How to save money for a long trip

Don’t eat. Don’t drink. Don’t go out. Don’t buy anything. Ever.

Sounds extreme, but it is broadly true – let’s examine it in more detail. The key point is probably to actually have a budget. It is dull and horrible, not to mention scary, to examine in detail where your money goes each month, but without setting yourself limits it is so easy to find yourself saving very little indeed. You will also not know what is realistic for you to save, so you won’t know how long it will take to achieve your goal. In a way I’ve found it really satisfying to put my money towards something I really want to do, rather than frittering it away, so it hasn’t been as hard as I thought it would be. I probably wouldn’t say that towards the end of the month though!

So assuming you don’t live at home, your biggest monthly outgoing is probably rent. Unless you have a mortgage, in which case I can not advise you (I assume you can get a buy to let mortgage and sublet, but that is very serious and hard work). So how to save on rent:
1) downsize – at its most extreme this means a bedsit, a bit difficult to stomach for some people but if you can put up with studenty cramped conditions it’s a mighty good saver

Downsize
2) Renegotiate with Landlord – unlikely to reap benefits and only for the very ambitious to attempt
3) Try to ensure you comply with your tenancy agreement, so when you do leave you can guarantee the safe return of your deposit
4) Be very nice to your friends so you can try to give up your lease a bit earlier and stay with them for a little while
5) Consider moving home for a short while
Which of these, if any, that you choose will depend on how much of your comfort you are willing to forgo. It is pretty possible to save a lot without changing your rent payments, but personally we found it the easiest place to make a cut.

Second biggest expense, bills maybe? Not too much to be done here. One provider is similar to the next, and by changing you often pin yourself into a new contract. It also scores high on the hassle factor. I did manage to reduce my phone contract significantly though. My monthly contract was ending, so I changed to a SIM only provider, Giffgaff in my case, and for the same minutes and unlimited texts and internet, I now pay £10 instead of £40-ish a month. Plus there is no contract, so when I leave I’ll just stop paying.

If I’m honest though, as egg has insistently been telling me as I write, bills were not our second biggest expense, food was. Before the introduction of the ‘we’re packing in our lives to travel’ budget, we spent between £600 and £800 a month on food between us on food shopping and eating out. Now with some careful food planning and less eating out, we spend £200 a month between us. It’s a nice saving and we are eating healthier. Downsides in any given week, we eat 3/4 meals, and then have leftovers for lunches or dinners. It does get a bit samey.

Going out, as alluded to in an earlier post, is a bit harder to negotiate a good amount to cut back. Luckily and unluckily we are undertaking this saving exercise in London. Luckily because there are oodles of great things to be done for free. Unluckily because there are even more good things to do for lots of money. We have gone down the route of setting a budget for frivolous things for the month, and once it is gone that’s it. It is a good way of prioritising things you really want to do and people you really want to see. Plus, when the budget has run out, you become vey imaginative at free things you can do. Alcohol has been a victim of our budget. Apart from a couple of exceptions it has become nonexistent in my social life as it makes everything so much more expensive, and rounds of drinks at work are very awkward if you really can’t afford a round for 9 people.

Finally stuff. Just stuff. All those things you buy because you are there and so are they. The odd magazine, a new book, an outfit for a night out, camera film, records, shoes. We just don’t buy them now. Nothing. To the extent that the soles are coming off my shoes but I will continue to wear them until they fall apart completely (I also love them,…and have wet feet). The only exceptions have been things for travelling and birthday presents.

Different people will prioritise different areas of their life. Some things that I see as extras that can be cut back, the gym for example, are essential to others (crazy people). And it depends on how extravagant your life was to start off with; fortunately we have not had to take second jobs, but that is also an option if there is not space in your life to cutback. The extra time spent working will also mean less time for spending. Really, there are three golden rules:

1) make a budget

2) stick to it

3) keep sticking to it, even when you don’t want to

(and the secret fourth rule)

4) if the budget is making you really sad, ignore it for a few days, it won’t kill anyone

No, really, it won't go on  killing spree if ignored for a brief period

No, really, it won’t do this

Listening to – the sound of cooking

Location – at the table looking out of the window, London

How to decide whether to leave your job to travel

Now this is a big decision, no question. It is easy to know you want to travel, but a lot harder to quit your job in order to do so. Now egg and I have both handed our notice in, so we are committed. Egg has been lucky enough to be offered a year sabbatical (he must be a very good web designer- available for freelance by the way!) and upon explaining he couldn’t commit to being back in a year, they said no problem. If we return in a year there’s a job waiting, if not no one will be offended so he has a no-catch safety net- we are both hoping to be away for a lot longer, but who knows.

Of course not everyone will have such an understanding employer (myself included), so what are the things to consider? Firstly, obviously, money.

How is the savings position? Do you have enough cash to sustain you for your planned voyages? How much can you save, and will you have a reasonable amount by your leaving date? If not do you have an easily transferable skill that can earn you some money while you’re gallivanting? I guess if the answer to this is no it would be big leap of faith to leave your employment.

leave-work

Ready to fly away and wave goodbye to work?

Secondly, commitments. If you have a family is now the time to travel, is everyone on board with the idea? As egg and I decided to up sticks together and are child free with non-dependent parents it seemed a perfect time for us to go. Even so we had to talk for quite some time about what we both expected from the trip, length, scope etc. to ensure we were in agreement before having the confidence to finalise our ideas.

Do you have a mortgage, or similar commitments to keep up with? A phone contract and home insurance were all we had to worry about fortunately, and they were negligible sunk costs so easy to ignore. Equally the existence of these things need not prohibit you from travelling, but they do need to be taken into account, how will you make repayments without the stability of a job?

Something that is forgotten is how many people get enjoyment from their work; a factor in giving that up has to be if the experiences that travelling offer outweigh the satisfaction of a fulfilling career. I have at least a couple of friends who love their holidays and going to new places, but wouldn’t swap with us as they genuinely enjoy their jobs, and in some cases have been building up a career and feel that now is not the ime for a career break. Having just qualified as a chartered accountant after 3 years of training I wanted to go before I became settled somewhere; it was a natural break point in my career and a good opportunity to ensure I am on the right track. If either of us had been slaving away for a promotion that was just on the horizon now may not have been the right time.

Left until last but maybe the biggest consideration is your own personality. If you are comfortable with uncertainty and like flexibility then giving up everything is more likely to suit than if you enjoy routine and security and comfort. And that comes down to knowing yourself and what you want most. I don’t think it is brave in particular, as I have been told repeatedly since handing in my notice, to commit yourself to nothing, in many ways I think if we were more courageous we would stay in London and settle down. But right now we are not ready to, we want to see more while we feel like we can. Different people, different paths, you choose your own.

I think overall you have to weigh up the costs and benefits for yourself; I put money first as a consideration, but if you were desperate to travel and weren’t that fond of your job it is possible to work around the world if you have enough determination. If you aren’t ready to take the plunge maybe your company can offer you a sabbatical, so you can dip a toe in the water. In short, there are options. And I think that if it is what you really want then it isn’t stupid to go, whatever point you are at in your life; it’s stupid to stay.

Let us know how you decided to give your job up, or if you have thought about it, or if you’re still thinking! What are your biggest factors?

Enjoying life in London before flying the nest

Since we decided to pack up in mid December, and it becoming more real around mid Jan when we told our families, life has been a bit of a whirlwind of to do lists. I’m an impatient person and when I decided in the bath in a Jury’s Inn in Newcastle that I just had to get away (nothing personal against Newcastle) I thought there would be little more to it than deciding on a starting point and saving hard.

Saving hard has been a big feature of the last 5 months, and it is a bit grim, but we are lucky to have enough money to live and save to move away without a secured job so not too many complaints (my friends and family have had enough of them). But, all the other stuff! Looking into volunteer placements, learning spanish, sorting insurance, giving notice, redirecting all post, working out what to do with our stuff, and then buying more appropriate stuff to take with us, finding the best deal on flights, getting vaccinations, renewing driving licenses, finding a bank account with cheap overseas withdrawals, doingall the important stuff that normally takes longer than we have (really just progressing my coeliac diagnosis- NHS being nice and helpful, thank you).muffalo

That has pretty much been our life for 5 months, and whilst we are now fairly prepared with a whole month to go, I don’t think we’ve been a whole lot of fun. Currently the saving is ahead of target and I couldn’t plan any more even if you promised me that doing so would guarantee I could marry Mark Ruffalo.

I think we are due some fun. Long overdue. And it starts tonight, or more accurately 4.30AM tomorrow.

Egg and I are going to witness the sunrise over London from the Duck and Waffle, a fancypants restaurant in the Heron Tower. It’s on something ridiculous like the 42nd floor and I’ve been wanting to go since it opened; being a bit expensive it feels like a proper treat.

quackalo

And after that make more of an effort to see our friends and London because both will be much missed. I had no intention to do a leaving party (parties thrown by me for me always make me a bit uneasy – and I’m lazy) but I’ve been informed we shall be having one, so hopefully my requests for a bouncy castle, fairy lights and buckets full of cocktails will have been heard. And that will be fun. Oh, and I think a goat would be fun. Mike, I’d like a goat too.

Listening to – Vampire Weekend, Oxford Comma

Location – giant beanbag, dragged into the kitchen, London

Which vaccinations are really necessary for backpacking?

I find it weird that when people talk about travelling no one ever mentions a fear of needles. I say this because if you aren’t willing to be poked multiple times then you are seriously limiting your travel options. People who don’t like needles tend to be like people who don’t like dentists, by which I mean quite vocal about the dread. So I would have thought that at some point in my life I would have heard people complain about not being able to go to exciting places because they are scared of needles. Mind you maybe they are just braver than me, and happy to travel facing the many dangers that there are to be found in tropical air, water and bugs.

629px-Escape-from-Killer-Bees-Step-5-Version-2 (courtesy of WikiHow.com)

This post has effectively come about because of my frustration over my seemingly endless vaccination schedule. I had thought I was done this Saturday, and now have possibly yet one more hanging over me.

Now I’m actually not someone with a fear of needles, just a horror at the unforeseen and mounting costs involved. So here is the list so far:

Hep A, Typhoid, Rabies, Yellow fever.

Hep A and Typhoid were available on NHS (although there’s a nationwide typhoid shortage, so for a while I couldn’t get hold of any) and free. Rabies, my doctor could provide, but at a total cost of £120 – all the prices are listed per injection, which makes finding out that a course of three is mandatory very vexing. Yellow fever was only an option if I went to a private travel clinic, but then was only £55 which felt like a relative bargain.

I have an inherent distrust of private travel clinics in the UK, and I suppose anywhere, which may be ignorant but I am always worried that the information I receive won’t be so much in my best interests a the clinics. So when the travel nurse at Nomads informed me I should get Hep B, when the GP had said it wasn’t required, I didn’t jump at the chance to have another spike jabbed in my arm. I’m still thinking about it. GP said travelling with a boyfriend it wasn’t a problem, but travel clinic lady said that it’s an issue from unsterile equipment. Apparently my options are to get Hep B at another £90, carry a sterile needle kit at all times to thrust in the face of a presumably startled and well meaning medical professional when I do hurt myself, or attempt to never ever need medical assistance.

So I have successfully ruled out cholera (although shall need it before Africa-again according to travel clinic lady- internet says only if going to refugee camps), and both types of encephalitis (from a practical point, they don’t last long enough for us to get to Asia). Otherwise egg and I want everything (actually he has got cholera, but he’ a worrier)- obviously on top of the ones I’ve mentioned are the standard uk vaccs, polio, tb etc. but we were both up to date with these. Just as well, because I already feel like the voodoo doll of a particularly malicious jilted woman.

Maybe getting Hep B now is better than trying to counter balance my natural clumsiness the whole time we are away, or liver failure.

Now anti-malarials, there’s a whole other kettle of fish…

Listening to – my housemate’s excitement at his first corset fitting (no, that is not a band!)

Location – sofa again

Travelling disasters

I’m the kind of person that worries a lot. Travelling involves a lot of unknowns, and unknowns are worrying, they could be anything – a type of anything that’s a disaster perhaps. In an effort to mentally prepare for the trip I’ve been thinking through some of the things that could go wrong and then looking for the positive side. That way I’ll be ready for whatever happens.

Disaster scenario 1:

Instead of packing the box containing my contact lenses I mistakenly pack a similar looking box full of cinnamon scented air fresheners.

Con: I have no lenses and am basically blind
Pro: I can enjoy the delicious smell of cinnamon wherever I go and also have a reduced chance of eye infection due to not wearing my lenses

Disaster scenario 2:

On arriving at the airport in Buenos aires I find out my backpack was unhelpfully loaded onto a plane going to Russia

Con: All my luggage is now in Russia
Pro: I don’t have to worry about my backpack being stolen anymore, plus without the weight of the backpack I can move much more quickly, allowing me to evade rabid dogs

Disaster scenario 3:

Whilst concentrating on walking in an inconspicuous way to avoid attracting the attention of potential-muggers I fall into a large hole in the pavement, breaking my arm

Con: My arm is broken, and I have no idea what the doctor said to me because of my pitiful spanish vocabulary
Pro: I can now gather signatures on the cast as I travel and end up with a wonderful cast shaped memento. I can also hide my money in it.

Disaster scenario 4:

One evening whilst eating in a small Bolivian restaurant I lean too close to an atmosphere-creating-candle and my recently purchased micro-fleece catches fire

Con: I’m on fire
Pro: Once the flames have been put out I’ll have a great story to exchange with other travellers. As a bonus my singed flesh will also be less attractive to mosquitos.

Disaster scenario 5:

Reclining on the beach in Peru, I find that a blue footed booby has removed my passport from my daysack and eaten it

Con: A small blue bird has eaten my main form of identification
Pro: It didn’t eat my lunch. At least I won’t be hungry.

Disaster scenario 6:

We’re kidnapped by a group of bandits as we cycle through Ecuador

Con: We might be killed at any moment
Pro: No need to worry about paying for accommodation or food

I’m feeling less worried already.