Today, I’m reminiscing. I’m reflecting on what we learned during the year leading up to our life redesign.We are now 299 days into our new life. That crucial year of planning led us to create a life of traveling long-term, living location-independent, and starting new careers. It was far from easy —but we shifted our priorities, we started new habits one step at a time. One of the steps was how to find money to fund our dreams. Those steps and more added up to big things and moving to a life we dreamed of.
We were overwhelmed and frustrated at times, however, we learned a hell of a lot. To change, you have to start somewhere.
There was one thing we wished we started doing earlier, much earlier on our own lives and in our marriage before we started traveling, something we could do in our own regular daily lives. It’s an obvious task, but many of us don’t do it.
There are points systems, coupons, contests, all things that can help you find money for things you want to do in life.
If you choose to prioritize it on what you want, you will find it in places you haven’t yet uncovered.
To do that, you must build a current financial picture of your life. A starting picture of today on how you spend your money so you can find money — an honest, no-excuses, no-nonsense monthly financial-spending picture.
This is such a basic tip, so why do many of us not do this?
Budgeting doesn’t have to be a daunting task, but can be done in small steps with simple tools.
When you have a great monthly financial picture template, like this one we used, the hard work of setting it up is done for you. This template will add up the additions and deductions automatically, and you can download a copy to review on your computer.
1) Fill in your income and expenses including all personal and household expenses each month.
2) Check your pay stubs, past utility bills, credit card statements, wherever you have this information. Even if you are not entirely sure — you can estimate, and update later with more information. An estimate is better than nothing at all.
3) Think about every expense — coffees, restaurant meals, haircuts, snacks, and gadgets. Estimate what you spend on these things each month. If they aren’t every month, account for it anyway
Be honest with yourself.
Get into the habit of tracking your expenses daily moving forward using an app is an easy habit to get started. Some great, easy-to-use apps include:
Trail Wallet (for tracking traveling expenses everyday)
Freshbooks : Freshbooks is the ultimate software for self-employed people. We use it to track our business and personal expenses directly from our bank accounts. It saves hours of time, tracking, recording and creating summaries for annual taxes. The link for Freshbooks allows you a free trial. We love it, and it’s no risk to you to give it a try.
1) Time and effort
We wish we took the time to start this process earlier. The earlier you do this, the more dollars you can divert to what you want in life.
2) That dirty word — debt
Well, guess what? If you divert funds to pay your debt every month, the faster you will get to pay for things you want. Every little bit helps and before you know it you have reduced your debt.
3) Eating out
We spent way too much money on eating out and we knew it, but we didn’t calculate how big this expense was.(close to $400USD/month) on restaurants and take-out. Sure we enjoyed it, but $400USD could easily pay for a flight and help realize our travel dreams. I don’t love cooking, but I do like having money to travel and forced myself to eat more at home. Gradually we cut down on the number of times out. If the motivation to go out was about socializing, we had friends over for a simple meal, tapas, or a potluck.
4) Reduce the daily escape coffee
Coffees at our favorite café or eating lunch out were nice escapes from a hectic day, but this was probably one of the most money-sucking costs that compounded without warning other than our dwindling bank account. A specialty coffee every day of the work week can add up to $1,200USD/year, with a brewed coffee coming in at around $500USD/year.
5) Negotiate better rates
Take the time to challenge your costs, the incremental dollars are worth it. We were spending a fortune on a phone, Internet, and cable — close to $420USD/month! (Note: These are costs from Canada, which are some of the highest in the world.) We also negotiated with our cable and cellphone provider for lower rates. Call your phone/cable or Internet services retention departments and mention you would like to switch, but ask what offers do they have to stay.
We called other providers to price out their rates and went for the best offer. We marked a date a year later in our calendar to call up our cable providers and negotiate a better rate again. We managed to save at least $200-250/month, which works out to $2,400USD/year.
Take the same approach and renegotiate better rates with your utilities, bank fees any services you can think of. For example, why do you pay Bank fees for a checkbook you rarely use? Overdraft or bank fees on services you never use? What about annual credit card fees that you don’t use all the card features? Make sure you’re only paying for what you use. You can even do this on your mortgage, by taking the time to shop around. Remember if you need services you can always change it.
6) Consider canceling services you don’t value as much as your dream
Entertainment is a difficult cost to reduce, but it’s not as hard as you think if your goals are to fund something more important in your life.
We started with our home phone service. We rarely used it and everyone called us on our cell phones, so we canceled it. We didn’t use our TV or cable in every room. In fact, we eventually removed all the TVs in our house and watched our favorite shows online. There are so many low-cost cell phone plans out there. Consider researching to see what a lower plan could look like without all the bells and whistles.
7) Watch for sneaky renewal charges
Any purchases you make online have the greatest chance of creeping up. For instance, I signed up for an online training program and forgot that it automatically renewed. In one case, it renewed at a higher amount without my knowledge. Track auto renewal deadlines in your calendar. A week before they expire, re-evaluate whether you need them or not. If you haven’t used it in the last 30days is it worth your hard-earned money? Often there is a good chance companies will come back with a better rate to keep you as a customer.
8) Selling your goods
This is a much larger topic, but have you considered selling the stuff you rarely use to pay off debt or find money to pay for experiences in life? If you forgot something collecting dust in your basement and haven’t used it in 30days, realistically these are items you can turn into cash. We took a more extensive approach and we sold everything we owned to travel full time, and live location independent. This may not be for you, but it’s an example of how dreams can be funded.
9) Other expenses that creep up…
a) Boredom shopping – Have you ever gone out on a Sunday afternoon to the mall out of boredom and returned with something you rarely use? Need I say more? We were big culprits of this experience.
b) Storage fees –Why not sell stuff you aren’t using, move it to a lower-cost location, or ask your family to store it? (or better yet sell it). Another place to find money that we often forget about.
c) Hairdresser – This is a big one! I found a cheaper hairdresser, switched and questioned the hair products I buy, and no I am even experimenting with take-home color (this is a big change for me) . I used to spend $200-$250 on my hair every visit, now I spend $30 every few months, this was the perfect place to find money.
d) Annual fees such as credit cards and gym memberships – Do you use the service enough to warrant renewing it? This is one of the best places to find money. A gym membership, this is barely used, can go towards the cost of a dream vacation.
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Dorene is a marketing consultant and freelance writer. She quit her 20-year career in marketing to redesign her career and lifestyle on her own terms by living location independent. Now with her husband Troy, she helps people who want to redefine their midlife and make conscious changes at TravelLifeX. She also trains & coaches travel and hospitality clients to improve their marketing at TravelLifeMedia.com