We are two lucky, lucky people. We’ve traveled to 36 countries, four continents, and 48 US National Parks. But we’re not wealthy. In fact, we’re both teachers. While we do get a lot of time off, almost all of it is unpaid. Spending money on travel while not getting paid could be a problem, but we make it work. If you’re good at budgeting your money and living frugally (but well), travel is probably affordable for you, too!
How do we do it?
We’re frequent flyer mile junkies. Every expenditure we make is on an airline credit card, but we’re careful to pay the balance – in full – every month. We’re relentless about finding deals on airline tickets and rental cars and lodging, using multiple websites. We make our peace with off-brand car rentals, budget airlines, and less-than-luxury lodging. Clean, safe, and affordable? We’re in.
But none of our travel would be possible if we weren’t able to save up for our trips. To help us do this, we have two phrases that we use quite often around our house to help us keep our spending in check. One is inspired by the travel philosophy of travel guru Rick Steves. While Rick said “Make do with the old sofa,” we say, “Keep the old couch.” And we have! Any guesses on the era of this bee-yoo-tiful blue couch? If you guessed the 80’s, you’re right! And it’s holding up pretty well (although we did replace the foam in its cushions a few years ago).
When it comes to purchases, it’s all about prioritizing. We say “keep the old couch” about many other things, too, in the name of prioritizing travel. We squeezed 20 years and 200,000 miles out of our trusty 1997 Honda Civic, and our 2002 Eurovan camper is still rolling along. And while we’d love to have a new bedroom set, we’re making do with the one from 1989. It’s not that we never buy new stuff: we recently installed new carpeting underneath that old bedroom set. The old carpet was in bad shape. It was making Erin crazy to come home and look at it every day. It added unneeded stress. We decided it needed to be replaced. The bedroom set, however, is really still fine, so we’re keeping it — and the money that could’ve gone to purchasing its replacement.
Our other go-to phrase (actually, another paraphrase) is one we got from the book Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. If you have not read this book and you’re interested in living well without spending a lot of money, you should definitely pick up a copy. The book has lots of great ideas and strategies for managing your money well.
A line we often repeat from the book is, “That’s a gazingus.” What in the heck is a gazingus exactly? Well, it’s something you want, but it’s nothing that you need. It’s often something you decide you want on the spur of the moment, too. Sometimes we choose to buy a gazingus anyway, because it’s fun and we want it. And that’s okay, as long as we recognize that purchasing one thing means we’re giving something else up for it. But many times we’ll choose not to purchase a gazingus because it is, in fact, not something we really want, it’s just something that’s appealing right now. We know we can live without it and be perfectly happy…and be able to use that money for traveling!
Here’s a tip that can be applied to the potential purchase of a gazingus. Thinking about purchasing something on the spur of the moment? Wait 24 hours. Still really want it after 24 hours? It might be more than a spur of the moment thing, so then you can decide whether to buy it or not. It’s surprising how often we don’t make that purchase 24 hours later. Gazinguses beware!
These two phrases are great reminders for us and they help us afford to do what we love to do — travel, whether it’s for a week or a weekend!