Restocking the Travel Savings

Our travel savings account currently registers at $0.00. Every last penny is gone, although all of it was used just as intended: for travel. If we are ever going to travel again though we need to build it back up again and there’s no reason not to start now.

Before we began our Big Adventure in 2018, we were able to automatically save a nice amount in the travel account every month, with some transferred automatically right into savings and the rest from other sources. However, we are currently committed to helping YaYu graduate from college without debt, and we are putting away over a quarter of our income into savings each month toward that expense. If we’re lucky, the amount we save will cover the difference between her financial aid and what she owes. YaYu has always paid a big piece of that difference with scholarships and summer work, but there will be no job for her this summer, and the external scholarships have run out. Also, she was previously one of three, then two, in our family attending college, but for the next two years, she will be the only one and her aid will be less because of that. She has saved every refund she has received so far this year and received a notice that she will receive a couple of thousand dollars in additional grant aid next year, but what she will owe next year is a big unknown. The first bill will come due in July (along with news about whether the college plans to reopen in the fall, another big unknown), and once she gets that we will either be able to relax a bit or have to figure out how to tighten our belts a little more. She may have to borrow, but we hope to keep that amount, if it happens, as low as possible. 

As we have no idea what travel costs may look like in the future, we have no idea of what sort of savings goal to set for ourselves other than it will have to be very modest for the time being. Our goal is simply to try to save as much as we can. We want to have enough to get us to YaYu’s graduation in 2022, which will be a good start at seeing what we can accomplish.

Here’s what will be going into the account:

  • We will initially be transferring $25/month into our travel savings each month. It’s very little, but if we find we can afford a little more later we will increase the allotment.
  • We will again be saving all our change and $1 bills. We’re not using cash as much these days as we did in the past, so this won’t build up as fast as it used to.
  • All refunds from recycling will go toward travel.
  • All other refunds and rebates, like the annual rebate from our insurance, will also go for travel. We’re not expecting many of these though.
  • We receive a lump-sum payment each year from Meiling (and this year will from WenYu as well) for the cost of keeping them on our phone plan. It’s not a huge amount as our phone plan is very low cost but we will put these payments into our travel account.
  • If we can somehow ever come under our monthly budget for food, the difference will go into travel savings. Likewise for gasoline. Under current conditions, this is something else that’s unlikely to happen, but we’re going to try.
  • Any other miscellaneous money that comes our way will go straight into travel savings.

If we’ve learned anything from the past it’s that slowly but surely, even small amounts put away eventually add up to something bigger, and more quickly than one might imagine. And, YaYu will eventually graduate and what we currently put away for her can go toward travel once again.

We’ve done this before and we know we can do this again. We don’t know what the new rules for travel will be yet, but we do know it’s the right time for us to get started saving for it.


25 thoughts on “Restocking the Travel Savings

  1. It’s wonderful of you to help your daughters graduate without any debt.

    As to saving, as you say, little bits regularly add up and you don’t miss them.


    1. Both Brett and I hope that what we’ll be able to put away will be enough to pull YaYu over the finish line without any debt. We were very fortunate that all three of our other children received substantial scholarship awards as well as financial aid that allowed them to graduate without debt (our son had some debt but quickly paid it off). YaYu also receives two substantial scholarships/awards from her college, but it’s not enough to cover the entire course.

      Several years ago I realized that just as small subtractions drained our checking account quickly, so could small additions fill our savings account rather quickly. And you’re right, as long as the big stuff is taken care of, we don’t miss the little bits that we throw into savings.


      1. I am saving quite a bit with lock down. No gym and personal training fees. Less eating out – we had some take away meals from restaurants. Petrol is so much cheaper – half the price of before. And with less traffic, I am using less traffic.


      2. We are saving on some things too. We buy gas just once every couple of weeks, if that, and the price is very low for us too. We only go short distances now too – either down to Poipu to walk or to Koloa to the grocery store (less than 3 miles round trip for either). We only go once a month or so up to Lihue (where Costco, Home Depot, and Walmart are – the only three stores currently open on the island). Of course I am saving on haircuts too (LOL). All of our monthly expenses, other than food and gasoline, are fixed now, so that helps with saving as well.

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  2. Newish reader, but curious why “no job for college student this summer.” I know a lot of things are different because of the pandemic, but it seems there are many jobs really needing workers. At least there are, here in Illinois. Or maybe it’s something completely unrelated- as I said, I haven’t read older posts.


    1. Hi Jenny – glad to have you reading along!

      Kaua’i is small island (permanent population for the entire island is less than 70,000), with tourism the main industry, so that’s where the the majority of jobs exist. Everything is currently shut down and so most of the island’s population is unemployed. As soon as things begin to open, which will be slowly, and probably not into the summer, those that already had jobs and were furloughed will be the first hired back again. A college student home for the summer would be the last to be hired, if at all – others who live here and have been out of work for several months will get the jobs first. Many workers have two or three jobs as it is and need those jobs back.


      1. Things are tough for college kids right now, no matter where they live. My oldest nephew is finishing up his junior year and had a great internship lined up for the summer, but it was canceled thanks to COVID. His younger brother is a senior in HS and can’t find a summer job either because so many businesses are closed. He was supposed to caddy at a golf course. Golf courses here just opened with strict restrictions in place and are not allowing caddies.


      2. I think a lot of whether or not a college student can get a job depends where they are located, but for the most part there are no jobs for them. WenYu is the one our heart aches for – four years of intensive schooling at Wellesley, and now no one is hiring. It will take years for her to catch up.


    1. We have been able to help our youngest out a bit with her expenses, but nothing like we’re expecting this year. We just hope it will be enough.

      I appreciate the prayers – everythine helps! Right back at you as well that you can accomplish your savings goals.

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  3. Your plan sounds so similar to mine. In 2005 I started saving $50/month for travel into a savings account. That added up to $600/year which didn’t sound like much, but in 5 years we had $3000 which covered our plane tickets and train transportation for our first 7 months trip to Europe. I figured out that whether we live at home or away, we’ll have similar living expenses: food, utilities, etc. Living in rentals/VRBO/Homeaway properties was pretty much a wash for us as food and utilities in California are on the high side. In some countries we actually spent less than at home.
    So I say YES to small and steady savings. Many people think that travel is a luxury but for me is more wanderlust, discipline and smart spending. You have the right system in place and I am confident that you’ll build your travel fund back up.
    Putting all your kids through college is a HUGE accomplishment and you need to give yourself a pat on the back for that. Of course the girls have helped out by being good students and getting scholarships, but still it is a big deal.Only after YaYu’s graduation you’ll fully realize how much easier it gets-or at least that is what we experienced with our kids.
    Take care and keep saving!


    1. Starting out small and steady, and then adding more as we can along the way, has been the key for us to building up savings (except for that darn emergency fund when we were paying down our debt. That was money in, money out every month!). We don’t consider travel a luxury – it’s something that’s important to us and worth saving for over other things, especially since we have family that lives overseas.

      We planned our spending while we were on the road on our everyday living expenses. Depending on what we paid for lodging, that had to be adjusted, but we mostly did OK. It helped that we saved and paid upfront for the first six month’s lodging as well as our tour in India and our train journey in Australia, so that’s what I’m saving for now: as many upfront costs as possible.

      We’re glad that we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to college expenses – just two more years to go. We’re hoping what we can do in the next two years will be enough to get YaYu through to the finish line without her having to borrow. I am already planning to switch the funds we’re putting away for her over to our travel account the minute her last bill is paid!


  4. Congratulations on getting started once more, in the middle of the new normal! Your attitude of saving some no matter how much, and on a regular basis —as if it were a bill or debt you have to pay is ideal. I have a similar account for the same purpose, money is transferred immediately and monthly to our travel account. And I agree travel for the foreseeable future will be greatly changed. My dreams extend no further now other than hoping to see California relatives whenever.

    Your post brought up something I had not thought of and that would be be A) if universities open (or go totally online) and B) funding your daughter’s college costs with basically little to no ability for her to earn money. Certainly many students will be in that position, re earning money. As a result perhaps she would qualify for more grants and/or scholarships—and so would others.What online opportunities are there for her to teach English as a Second Language or tutor to earn money? If so, competition for those positions could be intense—but who knows?

    We have been pruning and weeding around our house. The 2 years of benign neglect due to various ailments I have had has resulted in weeds and overgrown vegetation. Mulch will be delivered soon, so more work. Frankly the appeal of removing all and going to just lawn, shrubbery and trees is quite appealing. (Hard to explain but things I wanted to do 6 years ago no longer hold the same appeal.) Plus we must do yard/garden work now before the massive heat and humidity arrives here.

    The great news as Niculina says is the need to help financially is a short term one. You and Brett know how to do this and so does YaYu. You’ve got this! I could suggest you organize your travel photos and/or make digital scrapbooks—but duh, that is what your blog does! Do you have something like that for your years with all of the family and especially when all the children were younger? They, in years to come will be grateful for that.


    1. YaYu’s college has already reduced the amount students are expected to earn through summer employment (was $2400, now $1500 – she has that much saved from her refunds). They are also increasing the amount of grants given to students by $2000, so that will help as well. The big question she’s facing though is whether the college will even open in the fall. Housing is very crowded, so they are going to be hesitant about putting students into that sort of situation. I’ve heard rumors that parents at many colleges are pulling their students out and enrolling them into colleges and universities closer to home, but YaYu wants to stay where she is, even if she has to do another term online. So much is up in the air right now – it really is difficult to make plans. She is a real trooper though – it’s not fun for her being stuck indoors with us, having to sleep on the sofa, etc. but she has stayed positive and helpful.

      Your question about saving photos, scrapbooking, etc. is interesting. I made scrapbooks for the two older girls but that hobby grew too expensive, thankfully right around the time digital photography came into its own. Unlike her older sisters’ and her brother’s, all of YaYu’s photos have been saved online. Before we moved to Hawaii in 2014, our oldest daughter uploaded all photos, both old and new, to the cloud, so they are all saved (things already in albums and scrapbooks were put away as well). Blogging has been a fantastic way for me to record our lives as well – wish it had been around (or at least more useable) when the girls were younger.

      Brett used to love doing yard work, but not so much these days so we’re grateful our apartment comes with yard service, especially since everything here grows like it’s in the jungle. I’m still pinching myself that we got such a beautiful yard and views to enjoy with this place.

      Finally, I think our Japan family will make it over here before we make it back to Japan. My first goal is to get Brett and myself to YaYu’s graduation in 2022.


  5. Laura, given what you have already accomplished, it would appear that you and Brett will most certainly work through these upcoming challenges as well, and then some!

    Q. regarding food costs- what has changed between now and your prior time in Kauai to make the food expenditures so different do you thinl? Is it the lack of farmer’s markets curry, or something else? Here on the mainland there has been some price creepage, but nothing to drastic. Our farmer’s markets here tend to be pricey, so we end up spending less without them, though certainly the quality of the produce we buy suffers.

    And in the hopes of making you feel just a bit better, I don’t think many of us will be traveling much in the next two years regardless of funds, so you are in good company. 😕


    1. We will see, Tamara – everything feels so different now, but I already feel better for getting the travel savings going again. Brett and I are talking about the future because we have to just to keep sane, but no plans, dreams, or goals yet other than getting to YaYu’s graduation in two years.

      I am not sure why prices are so high here right now. Some of it is normal inflation over the past two years, but otherwise it seems to be a result of supply and demand – supply is down, but demand has stayed steady so prices are up. We were so happy to find that farmstand near to our house – great produce at prices we were paying two years ago. If YaYu were not here Brett and I would be eating differently, but she still has a BIG appetite, and likes variety so we’re paying for it (within reason).

      I can’t even imagine traveling right now – I wonder how long it will be before I can even think of us getting on an airplane again, and what that will cost. I get very sad when I realize that this may be our first Christmas without the girls able to come home.


  6. I’m certain that you and Brett have the dedication to meet your goals, as long as you do not have any surprises pop up, right!?!?!

    Hoping for good news from YaYu’s university!


    1. We have our first goal set, which helps, but we’re both feeling like we need a BIG goal as well to carry us beyond YaYu’s graduation. Things will be different than they were before, but we’re hoping to travel twice a year, once to Japan and then another, longer trip somewhere else. I miss our full-time travels, but I’m beginning to feel myself settling down again. I’m glad we came back to Kaua’i.


  7. You are the picture of determination when it comes to saving and financial discipline, so I’m sure you’ll hit your goals even if it takes a bit of time.

    Delta finally gave me my money back (after another 35 minute wait online for a live person). I’m sure I’ll end up spending that or more to get to the UK as soon as I can, but I didn’t see any reason for them to have the money in the interim. And, as my DH said, my earnings per hour were good on that call. Ha!

    Meanwhile, our builders can start again in a week, but the realtors can’t. So we ordered mulch and I guess we’re doing the gardens again this year. Handing off that task was one of my top reasons to sell, but I guess I am meant to take it on once more. It is good exercise, but we’ll be using our Costco bottle of Advil at night, I’m sure. 😂


    1. I’m glad to hear you got your refund from Delta. They were very quick with mine, and refunded one flight without my even asking! I wish Aeromexico was as prompt. I haven’t heard anything yet from our bank or the DOT, but have to keep the faith that they’re working on it. Thankfully those tickets were the least expensive of all that we had purchased.

      We have no idea when we’ll be able to travel again, but we want to be ready when we can. It will all be a bunch of small stuff for now, but it will ad up.

      Having your garden done will make a difference once people can come and look again, or even if you have to make another virtual tour. But oh, I know what you mean – we did a ton of work on our yard and garden before we sold our house, all for someone else.


  8. As many know- university is as much about the people as it is about the classes. I am glad that your daughter is planning on returning to her university, even if it is on line for another semester. I think times like these are when people really bond. They go through the same experience, differently, but have that collective memory of how to work through the experience. By leaving the experience midway she will rob herself of the full memory. Then, when they can all get together again, it will be like a ship coming into harbor. They will have their shipmates behind and beside them.
    You may not be on a “journey” but having your daughter there- you are on an adventure with her!


    1. I left my college mid-way through, and you’re right, I lost so many memories and those feelings of cohesion that came with finishing four years together. YaYu has her fingers crossed that her college reopens. The big issue will be over on-campus housing – it’s very crowded, and would be a hotbed for infection if things aren’t better and/or more testing isn’t being done. So, we will see. She misses her friends so much though – we’re so grateful for all the ways she has to stay in touch (via social media).

      She can of course stay with us as long as she needs, depending on how things shake out.


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