If I had to give a name to my financial nemesis that name would be Rite Aid–-that chain of easily accessible, convenient stores located on every other corner of New York City. Each time I step into a Rite Aid currency takes on a different meaning since $5 spent on an impulsive purchase isn’t nearly as impractical as buying that $50 shirt I was coveting.
I have the same flawed way of thinking when it comes to the New York City metro card, which costs us New Yorkers a whopping $112 or so a month! Dropping money on a flimsy, plastic card is hard to swallow but refilling that card for $5, $10, or $20 increments makes the whole transaction easier to digest. Someone much savvier in finances would stand up and state the obvious, which is I spend more refilling my card and save more by buying the monthly pass but this is how I am, a child with monopoly money when it comes to saving…until now.
When I began The Pin the Map Project, it was with the desire to re-focus my priorities by pushing my passion of travel and writing to the forefront of my life rather than keeping it as a hobby that I indulged after 9-5 jobs and in-between meetings. I have often said the corporate world and I simply cannot reconcile our differences and rather than spend my time chained to a desk working a job I detest, I pushed (and continue to push) to lead a life where I am a successful travel blogger, am growing my journalism career and am a full-time freelancer with the freedom to travel when I wish.
Money is the dividing factor–the line in the sand between a life of freelance assignments and travel or one where I navigate office politics and have 20 days out of 365 of which I can call my own. Whether aspiring to become a freelance travel writer and bracing to jump the corporate ship; or simply saving funds to globetrot around the world for a year–I believe that traveling is as expensive as we make it. Everything–from plane tickets to accommodations–can be affordable if you’re savvy to the tricks on airfare hacking and more; but of course, it all begins with saving.
1. Cut your Expenses.
Travel bloggers who save for large trips tend to run the gamut from drastic savers (moving back in with their parents to save on rent) to casual savers (cutting expenses on taking out and Starbucks). In saving for travel, I know that I like to strike a balance between enjoying the present and planning for the future. I don’t want to miss out on enjoying my relationship and New York City by staying home to pinch pennies; but likewise, I refuse to relegate my travel dreams to the pages of a journal, never to be fulfilled. The answer is to figure out how I am spending my money and cut back reasonably on unnecessary expenses.
The Mint application comes in handy in both showing me how I spend my dollars and leaving me utterly flabbergasted by it. Let’s just say that my “harmless” treats of a beverage here or snack there had banded together to form an army of treats with a dollar amount much higher than $5. I consider myself a foodie as much as the next person but I can throw money towards cheap snacks that in the end prove more expensive than a meal at a four-star restaurant! Like getting in shape, saving money is something you ease into if you truly want the habit to stick. As much as I want to cut my budgets in half, I know it would prove disheartening when I inevitably exceed them. The Mint application evaluates your spending habits and recommends budgets that you can then scale back slowly, each month.
2. $14 Cocktails or Lunch in Vietnam?
When I was growing up my dad once told me that the mark of an adult vs. a child is the ability to discern between what is wanted and what is needed. As kids, we want that toy but as adults, we learn that wanting and needing something is not the same thing. When saving money for travel the push-pull relationship between “want” and “need” is constantly in motion; yes, I want that amazing mojito to accompany my Cuban meal but do I need it? Yes, I really want that $22 lipstick from Sephora but with other lipsticks at home, do I need it? Yes, I am craving to order sushi vs. make dinner, but is that necessary? Chances are the answer is no and when you start to separate your financial needs from your wants, the money saved can speak for itself.
Of course, life is about balance and although I may not need something it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t enjoy it. This, I believe, is where perspective comes into play, when we ask ourselves if what we’re about to hand over our credit card for is worth it. A $14 cocktail could be a memorable lunch in Vietnam but that $200 theater ticket could be an unforgettable experience with loved ones–perspective is a matter of opinion and how we spend our money rests squarely on the carrier of the wallet.
2. Direct Deposits & Online Savings Accounts.
Simply put, it is easier to save money when you are not actively doing so. I used to save money by manually taking out dollars, walking myself over to the bank and depositing this money only to end up using it a week later. Likewise (because I truly can be appalling with money) I used to have my savings account linked to my checking account and while I could seamlessly transfer funds in a pinch; my less-than-responsible self at 2 am on a night out with friends would rationalize transferring funds from my savings to checking for extra cocktails or dinner.
My failed saving attempts were salvaged when someone recommended setting up auto deposits to my savings account—a relatively simple solution that changed everything. I began using Ally Bank, which offers a high interest online savings account that is easy to use and for which automatic deposits can be set up. While I can still transfer funds from savings to checking it takes 3 business days for a transfer to process, which takes out the temptation of instant access to my savings and forces me to think about whether I really need the money.
I once read that saving money is a lot like getting in shape–it’s not enough to swap a salad for a pizza slice here and there, you really have to commit and just choose to eat healthily and visit the gym. Saving money for travel is similar in that you have to choose to save money and put your purchases into perspective. Although I am trying to be a reformed spender (who occasionally relapses with the impulse purchase here or there) these tricks have come a long way in helping me afford my travels.