money

Ooohh, this is a touchy subject. Not just with travel, but with so many ingrained beliefs in the way we were raised as well as different cultural habits and ideals. We're both fairly thrifty people overall (at least by American standards), and we were super lucky to be born to good, financially-stable families along with all the privileges of being middle class (and white, grrr) in the U.S.

We get asked A LOT about how much we've saved for a trip like this and how we budget for it. And we have a lot of answers. =) Check 'em out below!

how much cash do we need?

We read a decent amount about different types of round-the-world trips, and it's pretty evident that there's a whole bunch of ways to do these trips at all different cost levels.

What felt safe for us was to set out with $52,000, enough for $1,000/week. Obviously some places are more expensive than others, and we're certain to give in to splurges and make mistakes here and there, but we're hoping it all averages out to about this general amount.

earning while traveling

As we both work for ourselves, there's opportunities to do some projects while we're on the road (and a few weeks before leaving, Josh was contracted to shoot for a travel company throughout our trip!!!), so we're not living entirely off our savings. We've also both worked really hard to set up some "passive" income streams, such as licensing our work. You can find some of Josh's photos on Offset and Shari's stationery design on Minted and Greenvelope.

saving on accommodations

Other than using points and miles (more on that here), to save some cash, we're primarily staying in AirBnbs, which we're beyond grateful for, as we're a bit old (curmudgeonly) to do the dorm hostel thing at this point. We're also planning to work for our accommodations in some places. We're experimenting with WWOOFing (working on organic farms in exchange for room and board) and house sitting. Subscribe to our newsletter to hear how this is going!

 

debt

When we first decided we wanted to spend a year abroad, we had about $75,000 in "good" debt, not including our mortgage. We got super serious about paying that off and also creating a decent-sized emergency fund, which meant making a budget, setting a lot of limits on spending, selling possessions, and putting any income we determined extra (such as licensing our work) towards that debt. It was actually shocking and so, so satisfying how quickly we were able to pay it off, in approximately 2.5 years. We read a bunch of financial books during this time too, and one of our favorite pieces of advice came from Dave Ramsey - "Live like no one else now so later you can live like no one else." Brilliant. Granted, he also says credit cards are essentially the devil, which is a large part of how we're able to travel, so everything with a grain of salt, right? But switching our mindsets just a little bit made such a difference in how we spent money. We had a discussion about what is actually really important to us (spending time with friends, good food, traveling {obvs.}, experiences, retirement savings) and what's not really as important that we don't need to be spending much money on (cars, clothes, music festivals or shows, updating our house). That made it much easier to prioritize and save more.

trickery saving

This is one of our most favorite ways to save. We have a whole bunch of different bucketed savings accounts, all designated for different things - holidays, emergencies, vacation, hobby money, etc., and we automate a certain amount of money each month from our checking accounts into those. It's good, but you can also see it, and we're very cognizant of how much money is moving around. 

Then we heard about Digit from a friend, Paula, of Afford Anything. (She's great, and you should definitely check out her podcast if you're interested in money or landlording!) Digit is basically a bot that you link to your main checking account, and it monitors your spending, and then whenever it feels like you won't miss some money, it takes it out and transfers it to a separate savings account. The amount and frequency changes all the time, but it's sneaky as all get out, and you don't even notice the money disappearing. After about a year and a half of using it, we had over $5,000 combined in our Digit accounts. That we didn't even miss! What?!? That's incredible. So we love Digit. Unfortunately, they recently started charging $2.99/mo, which is no bueno. A similar option is Qapital, which lets you set up rules to trigger transfers to a savings account, but we haven't tried this out yet.

making extra money

We knew we needed more money than we were already saving to hit our goal of $52,000, so we decided to give Airbnb a shot. We'd been using it as guests for years, but always staying in entire homes, and were slightly freaked out about the "shared" accommodation aspect. But we had some neighbors that sung the hosting praises, and we had an extra bedroom that only gets used a few times a year for visitors. After our first guest, we were hooked! The money can't really be beat for spending 30-45mins. doing some laundry, vacuuming, and setting out some water and cookies a few times a month. (We should really calculate an hourly rate on it - it's probably around $400/hr or something similarly ludicrous.) But we also really enjoyed meeting people from all over the world, finding out why they were visiting Atlanta, and sharing the things we love about our city with them. (You'd be surprised how many Brazilians and Chinese have found some obscure Atlanta tourism website from 1996 and still think it's relevant. Nope, Underground Atlanta is not a "happening" place to go; you might actually get murdered there.) I'm sure anyone reading this is already an Airbnb devotee, but if not, sign up here for $40 in travel credit!

 

other random tactics

We do a bunch of things to make and save money, so, in no particular order, here's some other random tactics:

  • Shopping Portals - We don't buy anything online without going through a shopping portal first. Shopping portals are just one extra step at the beginning of your shopping trip, and they result in anywhere from 1% to 20% cashback on your purchase. The ones we use most often are TopCashback and Ebates (get $10 for signing up through this link).
  • Price Trackers - If you want to buy something, but don't need it right this very second, set up a price tracker on it with SlickDeals or another service. Here's a good article about some of the best price tracking tools out there.
  • Evaluating Priorities - We touched on this above, but can't state enough what a difference it makes to take a step back, consider your values and desires, and be able to spend your money with intentionality rather than just doing what's typically accepted or expected. (This can also be said for your life path as well, I guess!) It's super easy to think you need a nicer car or you should go to that music festival some of your friends are checking out, but is it worth it to you to spend money on those things rather than a ski trip you've been saving for, building up your emergency or retirement savings, or even donating a significant amount if that's your thing?
 

spending tracker

We're trying to be as diligent as possible about tracking our spending and want to share our costs, so that if you're planning something similar, you might be able to get an idea of what a trip like this might entail. Or if you think it's a moonshot, maybe our experiences can show you that "a once in a lifetime" trip to Bali or Cinque Terre or around the world (ahem) is actually not that (financially) intimidating, and you can totally make it happen. We believe in you! Below is our main spending tracker, which we'll be updating actively throughout the year. (Scroll down to see our pre-trip spending tracker as well.)

expenses:

 

Pre-trip Expenses: