It’s All Fun and Games Until You Have To Save Some Money

SaveDreaming about travel, thinking of places you want to travel, making plans, and making the actual trip are fun. But, actually getting someplace takes money, often lots of money. And, unless you are independently wealthy, travel requires some saving. And saving is work. It’s fun work for some, but it’s still work, and takes determination and persistence.

Brett and I are not independently wealthy, to say the least.

We live on a not-very-big fixed income in one of the most expensive places in the country. We have children who either are or will be setting off to college soon.

But, travel is a priority for us and always has been, and we’ve always been able to find (sometimes creative) ways to save for travel without compromising other areas of our lives.

And that’s the secret really: We make saving for travel a priority.

This time around though we need to save a lot. Like $33,000 a lot in order to upfront fund at least three years of travel. We have the luxury of three years to put this much away, but to say it’s not going to be easy would be an understatement. There’s no inheritance coming, no extra property to sell, no extra stuff to sell (we did all of that before we moved here!). Brett and I could work, except any extra income we earn will potentially mess with the girls’ financial aid awards, so we would rather not get jobs if we don’t have to.

But, we have a plan:

  • Keep up with the not buying stuff. I can’t began to say how much we save by not spending. We used to be able to talk ourselves into buying just about anything. These days we’re even more skilled at talking ourselves out of buying just about anything. It’s actually fairly easy because we don’t seem to need much these days.
  • Keep saving our change and $1 bills. We had been saving change and $1 bills for our mystery trip next spring, but it looks like we won’t need to use those funds after all. So, we’ll keep saving toward our first trip in the fall of 2018. Our goal is to have a minimum of $2500 saved this way. We already have over $800, so we’re off to a good start.
  • Continue to save credit card rewards. The reward $$$ could be used toward plane ticket purchases, but for now we’re thinking more about getting a nice check from our credit card company one day and depositing it into our savings. Our goal for these savings is a minimum of $500 (obviously we don’t use our credit card very much). I know there are those who use their credit cards for everything in order to earn more rewards; we found we actually get more each month by using cash and putting away the change and $1 bills. We use the card for a couple of regular monthly bills, and put all big purchases on it (like airline tickets).
  • Keep earning Swagbucks. Earnings from Swagbucks this year will completely fund our Christmas presents for the girls and our grandson, and I should be able to earn enough Amazon credit by the time we travel next year to get myself a new camera. Although Swagbucks don’t provide direct cash, they free up money in our budget that can go directly into savings.
  • Dedicate my retirement savings account to travel. My retirement plan from Oregon includes, along with a monthly pension, a small individual savings account. It never accumulated very much while I was working, certainly not enough to retire on (it might last a whole couple of months if we had to live on it), so it will be rolled over into an IRA, collect interest for a few years, and then be withdrawn as needed for our travel. Thankfully we have enough in other retirement accounts to not have to worry about the loss of this small amount for retirement.
  • Other savings. The balance will be saved from our regular retirement income as well as all refunds, gifts and any other unexpected funds. Because we have no debt (other than my student loan), we have enough left over in the budget every month to save toward travel and costs, like the girls’ future travel to and from college. We are still setting aside funds right now for next spring’s trip, but after we reach that goal the savings will go for our future travel.

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.” – William Hutchinson Murray

Nearly five years ago, Brett and I faced nearly $66,000 worth of debt. With dedication and a lot of hard work we paid that off in four years, saved like mad, and were able to make our dream of retiring and moving to Hawai’i a reality. We are facing this next saving challenge with the same determination. We can do this!

6 thoughts on “It’s All Fun and Games Until You Have To Save Some Money

  1. After visiting you in January, I really took a look at my spending and how I could save more money. It’s easy enough for me, for the most part, as I have a good size investment account from my first husband’s life insurance. But, I’d rather not use too much of that, as I like the security of having it there. Jim has a lot to pay off still, and is finally working off a budget. But now we’re back up to three kids at home which means a major grocery bill as two are teenage boys. So I’ll have to look for adjustments here and there. Thankfully, two of the three college students are paying for their own schooling. The third is living on his own so he has more opportunity for student loans. And the last has plenty of time ~ and the grades! ~ for some good scholarships.


    1. We are still always looking for ways to cut back and save, but there isn’t too much left we can do here. There’s only so much you can save here on food because shopping options are limited (and our costs will go up when our oldest daughter is home during the Christmas holiday). Same for clothing. Everything else we have cut to the max and costs are fixed (like phones, insurance, etc.). We are going to give up our (cheap) basic cable after the final season of Downton Abbey next year. Costs will go down as the girls head out to college. They have always known they have to figure out how to pay for it on their own, so all are good students and so far it’s been paying off.


  2. $33,000 for 3 years of travel. That’s a tough call. I wish you the best of luck. It’s going to be interesting/inspiring to see you achieve your current goal. But as you said, there you all are in Hawaii, an impossible dream for most, but you made it come true!

    We spend about $5,000 a year on travel. Suits me just fine. I’m very curious to find out where in the world $33K will take you!

    Have fun. Good luck!


    1. The $33K amount is what we figure we will need to cover three years of our rent (which includes utilities) here while we are living/traveling elsewhere (3 months in Japan, and 2 months in another part of the world) and our airline tickets. That’s still only a little over $10K per year for five months of overseas living/travel for two people, which is actually pretty reasonable. Our regular income will be enough to cover our living expenses, including lodging, while we are away. When we’re not traveling and back here on Kaua’i we will continue to save, save, save. $33K might be too much, it might not be enough – we will find out. But, we believe it’s doable and we are on our way!

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  3. You are so goal oriented that I have a lot of confidence in you to achieve this. Plus what a payoff! It’s like a golden carrot hanging in front of you…..definitely “sexier” than 100% debt payoff. (I say that knowing how good it feels to go to bed at night with zero debt except for a mortgage!)

    Love the quote at the end…..may windfalls come your way!


    1. This is a big goal for us, and will a bit harder to achieve because we won’t have any extra income streams coming in, or things we can sell to add to our savings. But, I think it we stay dedicated and motivated that we can do this.

      That quote carried us through all three adoptions, and through paying off our debt and moving here to Kaua’i. It’s true – once you truly commit, all sorts of things come about to help you reach your goal.


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