I never really knew how vital it was to save money. I was never taught. My grandfather was extremely thrifty, but despite his habits, he never actually showed me how to save. My father was pretty stingy up until about 4 years ago, though, he was good about living below his means and taught me how to live this way. My mom never taught me the value of saving. In fact, she would not appreciate me saying this but the only thing she really taught me about money was LACK. Money was hard to get, spend it while you got it, etc. And so as a result, I went through most of my young adult life understanding frugality but never actually having a pot to piss in because I wasn’t managing, saving money or investing wisely. Why should I? Money was so out of reach it would probably never be mine, anyway. That was a horrible narrative to have, and because of it I had such a sense of powerlessness for way too long. Fortunately, I left that negative self talk in the dust years ago.
This blog post is about getting your finances in order so you can do what you love most: Travel. It’s about taking the simple steps of becoming more aware of what’s coming in and going out in the way of spending on a daily basis. Little changes you can make will make a huge difference at the end of the year and you’ll find you actually do have enough money saved to take that trip you wanted.
Once you know what you’re daily cost of living (expenses) are, you know how much you have to make (income) every day to maintain your life, get ahead, pay off bills or just keep track of spending. It’s important to know how saving just a little bit of money every day will help you reach a much bigger goal by the end of the year. Whether you’re dreaming of a nest egg so you can quit your job and travel for a year, or if you just want a 2 week vacation in Bali or in the Maldives.
Step 1: Change your perspective about money.
Money = Freedom. Money is GOOD. We LOVE money because it enables us to do whatever we desire. Help others, travel, buy the new dress, live comfortably. Many of us have been taught that money is the root of all evil. It’s actually not. Money is a tool, that is all. What we choose to do with any tool is up to us.
Step 2: Credit is everything but don’t make it everything. I spent a lot of my young adult life spinning my hamster wheel, never really getting ‘it’ or getting ahead. I didn’t understand the value of good credit, so as a result, I neglected that aspect of my finances. You know what happened? Nothing. I couldn’t get credit, I couldn’t get financed, I had no credit card for emergencies, my hands were tied financially because of my lack of knowledge and irresponsibility in that area. It wasn’t until I addressed this issue that I begin to open up more opportunities for myself. Number 1 (if you haven’t already done so), get your credit in order. But don’t buy things you can’t afford to pay cash for. Don’t rely on your credit cards. They are there to maintain your credit for opportunity, they are no good for things you can’t afford or to run up debt and put you in a worse position than you were before. The goal is to have them if you NEED them, not have them to USE them all the time.
Step 3: Track your spending, prepare a budget You can’t know anything about how you’re spending, what you’re spending until you track your spending and see where it’s going. I have known a few women who would say, “Well, I don’t know where all my money goes”. Really? If you aren’t aware of where your money is going, you’re going to be in trouble and it’s going to be a financial struggle forever until you finally say enough is enough and jump in the driver’s side of your life. I use quickbooks as well as my bank to look at my monthly and yearly spending. It’s easy to use and it tracks where I’m spending and helps me see a visual snapshot into the areas where I can improve.
I learned a super valuable lesson a few years ago, and that was to live below my means and save more money than I spent.
Step 4: Make more than you spend. This one is a no brainer for me. If I know that my monthly expenses (food, mortgage, bills, gas, etc.) are $2,000, then my daily spend cannot exceed $66 per day. If I spend more than I make, guess what happens? I will end up having to rely on a credit card (See Step #2) or worse, your bank account will become overdrawn which results in, you guessed it, more fees you can’t afford to pay. Avoid the downward spiral. Be mindful and personally responsible of your daily or weekly spend threshold. If you can make sure to spend like you make half of what you do, you’ll always have extra cash in the bank. In other words, make $50K per year but live like you only make $25K per year.
Did you know that if you cut your daily Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino habit out ($4.45 for the Grande), you will save appx. $1,600 per year? That’s a plane ticket to Hawaii! Everything has a tradeoff. You have to decide what is more important to you: The plane ticket to Hawaii or that daily Frappucino from Starbucks.
Step 5: Invest Wisely As an entrepreneur and creative, I was putting time and money in a lot of different places and seeing very little return on my investments. I was still in a very old mindset, trying to create wealth from tangible goods. There is value in intangible goods as well, so be sure to pay attention to the skills you have. Investing in yourself is always a wise choice. Make sure you are putting your time and money in places where there is going to be a solid return.
Do you know the average American family is spending appx. $75 per month to watch TV? Hulu and Netflix streaming are collectively less than $22 per month and you don’t have to PAY to watch ads from Big Pharma. Think about what you could be saving per year just by cutting out your cable bill: $900 per year.
Step 6: “Do I really need this? Or would I rather have the $100 instead”? If the answer was the latter, the dress I was eyeballing went right back on the rack! This tough love is what you’ll need for yourself, too. I had to visualize the object and then see the cash to realize what I really wanted was the money most, instead of the way that object might make me feel for a moment. (P.S. I have also been pretty fortunate to have about $120 a month in a free spending budget for clothes, shoes and cosmetics. I seriously haven’t bought cosmetics or shoes in over a year because of an affiliate network I’m plugged into) Find one you like (like ThredUP or Zulily) that offers credit for referrals and you will save yourself at least $1,200 a year in clothing, shoes and accessories.)
Step 7: Become Fed Up Stop just focusing on what you want and look at the things in your life that you don’t want. Become fed up with being broke and not having your finances in order to travel when you want or do whatever you want. I was tired of spinning my wheels and it was time for me to stick to my guns and call the necessary shots to get me to my free, independent, laptop lifestyle beach getaway. No one, I mean no one was going to get me there but me.
At any given the moment, the average household has appx. $5,000 worth of stuff laying around that could be liquidated for cash.
Step 8: Downsize, Get Rid of the Clutter Believe it or not, the more shit you own, the more expensive your living expenses are. Why? Because this: More than one vehicle means having to have a place to park them, which means either a. You’ll spend more money on a parking place in the city or b. your home will require a 2 car garage, or a 4 car garage. Also, have you tried to move a 3 bedroom household full of stuff and furniture? The average costs to move that much crap is around $5,000 unless you DIY. More stuff means a bigger house which means a more expensive house. Are you seeing the picture? If you have so much stuff that you have to rent a storage building (est. $780 per year) to keep it, then you have too much stuff. Have a garage sale and get rid of all that stuff. Hubs and I did it a few years ago and we walked away with a cleaner garage and over $700 extra in our pocket! That’s a week stay in Hawaii, or two weeks in Bali!
Step 9: What’s the bottom line on your grocery bills? When I went through my budget last year to track my spending, I realized I was spending thousands per year on groceries! Wow. I was a little shocked. $50 here, $35 there. After a few times per month here and there, it really adds up! I thought: I have got to do something different. I also realized just how much waste was happening in my refrigerator. I was buying more than my husband and I could eat, so half of the groceries I was spending my hard earned dollars on was going in the trash. Yikes! Are you guilty of this? If so, make sure you aren’t buying more than you can use or eat. We go to Costco now for about 80% of our groceries. We also have a freezer in our basement we use, too. We invested a little in freezer containers and now we freeze what we know we won’t be able to use right away. Buying in bulk on the forefront can feel costly, but it’s much cheaper in the end and you’ll find you’re going to the store less and you won’t be as tempted with the impulse buys that seem to add up! Also, for fruits and veggies, try a garden if you have the space or hit up your local farmers market. I grow my own herbs because I always need them and they can be expensive in the store. Even if you grow your own peppers or tomatoes you’ll find it cuts down a bit on your groceries, especially since organic tomatoes can cost around $4 per lb.
Step 10: Automatically put 10% of your paycheck into an account you don’t see or touch! Out of sight, out of mind. Again, if you are living like you’re making $25K and making $5oK, this will be easier for you. Make sure 10% of every paycheck you get goes into a bank account called “Nest Egg” or whatever you want to call it. Don’t touch it, smell it, look at it. Pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s a time capsule waiting for your day of freedom. Just like when Andy Dufresne led Red to the buried treasure underneath the tree so he could meet him in South America, this is your Shawshank treasure pot. Guard it.
Andy Dufresne: You know what the Mexicans say about the Pacific?
Andy Dufresne: They say it has no memory. That’s where I want to live the rest of my life. A warm place with no memory.
In total the amount of savings I mention above (not counting the 10% you’ll sock away) could potentially save you about $5,000 per year. That’s definitely enough travel money, especially if you know how to travel on a budget.