Someone: Wow gala nanaman! Sarap naman. Sana ako din ganyan, maka-gala.
Me: Bakit hindi? Go!
Someone: Eh kasi _____________________.
I had this conversation with friends and strangers. That blank is filled-out with a multitude of
reasons excuses. Two things are needed to travel: 1) Money and 2) Time. Funding my wanderlust does not simply rest
on how much I have to save to spend on a trip. I also have to find the time for
the trip itself.
I realized that it all boils down in managing two elements in my life: Money and Time. I have to do three things to both: Save, Prioritize, Spend.
Moolah. Cash. You may have some, enough or a lot. There is this common misconception that you need a lot of cash travel. It is not how much you earn, it is how you manage it.
Save: Save for something. Save for nothing. Just Save.
My first job was an auditor. I may look and dress expensive, but beneath those eyebags, I knew I was an underpaid corporate slave. I would always look back fondly at the penny-pinching decisions I made during my auditor days. That first job taught me how to budget.
The essence of saving came very handy when I the travel bug bit me. All the saving skills came into play. Want vs. Need. Now vs. Later. Being cheap vs. being frugal.
Some would say they could book tickets, reserve hotels and shop all with a credit card and pay the bill slowly thereafter. Some would rationalize that traveling prevents them from saving. Some would use travel as an excuse not to save. I frown on that. I believe that we should be financially healthy and ready before we spend on a trip.
Prioritize: Allocate your funds.
I switched jobs and became an accountant. My current job pays considerably better compared to my job as an auditor and I found myself having more money to...manage. The first few months, I binged on spending on branded shoes and bags. When I learned how to book seat sales using a credit card, I knew I’d be in financial trouble soon if I didn’t devise a plan how to fund my wanderlust.
I created a budget for all my expenses and planned expenses. For almost two years, I've been using this allocation:
10% - Donations/Tithes. I believe that this life and everything in it is borrowed from our Creator. This is a way of giving back what was given to me. Also, this serves as a reminder that life is a blessing.
30% - Expenses. My day-to-day expenses. Consists of expenses for food, entertainment, wushu gym fees, clothing, kikay stuff, impulse buying, vouchers and transportation. I don’t usually spend on all of those items, but I keep the spending on this level. When I spend more on entertainment, I tighten my belt and save on food, I avoid buying vouchers. The limit is set at 30%, I make sure I don’t spend beyond this.
30% - Travel fund. With or without travel tickets, with or without defined travel dates, a part of my budget goes to the travel fund for spending on travel. I break this fund further between local and international trips, depending on my travel bucketlist timeline.
30% - Savings for Retirement. I set this chunk aside for retirement, as early as now. Every month, I invest part of my income in mutual funds/stocks. I believe that you have to take responsibility how you'd like to live in your golden years, and not depend solely on a company retirement plan or your kids. Some can save as high as 50% of their income for their retirement. But I live today, not tomorrow.
Spend: Spend Wisely. Spend Consciously
When I realized I had more disposable income, I spent mindlessly on those expensive coffeeshops. I watched movies almost on a weekly basis. I spent on low quality unneeded shoes, clothes and bags because they were cute and they were on sale. I still saved my money but I spent the rest gloriously. I think there was this case of telling myself that I can now afford these things.
Those lattes found their way out of my wallet and into my waistline. Which promoted me to spend on new clothes because I didn’t fit the old ones anymore. When a yuppie has more disposable income, he/she is probably inclined to spend the money in non-essentials. Expensive gadgets, unnecessary clothes, and what-nots. Unconscious Spending. Spending for the sake of spending.
The joy of buying and acquiring material things is short lived. Say, I bought a bag or a pair of shoes which is worth the cost of a local trip. But there is more joy is reminiscing your trip vs. seeing that pair of bag or shoes everyday. I'd love to listen to you about your travel adventures vs. how you elbowed everyone to get that bag on 70% discount. An expensive designer bag would not be able to hold all your happy memories from your travels.
When there’s this urge to binge on spending, I would look back at my days as an auditor and it is enough to rein me in to be a responsible spender.
If it were up to me, I wish that the days were longer. If there was a way, I’d buy more time that I can have in this world. But we are given a limited amount of time in this world. We can make more money but we can't make more time. We have to manage whatever time we are given.
Save: Find ways how to save time
My jobs requires me to spend hours working with excel spreadsheets. There are some tasks which are repetitive in nature which I hate doing again and again. I’ve learned how to utilize Google how to find possible shortcut commands and approaches in excel so that I could accomplish my tasks faster and move on to the next one. With this, I won’t be constrained in repeating the same task and I avoid unnecessary overtime. I can spend time learning a new sport or researching and daydreaming about my next destination.
It also pays to save your leaves for your travel adventures. Since I only have a couple of leaves a year, I can’t afford to take leaves just because I feel like it. Some people would take a week off just to recharge, sleep until noon then watch DVDs the whole day. I can’t afford to take a home sabbatical just to sleep and watch TV because that would eat up the days for my trip.
Prioritize: List and prioritize your tasks. Do one thing at a time.
I’ve realized that I can accomplish more if I list all the tasks down and conquer those one at a time – the same thing that I do with a bucket list. I’d list all the deadlines that I have for the day or for the week. In that way, I’d focus my energy in working on the tasks that I’d really have to finish instead of focusing on the ones that I can easily finish.
Reading stuff about travel is very informative but they are also black holes of distraction if you read all the travel threads, travel blogs and travel articles. I would open Excel and draft my itinerary and read various travel blogs and forums. I’d stop browsing at 12 midnight without accomplishing or adding any in my travel itinerary because I’d be so distracted reading various travel articles not related to my trip – because there’s a lot of really good forums and blogs out there!
I applied the “Do one itinerary at a time” approach in planning my itineraries and travel destinations. If I had to research about a particular upcoming trip, I had to focus on that one even though there’s another one equally exciting in two months. I’d focus in reading about budgets, accommodations, or other tips - one aspect at a time. In that way, I won’t be so scatterbrained and I could make a better decision. The leftover time is spent on reading more travel articles.
Spend: Spend time consciously. Avoid “time-fillers”.
When I started working in an audit firm, I would welcome overtime with all my heart because it allowed me to earn more (if it is chargeable). Working during overtime also allowed me to hang out with some of my colleagues which was fun. Eventually, I realized that work was letting me earn but it kept me too busy to pursue other things. Although I was able to supplement my meager pay with OT pay and I was having fun, I really didn’t have the time to even really sit down and THINK what I’d like to do with my money..and time.
Similar with spending money consciously, I learned how to spend time consciously. There was a phase where I’d drag a friend to the movies during the weekends. I had to watch a movie every week! I spend money on my ticket plus the food plus the unplanned shopping that came along with hanging out in the mall. After coming home from a three-week overseas trip, I didn’t feel the urge to watch any movie. I came to realize that those movie trips were just “time-fillers” during weekends. I had the time to burn and an easy time-filler would be trip to the mall. Do you really need to buy a lot of DVDs and watch them endlessly? Is that really your passion? Or is that just a time-filler?
Nowadays, I feel my time is wisely spent on work, fitness, travel research and blogging. I’ve become more conscious on how I’d like to spend it rather than filling it with a lot of "things to do" but I'm not really interested in them. I do less, but I consciously feel the time spent in those things - instead of mindlessly filling my days with activities just to pass time.
Most of my expenses nowadays are planned or budgeted with limits. Some would say it is so boring to have everything planned out. There’s nothing boring when you spend your hard-earned money on something that you’ve been aching to do for a long time. There’s this feeling of accomplishment every time I’d cross out another destination in my bucket list.It is painful to budget and plan, but it pays.
Sounds so simple right? Just manage your time and money and you can travel! Easier said than done. I've realized these aspects slooowly and I still struggle managing both from time to time. It is about managing what we have, so that we can do the things that we want.
Kung gusto mo, maraming paraan. Kung ayaw mo, maraming dahilan.