification. (I'm guilty too). So you'll have to do some planning and tell yourself NO if you really want to do this. Plan ahead, and you are more likely to succeed. Track your spending, and your money is less likely to fly out of your hands.
Once I feel I have enough money to purchase a plane ticket the search begins (I'll dedicate entire post on how I search for plane tickets). I look for a destination I want to cross off my bucket list and start searching for prices and dates. At this point I know how long it will take me to save for the rest of my trip (transportation, food, sights, lodging, etc.) Make sure to pick a date that still gives you time to save and plan for every other aspect of your trip. Once I find a ticket, before purchasing, I do some research on the destination and see what is going on during the time I may be there. I also check the average rates for places to stay. (Air B&B is usually what I use state side if I don't know people in the area.) These are some quick ways I start saving to take a trip and it is easier said than done, but it's possible and I've taken many trips with these methods. Bon Vonyage my friends, and let your adventures begin!!