How many times have you read articles about saving some exorbitant amount of money in 1 year. I often read some of those posts and think wow, I could never save that amount of money because well, I don’t make that much in a year or if I do not by much. To be honest, and lay my cards out on the table, I work in higher education which anything that has education typically means you aren’t going to get paid much. To make some additional money I taught two classes, even with that I made a grand total of around…drum roll please
…give or take a wee bit.
That happens to be well over $10,000 more than what my wife makes which put that together and we aren’t exactly rolling in dough. Don’t get me wrong we are getting by well enough but in order to save up so that we can travel we have to be smart with our money. Oh, just another fun little fact – the grand total of what we owe in college loans is greater than our annual income.
I’m not sharing this because I want some pity party* but because I think this is a more realistic view of those who want to travel and don’t have the opportunity to pay off their debt and travel the world with the greatest of ease. In fact it takes planning, strong will and maybe some luck.
That is what we had and what I want to share with you, because I think everyone should have an opportunity to obtain their dreams. What you need to do is make sure your dream is realistic then break it down into smaller benchmarks to make sure you are on the right track. That big white fluffy cloud of a dream, let’s say $25,000 in a year and a half, sounds nice but if you don’t set up any realistic plans to obtain it you are likely to fall short.
P.S. that is our goal and at our current rate we will hit it before we leave December 4th.
Step 1: Start off saving what you can, then add a little more.
My best advice is to create a separate savings account and automatically put that money away without ever seeing it. Start off with a manageable amount and before you know it you will start to get by since this will be normal. Then, try to kick it up a notch slowly bit by bit. If you start totaling up how much you are saving a year by putting away money in your savings you start thinking, if I put just a few dollars more per pay check that shoots up my annual savings to an even better sounding number. We realize that by upping our contributions a little more each pay check we could put away $1000 a month. Which if you didn’t know is a lot.
Step 2: Save Smart – Check out high interest savings options
Stocks can be a fast way to earn a lot of money – but there is no safety net and you have to know what you are doing if you are going to become a day-trader. I do not, I would love to learn all about day trading and try and make money but until someone sits down and teaches me I’m stuck looking for alternatives.
Bonds are a more secure way to earn money but they mature at a slower rate. Depending on what you buy your bond can take 5, 10 or 20 years to mature. Plus the rate at which you earn interest is low. Federal bonds are fading away, last time I looked ibonds had pretty much no interest, which meant you would get more just leaving it in your savings account.
Mutual funds are a mixture of bonds and stocks, they give you more security than stocks but typically a higher interest than bonds. The down side is they typically still require a longer time period in order to make money.
In our case we set up a high interest CD from a bank that directly deposited our interest back into our savings account. We had to sign up for 13 months, and if we don’t take our money our at the end it gets automatically renewed. However, this made sure we didn’t dive into our savings and gave us a higher interest rate than our savings.
Step 3: Spend Smart
Generic has had a serious upgrade in the past few years, trust me on this I grew up assuming that the commercials got Terry the Tiger or Frosty Flakes name wrong and what I had was the real deal. Tie that in with all the technology that provides services that used to cost money and you start saving pennies by the heapful. We only go to the movies if we want to have a date night, otherwise we watch movies at home. We coupon, buy in bulk non perishable items, search the Sunday sales advertisements, additionally we shop at the farmer’s market and local markets who often have better deals and fresher produce than your grocery. When we do go out and “splurge” we do it smart, we bought an Entertainment Promotions city coupon book and get great deals off dining out. We also set up a joint email to have online coupons, living social.com and groupon.com deals sent to us. The nice thing about the separate email account for this is if we ever get behind we just delete everything and start fresh….and by we I mean my wife since I’m bad about checking that account.
We also purchased a credit card through an airline that allows us to accumulate airline miles. Yes purchase because there is an annual fee but if it saves us over a hundred dollars on flights then it is well worth it. Plus if we ever get to that fancy upgrade level you get treated pretty good at the airline – and I like feeling fancy.
We joined an American Legion and started going out there for drinks and socializing. I was able to join because both of my grandfather’s were vets, and we do volunteer there to help out but in the end it is worth it. The people who are there are great and the drinks are cheap. This turned going out to be only slightly more expensive than staying at home.
Step 4: Find an Extra Income
Now I know it isn’t easy to find extra time. I work full time, teach a class, volunteer tutor at a literacy center as well as a few other committees all while going to grad school and writing out my thesis. This isn’t to say you aren’t busy too but sometimes we can find ways to turn our hobbies or down time into productive time. Also, it often makes it a wee bit more bareable if we know that all this over exertion will come to an end and the rewards (travel) are well worth the effort.
You know those coupons we said we use, well we sell the ones we don’t use on ebay.com. Each week gives us about two different sets of $80-$100 dollars worth of coupons. While we only get a few dollars of of it, that ends up paying for the cost of our annual newspaper subscription itself.
Step 5: Get rid of your debt
My loans will be the debt of me, true story. I think if I could only wipe out my debt I would be so rich. My wife and I talk about winning the lottery, and it always starts out the same. “First I’d pay off my college loans, then whatever I owe left on the car.” I know we are big dreamers huh? I didn’t have to take out money for my graduate classes but I did anyways, want to know why?
My federal loans had a lower interest rate than my private college loans, so I used one to pay off the other so that I now have a lower interest. Also, since they are all together I can consolidate my loans which will help me reduce what I pay back even more. Also you can set up either an income based or income contingent repayment plan which may help make your loan repayment manageable but typically stretches out your repayment plan over the course of 25 years.
If you have credit card debt, pay those off as quickly as possibly. The interest rates on those will bury you quickly. We are pretty good about paying off most of our credit card charges before the first payment is due, which means living within our means.
The last bit is luck, we have the opportunity to live with my in-laws which helps us to save a lot of money. True, not all of my luck was good. I had a bad turn of events which cost me two cars. Yet, we got by and when our tax return came in we were able to spend half to purchase our tickets and split the other half to lower our debt. It is all a long process but it is manageable and you don’t have to earn $50,000+ a year to do it.
* If pity party doesn’t make you giggle because it sounds silly well then poo on you.
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