People always ask us how we can afford to travel this much, and we try to make it as transparent as possible by posting our travel expenses on this blog. However, what they really don’t know is HOW we can afford to spend all that money on travel. Living in the USA, I’ve realized that it is a land of opportunity, and also a land of many temptations. In this country, the opportunities are endless: from travel hacking, mistake fares, and other ways to make extra cash and get discounted deals, we truly are spoiled for choice. However, despite the vast richness of the country, I keep hearing people say that they can’t afford so-and-so even though they can, which led me to think: Why? Why do people always say that dreaded phrase: “I can’t afford it” even though they live in a land of possibilities and opportunities? Which brings us back to the question we get quite a lot from people:
How do you fund and afford your travels?
Our short answer? No, we didn’t win the lottery, and no, our parents are not funding us. No, we’re not earning over $100,000. No, we don’t have a multi-million dollar business. No, we don’t get free trips from a sponsor or a tourist board. We’ll be glad if this blog finally makes a few hundred dollars or we get free trips!
The long answer? Well, read on.
We aim to keep our travel expenses low by utilizing the following methods:
- Low Cost Carriers – When I first moved to the US, I didn’t know there were low cost carriers, for me, coming from a third world country, everything seemed expensive. I got used to the Asian and European low cost carriers that on a great day would have roundtrip fares for as low as $50 roundtrip. However, I opened up a Pandora’s Box when I discovered Allegiant Air, Spirit, and Frontier. These are ultra low cost carriers that also have great airfare from $100 or below, roundtrip including a checked bag. That helps us to justify flying out on weekend trips on a whim, like our Dallas and Memphis trips (as well as our future Richmond and Chicago trips).
- Travel Hacking – Despite the name, we don’t hack websites just to travel. Instead, we utilize airline miles, hotel points, cash back and gift cards from various credit cards in order to travel more. This enables us to travel internationally for very little out of pocket. This will explain how we managed to fly to Cancun, Mexico in February 2015, Germany, Austria & Slovakia in April 2015, as well as Montego Bay in February 2016, and another Europe trip in 2016, and that’s not the end of it! We have more trips lined up which you can read about here on our blog, where we you’ll see our expenses, our planning phase, and trip reviews.
- Bringing a water bottle, snacks & food with us – We don’t do it all the time, but by bringing around 4 sandwiches for a domestic trip, we end up saving on lunch and a dinner, around $20! We also bring our own water bottle whenever we travel so we don’t have to buy pricey purified water. We refill our water from various water fountains (from hotels, airports, malls, attractions, you name it) – which helps save us a few extra dollars and helps save the planet too! This also helps us avoid paying for sodas and other drinks when we are thirsty.
How we fund and afford our travels:
And now the fun part: how we fund our travels. Like most people, we have a 9-6 job that provides us steady income every month. That keeps us busy for most of the day and also helps to pay our day to day bills in order to survive: you know, the basics like food, water, clothing, shelter, and also the other luxuries we enjoy in between (travel, obviously, as well as books and other entertainment, shopping or dining expenses).
We do something differently than most people though:
- We avoid lifestyle inflation – Lifestyle inflation is when you get a raise and start spending more because you have a bit more. This involves upgrading your home, your room, your apartment complex, your engagement ring, and start splurging more on clothes, shoes, bags, and other non-basic things. We still live like we are earning our first base salary 2 years ago, when we started living together. We live in a 1248 square foot home and share one car. We like our lifestyle as it is, so why upgrade our home to a bigger one only to fill it up with more stuff? Why get another car that will cost us more in insurance, maintenance and gas every month? So what do we do with that extra money? We save and invest a part of it for retirement, or invest in a business, or use it for travel.
- We find other ways to save money– We are deal chasers, first of all. If I see a deal that involves us getting toothpaste for $1, we go to the drugstore and do it. We coupon too, but not to the extent that we’ll check every single newspaper in the hope that we’ll get a few dollars off. We just coupon using online coupons and utilize shopping portals (for more points of course). My favorite day of the year is actually Black Friday. When people are queuing up for televisions and other crap at Walmart or Best Buy, we actually head on to the drugstores to stock up on things we’ll need for the cost of taxes. Nothing wrong with that!
- We research a lot– We spend a lot of time trying to research how much it will cost to get to a certain city before we actually travel. If there is a huge airfare sale, we try to do the research within an hour or less. We’ve gotten too honed on the art of travel that we already know how much we want to spend on an international or a domestic trip. We book early and keep checking for price cuts. If there is a price cut, we cancel & rebook. That way we get to know if we are paying lower than the median price. We also look for Groupons or other opportunities where we can get free stuff in the area (points hotels, etc)
- We earn money on the side – Between freelance writing and renting out our spare bedroom on AirBnB, we try to earn a bit of money on the side to help pay extra for our mortgage and for our travels. AirBnB is great – you not only utilize extra space you have in your house, you get to earn from it too, and all it takes is a few hours of commitment on your part, paying attention to details, cleaning, and generally making your guest feel happy and comfortable. It’s a lesson in hospitality, and something we are learning a lot about. Earning extra money aside from our normal paycheck is what makes us closer to our goal: financial independence & of course, more and more travels! Earning extra cash is always a great thing: if you end up losing your day job, you’ll have something to fall back on. This extra money also enables us to keep this website running, even though we don’t have much coming in terms of monetization or exposure yet. Extra cash is always helpful if you want to start your own business, even if you have a full time job.
- We make travel our number one goal – If you have a goal, you tend to stick with it. And that’s why we don’t say “we can’t afford to travel.” Even in expensive places like Antarctica, which is part of our travel bucket list, we think we can afford it. How? By allocating a certain percentage of our side income money to the cause. It may take a while before we reach our goal, but we will eventually reach it, and that’s the kind of thinking you’ll need to do.
And there you have it, a long post on how we afford and fund our travels. If you have any other questions, feel free to write us a comment below or email us. We’ll be glad to expound more on certain topics that you want us to focus on. Stop saying you can’t afford to travel when you really can (ie after family commitments, and all your bad debts, and living expenses have been paid off) – start saying you can travel and make it all happen!