Oh, two very different seeming things: money and travel. One is really fun to talk about and the other is quickly avoided. I shared a glimpse about our approach regarding money awhile ago and hope to continue to write more about money in the future as a way to encourage and inspire.
Can I start by saying that I love traveling? I really do. So much so, that it is definitely given more weight in my budget than the average person might. There are days I just want to say, “let’s go!” and completely ignore all financial repercussions. I see travel as important. But I also believe we should be good stewards of our money (aka take care of what you’ve been given).
So what’s a girl to do when she loves to travel but it’s crazy expensive? Be realistic about it. I can’t pretend it doesn’t cost money to travel, just like I can’t pretend that I’m done traveling. By being honest about both of those things I can better move forward and budget accordingly (so if you have a love for travel…or shopping or sports or music, I’d recommend taking the same approach). In the past I’ve found that if I pretend that something isn’t important to me and leave it out of the budget that doesn’t actually end up saving me money. Instead, it ruins my budget because that love inevitably gets my money but I never accounted for it. See what I’m saying? Start by being honest.
Now, just because I love traveling (or shopping, sports, music, etc.) does NOT mean that all self-control goes out the window. I don’t get a free pass just because it’s a passion of mine. There was a plan and a budget to take our trip to Argentina, as boring as that might sound. Oh and trust me, there were days that it seemed like that plan was going to take forever.
A few years ago, we said this trip was important to us. Before we even knew where we wanted to go, we started saving. Our plan was to put aside all “extra” money. All Christmas money, birthday money, tax refunds and freelance money went into a separate account set aside for this big trip. Once we had saved up a 3-6 month emergency fund with our income (that’s 3-6 months living expenses in case who-knows-what happens) we said we could start allotting some of our income towards the trip fund as well. There were times that it was really annoying that all of our extra fun money was already marked for the trip when we wanted to use it for something else, something that brought a little more instant gratification.
If you want to spend money on a passion/hobby/interest/goal, instant gratification has got to go. Drop the impulse buys, start saying no to good things–things you like but aren’t as important as your financial goal. Things that don’t go and you do keep spending money on: groceries, rent/mortgage, utility bills, medical expenses, paying off debt and saving for a rainy day.
Because guess what? I was without a full-time job for the better part of last year. That did not fit in the plan. It was SO frustrating to feel like my goals were on hold, not only professionally and personally, but financially, too. The good news? We had a few months of an emergency fund saved, and we had already rearranged our spending habits to live on much less than our income. We tightened up our budget a bit more and had to make some tough decisions, but we were also able to keep the trip savings mostly intact during the time it took to find other employment.
Saving for your goals, for the fun stuff, is important. But making sure you also save for the unknowns is vital. Just like you can’t ignore your passions and dreams, you can’t ignore your responsibilities either when it comes to finances. So, that meant we saved for years and that might not sound very inspiring. But what is inspiring is that we don’t have any debt from that trip so when we took it, we got to completely enjoy it.
There are things in life that come up and I don’t want to pretend that everyone is able to just save and go in a few years. There are big financial commitments, health emergencies and limitations out there that are real. Sometimes I hesitate to even tell these stories because I don’t want it to sound like I take these opportunities lightly. Instead, I hope to encourage and inspire you that with patience and planning, more is achievable than you think.
Money isn’t an easy topic and frankly, writing a series on it is super strange for me. But I know it matters and has an impact, which has compelled me to be open and available for the conversation with anyone who wants to have it.