Perhaps the #1 question I am asked is how I can afford to travel on a educator’s salary (note: I’m technically not a teacher, but my job definitely falls under the “educator” umbrella.). My travel docket is pretty extensive, and I fortunately have been able to see many, many places without putting things on credit cards, driving up debt, and still having a pretty healthy savings routine and retirement fund going. How? Allow me to share…
Supplement your income, but forget you made any money… for now. While this may sound simple, it is so easy to make extra money and then spend it right away. Don’t do this! I have had several side gigs, from freelance writing to babysitting to tutoring to subletting my apartment in the summer months to waiting tables. When I get paid for these gigs, I stick what I make directly in to my little travel account, and then I don’t think about it until it’s time to plan my next trip. Way back when I was teaching 2nd grade and my job was absolutely exhausting, I was still supplementing my income with babysitting… There are some gigs in which you can get paid to do exactly what you would be doing if you were at home–eating and grading papers. As teachers, we typically get off work earlier than those in the business world, and there is a HUGE need for caretakers to pick kids up from school, take them home, ensure they get their homework done, fix them a snack, and let them on their merry way. When I was teaching 2nd grade, I definitely would not have had the energy to babysit a 3-year-old, so I found a family that needed after school pick up for a 3rd grader and a 5th grader. It was great–I picked them up from school, took them to my apartment to take my puppy on a walk, drove them home, they got their own snacks, did their own homework, played with their own neighborhood friends, and I made sure the house didn’t burn down while I graded papers. This is what afforded me to go to Rome in 2010, visit my family in Florida several times, and visit my BFF in Houston.
Never, never, never neglect your emergency fund or long-term savings to travel. I cannot stress this enough. Until you are at a place in which you have a decent emergency fund (3-6 months of living expenses), and are on a consistent savings trajectory, you really should not be traveling. If you want to get to this place faster, use your supplemental income (from #1), and aggressively save save save! I say this not only for practicality reasons, but also for peace of mind. When you travel, you want to be able to enjoy yourself, not stressing about finances.
Cut costs in your every day life. I’ll write a post on just this topic next week, but I’ll give you a small synapsis here.. My dryer broke last summer, and my electricity bill plummeted. I calculated that every time I ran my dryer, it cost about $8. So, I invested in a drying rack from Ikea and haven’t looked back. I also don’t have cable… I have an Apple TV, and I use my parents’ cable login to watch shows on apps and stream it to my TV. For food, I pack my lunch every day for work, and have a very simple rule that I scrupulously stick to: If I’m eating alone, I’m cooking. There is no reason to eat out if you’re not enjoying the company of friends. Additionally, I often invite friends over for dinner, rather than eating out.. I also buy a lot of food in bulk and freeze it. I can’t even begin to express how much this has saved me… I’m thankful to have the freezer space!
Change your mindset. These two books really changed my mindset when it comes to spending, which definitely freed up funds to travel: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. While they may sound like somewhat unrelated topics, both really teach you the power of yes and no, but in different ways. There was a point in time where I would NEVER turn down a bargain. If a $200 dress was marked down to $50, I was buying it no matter if I liked it or not.. So dumb. Now I realize that having space in my closet (and life) for items I really love only make for a much more enjoyable and organized lifestyle. And, since I value experiences more than things, I’m constantly asking myself, “Do I need this, if it means that much longer that I can afford ___ trip?” It really puts things in to perspective.
Travel with a group. If you get a group of four to travel with, your costs will plummet, especially if you’re willing to share a bed. Even if you’re married or dating, traveling with another couple is not only fun, but less expensive. A two bedroom Air BnB, for example, is going to be much cheaper per couple than renting two one bedrooms would be. Two bedroom suites are typically less expensive than renting two hotel rooms would be. Also, things like car rentals, Ubers, groceries, gas, bottles of wine, can all be split.
Get an airline points credit card, but pay it in full EVERY MONTH. This is really only for those of you who are self-disciplined. This is not for those of you who tend to have the “Oh, I’ll have the money at the end of the month” mentality. No no no. The only way to use a points credit card is to not drive yourself in to debt EVER… I have a JetBlue card, but I’ve also heard good things about the Southwest credit card. I’ll admit I haven’t done a ton of research, because for me things like interest rates don’t really matter.. Like I said, I pay mine in full every month, so I don’t ever have to worry about interest rates. I usually only put predictable things on my card, like recurring cell phone payments, internet bill, and gas for my car. I usually end up with enough points for a free flight every year. It’s not a ton, but it is certainly nice to have the point buildup in case I ever have to go out of town last minute.
And now for more than a few photos of my many travels… Enjoy :). I will say that prioritizing travel is something I want to do now.. So much can change so quickly at this stage of life, that I don’t want to look back on my younger days and wish I did more. I’m sure my travel docket will slow down one day, but for now, I’m happy to have the many opportunities!