We bankroll our adventures by having clear, focused financial goals. There’s no one right way to do it, but here are some quick tips that have worked for us.
We planned for years – both for the travel and a way to sustain it once we hit the road. We traveled the entire first year of our relationship way back in 2008-09. So we knew we were compatible together for long term travel – KEY if you want to travel with an SO. He was just starting off in a career back then. I knew that the Venice Beach bungalow would eventually turn into a cash cow for us some day and in the meantime, I suggested that he figure out his goals and move solidly into a career.
While he purposefully worked to build a career he could have while we travel, I worked as much as possible in my field of motion picture accounting. While that job is something that I’ve never loved, it is very lucrative and in high demand. Then I maximized by searching until I found a job in my field with the highest rate, the shortest hours, the shortest commute time, the least demanding workflow and the nicest people. Hello, reality television! And then we started saving like mad.
Next, I told Matt to stop paying for rent and food and encouraged him to pay off his outstanding debt – student loans. By being freed up to have a laser beam focus on debt, he paid those suckers off in about six months, while I paid for everything else. It is one of the best gifts I’ve ever given to us. Afterwards, we were both 100% debt free, which is not only a great feeling, but perfectly positions you to do whatever you want in life. In our case that was to do some long-term travel.
When we got engaged, we already had a house full of stuff and didn’t need any more things. We signed up for a HoneyFund account, which allows friends and family to contribute to your honeymoon, instead of buying you stuff. We put every contribution into a separate “Round The World” money market account. Then we matched it dollar for dollar with our own money.
Having a separate travel account is really important! Look at the balance online and dream about your big trip on those days when you’re feeling uninspired. It also helps prioritize future purchasing. Tempted by a spendy indulgence? Peek at your travel fund and maybe you’ll decide to dump your extra money there instead.
I recommend a money market account over a traditional checking or savings account. Yeah, the interest rates suck with money market accounts, but they’re higher than regular savings accounts. Ally Bank has the highest interest yield.
Keep your travel fund liquid. Don’t tie it up in the stock market, IRA’s or CD’s. You always want to be able to access your travel money quickly. But maybe not instantly. We chose not to have an ATM card attached to our travel fund. It’s just too easy to get caught up in the moment and justify frivolous purchases with an ATM card.
Once our travel account was established, we constantly found ways big and small to continually contribute to it. Expensive dinner out with friends? We’d eat at home, then meet friends after their expensive dinner later for ONE round of drinks. No one ever minded, in fact, our friends encouraged us and a lot of times we’d all spend time hanging out at each other’s homes, instead of expensive LA bars. Everyone wins!
But the biggest game-changer? Matt deposited his half of our monthly rent straight into the Round The World account. Where I left it. We did this for three years. We never missed that money.
When we hit the road, we did so from a powerful financial position. Debt-free with a full year’s expenses already put aside, plus our separate retirement funds looking good, too, so we didn’t have to raid those either. Also, we weigh our on-the-road purchases to make our money last. We use airline miles as much as possible, the Chase Sapphire card being a stellar choice. We keep a low overhead. Sure, we splurge at times. But for example, just because we went to Thailand doesn’t mean we could justify spending $400 to go to an elephant sanctuary.
When we negotiated our buyout, we were able to use the money for the actual costs of moving, throwing an amazing going away party, taxes and investing in ourselves, our future and for whatever the ‘next’ phase of our life adventure is! I have huge plans for 2016. And now, I’m hanging out by the beach in Mexico with the time and money to work toward those goals.