People often ask us, How do you guys travel so often? The truth is, before doing this for work, there were a number of things we eliminated to travel more. My husband and I decided early on in our marriage that experiences would always trump material things.
It’s easier said than done.
It wasn’t easy — we watched friends get the bigger apartment, outfit it with new furniture, and have a luxury car parked out front. Time would pass, I would squirm inside, and when I would bring up the possibility of upgrading our furniture, my husband gently reminded me that a new couch in our living room was the flights to Thailand last year. Or the new car with an expensive lease payment was the total cost of our trip to Europe the year before. And so on. Slowly, we eliminated what we absolutely didn’t need. And by prioritizing experiences, travel has become a reality.
When I was younger, my dad would always say to me (and still does to this day), “I would rather have a photo album filled with memories than [insert whatever thing].” I’ve always embraced this and I believe my husband and I are both better for it.
What we eliminated to travel more:
(This whole post is aimed for those who want to travel more and would like to make some lifestyle changes to do so — if this isn’t you, probably not worth the read)
Let’s get into it. I’ll start off with that money is never a topic I love to bring up. In fact, I’ve avoided writing a post like this for a long time. But in the end, it’s too important of a topic to ignore for long.
I’m always amazed by what I think I need or what I am entitled to. I was recently reminded of this when I was in Cuba — after seeing what the people of that country have access to, I’ll never complain again about not having AC in my house. It’s a hard habit to break, entitlement that is. So I think it starts with changing your mindset. Once you do, the things that you can eliminate to travel more will become more apparent.
For context, even though travel has become part of my work with the blog, we still do 1-2 personal trips a year that we save up for and come out of pocket. It’s important to us to have a true vacation where I am not working with deliverables due and we continue to prioritize travel in this context. So here it is, with numbers, struggles, and what we eliminated to travel more.
The first thing we eliminated was gym memberships and paid fitness classes.
Let’s say the average gym price in SF is around $60 a month. If you’re a couple this equates to $120 a month ($60 x 2), or $1,440 for the year. (And…for the members of a swanky gym, make it about $175 per person, $350 a month, and $4,200 a year for a couple.) Spending $1,440 annually on gym memberships is two roundtrip tickets to pretty much any destination in Central America, anywhere in the US, 1 roundtrip on a non-budget air to Asia or Europe, or 2 roundtrip tickets on a budget airline like Norwegian or WOW Air. Add on a couple of those $30 fitness classes each week and it all adds up fast.
This was the hardest for me to give up — I love a good SoulCycle class, I would love to have personal training, and wish that my gym wasn’t my living room or neighborhood. But with that said, giving up this one category created more room in our budget to travel.
The second thing we eliminated was a car payment (or one that we couldn’t afford with the priority to travel).
Meet Mindy. The circa 2005 Mazda3 that hums along the 101 with a bit of paint peeling off the back bumper. Yeah, sometimes I am pretty embarrassed of her (we even had a luxury hotel ask once if we were in for just lunch after we’d been there for 2 nights). But we’ve owned her outright since day one and we’ve saved a lot of money by owning (not leasing) a used car.
Take a lease payment on a new car — let’s average it at $300 (Toyota or Honda equivalent), add your insurance at an average of $200 because it’s a 2017 car and you’re looking at around $500 out the gate per month, or $6,000 for the year. All for a car that you don’t own and that you’re tied to for three years. Instead, if you take that same $6,000 and use it for a down payment on a $12,000 used car, you’re total yearly cost of ownership falls to about $3,100 — $2,900 less than leasing a car — plus you’ll actually own it and have the option to sell it for a few thousand dollars when it’s time to replace it. (Used car notes: The car loan payment for $6,000 financed at 3.11% for 5 years will be $108, or $1,296 for the year. And, since it’s an older car, I estimated car insurance to be about $50 less per month than a new car, or $150/month, or $1,800 year)
Imagine a similar scenario for a luxury car and you can see how quickly the numbers add up.
Margin is easy to find in the car department if you’re willing to not have a brand new or luxury car. There’s at least a couple grand a year to be saved right there. It’s easily an entire trip to any international destination.
The third thing we eliminated was subscription services.
I won’t lie, I love receiving a package and being surprised. Wine clubs, it sounds like a dream. A box with small samples from brands I’ll never buy from but want to test, sounds even better. But when we started to add it up, there were hundreds of dollars a year pre-destined to something that wasn’t necessarily a priority in my life. I don’t need wine by the crate and I certainly don’t need samples for products I probably won’t ever buy. The category of pre-destined dollars (anything that is charged automatically) is a great area to look at to find margin.
The fourth thing we eliminated was “added” luxuries.
Oh, this was a fun category to comb through. My husband and I sit down on Mint every month (this is not sponsored by them, by the way) and take a peak at where our money is going. I am the spender in our household, I’ll own it right now. I could get a mani/pedi twice a month and not think twice. However, that “added” luxury was costing us around $100 a month. Let’s just say I only go every few months now and only when I need it. This was a tough one for me as I am lover of simplified process, which usually equates to convenience — though we’ve found that convenience tends to come at a premium cost.
It all adds up.
Our bank account is not perfect. This isn’t about living in a way that condemns splurges, it’s more about making decisions that create space and resources for the things we’ve found bring us the most joy. If buying a house was a priority for this year, these same principles would apply. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with the amount of things we can consume. For us, what we eliminated to travel more was a process of balancing our necessities with our priorities. If travel is a priority for you, I’d encourage you to look through these categories and find what you can cut. Maybe there’s more, or maybe adjusting just one or two of these will help you reach the goal of an international trip per year. Either way, each decision matters and it always pays off. For myself, I can say I’ve never regretted purchasing a plane ticket. And everything we’ve passed up to buy those tickets has been ever so worth it.
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