Great question. People have started asking me this, and I honestly didn’t know the answer. “So…you don’t know how much you spent?” “…not really…no…I like to live in denial?” I’m an accountants worst nightmare.
I went into this trip with the mindset that I wasn’t going to have a “budget” and I could just come home when the money ran out. It’s an easy plan. I don’t have the passion for Excel files and sticking to budgets as many of my friends do (I’m looking at you, Eileen). I just can’t be bothered with that crap.
What I want to get across in this post, is that if you’re remotely thinking about traveling…DO IT. If I can somehow make and save money, and travel, then anyone can.
How did I save and make $?
Saving hasn’t always been one of my strong suits. I find it almost impossible to save arbitrarily without a specific goal in mind. However, at the beginning of 2012, I knew I was going somewhere and started putting away any extra cash that I could. Any bonuses from the previous year went straight into the savings. Keep in mind, I didn’t have a huge amount of expenses- at the time I had a dog, rent ($1,050/month), electricity, food, a mediocre shopping habit, and a passion for sushi. Luckily, I had no car, no student loans, and no debt.
- Airbnb. I’ve already posted about this, but I’m telling you- I made over $4,200 renting out my apartment here and there. That’s real money, folks.
- Selling things. I sold a handful of items in my apartment to the new renter- dishwasher, grill, AC units. The highlight was my couch that I sold on Craigslist- I bought from a coworker for $300 and sold for $500, 2 years later. I also sold a ton of stuff on eBay- old iPods (made $65 for my old 5th generation that I never used), broken cameras ($13 for a broken camera), old coach purses ($45), designer jeans ($80), etc. It doesn’t seem like much, but realize that the $45 for an old, out of style Coach purse gets you 5 nights accommodation in Asia. I also sold an old MacBook Air, which was a good chunk of change. Rethink everything that you own, you really dont need all of it.
- I was “made redundant” at work. Ok, so not everyone can do this, obviously. I’m one of the fortunate (crazy?) ones that looks back on being let go as the best thing ever. Severance + unemployment. Enough said.
- Focus groups. I used to try and do these all the time. www.findfocusgroups.com. You could make anywhere from $85-$200 for 2 hours of giving your opinion, which we all know, I enjoy doing.
- Frequent Flyer Miles. I got to Phnom Penh and back to the USA from Sydney paying a total of $120 in airline taxes. Yes, I had many miles I accumulated from work travel, but I also opened up a credit card that gave me 30,000 miles. I’m actually going to open another one today, just in case I need those miles down the line… It cost me 32,500 (and $2.50 in taxes) miles to fly from Chicago to Phnom Penh and 40,000 miles to get back from Sydney.
- Put your cell phone on hold. Verizon let me “pause” my contract the whole time I was gone. After the first 3 months, I had to pay $5/month to keep the number, basically. This doesn’t allow you to keep/have a voicemail, so if someone calls your phone, it might say it’s disconnected. I was able to reinstate it online a day before I got home. I would suggest never paying for a international plan. It’s just not worth it, just use Viber or Sykpe from your iPhone on wifi.
- Buy generic/on sale foods. I know, duh. But, I like my brand name food items, sometimes. However, when I started saving, I just made a mental switch, and tried to only buy things on sale and generics.
- Ebates. This is ironic, but when planning a trip abroad, there are usually a lot of things you need to buy. I would research the item, and find the best deal. Then go through Ebates and collect the few % they would give me. Between purchases I made Aug-Nov of last year, I got a check from Ebates for $155.
How Much did I Spend?
Recap of my travels: 3 months volunteering in Cambodia, then 4.5 months traveling through Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia. Then another 6 weeks in Australia (one of the most expensive countries in the world). I went scuba diving, a lot, which definitely adds up. 9 months, 9 countries.
I took a quick look at my bank statement and it appears as though I spent somewhere around $20,000-$22,000.
Some people easily drop that on a car, and I chose 9 months of lifetime memories and experiences.
People will read this and either think that $20,000 is not that much money for that amount of travels, and others will think it’s completely unattainable. This was just my experience, and how I chose to travel. There are people out there who could do what I did for much less. At the end of the day, this was the absolute BEST thing that I’ve ever done. Had I bought a car with that money, I would most likely be sitting in traffic as we speak, road raging at the idiots driving.
To quote the most over-used, but true, travel quote in history: “Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.”