Friday, July 12, 2013

Mo Money, Mo Problems

Recently, a friend asked me, "How the heck can you afford to take a million vacations?" I was a little put off by the question because I haven't been on "a million" vacations. I think I take a normal amount of vacation time and if anything, it feels like not enough. And I didn't know if this friend was looking for some magical answer like, "Oh, I won the lottery, didn't I tell you?" or "I'm friends with Jay-Z and he lets me use his private jet" because of the way he phrased the question. However, my initial "WTF" response blossomed into a conversation and I thought it would be somewhat relevant to put the information up on my blog.
  1. I earn money. Seriously, this is the dumbest and most obvious response but there are a few people in my life who still have yet to get their sh-tuff together and all they do is play Candy Crush on their phones all day, everyday and complain about the economy. I have a job which means there's a steady inflow of money into my bank account that I earn. I use some of that money to pay bills, some of it to buy groceries, a bit of it goes into my 401K, some of it pays for my health insurance, a little goes towards feeding and grooming my dog, a bunch goes into my savings account, and then the rest goes towards leisure, e.g. vacations, clothes, fun electronics, trashy magazines, etc. It's that simple, at least in my world. I earn money and I spend money though I won't spend more than I have (#1 rule). I don't have a trust fund; my parents came to America before I was born to give their children "a better life" and I've taken that opportunity to do well in school, go to college and graduate, and earn a steady living as an engineer (which is a nice and sensible job).
    {a big red education}
  2. I prioritize travel. I've wanted a Chanel bag since I was a tween but I still don't own one. Why? Because in the case of overpriced fashion-related material possessions vs. life experiences, I choose the latter. Last year, I went to Hawaii, Istanbul, Turks & Caicos, and Puerto Rico instead of buying myself a Chanel bag and I stand by that decision. So far this year, I've only taken one trip (which I'll be sharing soon) and Belize was so affordable that I didn't even use half of the spending money I'd allotted for myself. The money I saved will go towards another trip.
    {Haleakala, Maui, Hawaii}
  3. I bargain shop. I shop smartly (and tackle a lot of DIY projects) and this helps me save money which can then go towards travel. But, when it comes to travel specifically, I am my own travel agent and I look for destinations where the flights and lodging are affordable and I do my best to give myself a budget and stick to it. Most of the time, I decide where I want to go based on how cheap it is to get there. I've written about this previously, but to quickly summarize, I use Kayak's "Explore" option to get a feel for the flight costs to certain countries to help me make a decision. And then, I use multiple online travel sites to compare costs.
    {bargain shopper}
  4. I pack like a pro. I like to travel quite light and I rarely check my luggage. This saves money because I avoid the checked bag fees and it saves time because I don't have to wait at baggage claim, and we all know that time is money. Plus, I've never lost my luggage so I've never had to deal with the hassle of recovering my lost goods, which saves me money too.
    {pack light}
  5. I'm frugal while on holiday. I only pay for "necessary" things. I'll only pay for a guided tour when it's my only option. For example, during this past trip to Belize, I paid a group to take me out to snorkel spots because I couldn't sail myself out there (it's illegal in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve). But, in general, I like to research my destinations on my own and then explore areas myself. I find that I learn more, I see more, and I save money. I also avoid renting a car if I don't need one. If public transportation is available (and reputed to be reliable) or if renting a bike is an option, I'd choose either of those over paying for a rental car. In the case that I do need to book a tour or rent a car (refer back to #3 above), I bargain shop.
    {beep beep}
I hope this post didn't sound too hoity-toity. In the 2.5 years that I've been blogging (and in the 26 years that I've been alive), I've been to a handful of amazing places and the reasons above are how those trips were made possible.

Cheers.

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