How I saved $7,000 to travel in three years only working part-time.
I would be willing to bet most of you may think of travel as something you'll do when you, "have the time and money."
Well - I hate to be cliche but, you will never have them at the same time. For most of my life I thought of travel as a dream. "Someday," I'd retire, and the time and money would be there, accompanied by my aching joints that would just have to keep up because I would see the world - no matter how old I was or how long it took.
I don't know about you, but I wasn't taught about budgets, finance or how to manage my money in school. For a long time, I did my own thing and, "budgeted," the best I could - but didn't really keep track of when I went over budget. I truly thought this way untill my junior year of college, when I shifted one aspect of my life - and it worked.
So what changed? The biggest thing that I did was make a commitment to myself that I would not let 2016 come and still not have been to London. The question was - how would I accomplish that?
I had 3 years and a part time job between college classes to somehow make my goal of $7,000 a reality. The very first thing I did was start tracking my expenses. For 3 months (or 1 quarter of a year) I wrote down EVERY single transaction no matter what form of payment (check, cash, credit card, debit card, PayPal, etc). From those transactions I broke it down into the groups, or envelopes, of spending.
- Personal Care - shampoo and conditioner, face wash, toothpaste, haircuts, eyebrow waxings, nail polish, etc. Anything you would consider to be personal care that you do on a consistent basis.
- Fitness - Gym memberships, running shoes, athletic gear, water bottles, supplements, etc.
- Transportation - Gas, car maintenance, etc.
- Monthly bills - rent, utilities, health insurance, cell phone bill, anything that you pay monthly that stays the same.
- Fun/Entertainment - going to the movies, seeing a theater performance, concert tickets - any sort of event that wouldn't normally happen.
- Groceries - anything you buy at a grocery store that is for your to prepare food
- Dining out - coffee, dinners out with friends, forgetting lunch and ordering Kayle, basically any food that was not hand prepared from groceries purchased.
- Misc. - anything that doesn't fit in the above categories.
A few of these categories have been broken down into others, but my advice is start simple - keep it consistent. Choose a method of sorting that works best for you and stick to it.
Over the three months that I kept a log of my transactions I noticed that coffee became a huge portion of my dining out expenses and it was my first area that I knew I could save money in. So - I took coffee out of dining out, and created an envelope for it. This way I could see exactly how much I was spending and systematically reduce the amount I spent on it. This is something that you will see when you start tracking where your money actually goes!
It was insane to me that I was spending $50 a month on coffee when I WORKED at a coffee shop - why the heck was I going out of my way to spend $2 on a coffee everyday when I could just go where I worked and get it for free? Why not buy a coffee maker and save that way? I did just that. I took my old budget of $50 and cut it down to $25. Here is the catch - instead of moving the $25 to another spending area like personal care, that money, "disappears," and automatically goes into my savings. So now, instead of spending $50 on coffee, I'm spending $25 on coffee and investing $25 dollars in myself. I whittled this down further and further until I made a decision that I no longer wanted to spend any money on coffee anymore, I wanted all of that $50 in my savings because, hey, there is coffee in London and I'd rather spend $2 on coffee in London than in Montana.
There are areas of your life that I guarantee that you don't even realize you are spending in - and those are the areas where you can start to change your habits and start growing your savings.
When you stop saying, "sometime," and start saying your goal date you are more able to make those decisions about spending. For me it always came down to one very important question,
"Do I want to be spending my money here on this, or do I want to be spending this money in London on something else?"
When you set your priorities - your decisions become very easy. It doesn't feel like you are compromising - it feels like a step closer to your goal. Like the quote at the beginning, you are the driver of your life. Don't settle for the same scenery.
If you are serious about taking this leap and not making excuses - your first step is to track your expenses for the next two months and choose your categories of spending. Remember - keep it simple, keep it consistent.
Stay tuned - next week I will talk about, "Keeping on budget with Digital envelopes: How to implement the system in the digital age."
(Until Next time)