My salary during my post-college, professional life was always less than stellar, and living in Manhattan didn’t make things easier. My goal was to save at least $15,000 before leaving. I ended up saving about
$16,000 $18,000 $19,000.
Since moving to New York, I had always set aside a little money each month—which was added to approximately $5,000 in savings I had already accrued from birthday gifts and the like growing up.
At the start of 2011, I kicked my saving tricks into high gear. Here, tips on how I got to my goal that you can use for your RTW travel (or regular travel) dreams:
- Put a little away each month. In New York, saving money is as unheard of as a rent-controlled apartment in the West Village. But even though I lived paycheck to paycheck, I was adamant about sticking even just $50 in my savings account each month. You can set up your bank account so a certain amount of money gets deposited into your savings each month. That way, once it’s in there, you can’t—or shouldn’t—touch it.
- Budget. I know some people set up Excel spreadsheets to track their spending, but that’s not my style. Since January 2011, I made sure to stash $500 in my savings each month. I also knew that my last two months in the city would involve way more restaurant outings—to finish my bucket list natch!—so I made sure to eat in more before then. Whatever money I had leftover that didn’t go towards rent or bills was for fun stuff in New York. I was clearly not a math major.
- Cut out the frills. Take only public transportation, eat fewer meals out, borrow books and movies from the library, schlep to Trader Joe’s, not the pricey corner bodega, cut out cable, and shop for essential clothing only. It sounds painful, but it doesn’t have to be. My two biggest drains were meals out and shopping. I do like to cook, which made the former easier, but even then, I had to decide to pretty much eliminate drinking because. I didn’t have the luxury to do dinner and drinks. As for shopping, in New York there’s a lot of pressure to have the latest bag, shoe, necklace, dress, etc. This is all about will power. I literally had to tell myself, “This $25 top could buy you a night in a beach hut in Thailand.” That usually did the trick. And if you think you’ll have to say goodbye to your social life, don’t underestimate the beauty of a walk or just grabbing lemonade or dessert instead of a whole dinner with your friends. Better yet, have a potlock! It’s more fun than going out to eat anyway.
- Get extra work. I did freelance work for two magazines, which besides helping build my portfolio, also helped pad my savings. Try babysitting, mowing the lawn, dog walking, getting a café gig or whatever suits your fancy.
- Sell your stuff. Ebay became my bestie starting in January 2011, when I decided to get rid of a lot of the fun free stuff I got by way of my media job—jeans, shoes, jewelry, makeup and gadgets. Selling these meant almost 100% profit—though eBay and PayPal get a small percentage of the sale—which was invaluable to reach my financial goal. Of course, not everyone has the luxury of free goodies, but isn’t selling that National Geographic DVD box set and getting some money better than letting it collect dust in your parent’s basement? It’s also a great way to de-clutter before traveling. Sell your item as an auction, set it for the lowest amount you’d be happy pocketing, take good pictures and be descriptive. And honest.
- Keep your eyes on the prize. I was tempted more than a few times to indulge in vacation invites, designer purses, manicures, spa massages and big nights out. Going through Google images of our future destinations was a great way to re-focus.
But don’t get crazy. There’s a thrill in saving money. It’s a rush. You think about skipping dinner with your friend because it’ll save you $20 or selling some fuddy duddy watch because you can get $5 for it. This is all well and good, but remember that traveling in the future doesn’t mean you have to constantly press pause on the present. Just evaluate how fun/important the occasion is. For example, I dished out $300 for a trip to the Catskills two months before leaving for our RTW trip, but it was something I had always wanted to do. It’s OK! This life is meant for living.