Last week we talked about “having it all.” Of course, “having it all” is completely objective. I believe we can all get closer to complete satisfaction with our lives by making choices that bring us joy. And, no, I don’t mean confined to your two weeks off every year. I mean all the freakin’ time. If you, like me, find your happy place when you are in the ocean, zipping down a mountain, or sipping coffee in a foreign land, then you may be wondering how you can start creating habits that will help you afford these experiences on the regular. Before we do, I would like to give you a little more information about my budget constraints so you know where I am coming from when I make recommendations, all of which come from experience. While talk of money is generally taboo, I think it is important for you to know that I am just not some rich kid who can afford to travel whenever I want. I'm guessing we have something in common, which is that we work hard to play hard.
- I work a normal, 9 to 5 job. My vacation time may be a little higher than average (2 1/2 weeks plus Holidays). The first time I actually got paid for a day off was a huge landmark for me, so I know what it is like to trade dollars for days.
- I sit in a cubicle a majority of the time. I am not a travel blogger who is making their living on the road. I am doing this to help motivate other people to find the opportunities in the average 9 to 5 life to go on amazing adventures. Of course, I do have a cool job that allows me to get out on site visits to pretty amazing places (like the beach) on a regular basis. I chose to work with on coastal and marine resource management for many reasons, though one was to always live near the coast and actually interact with the resources I care about. I occasionally get to hike, tide pool, and walk barefoot on the beach while on the clock (for legit reasons). Winning.
- I work a 9/80. Instead of working 40 hours a week, I sit in my cubicle for an extra hour every day to earn every other Friday off. This rocks.
- I spend well over one third of my income on housing (ouch) and, for me, trying to save to buy a home seems about as useful as searching for gold at the end of a rainbow.
- As a general rule, I don’t compromise my ethics to save a few bucks. This means I spend a lot more money on food than the average person. (Having studied and worked in the sustainable food realm, the words grass fed, organic, and local are a serious part of my food vocabulary).
- I am on a very tight budget. My financial situation is not bad right now. Though I am far from where I would like to be, I appreciate that I have some savings to fall back on if things go pear shaped. However, I live paycheck to paycheck and all of my expenses, including the weekend adventures I share on here, come from my monthly budget and not savings. If I take a big trip, the funding from that usually comes from a contract I decided to take to save up for it.
Phew! Glad we got that out of the way. (Nothing like baring your financial situation to the whole world!)
If you aren’t making it rain over there, I’m guessing we have more than a few things in common. While I have struggles just like everyone else, when I climb that peak or whip down that mountain, I actually do feel like I have it all. At some point on every adventure, someone inevitable says: “How lucky are we to be here right now?!” Life is good.
Are you ready to make adventure a priority? Here are four tips you can put into practice today to get out on amazing adventures.
Tip #1: Budget travel/adventure in just like everything else
I have a monthly budget that includes items I have decided are “must haves” (rent, cell phone bill, etc.) and expenses that are flexible (variable). In this budget I have $200 for monthly adventures. If I don’t spend it all or save more than that, it goes straight into the bucket for bigger travels in the future. If you’re thinking “Sure, it is nice that you have $200 lying around but I am budgeted to the max,” then move on to Tip #2.
Tip #2: Give something up
Is your budget already maxed out? Then it is time to make some decisions on what is most important to you. Would you rather: 1) Watch Game of Thrones the night it airs? or 2) Catch up when it comes out on Netflix and get three nights camping in a National Park? Would you rather: 1) Buy another pair of jeans (you already have 5!) or 2) Dip in some hot springs on the Colorado River? I make “sacrifices" to save. I drive an 11 year old car. I take the bus. I stay in hostels instead of fancy resorts. I rarely buy new clothes, and when I do there is some serious internal dialogue that occurs. I go on hikes instead of paying for a gym membership... The list goes on. While you may already do these things, too, I am guessing we can find some wiggle room in that budget. Even with a tight budget I was recently able to strike two things from my budget to reallocate $30 a month, Spotify ($10), and some minutes on my cell phone ($20). I also went most of 2014 without buying a single thing (clothes, electronics...), which was much easier than I expected and made me a happier person.
Tip #3: Create new habits
Little things really do add up over the course of a month. Can you make coffee instead of stopping for a latte? Pack a lunch instead of picking up a salad? Maybe your coffee break is important because it is when you catch up with coworkers and get away from your computer for a few minutes. Instead of heading to the coffee shop, put a pot on and ask you coworker if they would like to go for a ten minute walk instead. Not only will you save money, you will also have changed your habit into something that gets you outside during the work day. How much have I saved by making coffee and packing lunches? About $165 a month.
Old habit: $2 coffees each morning before work (sometimes a $3 latte) = $40+/month New habit: I buy about two bags of organic, fair trade coffee beans for approximately $16 a month, saving me $24
Old habit: $12 salads just about every workday = $240 a month (whaaat?!!). New habit: Buying the makings for salad at the grocery store, which costs less than $25 a week, saving me $140/month.
Tip #4: Change your money mindset
When I first started traveling I would think of my spending in terms of travel days gained or lost. I could either spend $50 on a new item of clothing or plan an extra day in Italy. No brainer. When you go out for dinner with friends think about whether you want to have that second cocktail, or save the $10 and instead enjoy 5 beers on the beaches of Costa Rica. A dollar saved stateside is worth at least double in a lot of places you visit. I had a serious money re-callibration a couple of weeks ago (aka I decided to get more serious with saving) and was immediately invited to a relatively expensive place for a friend’s birthday dinner. I decided to keep myself to one cocktail instead of two and split an entree with a friend. While I usually get out of a dinner like that for no less than $50, I only spent $25 (including pitching in for the birthday girl). If I decide to make that same decision once a month, that is an extra $25 in my vacation spending account.
And there you have it, four tips that I use to save about $220 a month, most of which I put towards travel. If you already do all those things, great! Look at your budget and get creative. Let me know what you come up with, or if you need a little help (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Feeling confident about the savings and want to know how to go on great weekend adventures for less than $200? In the queue I have a bunch of guides to show you how I do just that. Make sure to sign up for our mailing list to get these straight to your inbox!