While I mostly travel for free due to work, I pay with my own savings for my personal travels and expenses. I can easily reimburse them from our company but I choose not to, the reason being it is against my principles. My own pleasure should be my own responsibility.
I’d like to share with you some tips and hacks on how to save up for your next adventure and also for your financial sustainability in general!
- HAVE AN “UNTOUCHABLE” ACCOUNT
In one bank, I have two accounts named “Savings” and “Untouchable”. 50% of my monthly salary gets immediately deposited to my savings account, which I can easily withdraw through ATM. On the other hand, PHP1,000.00 gets automatically transferred from my savings account to my “untouchable account” each week. There is no way for me to withdraw from my untouchable account unless I go to the bank or transfer the money to my savings account first then withdraw from the ATM. The hassle of going through all that makes me not want to touch my untouchable account, hence the name and its purpose!
You can do the same thing with your future travel fund by creating a separate account in which a certain amount based on your savings goal gets automatically transferred to that account each day, week or month. The only time you’ll take it out and spend it is when you’re all packed and ready to go for your trip!
- CUT DOWN ON THINGS YOU DO NOT NEED/CAN DO YOURSELF
When it comes to shelling out money for shopping, I always tell myself, “Will I be using this almost every day or at least once a week?” If the answer is no, I put it down. This is precisely the reason why I have not shopped for clothes or shoes for more than half a year now. I pretty much have a set of wardrobe I don’t mind wearing every week as long as they have not worn out yet. The only things I spend on are stuff for my personal hygiene and refills for my basic daily make-up. You do not need to worry about what others think as long as your money is well kept for better uses.
This goes the same for services. Itching to get your nails done? Do it yourself. Want your car cleaned? Wash it yourself. If you write down all of these things and how much you might be spending on average for these seemingly normal expenses, you’ll be surprised at how much you can save by doing them yourself.
- SELL ANYTHING YOU DO NOT NEED
Believe it or not, each one of us is a little sentimental inside. But just like with heartbreaks and awful relationships, we all have to let go. Let go of things you do not need. And unlike heartbreaks and awful relationships, you can make money out of them! When I came back to Manila to fix my visa issues for Hungary, I hoarded stuff from our house which were no longer needed and took them back with me to Budapest. There is a huge second-hand community in the city and I took advantage of it. I sold books, clothes, makeup and even my old laptop. I was able to earn enough money to fund my trip to Japan and Korea all the way from Hungary!
Got books you’ve finished reading and do not intend to keep? Sell them! Got clothes you’re too embarrassed to admit that don’t fit you in any way? Sell them! Got gadgets that are still working but you have a new, shiny one anyway so why bother? Sell them! Most of the time you’ll find stuff in your own room or house that you neglect, forget about or not use anymore but can still be of value to others. Take that one day to tidy up and see what you can put up on Carousell, eBay, OLX, or on various secondhand groups on Facebook. Who knows, you just might end up funding your way to Antarctica with all that valuable trash in your room.
- HAVE MULTIPLE SOURCES OF INCOME
When I was in university, the only obvious source of income I had was the weekly allowance my incredibly loving parents gave me which was sufficient to feed me daily, pay for my bills and school paraphernalia, but not enough to let me travel around my own country. So each weeknight, I spent two to four hours teaching English to Japanese students via Skype. On weekends, I would do some basic graphic designs for people who can’t be bothered to learn Photoshop and some data entry work for foreign companies via oDesk (now Upwork). I was able to save up for my local and international trips as a student without having to put my puppy eyes to good use with mommy and daddy.
I was also moonlighting when I had my first ever day job. I only had a basic salary when I started which was barely enough to even come up with my own savings, so I had to look for other sources of income. I continued my freelance work at night after a 9-6 shift. Eventually, I worked my way up to a higher salary, which also meant being able to afford a life insurance and not having to work multiple jobs in one day. I was also lucky enough to inherit a condo unit which I rent out so I can pay up to own it fully and in the future, invest on another property. From time to time, I shop for luxury goods for friends and clients while on business trips in Europe. I charge them the original retail price, which is way cheaper than buying them in the Philippines, and I still get tax refunds which serve as my profit (plus points for my credit card, too!).
If you feel that you are not earning enough for a weekend out-of-town trip with your day job, start doing side jobs on your free time. You can check online freelance platforms such as Upwork or Freelancer, or look for part-time opportunities at Startup PH or Kalibrr. You can also start creating something that you can earn from, be it a simple merchandise such as a planner, a rucksack or heck, a brick with a person’s name on it (you won’t believe what people are willing to throw money at). Use your creativity and go crazy with it.
- SAVE OTHER CURRENCIES
There was a time when I had Peso, US Dollar and Euro accounts and at some point, doing very small trading with them. If you do have the opportunity or chance to save another currency, it doesn’t hurt to keep them as they are and not change them to PHP. They will be very handy in the future especially if you end up traveling to the U.S. or Europe, in which case you will not have to change money all the time and will be able to avoid those nasty commission rates at kiosks. You can also serve as a mini money changer to your friends or colleagues, if you’re willing to put up with the rates and the haggling!
- COLLECT ALL THOSE POINTS
Credit card points can also be converted to mileage points. So if you like to travel choosing the right credit card to get more points will definitely be one of the best choices you’ll ever make. Don’t forget to check out hotel loyalty memberships, too!
- TIME IS MONEY
How I computed this was pretty complicated but I did it!
You may not think it but whatever you spend your time on, whether mindfully or not, really counts. I tried listing down things I spend time on and how much time in terms of hours or days on average is spent if calculated in a year. This is the list I came up with last year.
Imagine how much I wanted to punch myself in the face after finding out the average amount of time I waste in a year mindlessly looking through social media! That precious time could have been used to practicing more on editing photos and videos which I can share on social media and eventually monetize them in some way. Those days could have been used trying to learn something new, like mastering Pivot tables on Excel and using that knowledge to my advantage at work which could lead to greater performance and more incentives. Or those days could have been spent actually talking to people who might lead me to something good that can level up my life.
You will really need to sit down and think through where you spend most of your time on. Try to allocate it from useless things that you do to productive things that can get yourself upgraded.
Overall, my frugality is guided by a very powerful principle that I heard Estonians teach their kids: Never spend more than what you own. In a country where every single payday coincides with an unavoidable 3-Day Sale at a nearby mall, where colleagues coerce you to treat them to a feast and where people live like a millionaire for a day and a beggar before payday, it takes some time and enormous self-discipline to actually make things work for you financially. But just like with everything else, you will get there as long as you really work on it.
So that’s pretty much how I manage to save up for my travels and be financially sustainable in general. How about you? How do you manage your finances? I would love to hear about your saving hacks and tricks and would be more than happy to feature your financial practices, provided that you and I won’t go to jail for them!