At least a few times a month, someone tells me “I want to be like you when I grow up” or “I’m living vicariously through you”. My response is usually “You can live, too”. Your life is what you make of it and you have to budget time for yourself the same way you budget time for others.
Traveling often is one of the ways I live my best life. It provides me with novel experiences, a change of scenery, and some awesome selfie backgrounds. Travel, unfortunately, is also a luxury that requires money. People are often faced with the decision of saving more or traveling more because it seems impossible to do both. How can you save AND travel?
It can be reduced to a simple calculation – if you want more money to work with, you can either make more money or spend less. Often times, applying either of those options is not so simple. How can you find the perfect side hustle that doesn’t interfere with the beauty rest you need to deal with Susan’s microaggressions at work? How do you spend less on food without having to eat oodles & noodles every night?
I’ll be the first to tell you, I don’t have all the answer, Sway! What I can share is how I am able to grow professionally and financially while also traveling around the world frequently.
Expand your sources of income
I am blessed with an awesome full-time job that provides me with great leave and enough of a salary to live comfortably and save well. Unfortunately, I also have an eye for luxury and the niceties of life. When you believe that the sky is the limit, how do you tell yourself no? Spending less seemed like I would be stifling my best life potential so I chose to work a part-time job in my profession to bring more money to the pot. This extra income became my “galavanting” money.
I opened a different account for that money to go into so I could separate my responsible living from my need for roaming free. If I wanted to travel more, I had to work more. I found that working an extra 20-40 hours a month wasn’t that bad and I still had energy to maintain a social life, work out, and advance professionally.
Maybe a part-time job isn’t that realistic for you. Other ways to gain a few more dollars is through investing or selling off old items that you don’t use anymore. You can also earn cash rewards from a charging most of your expenses on a reward-accruing credit card and paying the balance at the end of the month.
I almost exclusively pay things with my rewards credit card as long as there is no fee associated with using a credit card versus cash or debit. That includes most of my bills, groceries, gas, etc. I make sure I stay in my budget of spending so that I can comfortably pay the entire balance without being assessed finance fees. Depending on your spending, you can earn $250-$750 in cash rewards annually that you can use to pay for a flight to paradise.
After working in my profession for about 2 years, I realized that I had very little to show in assets and long-term savings. In 2012, the buzz around the 52-week Savings Challenge caught my eye because Sandy loves a little challenge. You start by saving $1 in the first week and increase by $1 each week until you save $52 for week 52. At the end of the challenge, you save a total of $1378. I modified my 52-Week Savings Challenge to start with $5 for the first week and then multiplied $5 by the week number to get the amount I have to save for that week (week 2 is $10, week 3 is $15, etc.). By the end of my challenge, I was able to save $6890.
I created a spreadsheet that would calculate the amounts per week and total them by months so it was easier to know how much I was to save from each paycheck. I opened a high interest yielding savings account to keep the money separate from my regular accounts so that I wouldn’t be tempted to touch it. I basically budget it like a bill – once I send it to the account, I consider it gone.
Once I got used to doing $5 for a couple years, I challenged myself more by doing $7 which helps me to save additional money annually. After 8 years of doing the challenge, I can happily say that I exceed the standard guide of three to six months’ worth of my essential expenses. The amount I earn annually in interest alone is enough to buy a cheap flight to Europe. It’s a liberating feeling to travel knowing you still have money in the bank.
Traveling is more affordable than you think
Would you believe me if I told you I traveled round trip to Côte d’Ivoire for $354? Or paid $355 for a plane ticket to Singapore? Or my trip to Morocco cost me only $400? There are a host of websites that you can check daily for great last minute and advance flight deals both international and domestic from different major cities around the US, especially if you are open to any destination. My favorite one is TheFlightDeal.com. I tend to see the travel deals mostly during off-peak season but there are also great deals if you aim to travel during the shoulder season, the travel period between peak and off-peak season.
Hotels can be more expensive than the flight. Luckily, many hotels’ direct websites are now offering more special rates and offers on rooms. If you are up for a game of “hotel roulette”, you can utilize the sites like Hotwire that offer discounted bookings at hotels based on their star ratings but don’t reveal the name of the hotel until payment is made. You have the potential to get hotels 40-70% off their best available rate. With these sites, you can pick the general area or neighborhood where you want to stay. If you are traveling with others, it’s more cost affordable to share a room or get an Airbnb if multiple rooms are needed. One advantage of Airbnb is that many have access to food storage or kitchens, which can reduce the money spent on food while you are away.
Two weeks can equal 10 trips
One of the biggest barriers to traveling more is your amount of vacation days. Many people are only given two weeks to be away from work. You can use less days if you take shorter trips and bridge them to your days off. That is potential 10 Thursday to Sunday trips a year. I also like to bridge vacation days with Monday holidays. Many destinations in Europe, Africa and Asia have journeys that begin with late flights so I can take an overnight flight on Wednesday and come back Monday night.
There is no one-size-fits-all for living your best life. No one wants to risk it all to suffer paying for their decisions in years to come, and no one wants to be a prisoner to their circumstances as life passes them by. Work hard and live responsibly but don’t put off rewarding yourself by taking that trip in the present.
Do what is realistic for you, but don’t be afraid to push yourself harder to reap some rewards now. I believe if you find your balance between responsibility and self-fulfilling experiences, you can excel at work, have some money in the bank, travel more, and keep your edges too.
Where will you travel to next?
Cassandra, also known as “International Sandy”, is a travel enthusiast by passion and a health care provider by profession. She encourages black women to travel the world unabashedly to change world stereotypes and also provides her audience with some of the highlights of her solo and group adventures. With over 50 countries she has visited, Sandy knows there is more in the world that unites us than makes us different.
Instagram: @Sandyisinternational FB Page: Sandy is International Snapchat: @IntlSandy Twitter: @SandyisIntl Website: www.sandyisinternational.com