Fact of the day: Life costs money.
Bonus fact of the day: Travel, being a part of life, also costs money.
Now that we have that out of the way, I want to talk about something that is necessary to travelling...specifically long term travel or moving abroad. And, that something that I want to talk about is...as I briefly mentioned a few moments ago, funds. Money. Moolah. The big green. Dollars. Crowns. Pounds. Euros. Etc.
Money has always seemed to be the biggest deciding factor for me in all life decisions. Mainly because, well, "it doesn't grow on trees." Even after graduating college, and working full-time in "good jobs," I still didn't have an overabundance of extra cash. I had bills to pay...rent, student loans, gas, car insurance, food...blah, blah, blah. I didn't feel like I was ever in a position to save enough money to do anything extra...let alone move out of the country. I had researched opportunities countless times, but it always came down to the, "Oh, I will never be able to make it work financially" excuse.
Over the years, I have read countless articles on saving money to begin a life abroad, or just travel long-term. In all honesty, the advice was always very similar, and seemed entirely too simple to actually work. After reading each article, I would think..."Sure, you're telling me to save money and how to do it...but still, HOW DO I DO IT?" Maybe when I read these articles, I just wasn't actually ready to make the commitment...or I was just afraid to take the leap. Therefore I would always close my computer and declare moving abroad an "impossible possibility."
Then, and I still don't know how exactly it happened, my mindset changed. I became more positive about making my dream a reality. With the positive reassurance of some of my closest friends, I realized that everything I had read in those articles actually was possible. Instead of saying, "when I have more money I will do this," I decided to push myself to obtain that then non-existent stockpile of cash. I applied for a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) program instead of just researching it, and once I was accepted I set a deadline for myself. On January 1st of this year (2015, duh), I began "Operation Prague."
I knew my departure date for Europe would be July 31st. I had an idea of what I was going to need to pay for in advance, and while in Prague. This obviously differs in every situation, but for me my "to buy" list looked something like this:
*TEFL course fee
*Travel necessities (luggage, etc.)
*$$$ to get settled before your job begins paying (flat fees, electricity, gas, etc.)
*Basic living expenses (food, public transport. WINTER CLOTHES)
I'm not going to include exact amounts and numbers on here because what I had to pay for is not what everyone would have to pay for, so I will just tell you that it added up to quite a large number. (Somewhere around $5,000.) I had some savings, but not a lot. I had seven months to reach my savings goal, which is a very short period of time, but I had my heart set on making it happen.
So, how did I do it? I used the basic advice that I had read in those articles so many times. Who knew they would actually work? Here are the three saving methods that were the most successful in getting me on that plane to Prague:
1. Cut corners WHEREVER you can.
In a summary, stop spending money on unnecessary stuff. Make your own coffee instead of buying it every day. Pack your lunch instead of going out. Limit the number of times you eat dinner out, or go to the movies, or do other entertaining things that cost money. (There are free means of entertainment, believe it or not.) Do NOT buy that new shirt, because it most likely will not make the cut when you are choosing what clothes will go with you on your move. (Heads up: you will most likely only take one suitcase.) You can live without those new shoes, or that new bag, or that new book. (The book thing was really difficult for me, I will admit.) It's OKAY to become a cheap-o for a while, because it is definitely going to pay off in the end. Trust me.
2. Work that overtime, my friend.
While I was on my saving spree, I was fortunate enough to work in a job that I could pick up overtime hours fairly easily, and I took major advantage of that. I went from working 40 hours a week, to around 50 or 55 some weeks. Again, it wasn't "fun," but I knew it was only temporary. You may not be in a job that allows you to work these types of hours, but that doesn't mean defeat. Another option would be to get a second, part-time job for a while. Even if you work an 8-5, you could still work retail or do some waitressing on the evenings or weekend. Maybe you could babysit, or pet set, or something else that has more flexible hours. The possibilities are endless though. Make it happen.
3. Sell your junk.
I know, I know...but you love your stuff. I loved mine too. Here's a little push to get you started on this...YOU REALLY WON'T MISS IT. Now, I'm not saying that you have to pawn off your family heirlooms or things that are extremely important or valuable to you. Keep the things that cannot be replaced, and get rid of the rest. For example, some of the things I decided to keep were some of my nicer, more sentimental jewelry, my book collection (which my parents are so kindly storing at their house), and a couple of other odds and ends. Everything else got the boot. There are so many ways that you can sell your things...yard sales, online Facebook groups, etc. That is how I got rid of the majority of my stuff. The biggest thing that I sold, and the thing that earned me the most money for my move, was my car. Sure, it was sad to get rid of it, but what was I going to do with it while I'm in Europe? I'm going to be here for a while. If I move back to the states in the future, then I will sort things out as far as "stuff" goes.
I know what you're thinking...all of those things sound too easy. Trust me, I once thought the same thing. But, they work. A little hard work, perseverance, and self-control can make all of the difference. It will be stressful, and sometimes annoying, but if you keep your goal in mind you can't fail.
Are you preparing to travel long-term or move abroad? Are you currently an expat? What are some of your tips and tricks when it comes to saving money for travel?
Have a wonderful remainder of your Sunday!