…money from nothing…
It is no secret that I travel. A lot. Particularly, some might say, for someone at my income level.
Of course, some of that is a willingness to forgo food for the sake of travel. I’m often willing to survive on rice and beans and the like for a week a month in order to afford my trips.
However, it is more than that.
There are a few secrets that might be common sense, but put together make it possible.
For example, I nearly always travel with a companion. Or two. Or in some cases, six. I always budget those trips as though I am paying for everything myself, even though I know we’ll be splitting everything evenly. This gives me a little freedom. A hundred dollar a night hotel room might seem out of reach, but split four ways, it’s only $25 a night.
Of course, you have to pick your travel companions wisely. Poor choices can ruin a trip very fast. I am blessed to have a fair number of travel companions that I can share with who share a certain willingness to be flexible with plans and overlook each other’s quirks.
It may not seem like such a huge thing, but frequent flyer programs and hotel rewards programs play a big part. Pick an airline, pick a hotel family, and be loyal. Watch for special offers to members. Take advantage of programs to earn extra nights/flights. And then bank those free nights/flights for when you really want to travel, but really can’t swing the $$. Also, let family and friends know your preferred airline/hotel family and let them know that you will happily take gift certificates/cards for birthdays/holidays/etc.
All of that will only get you so far though.
At some point you need to spend actual dollars. The first thing to do is determine what of your budget is expendable. If you’re like me, that only gets you so far. I do my best to not use credit cards when I travel. I like to pay in cash as much as possible, but I do have a low balance credit card available for me to use when necessary. It is good for reserving hotel rooms and the like, even if I don’t actually spend money on it.
So where does the money come from? Well, I have a few simple rules.
1) I have a big pickle jar in my kitchen. It’s sort of my version of a piggy bank. Every time I walk in the door, I empty my pockets/messenger bag of coins and they go in the jar.
2) On payday, any cash left in my wallet from the previous paycheck goes in the jar.
3) On payday, any money left in my bank account from the previous check, goes into my savings account.
4) Any “found money” goes into the jar. (found money equals any unexpected income, bonuses at work, refunds/rebates and income made off of writing/photography)
Now, some months, that doesn’t yield much. Other months are pretty good. At least once a year, if not more, that pickle jar/savings account scenario pays for most of, if not all of, a trip.
So far this year I’ve been to Portland, Oregon twice. I have at least two more trips to Portland planned. I also have an extended weekend in San Francisco, two trips to Vegas and a trip to England in the planning stages. Currently the pickle jar is dedicated to England. There’s maybe ten bucks in there at the moment, all in change. But I have a rebate check from my FSA account on my desk, and more coming all the time.
Can I really fund a trip to England on loose change and found money? I aim to try.