It can seem impossible at times, every time you manage to save up a little bit of money something pops up in life that means you have to use a chunk of it up. It can seem like a constant uphill struggle to meet your target. So what can you do to make sure money doesn’t stop you from achieving your dream.
Your first step is going to be working out how much you are going to need to save. This may include money for your campervan as well as money for the first six, ten or twelve months of your trip. Your budget is going to be a largely person affair, everyone is going to feel comfortable with a different amount. If your planning on hitting the road and looking to try your hand at different working experience and therefore earn some money straight from the off then your probably don’t need to save as much as someone who intends to just travel, at least for the first year or so. Even if you do intend to work straight away, make sure you plan in a little extra in case work doesn’t come along as quickly as you had hoped.
For some money isn’t going to be a problem. You may be at a point in life when you make the decision to move into your new home on wheels that you’ve paid off a big portion of your mortgage and by selling up, your be set for years to come. Or maybe you choose not to sell up but instead rent your home, guaranteeing you an income every month. But a lot of you reading this, like me, wont be in that position. Like I was you may be renting and the only money you have to call your own is the rather small amount in your bank account which no matter what you do never seems to grow. But fear not my friends, all is not lost.
First, I want to digress and tell you my story. Back in 2011, when I’d set my own intention to change the way I live, financially I was struggling. That in itself was one of the main reasons behind wanting a new direction in life. I couldn’t understand why, when working anywhere between 40-70 hours a week, I was left with next to nothing at the end of the month. It wasn’t as if I brought new clothes every week or went out every night to eat. I’d always enjoyed living a minimalist lifestyle and it was rare I splashed out on anything but necessities. The fact was, all of money seemed to go on just that, things deemed necessary. My rent, water bills, electric bills, gas bills, council tax and above all, trying to stay afloat of the debt I’d gotten myself into as a young man. It seemed I was working just to be able to survive and the thought of doing so for the next forty or fifty years in the same way scared the crap out of me.
When I did finally say enough was enough and started to look for my first campervan to move into I had a little over $100 in my bank account, I remember it well. Looking at the computer at the familiar screen displaying the details of my bank account it seemed impossible I’d ever get around to saving enough for a campervan, at least not this decade anyway. So I started to think about ways I could earn some extra money.
I sold everything from my bed and the TV to the kitchen bin and I pocketed just over £1500
I knew moving into a campervan was what i wanted to do, to go off and travel and I also knew in order to do so, I was also going to have to downsize quite a bit. Like I said, I’ve always been a rather minimalist person but homes have a way of accumulating and hiding away possessions. So I started going from room to room and working out what, from that particular room, I was going to need to take with me. It ended up as surprising little. I discovered bits and pieces I’d forgotten I owned, old equipment form sports I used to play or clothing I hadn’t worn in years. Within a day I’d turned my house upside down and the whole place resembled some kind of oversize jumble sale. Everything I decided to take with me fitted into an 80ltr rucksack, some clothes, my laptop, a small collection of pots and pans and two pairs of shoes were pretty much it. The following week I opened the door to my house, placed a sign outside that read: House Clearance, Everything Must Go!, and invited the world, or the people in my town anyway, to come buy my old life from me. I sold everything from my bed and the TV to the kitchen bin and I pocketed just over £1500 in three days.
Now, doing what I did does have its risks. By selling everything I was leaving myself with no way back in a sense. If my new life didn’t work out as I planned I had no house to return to and even if I did I had nothing to put in it. Id have to start all over again, which meant even more money! Some people may think it was crazy or even stupid but it did allow me to buy my first campervan and take another big step towards realising my dream. After all I had set the Intention to go. Not everyone may be comfortable with selling up everything but there are a lot more ways in which you can earn some extra money and tricks to ensure you keep hold of those savings.
Moving into a campervan from a house is, for most people, going to require a little downsizing. Maybe you wont be prepared to sell everything like I did, preferring to put some items in storage in a friends attic or basement but take a look around your home and see what items you can sell. Place ads on websites like Ebay or Gumtree or get a stall at your local car boot sale. Remember though, once its gone, its gone so maybe don’t sell those items that hold special importance even though you cant take them with you. A quick tip, and one that I’m sure most people will agree is fairly obvious. If your selling items like DVDs make sure first of all that the DVD inside is the right one and second that there is not a second DVD hiding inside. I realised far to late that the DVD footage of my skydive in Australia must of been tucked away inside one of the cases, never to be seen again. Bummer ay! I’ve written a separate piece about the art of downsizing that you can find in the article page.
Saving doesn’t mean you have to alienate yourself from everyone
REDUCE YOUR EXPENDITURES
Do you really need that high street chain coffee in the morning or can you make do with the instant one that’s been in the cupboard for last three months barely touched? Every time you part with money during your time of saving ask yourself one questions: Do I really need this? If the answer is yes ( for me, yes got to mean certain death if I didn’t buy it) then go ahead but if the answer is no or not really then walk out of the shop. Sure, its nice after a stressful day at work to pop into your local supermarket on the way home and treat yourself to a tasty looking dessert, you worked hard today after all. But how much more would it mean to you to spend that money sipping on a cocktail, feet dipped in the warm ocean on the Southern shores of Spain while you watch the sunset. Saying no to that treat will get you a little closer to making that a reality.
It can be a real test of your saving power when it comes to things like turning down nights out with friends. It may also put a strain on friendships if your constantly seeming as if you don’t wont to hang out with them anymore. Make sure they are aware of what your doing and why your doing it. Instead of going out, why not invite them over to yours instead. Sure, if everyone’s booked up at a restaurant then I doubt they will all drop their plans to come on over but keep the offer open for any night of the week. Saving doesn’t mean you have to alienate yourself from everyone.
Times such as Christmas or birthdays are hard ones when your counting the pennies. Most of us don’t wont to not get someone something at a time of celebration but it doesn’t have to cost the earth. Some friends and family members that are aware of what you are doing might be happy with not receiving anything, preferring you saved the money for your trip. But, if like me, you feel just plain bad not giving mum or dad a Christmas present then get creative. Make them something instead of buying it. I guarantee mum or dad will be just as happy if not more so with a present that has been made with your own hands instead of store bought. You could make a picture frame or write them letter. There are loads of websites out their showcasing beautiful hand made and most importantly, inexpensive gifts.
Take a look around your home, what are spending money on. Its great having cable TV isn’t it? (its been over five years since I watched TV but I think I remember it being good). But can you live with out it (hint – yes you can!). By ditching that expensive cable fee and instead reading up in books about some of your intended destinations or discovering stories of those who have done similar trips will fire your imagination and save you cash. Still paying that gym membership but its been so long since you’ve been that you’ve forgotten where the gym actually is? Get cancelling it my friend. What else around your home can you do without. Now I’m not suggesting you cut the power to your house and turn the heating off in winter, spending your nights sitting on the floor wrapped in a blanket reading but instead be realistic. I guarantee your find areas you can save.
Say No To The Car.
This may seem rather trivial at first but using your legs is going to save you some cash. Dreaming of living in a campervan is going to mean you have a drivers license (I would hope!) which probably means you have a car. How many times have you jumped in it to go round the corner to the shops because its raining? I know I did and my local shop was less than a ten minute walk. Instead, put that rain coat on and use your legs, that way your save fuel and extend the time it takes to fill up between tanks. In reality could you walk to work? For some its not going to be possible but for others, by getting up that little bit earlier, you could walk in. Or you could take it the extreme and sell the car if you really don’t need it and get a push bike. I biked to work for around six months which meant no fuel bill, no road tax, no insurance and no costly servicing. Thinking hard about it before you jump into your car can really start improving those savings.
Well that’s going to depend. Take a good hard look at yourself and your lifestyle and work out the ways in which you personally could cut back. Maybe you smoke but for years you have been telling yourself you should really give up. Now is the time to do it. It maybe hard but reminding yourself what your gaining by doing it, health for one and the fact your trying to save for a kick arse adventure, will make it easier. Start looking in second hand shops for items you would normally buy new, clothes etc. These places can be a gold mine when it comes to saving cash. Ignore any perceived stigma that comes with it you may get from friends, their not the ones about to embark on a new and amazing life.
When you take the time to analyse every aspect of your life then your be surprised how much you save. Everyone is going to take this to their own level, some will go to the extreme, maybe move back in with their parents whilst they save or go into hibernation in the run up to the trip to avoid any chance of spending money. Only you can place the bar where you want but the higher you do, the quicker your be on your way.
So you started saving and made all the cut backs you can but how can you be sure you stay on track with your saving goals and not dip into it. The biggest tip and one I always suggest is simple – open a savings account.
This sounds simple but its something I never did and now that I do, I regret not opening one sooner. Opening a savings account allows you to track all your savings carefully and see your progress. If you just keep your travel fund mixed in with your normal bank account it can be hard to see what is savings and what is money needed to live on now. Call it something fun like ” My Outta here fund”. My savings account now is called “Sod This – I’m Off”, it will give you another reminder as to what your doing and why. Most importantly, keep putting money in. If you did manage to say no to that treat that would of cost you $4.29 or whatever, then when you get home transfer that $4.29 into your savings. Your be surprised how quick it will grow.
Think very hard before you make a decision to take money out of it before your trips begins. For me, it would have to be a matter of life or death to touch my savings for something other than what it was intended for but for some, the temptation maybe too much. Lets take a quick example. A group of friends are off for a day trip to a theme park, all up with transport, park entry and food its going to cost you around $100. You’ve been to this park before but hey, it was great. In your normal bank account you don’t have the money to spend unless you forgo on upcoming bills. Your savings account is looking good, in fact your almost at your target and you got a few weeks to go before your off. Would you dip in and hope in the last few weeks your earn enough to make your target? For me, I probably wouldn’t. Sure, it sounds like a wicked day out, you love theme parks right? But how much better would it be spending that money on a theme park in Spain, one you’ve never been to full of rides you’ve never been on. Again its going to be a personal decision but what ever you decide, make sure you take the time to really think about it.
I know from personal experience that saving for that off date is hard work at times but don’t let it get you down. Remember why your doing it in the first place. Your off on an adventure like no other. Think back to that day you set the intention to travel and the reasons why you done it. Remind yourself by putting pictures up around your home of destinations you plan to visit or post-it notes full of encouraging words. Keep immersing yourself in your new world and before long that savings account is going to look pretty damn good.
Read Part 5 – Planning Your Trip