How can you....? Two questions that have come up over and over again are "How can you afford to take a trip like this?" and "How do you have the time to take such a long trip?". I would like to write a bit about each of these because many view what we're about to do as so out of the ordinary and so out of reach that it is out of the realm of possibility for normal people. Well folks, I'm here to say that there is no magic trick in making a trip like this happen. We aren't rich, our parents aren't financing it, and up until a week ago, we each held full time jobs. The trip has been in the works for the last five years and it's taken a lot of planning, saving, and discipline to get to where we are today.
We've talked a bit in previous posts about our approach for purchases and goals, but up until now haven't discussed how we saved for the the trip. The first step was deciding on a budget. After doing a lot of research, we decided on $80/day. We wanted to spend one to two years traveling, so we had a big chunk of change to save up. There are two ways to save money: earning more, and spending less. Since we both worked full time, we focused mostly on what we could do to reduce our living expenses.
We continued to drive our 10 year old cars instead of replacing them and taking on a car payment. We bought a roku box and cancelled our cable, which saved us $130 each month. We began meal planning, which saved us roughly $150 a month on grocery costs. We packed our lunches for work every day. We stopped shopping for the sake of shopping. We were able to cut our budget drastically but just looking at our costs and trimming out the extras.
Once we cut down on spending, we needed a savings strategy. Letting money accumulate into our checking account was not working for us... it was too easy to feel comfortable spending a little extra when it was just sitting there. I've heard the advice "pay yourself first" many times, and it is what made saving for the trip possible. We set up an online banking account with ING. At the beginning of each month, an automatic transfer took our savings target out of our regular account and into a "trip savings" account. We did not have debit cards or other easy access to the money, so there was no way for us to accidentally spend it. We essentially lived a self-imposed paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle, where our primary account was nearly empty at the end of each month. Paying ourselves first helped us successfully save the extra money that we "found" by cutting our budget.
Now that we're on the verge of leaving, we will set up our accounts so that our ING savings will automatically transfer a "paycheck" into the account we plan on using every two weeks. This will help keep us on budget as we travel and minimize our risk if our cards get lost or stolen.
The only way to have time to take a trip like ours is to make the time. There will never be a convenient, easy time to take off and travel for a few years. There will always be jobs (or lack thereof), school, family, kids, houses, friends, pets, and a number of other reasons to make you stay put. Making the time by selling our home and quitting our jobs was emotionally draining. We lost a lot of money on our house, and quitting our jobs in a time of economic uncertainty was scary, but they were both necessary to make the time.
Trading time for money is something that people do all the time. We go to work for 40 hours a week in exchange for a paycheck. We don't always have time to do the things we want to because we have to go to work. We're getting ready to do just the opposite... trade our money for time. We've scrimped and saved for years and its time to trade in all that hard work to follow our dreams.We will unfortunately miss a few weddings, a graduation, and several holidays while we are away. Life will go on for everyone else while we are gone. Eventually, the money will run out and we'll have to go back to the regular 9 to 5. Until then, we're breaking away from the norm and heading out into the world for the adventure of a lifetime!