Jan 14, 2014

Posted by in Expat Life Abroad | 3 Comments

Saving money to travel

saving money to travel

“Oh, what a tough life you’ve got” and “you’re so lucky” are two common responses I get when telling people about our plans to travel home (across Canada, to Hawaii, then to Fiji).

It’s easy  to believe I’m lucky. People don’t particularly want to hear that I’m hardworking – maybe it’s just easier to discount that, because they too are hard working, but still it’s not happening to them.

Like most other long-term travelers, I had a fire in my belly that wanted something really bad. I knew I wanted to travel, to see Canada, to return to my family and to not have to work for the better part of a year and nothing was going to stop me from doing that. Lots of people plan a “round the world” trip, ticking off new countries week by week; that wasn’t for me this time.

Lots of people have that fire in their belly for different things – a new car, a flash wardrobe, owning their own home, you name it and people are making it happen all the time. Your priorities will be different to mine and that’s perfectly okay. It’s what makes the world go round. I’ve been travelling full time for a little less than a year because that’s my priority; I don’t spend much money on clothes, and very rarely are they brand new anymore (I’m a lover of thirft/second-hand/Op-shops!) and I’m pretty far from owning any property.

After 4 years, I needed to go back to my home and native land, to re-connect with the people in my life who I hadn’t seen in far too long. I needed to discover and see my own country before taking on  the rest of the world. Some people need passport stamps; I needed to see my own country. My passport still stands pretty barren and lonely in the stamp department, but my mind is now full of experiences.

Except traveling in Canada is damn expensive. It’s expensive to live, and worse to stay for a short while. And on the New Zealand dollar, our exchanged dollars did not go nearly far. Financially, we would have been better off going to South East Asia for the same amount of time, and I’m certain our money would have lasted us twice as long.

One aspect of designing the lifestyle I wanted is to secure the funds to sustain myself. I had be aware of the income I had available and consciously direct those funds to maximize opportunities.  So how did we do it? Let me tell you how we went about saving money to travel in the year and half before we left.

 A solid savings plan

This was a very much a team effort. Thom and I decided back in July 2011 that we were going to travel. Knowing about the stipulations for a partnership visa requiring us to have a joint bank account, we opened a ‘flat account’ in both our names, from which all of our bills/rent was paid, and a savings account as well. We were paid differently, as Thom got a weekly deposit, and mine was fortnightly.

We worked out a number that we’d both contribute from each pay, so that our savings would grow steadily. We also set up an automatic payment on payday so that the money went into the savings account before we had a chance to notice it was gone. We reassessed this every couple of months to make sure we were saving as much as possible.

Reevaluating our living costs

Lots of people (travel bloggers) will tell you how they moved back in with their parents to save on rent/living costs, and for that I’ve been a
For Thom and I, this wasn’t actually an option, but that didn’t mean the end of the world.  Our next move was to have others live with us to share rent/expenses. We tried a variety of different situations, as ideally we wanted to be living on our own, but we made some sacrifices and found a way that worked.
Not all flatmates are created equal, but for the most part we were fortunate to be surrounded by good people. We made lots of fabulous memories, threw some epic parties and generally laughed a lot. We were fortunate to find a house that had a separate basement apartment (with equally amazing beach views and a wrap around deck), which we could rent out to others. I think this option worked the best for us, but was a bit of a ‘lucky break’.

 Reassess the essentials

It feels like it should go without saying, but we stopped buying useless crap.  Or made a conscious effort not to. I’ll admit, when I started working full time, the area I was living in the Far North was no entertainment mecca. Shopping was done out of necessity rather than recreation. For a while I hooked on on-line shopping, addicted to ‘getting a deal’, except when you don’t really need it, it’s not actually much of a deal. Once we decided that travel was a priority, I stopped my frivolous habits.

Know where your money is going

Paying attention to exactly how much money comes in and goes out of your account is beneficial too. It sounds simple and obvious, but look at every bill, and know exactly what you’re being charged for.

Our phone/internet company was notorious for sticking extra unexplained charges on it, and when we phoned in to ask what they were for, they were automatically taken off, saving us that $30-$50. If we had just paid it, that money would like have been gone.

Years ago I’d also signed up for a gym membership, which was supposed to cost $20/wk, so $40 fortnightly. Except, I wasn’t paying attention to my money in/out and I was actually being charged $40 every week. It was a bit of a hassle, but I was eventually refunded, since I’d literally been paying double! I wouldn’t recommend that as a ideal savings plan though, as most companies are quick to hound you to pay them, but will take their sweet time if they owe you money.

After a year and a half of living frugally, with our goal in mind, we managed to achieve our savings goal. We made some sacrifices along the way, but also didn’t deprive ourselves completely.


  1. Cheryl Kennickell says:

    Congratulations on going live. Have been following your other blog and looking forward to this. Great job! Enjoy your adventures. Thank you for allowing us to travel with you.

  2. Really doesn’t sound like luck has anything to do with it 😉

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