In Eat, Pray, Love, the memoir that has become a classic for many people yearning for a fresh start, Elizabeth Gilbert says “To travel is worth any cost or sacrifice.” While I do agree with Ms. Gilbert, I also believe in living well every day. Identifying what is important to your happiness – and what’s negotiable – is the best way to achieve your goals without making yourself miserable.
I love going out with friends, my yoga studio, good wine, organic food, and a hundred other creature comforts. I also have a pretty typical twenty-something job – enough salary to pay my bills and be comfortable, not enough that I’m jetting around the world with ease every month. Despite this, I’ve learned some painless ways to save for travel and still live a pretty wonderful life in my own city:
- Automatic Savings
As a self-diagnosed shopaholic, this tip is a lifesaver for me. I use my online banking to set up a weekly automatic transfer from my checking account to my savings account. Start where you can – even $10 a week will build over time! It can also be helpful to name your savings account something that will motivate you. It could be a destination, or something as simple as “Adventures.”
- Stop Impulse Buys
You know the items at the end of grocery store aisles or near the checkout? Those are put there for the sole purpose of catching your eye and making you grab them with little thought. Some people do well by making a list and sticking to it for every shopping trip. I’ve found that simply pausing, taking a breath, and asking myself if I need this item works for me. I’m a sucker for a great sale, so I pay special attention to items that are marked down. If you wouldn’t pay full price for something, it’s not worth it! It might be only $10, but that $10 could be buying you a great meal on your next trip.
- Sell Your Stuff
It is SO easy to sell your stuff now. You can choose from craigslist, eBay, consignment shops, or a million apps. Selecting the right platform for your items is important. I use craigslist for furniture, consignment shops or apps for designer clothing, eBay for miscellaneous items, and Half Price Books for DVDs and books. It’s a little bit of work to investigate where you’ll get the best price, take photos of the items and ship to buyers (if you’re selling online), but I’ve made literally thousands of dollars selling items I’m no longer in love with! If you’re having trouble parting with your belongings, I would recommend The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. The book has great advice on reducing clutter in your home, but essentially it comes down to one question – does this item bring you joy? Is it worth the real estate it takes up in your home, or is it holding you back? Hanging on to something because it’s “still perfectly good” or you might use it some day does nothing but clutter your home with possessions that don’t bring you joy. It could be making you money for travel instead!
- Remove Temptation
If you know you’re lacking self-control in certain stores, don’t go there. This one might be the hardest tip to implement. For example, I love lululemon and used to live within walking distance of a store. It was incredibly easy to pop in after grabbing a coffee next door “just to see what’s new.” $300 later, I would always have some great new clothes, but would be no closer to saving for a trip. Take a minute to analyze your lifestyle (and maybe your credit card statements) and find the weak points. If you know that grocery shopping hungry doubles the amount you spend at the store, you can plan ahead to avoid this situation. Stay strong, friends.
- Analyze Your Budget
You should cancel cable. Today. I know, bold statement! Many people might disagree with me, but cheaper forms of entertainment (hi, remember books? Or walking around your city?) are often more enriching anyway. I know people who say they could never afford to take the trips that I do, but think nothing of dropping $100+ a month on television. Netflix is pretty cool if you still need your entertainment, and many shows can now be found online. There’s also a great, big world outside your door, and re-discovering it might just make you feel more grateful for your home – while helping you afford a travel.
- Unsubscribe from Retail Emails
Even if you already delete them, take 10 seconds to unsubscribe. You just don’t need that temptation. If you want to take it a step further, create a separate email account for situations where you have to give an email address but aren’t interested in further communication. I have my work email, then an email I use for online shopping/magazine subscriptions/etc. I check it when I’m ready to shop for an item so that I can sift through the offers on my own time without being lured into a sale every day.
- Think (Really Really Hard) About Your Life
This one is a bit more complicated. We often do things we know aren’t good for us to overcompensate for another area of our lives. You know you should be saving money, but that new outfit looks amazing. You have health goals, but pizza. You know you won’t make it to your early yoga class if you keep drinking, but it has been a long week and you need to let loose. Several studies have found that limiting too many areas of your life could lead to a loss of willpower and result in splurging. Each of us has a limited supply of self-control, which means if you try to exert it in too many areas at once, you’ll rapidly deplete your reserve. What is lacking in your life? If you have a huge bar tab every weekend, maybe it’s because you feel your life is less fun or exciting now than you would like. If you can’t resist buying new clothes, maybe you’re drawing your sense of self-worth from your appearance. If you’d like to learn more about this subject, I would highly recommend this book by Kimberly Snyder. It focuses on health, but the insights are applicable to every area of your life – including budgeting.
When you recall trips you’ve taken (or dream about your first one), I guarantee the joy of travel is more than you’ll get from that pair of shoes, cable, or the third pitcher of margaritas. Saving money takes some planning, but you don’t have to give up all the fun parts of your life to travel. Cut corners where you can, identify what is important to you, and use that to create your plan.
As always, feel free to send me any questions! I’m happy to dive into the specifics of my savings plan.