Let’s be honest. The decision to travel stands and falls with money: how much you’ve got, how long it’ll last, what it can buy you and how long you will be able to get time off work (aka not be able to earn more).
I’ve talked about money last week and discussed the starting point of a travel budget. The idea was to shape your illusive dreams into more tangible destinations and activities. This way your dream turns into something concrete you can start budgeting for.
Now I’d like to discuss one of two further aspects of a travel budgets. The first is “how do I get this budget together”? The second is “how do I manage to travel cheaply so I can make it last as long as possible”?
I’ll focus on the second aspect in a following post and today I share with you some of the ways we’ve tackled accumulating a decent budget so we could take off on our trip. Perhaps I describe our circumstances first so you can get an idea of whether these tips will work for you.
Before our travels we’ve worked in our professional jobs a few years full-time, had no children, lived with a cat in a rental property and owned one car. As part of our travels we’ve purchased a second car and significantly altered it to suit our needs. I count the second car and its alteration costs into the budget as this vehicle shaped the way we travelled later on.
The way we tackled our savings target was to look at our expenses. How much do we spend per month and week? What do we spend it on? We were particularly interested in reoccurring fixed costs like rent, phone bills, internet and insurance. The reason why we started here was these costs didn’t change with our consumption and we wanted to find out whether we could reduce them.
And we did. We cancelled our landline as we felt we could do with our mobiles, we also changed our internet and insurance plans. We even contemplated moving (but we lived in Sydney. EVERYTHING is expensive in Sydney), so we decided to get a flatmate (thank you Steph, you were a terrific flatmate too!).
Next we tackled our varying expenses that fluctuated depending on our consumption like gas, electricity, food – here we couldn’t really change providers and no, we didn’t start eating two-minute noodle soups every day. Whenever possible we purchased goods in bulk, but what I found most useful is to only go shopping when we decided we’d cook. Having a fridge full of cheap food that we’d end up throwing out was a huge waste (not only financially).
The third type of expense we tackled were, what I call, luxury items. Things like going out, entertainment and shopping other than in supermarkets (clothes, shoes, stuff). While we still went out with friends or watched a movie we drastically cut back on buying “things”.
How did you define “things”? We’ve started an assessment of whether something was essential to buy by asking each other “do you really NEED this?” and “what will this replace?”. For example, if I wanted to buy a new pair of shoes it had to be for a reason other than “Uhw, they’re sooo nice! Wouldn’t they look great?”. However, if my work shoes were falling apart and I needed something to REPLACE them with that would be legitimate. It worked a treat and cutting back expenses was a terrific way of being able to save a sweet stash of money.
About two months before our departure we also started selling stuff to add to our travel budget. Different to many travellers who return to their home we didn’t know when we’d come back to Sydney and didn’t want to store any of our goods and furniture. Piece by piece I sold our household starting with the most valuable items first and working my way through cupboards, wardrobes and drawers.
While selling your coach might not work for you I highly recommend to have a stroll through your place and see what items you’ve stacked away for the unlikely event in the future that you might need it. Chances are most items won’t ever see the light of day again until they’re thrown out….just a thought.
Our last push to add to our budget was a gigantic garage sale. In the scheme of things our previous savings and changes of spending habits had saved us an incredible amount. A garage sale was only the tip of the iceberg, but it was worthwhile nonetheless.
Have I forgotten anything? What savings strategies do you pursue for getting a healthy travel budget together?