I am making my way across Europe, ogling at all the Christmas lights and eating all the delicious foods, as you’re reading this, follow the adventures here.
People often ask me how I “have so much money to spend on travels”. In reality, I really don’t. I don’t make a six-figure salary, my parents don’t pay for my travels and I am not a trust fund kid – such a thing does not exist in our culture.
Basically: I make travel my priority above anything else, which means that most of my (responsible) spending goes towards a flight or a trip somewhere. On top of traveling smartly, there are several things I do in my daily life that helps me increase the balance in my travel account.
A disclaimer: I am not a personal finance expert or anything like that. This is a very honest post on how I manage to travel responsibly on the income that I have now. Like everything else on this blog, what works for me may not work for you (which is totally fine because you and I likely have different priorities), so take what I’m about to say with a grain of salt.
That said, here are 10 things I do in my daily life that helps me increase the balance in my travel accounts:
1.I have a separate travel fund account
Some banks, like Tangerine, allow you to have multiple folders under one account number. I used this to my advantage and have a separate account to save for my travel funds. I also do automatic savings plan, so every time my paycheck comes in, a certain amount is put in directly to my RRSP, my travel funds, and my other saving basket.
I ONLY use the money I have in my travel funds to pay for all my travels and I don’t dip into my other savings accounts for it. This also means that I have to be smart and look for deals when I plan a trip. I almost never buy flights full price (always wait for a sale or a price drop!), I book hostels or AirBnBs (especially great for group travels) for accommodations, and I rarely pay for attractions (I’m not a big museum person and I’d much rather wander a city on my feet).
2. I bring lunch to work everyday
Unless I’m absolutely desperate (i.e. the fridge and freezer are both empty and we are running low on food in general), I always, always bring a lunch to work. It’s cost-effective and much healthier.
Brunch, the Indo way: Nasi Uduk Jakarta, consisting of white rice cooked with spices and coconut milk, bihun goreng (fried vermicelli), dadar jagung (fried corn fritters), omellete ribbons, tempeh bacem (stir fried tempeh), sprinkled with fried shallots and teri (anchovies), eaten with a dollop of sambal and a side of crunchy cukes. Props to all the chefs! 👏👏👏 #brunch #weekend #toronto #indonesianfood #foodstagram #indonesian
Think about it, a lunch these days costs at least $10, multiply that by 5 (if you buy everyday) and then multiply that by 52 for the year. That’s $2,600 of extra money per year that can be used for travels or can be saved for your retirement or investments.
3. I have a no-frills phone plan
My phone bill costs me no more than $25 per month. No, I don’t have data and no, I don’t miss it.
People (well, Jeff) are always so amazed at this, but honestly it’s not that bad. There’s plenty of free wifi throughout the city and I can easily pop in to a Starbucks/Mcdonalds/Tim Horton’s if I desperately need to connect to the internet (which is really never up to this point in my life).
Sure, it’s not as convenient as having everything on my fingertips, but I’m also not willing to pay $60/month for my phone bill. Savings: approx. $420 for the year.
4. I don’t have a car
I have a love-hate relationship with the TTC (our local transit system here in Toronto). It’s amazing on its best day but downright terrible when a delay occurs. I also can’t complain too much about it because for $124.50/month (I get my Metropass from work and they subsidize a portion of the cost), I get to ride the Rocket unlimited number of times, whenever I like, and wherever I need to go. I can even go all the way to the airport without paying any extra fees! It could be more affordable, but I’ll leave that for our city council to figure out.
My point is: I don’t have a car and thus I’m not burdened by insurance/gas/maintenance costs.
5. I don’t live downtown
Rental cost in downtown Toronto is pretty outrageous. I live in the outskirts of town, in Scarborough, where rental costs are much cheaper. I have to commute 1 hour and 15 minutes to work everyday and it is covered by my Metropass (see above).
I’ve learned how to effectively use the 2 hours and 30 minutes I have on the TTC each day. I pray (literally, I do my daily Rosary and Divine Mercy), I read (it’s the reason I get to read so many books every year), and I compose my blog posts when I’m commuting.
Speaking of books, I ALWAYS get them from the library. We have an amazing public library system here, why not take full advantage of it? I don’t buy books because I’ve always thought books are only space-filler (don’t kill me). I read them once and rarely touch them again, unless they are the Harry Potter series.
6. I (try to) only eat out in the weekends
On weekdays, I cook and eat dinner at home. Of course, some days this is just not possible, so then I take this opportunity to try a new restaurant in the city. I am conscious on how much I spend per meal though and I do try to find places that are affordable, which is very easy to do in Toronto.
7. We don’t have a TV
My brother and I have not watched TV in the past 10 years. I have Netflix and he downloads his movies/TV shows/what have you. Netflix costs $7.99/month, which is much less than paying a cable bill.
8. I don’t have a gym membership
I run outdoor whenever the weather is warm enough. My general rule of thumb is to always run as long as it doesn’t hit below -10°C in the winter and the windchill is not outrageous (like -30°C or something ridiculous like that). We’ll see how we fare this year. I hear it’s going to be a tough winter. In the cases where I can’t run, I’ll probably do a free YouTube work out at home (think Blogilates or Fitness Blender).
9. I never buy things full price
From clothing to bedding to kitchen wares and yes, even flights, everything I own is bought at a sale price or is given to me from my family/relatives. I do make the occasional splurge on essential things, like a timeless cashmere sweater or a very good thermal tights, and I’ve learned that when it comes to things like these, quality prevails over quantity.
I haven’t quite gotten the hang of thrift-ing yet, but many of friends swear by it. One of these days, I just have to tag along with them and watch how they do it.
10. I live simply.
I am definitely no minimalist (have you seen my closet?) but I do try to live as simple as possible and buy things only when I can think of several different ways of using them. I try not to shop by impulse and I almost never buy things the first time I see them (flights are major exception here – always trust your gut and buy them!).
I usually look at things, think them over, and only buy when I still really want them the next day (this annoys the heck out of a lot of people and also the reason why I always shop on my own). Shopping impulses usually disappear after a day or two, so I know it’s a legitimate purchase if I still really want the item the next week.
Sometimes I lose control and buy things on Clearance without thinking too long about them. I’ve gotten into the habit of leaving the tag on and leaving my purchase in the bag for a couple of days or so before I take them out and try them again. Most of the time, I realize I don’t really need what I bought and would return the item(s) to the store. Most stores are pretty generous with their return policy even on clearance stuff.
A few other things:
- It’s important to note that I don’t have a consumer debt and I’ve paid off my OSAP (student loan) in the first 2 years after I graduated; for this I am very thankful.
- I use credit cards to pay for my purchases (hello points and rewards!), but I ALWAYS pay off the entire balance.
- Another trick I found is very effective with me is whenever I’m tempted, I think about how I can use the money for traveling instead. For example, if I want to buy a purse that costs me $200, I often think of it as “Damn, that’s a return flight down to Boston” or “that’s 4 days at a hostel in Europe”. It’s effective in curbing the desire to tap that card on the machine.
- If you know me at all, my form of entertainment comes in either: hosting a meal (lunch/brunch/dinner) at home or going out for fika (coffee and a pastry) in one of the many, many beautiful coffee shops in Toronto. Both these activities are low-cost and don’t require me to spend a ton of money.
My parents are both very hard workers and they taught me the value of money from a very young age. They’ve always stressed the importance of spending wisely and saving routinely. I’m also VERY lucky to have the support of the most important people in my life. It’s been a long road, but now I know to ignore the judgey-haters. After all, this is my life and I’m the one living it; I’m not doing anything wrong nor am I hurting anybody.
It may seem like I’m deprived of a lot of things in my life (No data plan AND no cable – seriously?), but I don’t miss anything. I am very thankful for everything I have and what I don’t have? They’re probably not essential to me or to my life.