A Financial Independence Guide for Travelers

If you’ve noticed our blog, we post a lot about travel and also a bit about financial independence. Why? Well, since we love to travel a lot, we decided to make it our goal once we are FI: full time travel. You know, like what Go Curry Cracker managed to do, only our home base will be 3 countries: USA, Philippines, and Slovakia.

So, how do you become FI if you’re not really as minimalist nor very Mustachian? How do you become FI if you feel as if you are spending so much money on travel compared to your peers that are on the same path as you? You may feel guilty because of your current lifestyle. Here are some ideas, based on our own experiences.

For the record, note that we both have full time jobs and are lucky enough to have 22 vacation days a year from our employer, but these are some of the things we do in order to become FI, without giving up our travels.

1. Save on everything else

Take a closer look at your passions and see what you can whittle out. If you have multiple passions and hobbies, then you can isolate that to the top three that you like (if you have a partner, you can do the top four so it’s evenly spread out). Remember that travel is one of those hobbies that is quite expensive, but if it gives you the experience, adventure, and the relaxation you crave after working, then yes, it can be a great way to spend your money on. Is it a reward to yourself by working a lot? (Caveat: don’t reward yourself too often, maybe just once a month or so) Then go for it. Is your hobby a push for you to help increase your income? Then go for it.

Do your hobbies cost a lot of money? If your hobby involves shopping, then forget about it, that is not a good enough hobby. Unless it means shopping for supplies that you’ll need for your hobby to make more income, then that’s a different story.

Can you find a way to lower other aspects of your spending? Can you cut your cable, lower your mobile phone bill, your grocery bill? Basically you’ll need to go through what you spend on line by line and trying to “cut the fat” – cutting what you don’t need in order to save more money for investing and travel. You give up a little bit of luxury to make way for something else (travel is another luxury).

Plenty of other finance blogs speak about frugality, so you can pick up more ideas from them. We’re not particularly frugal on all aspects of our lives (our hobbies are something that other FI bloggers don’t really spend on or they choose to defer), so we are a bit different in that aspect.

Yurt in Talkeetna, Alaska
Night in nature – sort of

2. Utilize the sharing economy

If you’re a traveler who wants to be FI quicker, then you should utilize the sharing economy: they’re going to be your friends. Have a spare room in your house? AirBnB it – that will give you additional funds that you can use for your travels. Need a room to stay in when you’re traveling? Look through AirBnB too! Not only are AirBnB rooms half the price of a hotel room at times, but you get to connect with your host too if you booked a shared room.

Utilize Uber/Lyft or any of the if you’re traveling in a group. The price of Uber is less than the cost of a taxi, and it can be cheaper than public transportation if there’s more than 3 of you sharing the cost of the ride. It may also be less of a hassle if you have a lot of luggage that you’ll need to lug around from the airport!

If you’re at home and hosting, this also gives you a chance to meet fellow travelers. Same for Uber – if you’re an Uber driver, you get to meet fellow people if you’re chatty and friendly enough.

Have a spare car? Rent it out on Turo. Have space in your garage and live in a high traffic area with not much space to park in? Rent out parking spaces to your neighbors. Not only will it give you more pennies on your pocket to spend on travel and invest for FI, but it will give you less stress on your spending.

You can pretty much earn a bit of money just by sharing some of the things you already have and have extras. You’ll just need to be more open with the idea and trade either a bit of your comfort or your time for a bit of cash.

Faulkner's House in Rowan's Oak, Oxford, Mississippi
How We Can Afford Travels

3. Accept that your road to FI may be slower than most people’s

If you’re a hardcore traveler, you just can’t stop traveling. Well, you can, as in the case of one friend, but you can’t just quit doing what you love cold turkey. So what do you do in this scenario? Well, there’s two things:

  1. Lessen your travels.
  2. Accept that your road to FI may be longer than most people’s – mainly because while other people’s savings rates are up to 75%, yours may not be, and that’s okay.

Remember that the road to FI can be reached eventually – and it’s not a race. You can turn out to be the tortoise, walking along at your own pace, going on detours, and eventually getting there. Nobody cares if you reach FI after 20+ years because you traveled a lot on your way there. What matters is that you did get there, and that you are aware of your goals on getting there!

Kudos to you if you can manage the 75% savings rate while traveling a lot – that probably means you found a way to earn more and save more at the same time! We’re not experts on that subject yet, but we are averaging at around a 50% savings rate.

We have therefore accepted that while most people who go down the traditional FI path can be FI in 10 years or less, we’ll get there in around 15 years (we’re on track to be there in around 10-12 years). You know what? That’s perfectly fine for us. As long as we spend on things that give us great joy (like travel, gaming and entertainment), then we don’t mind the trade-off.

Montego Bay Under 520 USD
Montego Bay Under 520 USD

4. Travel Hack

Travel Hacking does not mean literally hacking into airlines and hotels databases and nabbing a free room for you. No. Travel hacking means using credit cards and airline points and miles to make your top travel expenses a bit cheaper. It also means buying gift cards at a discount that you’ll end up using on your trips (ie AirBnB GC deals).

You can read more articles about our travel hacking here. But in a nutshell, it is:

  1.  You sign up for credit cards with big sign up bonuses (after $x spend)
  2. Repeat said process every 3 months (signing up for different cards, of course)
  3.  Use the points you have banked for hotels or airlines.

Note that a point is equivalent to a certain amount (ie 1 point = 2 cents), so certain times you’ll end up comparing the points value to an actual cash value when deciding to pay in cash or use points.

5. Utilize travel deals to your favor

As you read through various blogs looking for things to do, you can also scour the internet looking for ‘free’ things rather than paid stuff. You can also look for coupons online to save on entrance fees and the like.

In our case, we have AAA membership. This gives us an extra 10% or more off on certain entrance fees, as well as hotel perks like free cancellation until x days before arrival. You pay a yearly fee for AAA but it does help cover you if you need assistance on the road, and for cheaper stuff you’ll need on your travels.

We also use Groupon a lot whenever we travel – not only can you save more on attractions, you can save on food and dining as well.

Our best travel deal? Utilizing airfare deals! Certain times, airlines have crazy fares that make airfare cheaper than usual. Take our Ireland trip, we paid $380 roundtrip from New York. Or Manila, we paid $285 one year by routing through Abu Dhabi, and $514 the next by flying through Japan.

We also get domestic deals by flying ultra low cost carriers. We flew to Asheville, Richmond, Memphis, Philadelphia, Dallas, and Chicago using Frontier/Spirit or Allegiant. They weren’t bad, we normally pay less than $100 for airfare, maximum of $150! That’s more than half the price if you booked through legacy carriers.

These are some samples of deals we utilize, there’s plenty more out there if you do a bit of digging and research (we don’t have enough time and space to type them all out in a blog post).

6. Disciplined savings

Lastly, to realize your financial independence dreams without saying goodbye to your wanderlust, you should have disciplined/automatic savings. Another example: we automatically put in the maximum to our 401(k) and HSA. We don’t touch that money, it just goes to our accounts.

We also save a certain % of our pay checks that go straight in a separate savings account. That money will be used for real estate or mutual fund investments.

If you make everything automatic savings-wise,  you won’t even get to see or touch that money and you make do with what you have coming in your checking account. Isn’t that a great way for forced savings?

We don’t claim to be FI Experts

These are just the steps we’re trying to take trying to become FI without giving up our traveling. If you read some blogs, they might say stop traveling and concentrate on your saving, but we can’t… and this was meant to be an answer for those people who don’t want to give it up.

Hopefully it helped you reach your FI goals. Our eventual goal will be to travel full time when we reach FI, but we are not going to stop traveling altogether – we are still exploring yearly! We are giving up a few years of working a bit more to travel more, and you know what? It’s perfectly fine for us. We are happy with our current paychecks, and the fact that we have the freedom to explore a grand total of four months a year (if you include the weekends, holidays and our vacation days). Not so shabby now if we only work a grand total of eight months a year, is it?

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  1. Mao

    Great post! I believe that there should be a balance between pursuing FI and your passions such as traveling. Something I work so hard that I forgot to have fun. I would be okay to delay FI for 5 years rather than living miserably.

    1. Post
      Ruby Escalona

      Agree! We don’t like to be miserly too. We deserve some fun here and there. Our next post (coming out tomorrow) focuses on people who are foodies who want to be FI (my husband is one, so he wrote the article)

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