We all have those friends that are always traveling, making us jealous with their Instagrams and you just think, “how can they possibly keep affording these trips?!” For the longest time I thought the same thing. Then one day I just decided to be that person. I grabbed a pen and paper, opened my mobile banking app and did some math. It comes down to what you value most in your life and what goals you set for yourself (#priorities). The decision itself was a no-brainer but sticking to the plan was the tough part. The thing is, everyone is at a different point in life and each person’s financial situation will be different, but here are things we can all do to add a little more wanderlust to our lives:
1. Cook food you actually like and you’ll stop buying your lunch.
Groceries are much cheaper than eating out. I’m sure you’ve heard that before. (This includes purchasing a bottle of wine for home instead of that $15 martini at the bar.) Having a home cooked lunch is also usually healthier than that food court meal you spend half your lunch deciding on and you will be shocked to see how much money you’ve been wasting each month. However, it is imperative that you prep meals you actually like! Sounds straightforward but if you pack yourself a salad and you’re not a salad person, you WILL end up at that food court come lunchtime buying that burger anyway. #BeenThereDoneThat
Personally, I have a lot of fun with meal prep. I try to rotate my recipes every two weeks or so to keep it interesting and avoid getting sick of the same lunches (unless I’m super into a certain recipe and then proceed to make it for three months straight – my current situation). Pinterest is a great tool for finding “non-boring work lunch recipes.” Meal prep for me is a sacred time on a Sunday afternoon. It comes with a killer playlist and a glass of wine (or two) because honestly, if you have to do it, you might as well find a way to enjoy it. I prep for a whole week of lunches. This takes the hassle out of my mornings which I can then enjoy with a cup of coffee.
2. Have your coffee before you leave the house.
It doesn’t seem like a lot of money but your morning Starbucks (or insert other hipster artisanal coffee joint here) pit stops add up fast! If you’re always running late in the mornings and there is literally no way you can sit there and sip coffee before you leave for work, invest in a lovely cost effective travel mug and bring it with you. It might not be as glamorous as a venti iced skinny hazelnut macchiato, sugar-free syrup, extra shot, light ice, no whip, but I guarantee that trip to Mexico will happen sooner.
3. Don’t impulse-buy clothes and accessories.
This is a big one in the spending department. That $100+ pair of shoes (shout out to the shoeaholics) will only make you happy until you check your credit card statement. Binge-shopping at second hand stores can be just as deadly! Everything may seem perfect in store but you come home and realize you own something very similar or the quality isn’t as great as you initially thought. Make a wardrobe you like by slowly rotating out things you don’t wear. It doesn’t happen overnight and a whole wardrobe cannot be built in a single shopping spree. Keep a common style with different pieces to make as many different outfits with as few items as possible. If you feel inspired, check out Project 333. It will change your life and it’s easier than you think, especially if you work an office job or wear a uniform to work.
4. Make a monthly budget.
There are various amazing (free) apps out there designed to help you track your spending. Put the time in to set them up and let them help you. To keep yourself in line, check your banking app or account statement frequently. I have a friend who gets a text from his bank every single time he makes a purchase. Doesn’t get any more direct than that. However, it’s also important to be realistic in your budgeting. If you’re someone who needs to get their nails done every so often or needs that new outfit every season, quitting cold turkey won’t fly. You can’t change all spending habits overnight. Make a goal as to how much you want to put away each month for travel and see how much spending money is left over. This can be your limiting factor when budgeting out your “other necessities.” For me, travel is at the top of my priorities list (just after a roof over my head) so my list of “other necessities” is pretty short. However, I will spend $10 biweekly on fresh flowers for my apartment. Yes, they will die in about a week or two, but they make me happy so that’s an expense for which I’ve budgeted.
5. Leave your wallet behind when you don’t have anything specific to buy.
Whenever I go on a coffee run or really any excursion with coworkers, I always leave my wallet at the office and just go to get my steps in. This way I don’t end up buying that $2 cookie that’s screaming my name or that chocolate bar that I’m sure I’ll NEED later. Having some cash on hand helps with this situation too. You see exactly how much you spent and avoid tapping away your entire bank balance.