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Travel Prep Part 1: Finances

In exactly one month I leave my job, and the next day I begin my journey of long-term travel, so this seems like as good of a time as any to share with all of you how I have been preparing for this upcoming adventure.

I have written a three-post series on long-term travel prep for Nomadapp.co. This is an updated version of my first post for their blog. NomadApp is a start-up company that is developing an amazing travel app. Learn more on their website and sign up for their beta program here!

Preparing for long-term travel is a daunting task. I am currently planning to backpack for at least one year through Colombia, Australia, Southeast Asia and Europe. I have a good job, I had a nice apartment, and I have family I love nearby, and next month I plan to leave everything behind to see the world. I began thinking about long-term travel in October 2015, and over Christmas I officially announced my plans to my extended family and started aggressively saving and planning.

Over the last ten months I have done as much as possible to earn extra money, sell all of my belongings, bought needed travel gear, and worked on planning my round-the-world (RTW) trip. Oh yeah, and I have a full time job in a management position in the disability services field!

As soon as I leave work on September 7, 2016 I am basically going to hit the ground running and start traveling full time. To get an idea of just how busy I will be, take a look at my September Calendar below:

September Calendar

You can click the link above to open the calendar PDF file if the picture is too small to read.

Preparing for extended travel is an overwhelming combination of anxiousness excitement & anticipation. I am completely changing my lifestyle, coping with being far away from my friends and family, and frequently questioning if I can really pull this off (I can!).

So how exactly am I preparing, you ask? There are many components of long-term travel prep; in this first post I will tell you how I have been saving and earning extra money to fund my travels. Be sure to stay tuned for more posts about my preparations in the near future!

Working Multiple Jobs

I am aggressively saving money. My goal is to have $20,000 by the time I leave, and I currently have saved about $15,00. I have sold almost all of my belongings, work as much as possible, and bring in extra cash in any way I can.

At my job, I am able to earn a monthly $200 bonus for completing a set of tasks with zero mistakes (i.e. if I forget to do one thing I do not earn the bonus). I have made these tasks a number one priority and put the entire $200 into savings as soon as I get paid.

I also starting doing internal assessments, for which I earn a $300 bonus each. I have completed three so far, and am signed up for four more, totaling $2,250 with the $150 training bonus, before taxes.

I have a part-time evening and weekend job at which I get paid $10/hr. I work anywhere from 5-20 hours per week, and the best part is I can basically set my own schedule.

I became an Uber driver in March and average about $20/hr. Since Uber does not withhold taxes I transfer 20% to my “regular” savings account and 80% to my “adventure fund” savings account. Because I live in a college town and I have been so busy selling my belongings over the summer, I have not driven since May, but I made a little over $500 during the two months I was actively driving. Now that I have moved out of my apartment and students are beginning to come back into town I do plan on driving again before leaving Lawrence, KS in early September.

Side Gigs & Other Money-Making Endeavors

Another great way I have earned extra money is through AirBnb. I rented my apartment out less than 15 nights in the calendar year, so I don’t have to claim my earnings as income on my taxes. Because of this I transferred 100% of the money into savings; I earned $813 in 14 nights.  (Fun Fact–I met Kelli from the NomadApp team when she stayed at my apartment through Airbnb!).

Another fun way of earning an extra few bucks here and there is with the app Field Agent. It is a secret shopper’s app that lets you earn typically $2-$8 per job. Jobs are not always available, but I check every day and do them whenever I can. They usually entail taking a few pictures and answering a few questions about a product or display in-store. It’s no get-rich-quick scheme, but if you check regularly and complete as many jobs as possible, it can really add up; I have earned $128 which has been safely transferred into my PayPal account (with zero fees!).

I also use a website called InboxDollars. I have earned just shy of $100 total in the last eight months by confirming paid emails (I set up a separate junk mail account so my real inbox isn’t flooded), doing surveys, and completing “cash offers.” Again, not a get-rich-quick type of thing, but it does add up.

At the end of March I signed up for Digit, which tracks your checking account balance and automatically transfers money into an FDIC-insured Digit savings account based on your spending habits. Their tagline is “Save money, without really thinking about it.™” I haven’t even noticed because they just take a little here and there, and I have saved over $250 in about four months.

Digit has no fees and you can transfer the money to your bank any time. You can control how aggressively Digit is saving, pause savings, transfer money back to your bank account, and view your Digit balance via text message. You can also log in online to view more details about your account.

Selling Everything I Own

Yes you read that right, I am selling everything I own. Actually, at at this time I have already sold almost all of my belongings. Besides a few sentimental and family heirloom items, and the stuff I’m taking with me, it’s all got to go. I have made over $2,500 selling stuff and I still have some things to get rid of, including my car.

I mainly use Facebook to connect with buyers. I am in several buy, sell, trade groups where I post and bump posts daily, and I even have my own garage sale Facebook group. I typically have people pick up items at my home.

When I first started selling I would always meet in a public place. That got tiring, so I started giving people my address and building letter and would meet them outside. I was afraid of someone seeing my TV and coming back later to rob me. I now just give people my full address and have them come to the door most of the time. The travel community and sharing economy have taught me to believe in the good in others and follow my gut feelings about people.

The last several weeks I lived in my apartment I had actual moving sales for three weekends, making about $800 total. I just did a Google search of “garage sale ads” and found several sites to advertise my sale for free, as well as advertising on Craigslist and Facebook. I learned that another key factor to a successful sale is lots of signs pointing the way, and having everything at your sale well organized.

Other Financial Preparations

Another way I am preparing financially is with travel rewards credit cards. The first card I got is Bank of America’s BankAmericard Travel Rewards Signature Visa card. I get 1.5 points per dollar spent, there is no annual fee, and there are no foreign transaction fees. I received 20,000 bonus points for spending $1,000 in the first 90 days, which equals $200.

I also have the Capital One Venture One card. This card allows me to earn 1.25 miles per dollar spent, and also has no annual fee or foreign transaction fees. This is another card that lets you earn 20,000 bonus miles for spending $1,000 in the first 90 days. The miles on this card translate to dollars the same way points do on the Bank of America card.

I use these cards for almost everything in order to rack up as many points as possible and pay off the balance each month as to not incur interest charges. Points can be used for any travel-related expense, such as flights, hotels, attractions and more, and if you don’t have enough points to cover the entire cost of say, a flight, you can use the points you have to pay for a portion of it. I have already used travel rewards points to book a free trip to Washington, DC in September.

I have also opened a Charles Schwab Investor Checking Account because the debit card has no foreign transaction fees and you get reimbursed for 100% of all ATM and currency exchange fees. You just can’t beat that! This will be my primary checking account I use to withdraw cash during my travels.

I will keep my old Bank of America debit card (which I currently use) and one of the credit cards locked in my backpack at the hostel or wherever I am staying at all times. This way if my primary cards get lost or stolen I have backups and easy access to my money while get my other cards back in order. Bank of America and Charles Schwab also allow for transferring money between external accounts if necessary (for a fee).

Saving Money

Of course, with all the hard work I have put into earning extra money, I am saving that extra cash aggressively. Other ways I save are by not going out for food, drinks, or coffee, shopping sales at the grocery store, and putting any extra cash I have into savings.

Every time I want to hit up happy hour or Chipotle, I remind myself that that money could be much better spent traveling the world. You can read in more detail about my saving strategies here.

The above tips may not be for everyone, but this is what has been working for me. Take what you like and leave the rest. If you have any suggestions for other ways to earn or save extra money, tell me about it in the comments!