We often confuse servers when we go out to a restaurant together for food or drinks. When it comes time to pay before leaving, over the last few years we have dumbfounded them with:
"Separate bills, please."
You can see the look of confusion on their face as they try to understand our situation.
Separate bills?! Did they have a bad date? Is he cheap? Are they not actually together? But, I thought I saw them holding hands when they walked in... HAS THE ROMANCE DIED?! (and so on, we imagine).
No, the romance hasn't "died" and no, it isn't because one of us is "cheap"! The reason is that at this point is our lives we have different debt we're trying to get rid of and different savings goals. We've learned about budgeting and saving, and have managed to conquer a LOT of #debt so that we can leave this September without a financial burden waiting for us when we return.
Do you need to be debt-free to do a trip like this? No, definitely not! Does it take strategy to save money and make a #budget? Yes, and we want to share some of those tips with you here.
Let's break this down from each of our perspectives.
Krystal: After Greg and I started dating, I had a vision of traveling within two years time but it was an important goal for me to be debt-free first. I had just finished university and had to pay my students loans back. Disclaimer: I'm HORRIBLE with numbers and I've never been great at planning ahead on how I want to use/spend my money. I was scared to look at how much I really owed and was in denial about how much #interest I was paying on my debt by only making minimum payments.
Greg: For me, budgeting didn't come naturally but rather out of necessity. Paying my own way through school, and knowing my family had limited resources to support me resulted in a rude awaking in my early 20's. For anyone who is confused or terrified of their budget (i.e. you refuse to check your bank statements after a night out), I highly suggest checking out the Wealthy Barber books by David Chilton. That's partially where I got the advice that helped me guide my money decisions and later, Krystal.
"You can't save and pay off debt with no fun at all, that has the same result as crash dieting."
Krystal: Greg was super patient with me and broke it down for me visually what I was making, my everyday expenses and how much debt I actually had. As soon as he was finished I started to cry. And they weren't "oh, wow I'm so happy that I have a money tree growing in my backyard" tears. They were "OH, CRAP THIS IS WAY WORSE THAN I THOUGHT" tears. Traveling within two years with my goal of being debt-free wasn't realistic. I was devastated.
Greg: I started by asking Krystal to write out all of her monthly expenses so that we could organize them into categories to see how her money was being spent. Once that was done, we compared it to her income and what her long-term goals were. The long and the short of it is this: you will never save for a trip like this if you don't plan. So, as heartbreaking as it was for Krystal, we made a realistic plan together and reduced anything we thought were luxury items. I assured her that it would take a year or two longer than she had originally hoped to travel, but that it would be worth it.
Um, so you didn't do ANYTHING fun for 3 years?
Don't get us wrong, we do spend money on fun things (you'll notice a few empty beer glasses in the the first photo)! We just allocate how much money we want to spend each month. That's where the "leisure" category comes into play. You can't save and pay off debt with no fun at all, that has the same result as crash dieting. So, we put a spending limit on leisure and try to focus on less expensive options like playing pick-up sports, or buying beer and inviting friends over instead of going out etc.
What tips do you have for someone who wants to seriously start saving?
Take out your leisure money as cash! It's helpful to actually see how much you have spent to make conscious decisions on what to you want to do next.
Make a budget that makes sense for you. Our budgets are totally different from each other (hence the cheesy photo of us paying our own bills). We have slightly different incomes and value different things, so it wouldn't make sense for us to have the same budget.
Buy items when they're on sale. Want something that isn't on sale? Take the time to research other places that might have it. It might seem silly or like "too much work" but you'd be shocked how much money you'd save just by taking a few moments to see what else is out there (that's how we bought most of our travel gear!).
Cut the fat. Assess how you currently spend money and see if there's anything you're willing to reduce while still giving you the same lifestyle. Do you buy 2 coffees every day? Perhaps reduce it to one, or buy a smaller size.
Ultimately, the first step is deciding what makes the most cents for you and your goals.
WARNING: Budgets will be different for everyone and, if you're comfortable with it, could potentially lead you to making others think the "romance" has died in your life (ha-ha).
- Greg & Krystal
P.S. If you want to try your own hand at making a budget, email us about our budget template!