A self-funded project is always the most satisfying. Whether it’s an expensive experience or a much needed weekend getaway or a cherished gadget for your trip, its possible to own it/achieve it. I have listed a few techniques that I have utilized in budgeting for life’s luxuries. The most successful and the cherished of them all is my travel fund.
How to start your travel fund? Essential tips and tricks
People always say that it is impossible to travel with a student loan or mortgage or a demanding full-time job, we say it is doable. We are doing it.
Since 2010 to date, I have been working full time. The blog didn’t even begin its journey until the summer of 2015. And all that you see here is the result of work and writing from late 2018.
When I started working, I had a student loan and was struggling to make it big in the corporate world. I remember taking a road trip from Saskatoon to Edmonton with just $100 in the bank account and a $50 pre-paid visa card.
It was Christmas 2011, the trip was memorable nevertheless. I was able to celebrate Christmas in a new city and visited the city’s highlights (like Legislative Assembly, Fort Edmonton Park, West Edmonton Mall on a crazy Boxing Day, Candy Cane Lane to name a few).
This trip was remarkable in many ways – it taught me that I should travel, no matter what, also that I should save in advance for impromptu trips, ’cause just like life, travel could just happen!
So all of these years, I have been working full time, growing in my career – getting promotions and salary increases to save, pay off loans, buy a house and travel overseas often.
Everything didn’t happen overnight. In all honesty, my first trip to Europe didn’t happen until 2016 – but by that time, I was able to save money to take 2-4 overseas trips and many weekend getaways to keep on exploring this wonderful world.
There are some lifestyle changes I/we made and now they are part of our lives. Like owning/maintaining one car, not eating out often, saying no to a meal combo at a restaurant, using rewards points towards travel and so on.
I have highlighted some of the tips and techniques on how to start your travel fund and keep growing by maintaining that lifestyle!
Visualizations and Affirmations
Do you love traveling? Do you wish to travel? How far do you wish to go or just somewhere nearby? Is there any activity/experience that you would like to do while traveling? Which country would you like to explore and why?
Answering these questions will help you to set clear goals and infuse self-discipline. It’s easy to get distracted especially when travel adventure is months away and immediate self-indulgence is close by.
Use desktop wallpapers, sticky notes at work or “to-do-list” with country sights that you wish to visit. Stay focused and think – travels.
Set Travel Goals and Start your Travel Fund
Once you have narrowed down your dream vacation/trip, set goals in terms of expenses. I would like to share the following techniques that I used for travel funds as well as for luxury buys.
- Super-Saver – This method of creating a fund works for everything like an emergency fund to travels to luxuries. I was saving everything to my travel funds account after paying off the bills. Create a monthly goal (for travel fund) after deducting the bills. This technique may not work for a long time. However, one can go aggressively saving for 3 months, slow down and pick up again for 3 months. As long as you don’t touch the savings, you are golden.
- Dedicated Saver – Think of this technique as paying for your mortgage. Come what may you will set aside SOME amount each month. For example, setting aside 10% of your monthly income towards travel.
- “For the event saving” – This is the most common and easy to follow technique. Let’s say you want to go on a Mediterranean cruise and this cruise will cost you $2500 USD, and you are planning to take this cruise 6 months from now. Set the specific goal of $2500 USD and save.
For me, I switch between the first and second types of savings styles. There are many trips that I had taken that were impromptu in nature. Having that travel fund gives me the flexibility to take trips when I want. It’s great too when you want to escape somewhere and recharge your batteries.
Budget or a Savings Journal or App
Highlight the goal and keep track. If you fall behind or get distracted, revise, and review the journal. A mobile phone app can be super handy in this situation, to keep track of expenses. I love using Mint, as it is super easy to use and has the important necessary/important fields to track monthly expenses. Apps like Mint, allows you to connect your bank account as well, to monitor and keep track.
Quick lifestyle changes to save & save
Cut down on unnecessary expenses. Oh my! I was a spender. I loved to splurge on clothes and bags all the time. I calculated how much I was spending on bags in a year and realigned my priorities.
A lot of life’s basics can be adjusted too, like gym memberships, landline connections (everyone has a cell-phone), eating out, expensive data plans or gadgets, cable, etc. I downsized quite a few things to create a comfortable travel fund.
I know many people who got rid of their internet connection at home and went to libraries for their research work. I could not do that, as my work required wi-fi at home. So make a list of things that works for you, and is sustainable.
Eat at home often
Groceries are not super expensive. There are ways to buy greens and meat at an affordable price and stay healthy. Eating at home means cooking for yourself, yes it sounds like a chore – because it is and it saves so much money!
If you are heading to Chipotle for a lunch meal for 5 days a week, you are spending $55 minimum. And that’s only lunch.
For that price, you can buy groceries for two for a week (3 meals). Yes, doable and most grocery chains will have affordable, yet healthy options! Give it a try.
On another note, eating outside every day will cause a blow to your diet and health. Do you know how much sodium Chinese food or pizza has? I cut down processed food and restaurant meals for 6 months and lost 27 pounds! Like really!!!! Food is an important part of our lives – so choose healthy and choose wisely!
Ditch the car
So many times we think, we need something, when the reality is that we don’t. Car is one such thing. Between Salil and I, we own one vehicle and I am 100% fine using public transportation (and that’s what we do when we are visiting other countries, so why is our home town any different).
Does it take an hour for me to commute, yes it does! But that one hour (one way) is precious for me – I do my travel planning, blogging (now that I write often), edit photos, catch up on social media, and more. A few years ago, I decided to upgrade my skills (I took on a University certificate program) and guess what all of my assignments were prepped during my daily commute!
Bottom line is, cars are an expense and don’t get me started on the environmental impacts. So unless you really need it, don’t get it.
Entertainment for less
TV Cable monthly fees are expensive. And to access all the channels, you keep paying more and more. Don’t give in to a 6 month or 1 year free channels on a 2-year contract. Use Netflix or free YouTube for your entertainment.
If you are paying for the internet already, use that for streaming movies and shows on your TV for the family/group to watch. Google Chromecast is an affordable option to do that – both YouTube and Netflix both!
Stay away from people who want money from you
It’s harsh but true. We always have that friend, that colleague, that relative – who is always out of money. You help them today, they will want more. Help them again and it becomes a habit and the cycle never ends. The possibility of getting the money back is slim and you will be chasing your goals – which could have been met in the first place. So if they are people close to you, don’t lend money, focus on the relationship.
The only exception is – if there is a medical emergency. Other issues like paying for another friend, car payment, home décor or personal items – nope, not necessary – they are wants, not needs.
Second-hand items or buying cheaper alternatives
There are cheaper brands and alternatives that you can use for your personal needs to save money. What I am referring to here are items that you need as a social being – good clothing, shoes, bag, good hair, and healthy skin and makeup. Now on a personal level, I don’t buy second-hand clothes or personal items. What I do is a mix of high-low – expensive and affordable pieces.
- I do take care of my skin and so, I set aside a budget for that. This is similar to your food for the body. You can save by buying in bulk or having a rewards point card. Don’t invest in a $100 cream, if you can only afford it for a month – the results/outcomes on your face/skin will disappear. Use a brand that suits your skin type, get samples to try out and buy them during a sale or with rewards points.
- I splurge on bags (I did that in the past) and now I am able to keep using them, without buying any more. I do take care of them and they still have dust bags and they look as good as new. I de-cluttered the un-used bags and donated to charity (you can sell them to make money too),
- For clothing, you will find that the amount you spend in a second hand/thrift store is the same as buying new from Walmart/Walgreens – sure they may not be branded, but they are new.
- Invest in a few nice pieces/outfits that can be used for years. This is true if you are a full time working professional and require dress pants or blazers for work. Buy them from good labels/brands so that you don’t have to replace them often (and you can also save money this way and save the environment). The same goes for winter jackets or boots, you have to wear them each year, so invest in a good piece once and re-use them till they retire!
- Relying on a capsule wardrobe where you shop from your own closet, mix up your own outfits, re-use or accessorizing them will help save the environment and money.
Pay off loans and credit cards bills on time
If you have loans to take care of, saving doesn’t work. Interest fees, if accumulated monthly is almost as much as buying a return ticket or a 5 night 3-star hotel stay. You can use the dedicated saver plan and pay off loans as well as create the travel fund.
Freelancing or Part Time work
You don’t have to be a blogger to earn money aside from your main occupation. It could be any freelance work (events management, tour guides, assistants, summer jobs). Online jobs to blogging to working part-time and using that income to fund your travels is possible. In Canada, summer and winter (Christmas) there are part-time opportunities that come up, take advantage of that and save some extra cash.
Explore your own backyard
I am a big believer in exploring cities and towns we live in and the places closest to it. Those travels don’t cost an arm and a leg, but it is still exploring and sightseeing. Use the money saved towards bigger overseas travels later.
Saving with Credit Card with miles and travel points
If you are good with credit cards, try to get cards with AirMiles points or any travel points/miles. These can be redeemed for free nights or flight tickets. WestJet and TD Canada’s Travel credit cards are very popular.
If credit cards are not a thing for you, sign up for free membership with Expedia, Marriott, Best Western, Wyndham, etc. These hotel groups have properties all over the world and by staying at the same brand, you can avail their offers on free stay or upgrades.
All a matter of lifestyle
Everything that I had mentioned here, is part of forming a lifestyle. Always start with a goal and envision what you want from life. Sure you might have a big loan at the moment, but if you don’t change a thing, nothing will change. To achieve your goals in life with regards to money or travel – a modified lifestyle is essential.
So whether it is eating at home for your health and budget or refusing to lend money for nonsensical things or de-cluttering with a capsule wardrobe – they are all lifestyle changes and personal changes – and all within reach and doable – only you can say yes to it.
If you are working full time or part-time, I know it’s harder to save money due to work or social obligations, but it is doable. Allot money for transport for work and some “eating” out expenses when you have to go for team lunch. Save that money by calling friends over at home, instead of going out.
Conclusion – Starting your travel fund
Goal setting is a powerful tool whether it’s at work or personal life. Remember to set realistic goals, and most importantly track them.
Tracking will help you see the difference your efforts are making. Keep at it – it takes a while to form a habit and to reach your travel funds.
Remember to not give up on yourself or your travel dreams!
Stay saving and build a journey of your dreams xoxo
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