8 Minute Read
How much money were we going to need for our trip? A lot. A whole lot.
If you find yourself facing a large financial hurdle – like saving for a house down payment or paying off lots of debt – things can start to feel overwhelming fast. We’ve found that staying realistic about your goal, being laser-focused and keeping it simple can help make the task easier.
Our General Financial Philosophy
Shortly before we got married, Scott gave me his copy of Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramesy. It’s been one of the best tools to help us get on the same page financially and really changed how I view money. We implemented Dave’s debt snowball for my student loans and paid them off just four months after our wedding and built up an emergency fund shortly after that.
When it came to financing our trip, we were both adamant that we would not go into debt to travel. We would need all the money saved up before we took off.
Where We Started
In the beginning, we just started putting any extra money we had into a savings account. But, being the goal-oriented person I am, I needed a concrete number to work towards.
In early 2015, Scott and I put our heads together to draft a rough idea of our trip outline (approximately number of months and locations) and then I did research to see what it might take financially to make it happen. I pulled together average costs for rent, groceries, utilities, transportation, etc per country and then estimated expenses for each country based on what we currently spent in each category. There were also some additional costs to take into account like plane tickets, potential weekend or day trips, health insurance and travel insurance.
Once I was able to get a pretty good ballpark on all of those totals, I came up with a draft budget. In our first draft, I estimated we’d need about $85,000 for our trip Over the course of the next year, after several trip revisions and more research, we whittled that number down to a slightly more manageable $63,000.
What We Did
Do you still have sticker shock? I know. We did too. But with a concentrated effort, we worked hard to put every penny we could into our Bucket List Trip Fund. Here’s what helped us…
1. Live Rent/Mortgage Payment Free
We get it…this is easier said that done. But by far the biggest factor in our savings success was that we were not putting money toward housing.
If you can handle living in your parents’ or relatives’ basement or pay off your mortgage before you start your savings plan, it can make a big impact.
2. Sell What You Don’t Need
Look around your house. Look at all your stuff. Its kind of mind boggling once you start to think about it. What is all this stuff? How did it get here? What am I going to do with all of it?
We did several – seriously, I lost count – sweeps of our house, garage and basement to clean out what we didn’t need or want. Of course it also helps put things in perspective when you have to fit everything you need for a year into a suitcase, but anyway…
I honestly don’t remember what we all sold. I think that’s one of the best feelings because if I don’t miss it, I didn’t need it. Scott had read a lot about minimalism and we started downsizing our stuff by following Marie Kondo’s method.
So where can you can sell your stuff? We used a combination of Facebook Groups and Craiglist.
Facebook Groups offer a lot of variety from very general for sale groups (For Sale in Winona) to very specific (Vintage Linens for Sale). Just use the search bar at the top to look for relevant groups to join. Then follow this tutorial to post something for sale.
Craiglist was more useful for man stuff, like tools, building supplies, car parts, etc. It’s also pretty straightforward and we’ve always had good luck with people we’ve sold to. You can use this tutorial to learn how to add a for sale listing.
3. Side Hustle
Scott and I are a big fan of the side hustle. What’s a side hustle, you say? It’s anything you can do on the side to make more money. It can be something as simple as mowing lawns in the summer all the way up to a full-blown side business.
We actually went with the latter option and are able to generate a little extra income from two businesses we own: King Lincoln Studio, our website design and online marketing business and Nice Minnesota, our retail clothing brand. While most of this income goes right back into the businesses, we were able to put a little bit of it towards our trip.
Don’t think you have what it takes to make a side hustle happen? Think again.
- What skills or talents to do you have? We happened to already know a lot about building websites, running social media and online marketing.
- What do you enjoy doing? What are your hobbies? Sometimes a hobby, like photography, can make a great side business.
4. Cut Out Unnecessary Expenses
When you want to ratchet up your savings, one of the obvious places to start is to minimize your expenses. We made a concentrated effort to stop eating out, meeting friends for drinks, buying new stuff (mostly clothes for me!) and cancel any unnecessary services (like Sling TV and Kindle Ulimited).
It probably sounds like a pretty boring life after cutting all of that out, but it’s not. You can find other ways to hang out with friends or have date night for free or at a lower cost. You’ll find clothes hidden in the back of your closet that you forget existed. You’ll find the time to get back into an old hobby because you aren’t binge-watching a new TV show.
So, what can you get rid of right now?
- Going out to eat. Make your own meals at home and learn a new skill.
- Buying drinks at restaurants or bars. Be your own bartender!
- Subscription services like cable tv, Netflix, Hulu, magazines, apps and more. If you have multiple services, try to cut it down to one or two.
- Buying new items like clothes, video games and more. Before buying anything new, ask yourself: “Do I really need it?” Consider swapping clothes or other items with family or friends to you find things that are new to you instead of brand new.
- Expensive entertainment. Instead of paying for a concert, consider a free option in your community. Instead of buying a movie, rent one.
5. Change Your Mindset
This sounds simple and complex all at the same time. Of course, when you change how you think about money, you treat it differently. But how do you change your mind?
I was able to put our Bucket List Trip Fund at the top of my priority list for several reasons:
- The reward of achieving our goal far outweighed the struggles to get there.
- The more I practiced better money management, the easier it got.
- I had someone (i.e. Scott) to help keep my spending in check.
Changing how you spend and save money will take time. To make this change successful and permanent, you need to treat it like a habit and practice it every day.
Once the light bulb turned on for me, every extra penny we had went into that savings account: bonuses from work, tax returns, birthday checks, you name it. The results speak for themselves.
Where We Are Now
So where did all that hard work get us? Here’s where we stand:
Amount budgeted for trip: $62,663.80
Amount saved: $60,897.29
Amount remaining to reach goal: $1,766.51
Between now and September, we need to save about $1,800 more in order for our trip to be fully funded. At our current pace – we save about $5,000 every six weeks – I’m happy to say that’s extremely doable.
What’s next? We’ll go from savers to spenders and keep you updated along the way. Stay tuned for a monthly budget breakdown to see how well we estimated our travel needs – keep your fingers crossed for us!
Have any savings tips or stories you’d like to share? We’d love to hear them…just leave us a comment.