I quit a steady job, let go of my dream apartment, sold my car, cancelled my gym membership and said farewell to everyone and everything I know. I am not one to make rash decisions. I am far from a dare devil.
I hate the unknown and the concept of starting over is more terrifying than being a passenger on Malaysia Airlines (too soon?). But when I looked at my life and thought about my regrets, not traveling was at the top of the list. I can make a million excuses but at the end of the day, playing with elephants in Africa when I am in the nursing home is far from ideal. So, I decided if I don’t do this now, then when?
Obviously, money makes the world go round and without it, my trip would have probably only gotten me as far as my neighbor’s house. Sure, I could couchsurf, eat bread and water, and survive on the kindness of strangers but truth be told, I am high maintenance (or as I like to call it, “responsible”).
In order for me to avoid full panic mode, I would need to save a solid six months’ worth of travel funds. This seemed impossible considering I worked an average paying job with above average working hours. Getting a second gig was out of the question so, I did what I had to do. I got creative.
Here are 10 simple ways that I saved money:
#1: The Fiscal Cleanse
I carefully planned out my grocery list for the week, did my shopping on Sunday and made sure to not spend a single penny Monday through Friday. This keeps you from spending money on non-essentials like that vending machine candy bar at work or that Guilt City coupon for Dining in the Dark.
#2: Pay in Cash
Budget the amount of money you want to spend that week. Take it out in cash and stash away your credit cards. Can you go the whole week without busting them out?
Sneak a beer in your purse next time you hit the bars. Order a free glass of water. Go to the bathroom. Pour out the water and fill the glass with beer. Voila! No one even knows you saved eight bucks, you little sneaker!
#4: Do Your Nails at Walgreens
… or your local pharmacy/drug store. Embarrassing? Probably. But who cares? Really.
#5: Save Every. Single. Penny.
Literally. It’s easy to dismiss pocket change but guess what? Those little shiny coins can add up to your next foreign meal.
Chances are, you have clothes, books, movies, or random gadgets lying around the house that you never use but that other people would pay good money for. Don’t feel like selling your car? Rent it out. RelayRides is like Airbnb and can be a gold mine.
#7: Miles, Miles, Miles!
Open a Frequent Flyer credit card. British Airways gave me a free round trip international flight by just signing up. My flight across the world to Africa ended up costing … drum roll please … nothing. Make sure to choose a card that doesn’t have foreign transaction fees and then every dollar spent also gets you hotel points plus Avios. Cha-ching!
Try to plan your escape around countries that have good exchange rates (e.g. avoid the UK, Switzerland, and Norway, to name a few).
#9: Cancel Everything
Once you’re ready to jump ship, don’t forget to cancel your internet, Netflix, that rarely used gym membership, and be sure to change your cell phone and insurance plans to avoid racking up bills when you are not there to use their services.
If, after doing everything you can imagine and you still can’t find the funds, see if there is a way to volunteer abroad and in exchange receive free or cheap room and board. There are literally hundreds of organizations who would love your help. Volunteering three months in South Africa cost me half of what it costs to survive here in the States. Instant karma.
Quitting your life doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sounds. Just be responsible. Think ahead. Keep your eyes open and jump. As long as you remembered the safety rope, you will land on your feet.