And also: Why it’s so important to talk more openly about personal finance
(Note: When I first published this post, You Need a Budget, one of the services I mention below, did not have a referral program. I wrote about and recommended it anyway because I love it. They now have a referral program, so I’ve updated the YNAB link. YNAB already offers a free 34 day trial, and now with my referral link, if you subscribe after the trial, you get another month for free! I’d also get one month free…just sayin’.)
I read a lot of travel blogs – for pure interest, as well as to learn for my own travel blog – and it seems that some of the most common and popular posts are about how to afford travel and/or get paid to travel.
This boils down to one key point: income streams. Because travel costs money, y’all.
For the really successful travel bloggers, usually those whose costs are covered by their blogs alone (directly or indirectly), readers also want to know exactly how much bloggers earn.
Readers are curious and want to know if they, too, could make a living from travel blogging, and more specifically, how. But here’s what I’m finding – most travel blogs focus only on travel (with combo niches like fashion, lifestyle, adventure, etc.) and most personal finance blogs are strictly personal finance. For topics like travel, personal finance is especially relevant, and for me at least, it’s really interesting.
Here’s what else I’ve found, I’ve discovered a bit of a passion for personal finance. As a result, I’ve wanted to talk to everyone I know about it (as we’re wont to do about our passions) – but people tend to shut down. It’s basically a conversation ender. I want to talk about it more because it shouldn’t be so taboo. It’s another fact of life. The less we talk about it, the less knowledge that’s out there, and the more vulnerable we all are to making bad financial decisions.
Regardless of where your income comes from, what you make is not as important as how you use it. You could make a hundred bajillion per year, and still have money problems. If you have poor personal finance habits, it won’t matter how much you make.
Related: Check out Episode #55 from the Afford Anything podcast – From Money Moron to Millionaire, for a case in point.
I can tell you from personal experience that lifestyle inflation or “creep” is a real thing. The minute I got a permanent, full-time job with a guaranteed paycheque every two weeks, I started to spend a bit more at Starbucks. And then I started adding to my office wardrobe. And then I moved and bought a bunch of furniture. All with the idea that “Oh, I’ll worry about it/pay it off later.” Because in my mind, I could.
So, while I can worry about it later (that’s almost always a possibility), that is not the mindset that helps you save for or afford travel – or for anything other goals you have.
Of interest: Ontario recently announced it will run a pilot project of adding financial literacy to the high school curriculum and I think this is SO IMPORTANT.
You can read tons of stories about people saving loads of money with low paying jobs. About how they buckled down and hustled.
And it’s true, sometimes you have to do just that. But sometimes the how is not so clear.
“Okay. Got it. Buckle down and hustle. I won’t spend any money this week.”
“But I’ve been needing new shoes…I can spend a little this week.”
And so the cycle continues. Or maybe you think you’ve accounted for all of your expenses, but then realize too late that you’ve forgotten something. So you put it on your credit card and say, “I’ll figure it out later.”
So – to the actual question: How do you afford travel? Or how can anyone?
The answer: with good personal finance habits. I love the tagline of the Afford Anything website/podcast by Paula Pant: You can afford anything, but not everything. And it’s so true! It’s all about knowing your priorities and making sure your choices (spending or otherwise) align with those.
You can’t just snap your fingers and change your habits (or can you?). Changing your lifestyle can be difficult. Sometimes you need a little help. I know I did!
There are tools out there to help you get started, and here are some of them:
- As I’ve mentioned before, I LOVE Paula Pant’s Afford Anything podcast and website, along with J.D. Roth’s Money Boss. I’ve also just started the Master of Money podcast. These are great sources to get you started with learning. Find resources that keep you engaged and make you want to learn more. Knowledge is power.
- While you’re learning, you need to take action. If handling your own budget has been challenging so far, and you don’t really want to muck around in Excel for hours, there are online tools you can use to help you out. I personally just started using You Need A Budget (because I totally do!). YNAB offers a free 34 day trial, and a yearly subscription of $50 USD (it came to about $70 CAD – c’mon dollar, pick up!). I just finished the free trial, and I liked it so much that I bought the subscription before my trial ended. Another thing I love about YNAB: the subscription fee includes access to webinars and other lessons, and these are all included with the free trial (to contribute to Step 1 of learning).
Mint is free service similar to YNAB, which I haven’t tried, but there a lots of reviews and comparisons online. It comes down to what you want from the service. YNAB is more hands on – it forces you to get up close and personal with your money and give every dollar a job. Mint (I’ve read) is more automated. The way I see it, if $50 (er…$70-ish CAD) helps me know my finances inside and out and helps me change my habits, then it’s worth it. It will pay for itself with all the money I don’t spend haphazardly.What I love the most though? Ever since using YNAB, I’ve felt way less stressed about money, because I know everything is handled. I know exactly where each dollar is going.
The keys to good personal finance lie in being informed and using that information to take action. You are the only person who can make sure that you have good personal finance habits. You control your spending and saving, and you set your own priorities. So if you want to afford to travel, take control of your money and make it work for you, instead of the other way around.
I’m not a personal finance expert, and you don’t need to be either. You don’t need to be an expert to take action. And solid personal finance knowledge should not be the domain of “experts only”. It is each person’s responsibility to take control of their life and their finances for themselves.
I’m learning as I go, and you can learn with me! Join my newsletter and I’ll tell you about the books, podcasts, and other tools, that I find really helpful – you’ll also get travel updates and inspiration straight to your inbox!
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