I have not worked in six months. I have traveled across multiple parts of the USA and am planning to circumnavigate the entire globe in the coming six months.
For the past few years I had been planning and saving to execute this trip. My case is an exception because I did things that not everyone will have a chance to. For instance to pad my savings and restrict my costs I sold a house and have no current rent or mortgage fees. I own very little and do not own a cell phone plan. The sale of the house propelled me into this lifestyle but I also adopted budgets, savings, and a healthy financial attitude before I did any of this. My hope is to share what knowledge I have so that maybe you will feel inspired to chase after your shadows.
Before I decided that I wanted to travel full time for a year I was a reckless spender. I would convince myself to buy all kinds of things I did not need. At one point this included a flashy BMW sports car, countless video games, movies, coffee shop stops, eating out and of course my alcohol, cigarettes, and costly lifestyle habits. I would not watch too closely what I bought at the grocer and had no budget strategy. I also drank and smoked often which were huge deficits to my income. I was fortunate to hold a job that could support all these habits but because of my spending I was always in debt and never making any headway.
I decided I wanted to travel. I wanted to travel long and far and I did not want it to be for a few weeks. I wanted it to be for years. I began to read travel blogs and books and watch movies about people who had done similar things. I developed a dream and a plan to obtain that dream. During the years I decided I wanted to travel like this I had already quit drinking and partying and this was already saving me a decent amount of money every month. I put those dollars against my debt.
After visiting financial planners and other advisors a plan about saving money really began to take shape. I had found a way that I could, within a year, be debt free and start actual savings. My plan was pretty aggressive and during the year that I implemented it I moved in and out of being disciplined. Doing this massive adjustment really taught me a few things.
One thing it taught me was that I really did not need much of anything besides shelter, food, and community. I really want to stress that last one, community, because without that I would have never been able to pull off my plans. When I say community I mean family, friends, therapy, group sessions and of course my favorite, Alcoholics Anonymous. I will not venture here to upsell AA much. I’ve done that in the past and I’m usually met with scorn. AA was there for me and worked for me for a time. It helped me get on the ground. It was part of the whole process so now I have mentioned it here.
Having a community and knowing people who can connect on a deeper level are probably the greatest gift of life. It is difficult to do but when communicating with someone in a deep way it can enrich the soul and provide energy to do anything. The lonely of us live in fear, desperation and weakness. With a community who supports our goals we are very likely to achieve them.
Not everyone is social but most people crave intimacy. I’m not the most intimate person and I have a hard time communicating. My inability to properly communicate has hurt myself and others in the past and will likely continue to do so as I learn how to handle life. But community, like I have alluded to, has saved me thousands of dollars and motivated me to follow my dreams and stick to it.
My dream was to quit my job, be free, and travel the world. I pulled it off and it is still a work in progress. To do so I had to adopt a strict budget. I will talk about that and what I’ve learned during the process. If you have a long term goal that requires financing that may seem out of reach to you than this post may help you get motivated.
Step 1 - Find your community!
Step 2 - Quit drinking / doing drugs
If you can, instead of quitting, cut back and produce good financial results please tell me how you have done so. For me I had to quit completely or it was game over. I have been drinking again now that I am on the road. I try to keep it to a minimum but even doing that it has been a huge strain on my budget. It is something that always can be corrected and will have the benefit of putting more dollars in my pocket.
To me dollars = time. The most valuable thing I can buy is time and that is why I have decided to take a year off to myself.
When I quit drinking (during rehab) I was sober for almost two years. Before that I was spending nearly $1000+ a month on drinking and related purchases. I include smokes, bar tabs, food I would not have otherwise ate, and any shenanigans resulting from drinking.
$1000 dollars a month can really add up quick. I realize this number will not be as big for everyone but it will also be bigger for some. At the time I was doing that I was head deep in acute addiction. My debts where growing and I was losing control.
Even if you spending ⅓ of that a month (or even ⅕!) these dollars can really be put to work to help you achieve your financial goals.
Tip : If you invested even $250 dollars a month in a TSX or similar index fund for a few years you could increase those investments by 5 - 10% assuming the TSX returned average numbers. In two years you would have contributed $6000 and possibly seen a return of $522 (avg return of TSX in past five years has been 8.7%
Please correct me if I am wrong. My knowledge of the market is very limited as it is something I am only just beginning to understand. There is great potential for determined investors to put their dollars to work. I am interested in cost efficient, easy to handle, long term investments and plan to post more about that in the future - stay tuned!
Step 2 - Quit smoking
Everyone has a reason they can not quit smoking and everyone has a twin somewhere who had the same reason and also ended up quitting.
Your situation is unique and can only be figured out by you. Finances motivate me because with realistic financial goals work independence is possible.
I have a friend who said they spend $400 in smoking every two weeks! That is $1600 a month and that is serious money.
Another friend told me they spend 48$ every four days (this was a couple) averaging out to nearly $400 a month. Let's go with this latter example because I still find it hard to believe the first one.
$400 dollars a month….. Check this out… With a dividend reinvestment portfolio (a little more complicated that an index fund but also a little more fun) you could grow that $400 a month to be worth approximately $27,000 in five years. That amount is adjusted after inflation. After the five year plan you would be making an annual income of $1,050 on dividends alone. Now of course you could reinvest those dividends and grow your savings massively over the course of ten years but more on that later. I just want to be clear how powerful savings can be.
I had a friend go over the numbers I used to create these examples. Neither of us are professional investors but we both do have experience in the markets. He told me that saving and investing $400 a month is a little unrealistic for most people. I do agree with him but I kept my primary example with savings of $400 a month because I really believe it is possible for the motivated person who is making a decent income. That is how I got to where I am today. The difference is I had to stop contributing to my savings because I quit my job to travel the world for a year!
Most advisors would agree that saving and investing 10% of your income is a good place to start but that people should aim to save 20% in order to retire comfortably. If you wanted to save $400 a month with this example you would need to make $4000 a month. Most people do not make this amount so I have also included an example with $200 a month which still shows very impressive numbers. I also used a slightly higher inflation rate than historic example and used Canadian Utilities (CU.TO) as my stock to determine a number for average growth rate. I rounded the return down to show that even with a lower than expected return it is possible to earn impressive numbers.
$200 a month example
Step 3 : Create a budget
Oh budgets! Budgets! Where art thou budgets!!
I love budgets so much that I’ve decided to create a separate post for them which will hopefully come live in a week or two. I will say this when it comes to creating a budget though….
Before you create the budget track your spendings for a few months. Spend normally and be honest. The best way to stop your money from disappearing is to measure where it is going!
A lot of people who do not smoke or drink may not relate to steps 1 and 2 of this article which unfortunately omits 66% of the information here. I think the principles and themes that I exaggerate in steps one and two can be applied to most people's lives if they replace the examples with other costly habits.
The point is that with motivation and a disciplined budget there are many opportunities to grow your wealth and obtain your dreams. I am just drawing off my own experiences and probably am ultimately writing this article to myself!
As always, this is a work in progress!
Did you find the information relevant? Do you have any money saving tips you would like to share? Do you see false information and want to correct me? If so please subscribe and comment below.
We have many exciting things coming to this site in the future such as travel hacks, budget guides, and motivational articles to keep ourselves inspired and growing towards the sun.