A lot of people are curious as to how I’m able to travel so freely and often. My first thought is always “I have a pretty decent job?” followed quickly by “and, if it weren’t for this 40 hour a week job I’d be traveling a lot more!” But, the reality is my 8-5 provides me with the funds necessary to explore this gorgeous planet we call home. When it comes to saving money for travel — or just saving money in general for that matter– there are two options: make more or spend less. It’s really as simple as that. I’m going to address some tips for people on both sides of this scenario, as well as tips for those of us fortunate enough to be able to do a hybrid approach. You might think that you are solely in the “make more” category, but I’d like you to do a little exercise to verify that.
Create a monthly budget. Spreadsheets and numbers aren’t for everyone, I get that. I really do. I happen to love spreadsheets, but I know I’m in the minority here. I’m not talking a broad monthly budget. I’m talking about every penny you personally spend. I’m talking about listing out all of your monthly expenses including obvious things such as rent, insurance, utilities, but I’m also talking hair/nail appointments, the money you spend on clothing, nights out, your Starbucks addiction, etc. It all needs to be accounted for. If you don’t know the exact amounts for all these I suggest you fill in now what you assume you spend on these things and then go through your previous months’ statements and correct for all of your actual costs. You might just be surprised at where your money is going. You might actually cry. Or freak out. Or both. It’s ok. You can’t change the past spending, but you can take control from here on out by creating a budget. On the topic of keeping track of expenses, there is a great app, Mint, that you can use to track where you are spending your money as well as create individualized budgets for spending. I think it’s really helpful for some people to visually see their spending, and Mint sends email alerts to let you know if you’ve gone over budget in any categories. Add up your current expenses and subtract them from your income. This is tentatively how much you can save per month in your current situation. Circle this amount. Twice.
SAVE MORE MONEY.
Categorize Your Budget. Now go through all the things you’ve listed on your budget and categorize into wants and needs. You need to pay your rent. You want to enjoy a Starbucks in the morning. Take all of your “wants” and add them up. This is how much more you could be saving per month in your current situation. Now look at the number you circled. Add these two together and this could be your monthly savings. You can do this! Exercise some will power!
Create a Separate Savings Account. Open a new bank account, I highly suggest at a bank different than the one you currently use, and have a direct deposit setup for the amount you circled on your budget. This is the amount that you absolutely can be saving monthly before even addressing the wants/needs portion. If you want to be aggressive and feel that you can stick to plan, you can add the savings from your “wants” to this number. However, not everyone is able to make changes so suddenly and I wouldn’t want you to overdraw your checking account because your savings are tied up in an account elsewhere and you’ve overspent. Overdraft fees would completely go against the advice you’re receiving here! For this separate savings account I suggest you destroy any debit cards/checks that may come along with it so that you are not tempted to spend from this account. Having to transfer money from one bank to another can take a couple of days, which is a great thing if you’re a compulsive spender. Chances are by the time the money has been moved you won’t be so interested in whatever it was you were so eager to purchase. Out of sight, out of mind. This is something that I started doing a couple of years ago pretty much on accident. I was complaining about my bank and my coworker told me about his internet only bank and suggested I open an account with them. I opened an account, had my HR add it to my direct deposit schedule and decided on how much savings I wanted to put in there every two weeks. For whatever reason the debit card pin never worked and I lost the checks pretty much immediately. So the money was tied up unless I wanted to transfer it out. The account kept growing, but as I mainly use my checking account from another bank I never checked on it… and I sort of forgot it was there. Which was really a great thing. This is the bank I use and at almost 1% APY, it’s one of the best returns for a savings account. Plus get a $25 bonus when you open the account with a deposit of $250 or more.
Search for better deals on necessities. For nearly ten years I had been with AT&T. The last year+ my bills are $150 for a single person on a single plan. I had 3gb of data and would encounter several overages per month. I phoned them ages ago regarding this and was told that 3gb was their largest plan. Fast forward to last week, I phone them again to be told that they now can offer 6gb and my same plan for about $80 a month. This is almost a 50% savings. Do you think they ever told me this? NO, of course not. So for months I’ve been throwing money at them unnecessarily. And, after that discussion of $80, unfortuantely the actual bill came out to just about $100. So I switched to Verizon (based on principal and lack of what I consider to be decent customer care). I will be saving money on my phone bill every month which is a plus. Shop around for your car and home insurance, etc. Be resourceful.
Make lifestyle changes. Sure enjoying a coffee made by a barista is nice. And of course not having to cook is a luxury that we all enjoy. But it’s just that, a luxury. We often forget to enjoy these things because we have become so accustomed to, and dependent upon, them. A $5 coffee out should be enjoyed, not merely a part of a daily routine. The same goes for enjoying a meal at a restaurant. Buy yourself a coffee machine. Meal prep. Eat at home more.
MAKE MORE MONEY. FIND A #SIDEHUSTLE
- Sell your old electronics. I don’t know about you guys but my storage unit is a mobile phone graveyard. Why am I keeping these things? Companies like Gazelle and uSell will pay you for your old phones.
- Clear out closet / home clutter. Not only can this provide a small (maybe substantial) amount of extra cash, it also is a great way to have a more productive living space. I feel like all Americans are hoarders, but that is another topic for another day…
- Think about any skills/services you can offer and mention to friends that you are looking to make extra cash. Your network of friends can be a lifesaver. I expressed to a friend that I was trying to save extra money and he offered some camera assistant jobs to me. Am I a photographer? Nope. But he knew that I learn quickly and am reliable.
- Start a company. But, make it a lean startup. I mean, really really lean. Unless it’s necessary you don’t spend money on it. I actually argued with HostGator over a $10 charge when my partner and I started The Blogger Meetup. Technically only $5 of that was really my concern, but in the beginning stages of a business every penny matters. From the day we started we made an agreement to stay in the black, and we have.
- Open an etsy shop. If you’re creative there’s no reason you shouldn’t have an etsy shop. End of.
- Make an account on fiverr.com and offer services. You’d be shocked at what people are willing to pay for.
Obviously, the above is not an exhaustive list of ways to save or make more money. I wish it were as easy as a finger snap to have more money, but it isn’t. Financial stability plays a huge part in happiness, and I think it’s super prudent to become familiar with your fiscal situation.