Hi, I’m Stephanie, and I’ve been living like a hobo for the last 3 months.
As we began to announce our trip to Europe this summer, the question we get asked most often is, “How can you afford that?” Some might think that seems a little rude, but I don’t mind sharing. I hope these tips will help you start planning your own dream vacation.
We all live on a budget, some tighter than others. We are fortunate enough to be able to pay our modest bills and put food on the table without any worry. However, we have very little left over after all is said and done. Saving (in our case) has not been without sacrifice, but I have read on numerous occasions that people who spend their money on experiences rather than things are much happier with their lives overall. We can attest to that!
First, you need to do some research and get a general idea of how much things cost. Food, lodging, travel, shopping. There is a plethora of information in the internet. Spend a couple of weeks figuring out how much you need to go and really be able to enjoy yourself. Factor in all the bells and whistles. This is your goal.
Next, you need to decide if your vacation is truly feasible. I didn’t say easy! Just feasible. This trip has been a real stretch for us, but we knew we could do it if we remained disciplined. Give yourself enough time to reach your goal. If that means you have to plan your dream vacation for 5 years from now, so be it. Just as long as you do it!
So what do you do when you “don’t have any money” but want to start saving? I look very closely at what I spend money on and start cutting out the things that are not necessary. I used to spend about $10 a week on coffee. Doesn’t sound like much. Over 6 months that saved me $260! The boyfriend spent about the same, so there you have $520 just from cutting our morning run to Starbucks.
I also may have a problem with hoarding yarn…and ribbon and fabric and felt and any craft related item I can get my hands on. As much as it pained me, that had to stop. I now only buy what I need to complete my orders. Anything else must be something I will use immediately. For example, I bought headband supplies knowing that hat season is coming to a close. If I know I’m not going to use it immediately, I don’t buy it. This has literally saved me hundreds of dollars over the past 3 months. $10 here, $20 there. It adds up quick! Be really honest with yourself and your spending. This can be difficult, I know, especially when it comes to your shop. It takes dedication and discipline, but you know what you can live without.
Next we looked at our bills. We live modestly so there was literally nothing we could cut out or reduce. However, I suggest looking at your extras…cable, internet, any subscriptions. I’m not saying cut those out, but see if you can find savings somewhere. Call your providers and see if they can offer you a special. Downgrade from the ultra crazy fast internet to the regular people internet. Change your phone plan to the lowest available option. We would have done all these things if we didn’t already have the bare minimum. (We are happy with that minimum, by the way. We’d all rather get out and play!)
Finally, and this has been the hardest part, we have started living paycheck to paycheck. We lived that way before, but not quite to this extreme. Every payday we check our account balance before our checks went in. That amount gets transferred to savings, even if it’s only $5. (There have been more than one of those weeks!) We do this without fail and that is where the bulk of our trip money comes from. It really has become a game. “How much money can we save by living like total bums?” Like I said, it hasn’t been easy and it has required a lot of discipline, but I have no doubt it will all be worth it when I’m strolling the streets of Europe having the time of my life.
But Stephanie! you say. What if that STILL isn’t enough money? Well, you have two options. You can postpone your trip, or start cutting out the bells and maybe a few whistles. We didn’t have the option of postponing as the boyfriend is the best man in a wedding in Germany. We realized we’re just not going to have the money to do all the things we initially planned so we started revising. We cut a few extras, decided not to stay in that one really expensive hotel, and probably won’t visit as many places. Neither of us views this as a bad thing. We planned for all those extras in the beginning, but now we’re really able to pare it down to what is most important and what we actually care about doing.
I, of course, am ridiculously excited and also proud of myself for how we have saved, given our finances. When I get bummed about that really cute pair of shoes or that awesome yarn, I just pull up pictures of the places we’re going to visit, and it all comes back into perspective.
What can you do to save and where will you go with it?