By now, some of you may be wondering how a 25 year old full-time student and part-time worker is able to take trips as often as I have. Well, I would like to share with you how my spending habits, preferred lifestyle, and work ethic directly impact my ability to travel the world. My hope is to give some insight on ways to make your trips more frequent and accessible.
Since I was sixteen years old, I have been working to save money for life, school, etc. I have always been excited about saving money and hate to spend it, so much that I often contemplate simple purchases such as buying a cup of coffee or a pizza. I know…I am a bit of an oddball in this sense. But imagine for a minute passing up your usual run to Starbucks and rather, making your own coffee at home. By cutting out your $4 coffee that you may purchase say, three times a week, all 52 weeks in a year – you can save $624! This savings can equate to a round-trip plane ticket to Europe or the Caribbean, or a full week in an Airbnb…just from coffee! Maybe consider nixing your monthly manicures ($45ish including tip = $540 savings/year). Would you consider going to a friend’s house rather than going out and spending $50 at a bar (going out two Saturdays a month = $1,200 savings/year). Are the gears turning yet? Imagine how other minor cutbacks made throughout your day to day life can yield large financial savings and allow for a trip or two! Some other avenues for saving a few bucks include packing a lunch rather than buying lunch, canceling cable while keeping internet for entertainment, opting for a cheaper apartment (still safe and comfortable) rather than a luxury apartment, and using cheaper methods of transportation such as walking, biking, or using public transportation in cities rather than driving or paying steep fees for parking passes. Some of my lifestyle practices may not always be the most convenient, but living mindfully has allowed me the chance to save and travel.
I personally enjoy and find fulfillment living a more minimalistic life. My lifestyle allows me to own the things I need in addition to some things I want while not accumulating too much to make relocating and daily life complicated. For example, there are fewer things to lose, packing for my trips becomes easier, and simply having a clean, organized living space uncluttered with excess things helps keep my mind clear and at ease. I don’t go overboard on buying clothes (trust me, there are a lot of cute outfits out there!), and in general, I try to restrain myself on what I choose to buy beyond the necessities. I am not here to convince or persuade you into this type of lifestyle, but thinking twice about ordering a $100 pair of shoes, or buying and upgrading to the newest gadget (i.e. a phone, tablet, headphones, etc.) when my devices currently function just fine has saved me a significant portion of money that has contributed to my travel budget.
Yes, I was lucky enough to have cheap flights while working for a previous employer, but even without the airfare expenses, travel still adds up quite a bit! So between trips, I knew where my priorities laid and made purchase decisions aligned with my future travel plans. And with the money I had earned working part-time jobs, student jobs, and co-ops, I have managed to get through most of school, save up a bit, and take a few short trips each year. Throughout my time at school, I have worked anywhere from 15-20 hours per week while enrolled as a full-time engineering student. Some of these hours have allowed me to do homework at work during slow periods, but working these hours during school was a major time commitment and required me to practice good time management and discipline. To help drive me through, my future travel plans were always at the forefront of my thoughts! The income would help cover living expenses while contributing to savings. Most of these hours came from my current student job which started at minimum wage and has since climbed a bit higher, but the benefit of a student job is the schedule flexibility giving weekends and school breaks off as scheduled per the academic calendar – time to take cheap trips without requesting off or using vacation! Over the summers, I worked full-time as a co-op where I earned a bit more but had less time to travel. After setting aside living expenses, this is where most of my travel money came from. After working a variety of jobs both student and professional (administrative, retail, serving, cooking, maintenance, research, engineering), the ones that were most catering to travel time were the administrative and research positions as these mostly operated around the university schedule. For those in school or working part-time, other flexible, easy to come by jobs may include becoming an Uber driver, PRN healthcare worker, retail associate (I personally found retail more flexible than the food industry), or doing independent work. For those in more professional roles, give plenty of attention to the allotted vacation time given by a company and depending on the hiring situation, possibly consider negotiating more vacation time for your hiring package as long as it does not risk the repeal of an offer.
If you hope to get out and see new countries, experience new cultures, or, for some, simply take your first plane ride, step back and consider how you can make that happen. The prioritizing will be left up to you. Just be true and honest with yourself and your goals, and consider the things you need versus things you want. What daily decisions will get you to your next destination? With the new year quickly arriving, I hope these thoughts will become more natural as you decide who you want to be and what you wish to do in the next 365 days. I am happy to further discuss my penny-pinching lifestyle if you want to reach out. And if you decide to start planning a trip in 2020, keep your eyes peeled for Melanie’s post next week about hidden travel expenses and how to avoid paying more than necessary!
Happy New Year to all!