Once you have figured out what a potential around-the-world trip would cost, including airfare, day-to-day expenses, ongoing bills, and how much cash you want to come home to, you will then have calculate a hard number to target for savings. How much money do we need to save to reach our estimated total? How much are we really able to sock away each month? How many months do we anticipate we will need to save before we reach our goal?
The above questions have now been answered (obviously!). But when we initially started to consider the possibility of a trip of this magnitude, there were a lot of factors involved in setting a departure date. Firstly, we did not feel that we had a tremendous amount of wiggle room with our start date, due to traveling with children. We did not want to pull our children out of a school year that had already started, so we knew that we had to leave in summer, and return in summer. Over two years ago, September sounded like a good departure date, especially since we relish our summers in the Pacific Northwest, and needed to maximize our savings time. We were always flexible with the duration of our trip, but also agreed that we had a preference to travel for a solid year. That did not necessarily have to be 12 months abroad, but could also include time off in Portland and visiting friends and family around the US. Of course, it is also easier to rent a home for 1 year as opposed to a random period like 10 months, so we knew that once we found tenants for our home, there would also be a fixed date for when we could return. Although these set dates can further complicate and limit any true flexibility we might have, we have recently learned that we need to be out of the country for 330 days of a 12 month period in order to not be required to have US health coverage.
Another aspect of our trip, which was and still is very fluid, is where we are going. There are certain destinations that will be more expensive to spend time in, and others, like India, that will allow us to stretch our funds. If we do not reach our financial goal, or find that we are spending more than we had budgeted, we may have to eliminate a stop, or spend less time in some of the more costly countries/regions. We also know that they key to spending less is to S-L-O-W down.
In our effort to save as much money as possible over our 2+ years of planning, we had to take a hard look at our monthly budget. We started by using the Iphone app – Dollarbird – to keep an exact record of every penny that we spent in a month. Acknowledging our excesses, helped us to format a plan for spending less. Not even a month into recording every dollar that slipped through our fingers and we were shocked by how much money we spent. We tried to eat out less, but found it hard to eliminate all fun from our life (including cable t.v.!). We didn’t want the past two years to be miserable and boring, as it is very important to enjoy the “here and now”.
We also asked ourselves, “Are there things we can sell to make a little extra cash before the trip, or any ways to increase our income, without stealing time from family, by working too much?”. Although we did not take on additional part time work, we did have a flurry of selling unused stuff on Craigslist and at resale clothing stores, and we did make an extra effort at work to sell more. Our goal was to save $2000 a month. I know that this might seem an impossibility to many families, and it was no easy feat in our minds either, but somehow we managed. It helped immensely that our children had finally grown out of full-time daycare, a major money suck, and that bills which we were already in the habit of paying, were now diverted to our traveling fund. The truth is, we try to live simply. We are a one-car family, who don’t spend a lot on commuting or work clothes. We rarely get a babysitter and go out, so we didn’t really have to curb any great socializing expenses. We just had to set our minds to being more thrifty and conscious of our spending habits.