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Posted by Jessica on Mar 18, 2011
Travel is our Everyday Expense

Without very detailed budgeting and savings goals, our round-the-world trip and all our subsequent travels since we've returned home wouldn't be possible. When you don't know exactly how you use your money, it has a way of disappearing before you know it. So the trick is to know how you use your money and, more importantly, to make sure you spend less than you bring home. Straightforward, to the point, and very effective when you have a goal in mind that you're saving toward.

There are a few people we've met who have been curious about how we're able to afford our travels. They're almost suspicious about how we can do it, particularly when they remember we only have one salary between us. Tim and I joke that perhaps it would make more sense if we had won the lottery: windfalls are sometimes easier to accept than budgeting.

The simple answer as to how we afford to travel is that we have a budget and we stick to it. We're frugal people, we live well below our means, and we're good at saving toward our goal to travel. It's a quality that began when we were saving every last dime for our round-the-world trip, and it's a quality that's sort of just stuck with us since we've returned home. (And to clarify: Frugal and cheap are not the same thing. We spend money where we want to, we save money when we don't need to spend it.)

Many people spend their money by eating lunch out during the work week, going to the movies frequently, buying new books, drinking Starbucks coffee daily, downloading songs from iTunes, going out to dinner or grabbing take out a few times a week, getting the latest games for their Wii or xBox, and buying new clothes fairly regularly.

These activities, these purchases are normal. They are a part of everyday life. And so when someone spends money on these things (whether it's money they have to spend or not), it's not unusual for there not to be much, if anything, leftover in their bank accounts to spend on travel.

And so travel (or vacations or holidays or whatever you'd like to call it) is seen as an added bonus. It's something exotic, something to be obtained, something that isn't part of everyday life. Above all else, it's seen as expensive.

But Tim and I don't eat lunch out during the work week. (Even if we both didn't work from home, we'd still pack our lunch.) We rarely go to the movies (and when we do, the cash for it comes out of our weekly grocery budget) and simply take advantage of our subscription to Netflix. We use our local libraries instead of buying new books. We use gift cards from birthdays or Christmas to buy new music or we listen to music online. We prefer cooking together for several hours with a bottle of wine (okay, a few bottles of wine) instead of going out to eat. (And when we do go out to eat – nom! – it comes out of the cash leftover in our grocery and gas budgets.) We don't have a television, so things like the Wii or Xbox don't matter to us. And we rarely need new clothes.

(And then of course there are those cell phone bills, cable television bills, gas fill-ups for the car, and payments on new(er) cars that also take up a large chunk of many folks' paychecks. But we don't have cell phones, we don't have a cable bill (remember: no television), we don't have a commute to work, and we own our 16 year old car.)

So the normal everyday expenses that are a part of life for many people, aren't really a part of our lives. It's not that all those things aren't fun or shiny, it's just that they don't interest us as much as travel does. So we're able to save that cash and put it into our travel budget instead.

For us, travel is our everyday life; whereas eating out or going to the movies are seen as the added bonus.

But I know our approach is different. And I know because it's different the amount we travel often surprises people. They expect that we're still buying the everyday things that everyone else buys (and so "how can they afford to travel so much too?!"); when in reality we're saving the money we could have spent on those purchases and using it instead for plane tickets to South America.

Now, when we're in South America we'll go out to eat, buy new clothes, and may even go see a movie. But that's just a part of traveling for us!

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Noah Singman
March 18, 2011 at 1:35pm
But what about hookers? IV drugs? Bling? How you can live without those essentials?
March 18, 2011 at 1:37pm
LOL! No worries, Noah. We have dedicated allowances for those expenses spread throughout the year. It's important to keep up with the Joneses. ;)
March 19, 2011 at 12:22am
Hey guys! I agree with you completely, although I was lucky enough before my trip to be making enough to get the shiny stuff and save at the same time. Now, though, it's hard to imagine having spent so much on shiny stuff when I could be traveling more instead. My favorite is when people say/type/FB to me: "I wish I could do what you're doing!" I always say/type/FB back, "You can! Give up all assurances and spend all your savings, have no idea what the future will bring, and then you can do what I'm doing!"

No one laughs… hm. :)


March 19, 2011 at 5:00am
*nodding* And it's really all about having that good balance between enjoying life at home and saving for travel. Saving money for travel is like going on a diet: If you cut out all your favorite foods/things, you're not as likely to be successful as you would if you allow yourself a little treat every now and then. We've found that we genuinely enjoy (and naturally gravitate toward) a more frugal lifestyle, but that doesn't mean we don't like the shiny things every now and then too. :)

…My favorite is when people say/type/FB to me: "I wish I could do what you're doing!" I always say/type/FB back, "You can! Give up all assurances and spend all your savings, have no idea what the future will bring, and then you can do what I'm doing! No one laughs… hm…

LOL! Yea, I can definitely imagine most folks' reaction toward your (very accurate) point. On the other hand, though, I do think more people could travel (long-term or short-term) if it was a priority for them. But it's definitely not for everyone! :)

March 19, 2011 at 2:07pm
Our car is only 15 years old… you guys win :)
But: What is Netflix? You are spoling yourselves… We aren't spending on movie subscriptions before we have finished seeing all the free DVDs from the public library :)
Not going to restaurants saves a lot of money. I think we will take the art of picnics to a new level on this year's Europe roadtrip, and suddenly Europe will feel like a cheap destination :D
March 21, 2011 at 1:46pm
LOL! Yes, we are spoiling ourselves tremendously. ;) Alas, our libraries are admittedly lacking when it comes to their DVD selection. So instead we use Netflix (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netflix) which is pretty nifty – for around $10/month we can rent as many DVDs as we like (one DVD at a time) through their mail service and watch unlimited movies/TV shows online. So if we get a DVD on Monday and watch it that night, we'll then drop it in the mail on Tuesday, and we'll have a new DVD waiting for us in the mail on Thursday. More excitingly, though, is the unlimited access to their online selection via our laptop. So that's how we do most of our DVD watching these days. :)

…I think we will take the art of picnics to a new level on this year's Europe roadtrip, and suddenly Europe will feel like a cheap destination…

We couldn't agree more! We are very much looking forward to a number of picnics together throughout Europe. :) :)

March 21, 2011 at 2:59pm
Yea for you guys! You're always so inspiring.
March 21, 2011 at 3:06pm
*blushing* Awwww, shucks! :)
Susan Out To Sea
March 22, 2011 at 1:49pm
hey, just exactly what i needed to hear! it's so hard saying "no" to my coworkers when they want me to come out to lunch with them every day, but it's easier when i think of how far that $$$ will go toward my dream!

thanks for posting this! :)

March 24, 2011 at 8:21am

Don't know if you find it, but I always feel like my mates are all "Christ, must be nice to be so rich!" (They never actually say that, but I always worry their thinking it)

I'll be bookmarking this article, so I can send them the link the next time they make me feel that way! Cheers!

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