As I have previously mentioned I am in love with traveling while having a 9to5 job ( more like an 8:30 to 6:30 job if I include the commute) and raising money for my passion is one of the struggles that I am facing, therefore I would like to give you a few hints on how you can save some $$ while still living a full life.
Even if it’s tempting to put all your money for traveling, not long after you go through this harsh diet you will realize that you are only spending around 10-15% of your time on vacations and the rest of your time is at home, where life is happening. So don’t fall in the trap of only saving and counting every penny, that will not last long. The first rule of spending would be to find a balance between what is doable for you and what you would like to achieve. For that, you would first need to know how much you spent and on what.
1. Know your limits
I have been keeping a book of my spendings on and off ever since I got a job and I advise you to do the same. Knowledge is power, so you first need to know what are your spending habits, how much do you spend monthly and see what can be improved. Another thing you need to know is how much you save and whether you can increase that amount.
For this, you can use excel sheets, mobile applications, pen, and paper, whatever makes you be consistent with writing down what you brought. An application can help you visualize the areas of spending, like food, clothes, entertainment, etc. There are cards that also give you that report such as Revolut.
2. Spending habits
Now that you have a list of expenses you can tackle them and see what needs to be adjusted. In my case, the major expenses are food and shopping, therefore I try to be sure that I need specific items before I buy them and that I will be using them. When it comes to food, sometimes I find myself buying more than I will be able to cook and that throwing food is not something that I want to be throwing, therefore I try to only buy what I will cook in the next days and when I am out of ingredients I try to get creative so I don’t have to waste any.
As for shopping, this is still a work in progress area, where I try to only buy what I absolutely need or if I do indulge in something I will try to cut from a different area to keep myself withing the budget ( have to admit that I am not successful in this 100% of the time).
3. Divide and conquer
Let’s say that you know your limits and you know your habits, on average you spent around 1200$ per month and you want to decrease to 1000$. The easiest way of doing this is by dividing your finances into a weekly budget. If there are 5 weeks in a month you would get 200$ per week and you need to stick to it. For me, it’s easier to work with cash since it’s real if I just swipe the card I don’t get to see the money and if those do not exist I will spend them like crazy. Other people feel the exact opposite of this, if they have the money in the wallet they will just spend it right away, so you need to find your way.
While on the topic of division, one thing that can be done is to add the money left at the end of the week to the savings account. If you do this or not is optional, what is important is not to spend the next week’s money.
4. Roundup your transactions
One of the options that I love about the Revolut card is the fact that you can use Vaults to add some extra savings just by rounding the amount spent per transaction. Here you can also choose to increase the amount by putting the x2, x3 or x4 options.
Since I already said that I am a big fan of cash, I also add in a different type of savings anything under 1$, you will be surprised the amount of money you will get at the end of a month or year. Those types of savings are the easier ones since you don’t get to feel the amount that is leaving your account.
5. The deposit money is locked and cannot be tampered with
When I get my monthly income I first add the money that I want to save in a deposit or a different account than the one that I am using and I do not use that money unless it is absolutely necessary (car breaks down or medical issue pops). I have to admit that is tempting to buy something just because you have the money and you can do it, but you need to fight this urge and walk away. If you use deposits than you already know that you will lose the interest rate, so don’t do that.
Usually, I use this money for either the big vacations that I have planned or for paying in advance for my loans. Read along to see why I do the second.
6. Stay away from borrowed money
If you have a job, you know how easy you can borrow money from the bank. Whether that comes in the form of a credit card or a loan, that money is calling for you and can access it in a few hours. But nothing comes at a small price and the banks are well known for the rates they will add especially for those types of loans.
Let me give you my example when I bought my home I needed a cash advance and since I didn’t have enough money I took that from the bank as well. For the 10 000 euro that I borrowed, I had to give back 13 000 – 14 000 euro in 5 years (more or less). Therefore I did the math and I understood that I need to pay that money as fast as I can so that I don’t throw away 3000 euros that I could use to travel somewhere fancy.
Getting back to good practices try to stay away from the money the bank is so kindly offering you since there will be a big price to pay. Try to stay within the budget and outsmart them, you do not need stuff you need your freedom.
7. Be realistic when it comes to saving
Making a very strict plan with unrealistic expectations made me spend a lot more than if I kept a “kind” budget. After a month of watching every penny, I went crazy and spent 200$ on shoes or on a bag I didn’t need. I got anxious and felt as if I didn’t have a life outside guarding the money and it didn’t do any good. I learned my lesson and now I try to be as realistic as I can with the amount of money I can save.
If I were to follow the advice from those two books that I reviewed a while back The Richest Man in Babylon and Rich Dad, Poor Dad you should only save 10 to 20% of your income since more will lower your living standard and make your life miserable (as it did mine).
8. Spoil yourself while saving
There are special things that you should do to spoil yourself, small things that can bring a lot of joy to your life. For example, instead of eating at the food court a few times a week, go to a fancy restaurant once a month and enjoy a special dinner and treat yourself with a glass of good wine. Dress well and make an event from it, instead of ordering take out or getting fast food.
Go to the spa, instead of buying lost of cosmetics that will rot in a shelf, go get pampered once a few weeks. Those would seem like ways to spend money and not save them but trust me in the long run, they will make your life better. Learn how to change your habits and include pampering instead of spending on cheap things.
9. Find cheap travel alternatives
I don’t get to travel every month, but it’s important for me to replace this with something just as good. Either a road trip to some nearby town, a visit to my hometown or just a simple day at the pool, anything to make me get out of the city and do something new. It might not be a bucket-list destination but at least it is something.
10. Balance expensive hobbies with low-cost ones
Somedays I am so excited about the upcoming traveling that I forget that I still need to live through the present day, that is when I try to get a reality check. 80% of my time is spent in my current home town and at work, so it’s important to find something that makes me happy right here. Therefore I will tell you a couple of my low-cost hobbies: reading, watching my favorite shows on Netflix, going for a jog, grabbing my hammock and going on a picnic in the park, cooking and eating on the terrace of my flat, grabbing my laptop or a pen and paper and going out to write on a coffee shop, yoga classes, grabbing my camera and shooting some photos.
Nobody said adulthood would be easy, but it’s up to us to set how hard can it be. We can enter a battle with ourselves and create our own personal hell, or we can find a way to deal with what we have and find smart ways to balance it. There are 8 years since I started to be financially independent and I am constantly trying to find new ways to either increase my earning or decrease my excessive spendings while living my best life. Clearly, each and every one of us has his own definition of the best life, so we need to find the custom solution for our needs. What are your ways of balancing expenses and saving?