And while Nick and I travel a lot more than the average couple, what may not come across as much here on the blog is that we have a very normal day to day life in Portland in between our trips. We have definitely put down roots here in the Pacific North West; we own an apartment here, we own furniture in said apartment, we own 2 cars and we work normal day to day jobs. We have months where we're replacing dishwashers and washing machines and getting new tires on our cars and I think from the outside, it often looks like all of our money goes to travel. While a large percentage of our income does indeed go to travel, we also live a very normal life here which does require our salaries and our income as well and we've, over the years, come up with ways to be able to balance our budget to include the travel we do as well as to be able to live an interesting and fulfilling life at home too. So over the years, here's what I've come up with for tips to balance both a home base (which is incredibly rewarding) and traveling the world.
1. Discuss finances openly.
This one might just be the most important and without this tip, none of the others below will be able to work. It's really easy to overspend on travel because once you get in vacation mode, it's easy to justify spending more on items that you wouldn't otherwise. Be honest about how much money you can afford to use for traveling and how much you can realistically save in your day to day budget.
A great way to be able to save more money for travel is to go through your monthly bills and try to cut those down as much as possible. Call your cable provider and ask for current deals or make sure you're on the best cell phone plan for what you use. There are ways to cut a lot of your monthly costs just by making the effort to call and see if you can get better deals from your providers. Another way to save more money is to get a second job or do freelance work on the side, to be honest, that's how most of our travels are funded, through our side work.
Another note on this tip, make sure and discuss finances for your home as well. There is always something that needs to be done or paid for when owning or renting a home and it's important to know that while you may want all of your extra income to go toward travel, that's not really realistic. Make sure to budget for what your home will need as well and any unknown expenses that might come up too.
2. Set aside money for travel and don't touch the account until you're booking your trip.
A few years ago when we decided we wanted to travel often, we set up accounts at our banks just for this reason. Set up a separate account for travel finances and only add to it until you have enough for a trip. Having a specific savings account for a trip is a great way to divide out your money and not be able to the touch the money until you need it for your trip. I do this still to this day and whatever goes into this account isn't touched until I need to pay for trip items or I get cash out when we leave.
3. Use points and credit cards to your advantage.
Credit cards and loyalty points can be a huge help when saving for a trip. Nick and I have finally gotten to a point (granted it took us a few years) to really figure out how to best use points to our advantage. Any more, probably half our large trips are bought on points or credits, as well as many of our smaller USA trips as well. Between air miles and credit card points, we spend about half as much on trips as we did in the first few years. At the end of the day, this means we can travel more because we're spending less.
Just a few tips on this note to take advantage of include booking hotels and airfare with points from credit cards or miles, using sign up bonuses on new credit cards to supplement your accounts and researching different options using points that can work to your best advantage.
*You can read about some of my favorite travel credit cards here.
4. Be honest about what you need. Sell items that aren't important and use the money for additional things you'll like more.
I've always been the type of person that sold things I didn't use, but this is a great way to make a little extra cash and savings. I regularly clean out my closet and sell clothes I don't wear at local resale shops. I do the same thing with books that we don't want to keep or furniture that we replace. It also helps that we just don't have the room to keep things we don't need (we live in a 500 square foot apartment), but it's also a great way to make some extra money aside from your daily income to put away for travel. Every little bit helps and over time, being honest with what you really need in your daily life can help you narrow down what's important and what's not.
5. Don't expect everything to come at once, building a balanced home and travel lifestyle takes time.
I see this one time and time again with friends of ours, they get jobs, apartments/homes and suddenly they want everything at once. To get to the point Nick and I are at now, and by no means are we even still experts on this, it's taken 5+ years. We've updated our apartment over the years, purchased furniture piece by piece over the years, learned how to travel more and more economically, saved money for travel and other things but it's all taken years to do it.
Realize that realistically to be able to have both a lovely home to come home to and travel the world can be an investment over time but when you get there, it's such a fulfilling feat!