why everyone should start a travel fund

If you asked me who should travel, I’d answer: everyone.

Everyone should at some point in their lives, pack up and go somewhere, no matter how close, or how far, for how long or how short – but go somewhere in the sense that they should step out of their normal ‘everyday’ and explore something previously unknown to them.

I love traveling, in the sense that it’s always an adventure – hanging up the ‘pause’ sign and stepping outside of your world for a moment. Every time I travel, I feel as though I insert myself into a part of a greater narrative – a story that’s more interesting than my own. I get there and step outside of myself in order to explore that said narrative – feel the universe outside of my personal bubble if you will.

However, aside from the myriad of benefits, I’m also aware that there are usually financial constraints in place that stop most people from taking the time off to travel, or even go on a vacation. Hence, I promise that everyone should just start a traveling fund that is separate from your usual checking, saving and investing accounts to make your travel dreams come true.

For example, streamline your budget and stick to it: it is very very easy to overspend or buy things you don’t need (as I would know, a coffee here, a lunch there, or a drink with a friend on a Saturday night, then there’s post-brunch shopping with friends) they all add up and last month alone (I wasn’t being very vigilant with spending, give and take with the trip to Seattle) I estimated I overspent by…quite a bit (meaning in the hundreds…a good chunk to get me half way across the world.) And if I had elected to go out in my city tonight, that would’ve ate a good chunk out of my wallet, to the equivalent of an EasyJet return trip (no jokes, I just checked, an EasyJet return trip from my two favorite European cities is actually cheaper than a night out in the city. Talk about my priorities.)

Yes, I say this because I was recently at a focus group on money and finances. And I observed the following – finances and money management were never things taught in schools – budgeting, goal setting, retirement plans, and spending are often seen as personal responsibilities – however, without good examples from role models such as parents or teachers, how will we know how to handle our finances? Especially in an age consumerism seem to cure all ills. Stressed, depressed, unloved? Buy something to make yourself feel better, or so the logic goes. But in the end, this proves to be unsustainable and debt accumulates, and some institutions are profitable because of limited financial literacy of consumers.

So I say, everyone should start a travel fund, because your $5 lattes will add up to $1270 a year if you have one every day, per weekday (not including weekends/holidays) over the course of a year.

The difference of the $5 vs. compounded $5s over the course of the year is felt dramatically.

And those work lunches, if averaged $10 a day, would average out to $2540 over the course of a year – and $2540, to some might not be a big deal, but for a travel enthusiast who knows how to make dollars stretch, $2540 is a big deal (if you are smart with that, you could very well cover the cost of flight and accommodation, food for at least a month somewhere really cool)  – and really who wouldn’t mind having an extra lump sum at the end of the year to do something they really want to do?

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focus friday: your goals

“Let’s go party in Vegas for my birthday!!” 

As fun as that sounds, the logical side of me took over as soon as my friend announced that.

The birthday bash is in August and immediately I began peering into my mental calendar – “no can do.”

Although any other time I would’ve obliged and said yes to the idea since it was relatively cheap in terms of travels – I began realizing I didn’t care for seeing my favourite DJ play at a huge pool party. As in, I valued certain actions more so than others.

While in the past I would’ve felt ‘bad’ for not being able to attend. The me now, at 25 turned the invitation down and reviewed my schedule for the rest of my evening, which just happened to include figuring out a savings plan for Europe on top of other tasks.

It’s not that I’m opposed to having fun. I’m just more focused than ever on what I truly want versus what other people want.

Even if the trip is free, I’d have to think about the time off from work, and the possibility of it derailing me from my future plans. Hence, I’m steering clear.

In a rough estimate, if I just put away $500 bucks extra a month from now until December, which is roughly $2500, I should have a really comfortable month away (since my plane ticket is already paid for.) It’s not a absurdly large amount, though I do have to say, it will be tricky to achieve, since there are traps in almost ever corner i.e: coffee shops, juice bars, actual bars, i.e the other night, I had met up with a friend I had not seen in a very long time to catch up – when it came to the bill it was a cool $40 and with it being summer, it’s officially to the season to go out and stay out until very late.

Fortunately, I see this as challenge accepted for living minimal, just to see how little I need to actually ‘live’ if I didn’t care about the frivolous things in life.

the spending math

Eating out used to be a luxury, nowadays however, it feels more habitual than ever.

I haven’t really noticed this before since my coworkers and I are so used to it. A quick bite from the nearest cafe, or a quick sit down and chit chat at the quaint little Italian restaurant tucked in a street corner not far from work which by the way, carries some of the creamiest portions of Tiramisu, all seem innocuous.

Innocuous that is until you review your credit card statement for the month.

Did I really SPEND that much?

Really?

Of course, these things really add up and since I’ve been very busy lately, my brain haven’t been really on top of my finances.

One of the surest ways to increase income is to work more, yes, but people often forget the other crucial step in retaining their earning.

That is: keeping it.

Yes, somehow, I feel like I’ve been programmed to ‘spend’ because I have more wiggle room to – but then that’s an illusion, given that I actually don’t – since my brain in the present is failing to register when/where I would need the funds later on.

I’ve never been great at saving and neither are most of my friends. At times it just feels plain cruel to turn people down when you know you could go ‘hangout’ per se and catch up over a meal, or a drink, but now I know I have to go and minimize everything and delegate – a beer here and a meal there won’t hurt but I might have to go with the envelope technique and go – when that envelope is empty that’s it! No more going out.


Because as much as I love these food-porn shots and tangy restaurant garden salads, I know for a fact that I’ll enjoy telling adventure stories more than anything else.

So, from now on, July until trip – will be as lean as possible in terms of luxuries. i.e: quickly flashing myself a destination photo whenever I want to buy something that isn’t a necessity. But for what it was worth, from the other day’s lunch, braised lamb with salad from the Italian place…it was yums. 

Unnecessary expenses: hindsight perspective

Earlier this week, a refund was made to my credit card and to my surprise it was quite a reduction in the amount I had to pay on that card. What’s this serendipitous refund you ask?

Refund on duty deposits.

Admittedly, I had a habit of blindly shopping online and going for things I want because…well I wanted them (reasons explained later in this post) and in my head they were much less than the going price in my place of residence. However, what I did not account for was the exchange rate, the international sub-charge and local taxes on top of that. (Yeah, a few months ago, I really didn’t think things through when it came to shopping.)

What ended up happening was my jaw dropping and logging onto the e-commerce shopfront I’m so loyal to and reviewing my orders for the first time after I hit ‘order’ all those months ago. And what I found was I had spent an exorbitant amount on two articles of designer clothing – somehow, my vanity, pride, and other emotions involved must’ve told me it was a good idea at the time – though I’d only worn one garment a couple of times after I received them in March. And after I had received them, appraised them, they’d disappeared in a pile in my closet.

But this is only the start in examining my personal finances, as this was just a drop in the ocean, an one time offense among many – yes I had the fund to purchase things and pay them back on time, but at the same time, I realized I was using shopping as a way to combat negative emotions that came hand in hand with work. And somehow owning more stuff, stuff that appealed to me was going to justify the work I did not care about doing.

In hindsight however, I cringe at the amount spent, because it is money and time I’d never be able to get back and if I hadn’t spent it all frivolously, perhaps I could be off somewhere on a nice vacation – poorly dressed, but who would need all that excess if you were somewhere you’d really want to be, doing things that had been gathering dust on your to-do list ever since your college days? Waiting for that ‘one day’ would be pointless without a concrete plan towards a long term goal.

Curbing your monstrous spending appetite

Budget and diet are two words that more often than not elicit a sense of dread in people. Being reminded that we need to watch our spending, or watch our waistlines when there are temptation lurking in every corner makes ‘budgeting’ or ‘dieting’ an uncomfortable exercise of will. I see many parallels between budgeting and dieting. There are things you just ‘gotta have’, right? Whether it be another pair of designer denim, or that majestic looking chocolate cheesecake that taunts you from the bakery’s window.

Chances are, we’ve all been there. Or at least I don’t think I’m alone in this. I for one am not immune when I see the ‘sale’ sign hanging in front of displays, or when I open up my email and I see ‘sale’ from stores I subscribe to. Who doesn’t love a bargain? Whether it be an end of season sale or buy two slices of pizza and we’ll throw in a soft drink for free. You might very well give in to your urges, only to realize after you’ve made the purchase, or wolfed down those two gigantic slices of pizza that you’ve made a horrible mistake.

Your stomach might twist because you’d just dropped your hard earned cash like that (or because you’ve ate those two slices of pizza way too fast and now you’ve got a stomach ache. See the parallels?)

The first step to overcoming any problem is admitting that you have a problem.

i. Admit that you have a problem.

Incidents of unnecessary spending might flood back into your mind at this point. Then, you might start wondering where you’re going wrong – what is causing these unfortunate incidents? Is it the advertisements or is it something internal instead? Are you perhaps utilizing retail therapy or chocolate too often?

ii. Pinpoint the root of the problem.

Now that you’ve got the root of the problem pinpointed, it’s time to personalize the solution, is it an internal thing (stress?) or an external thing (that SALE sign just happened to be in your way!! And you can’t walk around it bummer.) :

iii. Come up with a relevant solution!!!

If the problem’s internal, as in it bubbled from stress or emotions, then it is important to address these issues accordingly. Going for a walk (it really helps!), writing it down in a journal, talking to a family member about it. If the problem’s external, then read on.

Personally, I’ve got a problem with shopping when I’m stressed out. I’m more tempted to shop for clothes online during periods of perceived high stress (ex: typing up reports for school, studying for exam etc.) or utter boredom. So I came up with a list of criteria that the item in question must pass in order to be considered purchasable.

1. Do you really need it? (or are you responding to this ‘sale’ stimulus because you don’t want to miss out on a bargain? But wait, chances are that pair of cut out leather shoes and midnight black motto jeans are similar to something you already have in your closet, and even if you don’t have something like it in your closet, think of all the items of clothing you’re neglecting as result of impulse buys, not mentioning the new clothes that are still in their bags…)
2. Is it compatible with your lifestyle? (Or is it more of a trend you’re following? Everyone’s doing floral print so you want floral print as well? Where and when do you plan on wearing it? How many times? Here you want to assess if its gonna be 300 dollars 1 time wear, or 1000 dollars regular wear for the next five years of your life – a timeless classic piece you’d pass onto your children!)
3. Is it within your budget? (Be honest. Do you have X amount to spare, what about your electric and grocery bills? Your car?) 4. Would you still want it 30 days from now? (The answer is usually, no no no. Because we’re bombarded with so many temptations, our brains naturally overload on the things we want – so chances are you’re gonna be obsessed with something else between now and 30 days from now and won’t miss this item that tickled your fancy in the past tense.)
5. Could you wait until it goes on sale? (It’d be a good idea. This ties in to #4. Something better almost always comes along.)

What I find is that after going through these five questions. I end up keeping money in my wallet, no matter how small or large a purchase might be. I come to realize that 7 dollars for a tank top might be cheap, but wouldn’t it be more economical if I just wore the grey tank I already have in my closet and saved the 7 dollars? These small expenses do add up, much like lattes. Same for jeans. Out of the ridiculous amount I have sitting there in my closet, to this date I’ve only managed to wreck one due to regular wear in a span of five or six years. So I remind myself, every time I see a new product I want to add to my wardrobe, that if it takes me 5-6 years to wreck a pair of jeans, then I already have enough to last me until my eighties most likely. So there you have it, be smart with your money, because you slaved hard for it, therefore wasting it on stupid things would be … well, counterproductive to say the least.