How do we afford to travel at a glance
- We are not trust fund babies nor did we win the lottery
- We did not go in to debt whatsoever during any part of this trip or in planning for this trip. We will pay for no part of it when we get home.
- We have not and never plan on taking a salary from our non-profit, Waweza Movement.
- We have raised support in the past for trips to visit our children’s home; however, this trip we paid for out of our own pockets, tickets, food ect. Paying for our trips in this manner is becoming increasingly more important to us. It allows us to be invested in what we do in Kenya in a much deeper and more personal way, as well as making sure that the money we receive from supporters can go directly to the kids’ well being. This is our personal decision and conviction.
- We are not super rich. We don’t make six figures a year when both of our incomes are combined or anywhere close for that matter
- We worked our tail ends off for five and a half months to save for this trip. I am talking about 70-80 hours a week, sometimes working six days a week. Previously to that we spent the first two years of our marriage fervently paying off our debt. Cars, credit cards, school loans, etc.
- We don’t particularly like hostels and are not staying in one on our upcoming trip to Europe.
- Our ability to travel comes down to five basic principles that anyone can apply. This is not an inclusive list, but rather a list of lifestyle changes that we have found helpful:
- Get on a budget
- Pay off debt
- Save, save, save
- Avoid tie down
- Find killer deals
How can we afford to travel so much?
How can we afford to take 8 months off of work and travel the world? We often get asked this valid question. Megan and I do not make copious amounts of cash. We both have had decent paying jobs but nothing above average income. So how do we do it?
In this post we will share with you a few tips about how to be normal people that can afford to do extraordinary things. If the basic steps we share below are followed, I am convinced that you can do the same things that we have been able to do. We are getting ready to head off to Europe for nearly two months tomorrow and we really wanted to share these things with you.
Now, it isn’t all about “budget” travel. We are not particular keen on hostels, couch surfing and camping in someone’s garden. Although these can be great ways to travel cheap, it isn’t exactly our style. We have decided our travel style is somewhere between backpacking and luxury, there is a good balance right in the middle of there 🙂
- Getting on a budget
This is where most people get off track. I am not going to lie, getting on a serious budget is like plucking nose hairs; it hurts like no ones business and can make you cry. Nobody likes to deny themselves what they want. In a society where debt is normal, and even encouraged, it is hard not to feel as though desires can and should be fulfilled immediately. THIS IS A TRAP! Debt is one of the biggest ways to tie your dreams down and, in many cases, smother them all together.
Getting on a good budget is about saying no now, so that you can enjoy the fruit of your labor later without making payments. The first step in being able to travel is saying no!
There are many methods for budgeting but, personally, I think that David Ramsey has the market cornered on getting out of debt and budgeting wisely. If you have never heard of him check out his books, they are amazing resources!
We have used the Envelope Cash System for the last two years. The basic principle is putting a name to every dollar you spend. When the envelope is empty, that’s it for the month. It took us over a year to fully agree to be strict and another year to really slash our budget down to size. There is no better feeling than saving money that would have been wasted in the past!
Go ahead, get a few of Dave’s books and CDs and start watching the money you make go way further than it ever has before. Just be prepared to stay in instead of going to the movies with friends, order water when everyone else is getting drinks, make food at home instead of going out and split meals instead of gorging. This not only helps your budget now, but it will also help your budget when traveling.
One budget friendly trick is eating at Chipotle. We get one chicken bowl, order extra rice and beans for free and enjoy a very filling date night for under $7! Sometimes Megan can’t even make dinner at our home for $7!
- Paying Off Debt!
Nothing ties people down like the debt monster! It all adds up fast. What seems like a small monthly payment here, and a car payment there, turn into a links in a chain. Before reality sets in, there is no extra money left over after bills and minimum payments. The end result of the equation is usually nowhere to be found in credit card advertisement that promise happiness. The Vikings do catch up even with The No Hassle Card!
Being serious about getting out of debt has been a huge enabler in our 8 months escapade! The first two years of our marriage we agreed to work extra to get out of debt. This has been one of the best decisions we have made in our marriage. Not having monthly payments looming over our heads has been an enormous piece of the puzzle in our ability to save money for our trip. The load that is taken off of the shoulders after the last car payment, the last credit card payment, etc is made is so worth the time and energy it took to get there.
It is easy to feel counted out because of large amounts of debt. However, with lifestyle changes and working extra, it is possible to get out of the pit. We personally paid off $20,000+ in six months. If we can do it, so can you!
For tips for those that are serious about getting out of debt, again, Dave Ramsey is my go-to guy!
- Save, Save, Save
Once steps one and two are done, it is time for step three. This is where the fun begins! Watching the money stack up in the bank account is almost as fun and fulfilling as the travel it empowers! Now is the time to buckle down, put in the extra hours and flex those budgeting muscles. Planning for a trip should already be in the works, and with that goal in mind the work becomes easier. This money is not frivolous; it came by the hard work of long hours, serious budgeting and discipline. Now is when all the work you put in begins to pay off.
(Note. When saving money for travel, the actual travel budget is only part of the equation. Don’t forget about emergency funds, money to live on when returning from a trip in between jobs and money to pay for bills that still have to be paid even when you are gone.)
- Avoid Tie Down
Tie downs are those things in life that force the necessity for staying in one place indefinitely. A few items that are high on this list are:
Jobs, owning a house with a high mortgage; car payments, debt, long-term contracts etc.
Now, I understand that not everyone has the choice to avoid certain tie downs, nor does everybody want to. It is possible to have a normal job and still have amazing travel experiences. They just might be two weeks a year, but there is nothing wrong with that. Personally, I try to avoid jobs that tie me down because I like change.
The big ones that can be avoided are taking out house loans and car loans. So many people say that it is good to take out loans for these big-ticket items. However, if you do the math, it just doesn’t pay off. On a thirty-year mortgage it is easy to pay double the amount of the original loan. The math doesn’t quite add up. Cars depreciate in value. Paying extra for something that loses value over time by getting a loan also doesn’t make financial “cents”. It is better to find a good rental price and save towards a reasonable house that can be paid off after 10-15 years with some extra hustle, which has a low monthly payment that can be bolstered in order to pay off the loan early. Also, find a reliable car that can be paid for in cash. (Craiglist.com) The Jones’ will be jealous that you travel so much and they are tied down to all the stuff they bought!
The money that is eliminated from monthly expenses will help reduce large tie downs that are difficult to keep up while traveling.
(Note. Kids don’t have to be a tie down. There are plenty of families that travel, even full time, with kids. It can be a great learning experience for kids to spend time traveling the world. Definitely something Megan and I plan on doing with our sweet babies someday.)
- Finding killer deals!
This is very important when it comes to travel! Most of the time there is no reason to pay full price for traveling. If there is trip flexibility and willingness to change plans then there are so many travel deals out there for the taking. This is not my strong point. My wife Megan is absolutely incredible at finding travel deals. She is constantly searching for killer travel deals. This is something she enjoys and spends a lot of time working on as part of our travels. In fact right now, thanks to Agoda.com and Megan’s searching, we are sitting at one of the nicest resorts in Mombasa, the Severin Sea Lodge. We did not pay the usual $150-$200 a night bed and breakfast fee but rather a whopping $35 a night for both of us to enjoy a king-size bed and breakfast at a resort directly on the beach! Here are a few sights that we have found helpful in saving us loads of cash. We make no commission for these links. They are just ridiculously helpful if you want to save some moola.
- Hotwire.com (go for hot rate hotels, we’ve had at least 5 GREAT experiences booking the hot rate hotels!)
- Travelpony.com (We have not used this site yet but have heard good things.)
There are so many websites out there dedicated to budgeting, paying off debt, cheap travel and so on. I could also write whole blogs on each of these topics and others that help us travel. Our hope in writing this post is to inspire those out there that love to travel but think that it is limited to the rich that they can travel just like us. We are normal people who get to live an extraordinary life. It takes a lot of hard work and vision but I can tell you this, it is worth every bit! Happy travels!!!!