This post is part of 30 Ways in 30 days to Redesign Your Life and Travel the World. This series seeks to give you the practical, real world steps you need to take to get from wherever you are, to exactly where you want to be– traveling the world and living the lifestyle you want.
In the upcoming posts, I’ll be looking at many of the questions that readers sent in: how to save money, deal with debt, get a visa, homeschool kids, travel with pets and so on. But first, before we do any of that, I don’t want to waste any time.
I’m putting you on a diet.
The travel diet becomes the lifestyle modus operandi of any world traveler. It’s simple:
- Don’t buy anything, unless it’s worth the travel time it costs.
We’re not talking about just saving money, we’re talking about changing your relationship with it. Every dollar you spend is a certain amount of your finite life spent working for it. The goal is to work less, travel more. The easiest way to begin this process is becoming acutely aware of your relationship with money. Nothing makes you more aware of what you spend and why than not spending anything at all. It takes a mindfulness to not spend. It’s often learned on the road, after you go wildly over budget in your first few weeks and over time you learn how to live on less than you ever thought possible–and still have an amazing time.
The irony is that the same skills you learn on the road will also get you traveling that much faster. It’s never too soon to start. And when you’re spending an extra month in the South Pacific, you’ll thank me.
Remember this: Money spent = Time not traveling. $15 pays for an extra day in some countries.
The concept in practice
Stop, breathe, think. If you’re considering buying something, take a moment to stop and breathe through the impulse. Sometimes what seemed like a “must have” will not seem as important after a little time. Have you ever talked yourself out of buying something? Probably walked around the store too long, holding the item, contemplating and in the end decided against it. This is exactly why sales people want to rush your purchases- the initial impulse is often stronger then the actual need.
Use creativity first, cash second. Often we buy things to solve problems. I need this X, so I can do Y. What if you couldn’t buy your way out of the problem? How would you solve it then? I suggest going through this decision tree (in order) before making any purchases:
- Workaround: Can I find another solution?
- Reuse: Is there something I can mend, reuse or re-purpose?
- Borrow: Does anyone I know have one?
- Barter: Can I trade services or goods to get what I need?
- Buy Used: Have I checked Craigslist/salvation army/second hand stores?
- Buy New at best price: Will the cheapest model met my needs? Can I get a discount?
Make it a fun. It’s hard at first to start living more frugally. You begin to focus on everything that is missing, instead of what you will be gaining. It helps to make it game-like challenge and set short term goals:
- Try to buy no groceries for 10, 20, 30 days (depending on how big your pantry is). You’d be surprised how long you can survive on the food that you have, with a little creativity.
- Look for free local events for the weekends- you might see a side of your area that you never appreciated.
- Set dinner challenges- Can you make a delicious dinner for under $5? What’s the cheapest meal you can make in bulk? Can you beat that?
- How many days in a row can you go without spending a cent? Or make weekends a “spend-free” zone.
Start living the travel lifestyle now. Little things, like subscriptions to Netflix, a gym membership, magazines, cable, expensive cell phone plans, and so on, will be the first things to go, when traveling. You won’t miss them. You’ll find alternatives. You can watch your favorite shows online or workout at home or live without constant cell phone internet access.
1. Even if you’re just contemplating travel, put yourself on the Travel Diet– at minimum, no big purchases, thoughtful shopping and reduction in expenses.
2. The next time you feel like you need to buy something, give yourself 5 minutes ‘cooling off’ period before making the purchase.
3. The month, commit to convert one potential purchase into being free, using one of the spending alternatives: workaround, reuse, borrow, or barter.
4. For every household purchase, put it to the “backpack test”. Will you be able (or want) to carry it with you? If not, don’t buy it.