A few months ago, I announced a new case study program, in which I would work with a cross-section of readers and help them plan and execute their trips, walking them through all the stages of travel planning and creating a roadmap toward their dream. And I said that along the way, I’d share their stories as way to inspire and help you plan your own trip.
Four months ago, I introduced you to the case study participants, and now it’s time to update you on their progress! I’m excited to share their stories with you.
Jianne is a 27-year-old office worker from Manila striving to take a two-week vacation next year. Living in the Philippines, she has no access to travel hacking but does have a plethora of visa restrictions and a weak currency. And since her family won’t let her list her apartment on Airbnb, we had to get creative.
But the first step was getting Jianne to change her mindset, since she’s a bit of a spender. She likes to shop! My first goal was to get her on a budget and change her spending behavior. We needed to get her to only spend on her needs and reinforce the idea that any extra spending delayed her trip.
You can’t know what to cut if you don’t know where the money is going, so I got Jianne to track all her expenses so we could see where the low-hanging fruit was. Immediately, we cut back on movies, eating out, taxi rides, and her shopping. Jianne had never tracked her expenses, so right away we saw there were also a lot of little things she could trim back without changing her lifestyle.
In the beginning, Jianne started off strong, but in the last couple of months she stumbled. She stopped tracking her expenses, went out a bit more, and overall, fell off the wagon. But perfection is not the goal, and she realized her mistakes. Now, she’s recommitted and has since started working harder at tracking and cutting her expenses. To put it in her words:
For the past months, we’ve been tracking and trying to cut down my expenses. At first, it sounded easy but when I started doing it, it was harder than I imagined. It’s been helpful targeting my unnecessary expenses – not only for the trip but as a personal habit as well. I realized that you need determination and focus on what your priorities are when you’re trying to spend, even just for a snack.
Shifting how you view and spend money is a hard process. We’re undoing a lot of bad habits, and I expected some dips. But we’re back on the right track again. And that’s important to remember — it’s easy to create this new budget and think you’re going to change overnight — but you’re not. It takes time, and if you stumble, it’s better to step back, realize your mistake, and start fresh. Jianne may not be monetarily closer to her trip but she’s mentally a lot closer and I feel we’ve turned a corner.
Diane, a 59-year-old from Canada, is on a fixed income. She and her husband live in the countryside on their pension. There’s no way for her to increase her income or take lots of advantage of the sharing economy like Airbnb (and that’s not something they really want to do anyway).
Diane has dreamed of traveling for years but never really thought it was within her grasp. Like Jianne, Diane had to find a way to reduce expenses so she can save most of her limited income. She has a retirement savings account, but we want to avoid tapping into that as much as possible since that has to last many years to come!
Like with Jianne, we started tracking her expenses. She got a cheaper phone plan, stopped eating out, began planning her meals to avoid buying unneeded food, and stopped making unnecessary purchases from the dollar store. Moreover, since she is in Canada, we got her a TD Aeroplan card so she can start racking up miles toward a free flight to Australia next year. This is really important because, since she is on a fixed income, there’s only so much we can save but since we have a year until she goes away, that gives us plenty of time to get miles for free flights. Diane was leaving money on the table by paying for her expenses with a debit card.
Diane has been working really hard and has seen incredible results. She went from saving $20-50 CAD a month to saving over $500 CAD! She has learned to frame everything as “This takes away from my trip,” and her family has really been on board with her doing this.
Most importantly, she’s convinced her husband to cut back on his smoking. Not only is this phenomenal from a health point of view but financially it saves them a lot of money that can go toward her Australian dream trip. Once her husband realized how much he was spending on cigarettes and how much this meant to his wife, he cut back a lot.
Here are her own words on her progress:
For over 10 years, I’ve said that I want to go on a world trip, and thanks to Matt I can now say that it’s going to happen. He has helped guide me through the obstacles of thinking I don’t have enough time or money. He has shown me ways to cut unnecessary expenses that helped fund my trip and even live better when I return. My husband has cut down his smoking, I have my first rewards credit card, and finally feel I’m making progress towards my dream trip to Australia next year.
Given Diane’s fixed income, there’s not much we can do but cut expenses. We already saved $3,000 and, at the current rate, we’ll add another $5,000 to her bank account.
Jeremy has chosen to bow out of the case study program. I hope he gets to where he wants to go!
Sander and Jolien
This couple from Holland is in great shape. They are working until they go away, and they make more than enough money to afford their trip. They don’t really need my help on the financial side, though I’ve helped them get better at tracking their expenses (which they like doing), create a separate bank account for their savings, and work up an ideal budget for their trip. They are on track to leave in June with plenty of funds. Here’s them in their own words:
We have been working with Matt for over four months now. He helped us provide insights into our finances. This way we could decrease our expenses by cancelling unnecessary expenses like coffee to go at the train station or ice creams. Matt also gave us a great tip: grade all expenses you want to make. If you grade it a 7 or higher, you are allowed to buy it. Lower, you cannot. This is something we need to work on continually, because it is really easy to buy something on an impulse.
As I got them to shift into a more frugal mindset, we’ve reduced our calls to once-a-month check-ins, but starting in January, we’ll start looking into flights, gear, insurance, work visas, and everything else.
The Brandon family
Beside those updates above, today I’m introducing you to the Brandons, new members of the case study program. I wanted to enlist a family also to show that it’s not all about being young or traveling solo.
The Brandons are a middle-American couple from Indiana with two young sons. The husband, Michael, is retired and wife, Jennifer, is a teacher taking a year off to explore the world with her sons before her oldest enters high school.
Jennifer is doing most of the planning, so I’ll be working with her on how to save for four, get into travel hacking to earn points and miles, and deal with the booking and practical aspects of travel. They don’t have any debt outside their mortgage and save roughly $2,000 USD per month while having $10,000 already saved for the trip. As they want to spend extended time in Europe, they have a long way to go before they leave in September 2016!
I think they’ll be a good example for other families who, while maybe not planning a year away, can see how to afford a trip for four, cut their expenses, and use travel hacking tips to lower flight and accommodation costs!
So that’s everyone’s progress. The first real step toward successful world travel is getting your finances in order. That’s been the challenge over the last 3-4 months. But now that everyone is on the right track and saving money, we can move to the next phase and start planning the actual trip. That’s where the real fun begins!
Until the next update!