A Zambian market
Last night, as we moaned over the silky, salty, sweet chocolate budino at FIG, a truly outstanding restaurant in historic Charleston and one I will describe for you later, a glasses-clad wobbling man plopped down at our table, interested in why we had been photographing our meal. When we explained that we blog about food and our world travels, he retorted, in perhaps a less than lucid state than he would have otherwise wished, "This is an expensive restaurant. How do you travel full-time and afford this?" We explained, as we have explained to y'all, that we budget and work to keep us in this lifestyle. I could have mentioned to him the third step in how we fund our travels but it is not nearly as sexy as proclaiming our digital nomadic lifestyle.
What we do: we save. A lot. We saved before we left for our trip, during, and after. We are money-hungry savers and darn proud of it.
[Snores abound.] That's okay. I can take it. Listen, I'm no Suze Orman or Clark Howard (our favorite) and I don't want to tell you how to save. You've heard of the obvious savings tricks: cut back on coffee, drive less, eat out less, etc. But, what about the less common savings tricks? That's what I want to talk about. For this round of RTW Planning in Retrospect, I am going to list my t op 5 unusual savings tricks and ask the panel for Travelers Talk Back on Tuesday to do the same.
1. Pretend that we only have one salary. When I first started at my law firm, one of the partners cautioned me to avoid the Golden Handcuffs: that is, the BMWs or fancy houses purchased by fledgling attorneys and their inability to escape their high-income jobs, even when they want. He told me to pretend that my legal salary didn't exist, sock all of that money into savings or investments, and live off Patrick's salary. The advice was so good that we have been treating my income as nonexistent ever since. Whatever money I make goes into savings or (when we had a house) into repairing the house or other investments. Whenever Patrick gets a raise, we pretend the money doesn't exist. Basically, we continue to live at the salary level we had when we were 25, which is why we've only bought one new car in our 14 years together. [Obviously, this only works if you have a two-income household.]
Women at the Zambian market
2. Shop at local farmer markets. If you haven't noticed, we're a bit obsessed with food. But, that doesn't mean we eat out at restaurants all the time. Truth is, we get annoyed when we dish out $70 . . . or even $20 . . . for a mediocre meal. When we travel, we usually stay in hostels or vacation homes and 90% of the time cook our own meals. But, groceries! Groceries are so expensive, are they not? No, they don't have to be if you shop at local farmers markets. In Jacksonville, we used to buy a pound of green beans for a single dollar and on our recent trip to Savannah, I found a quarter flat of strawberries for $4. Aside from providing delicious sustenance, a trip to the local market is a cheap, wonderful excursion and way to meet many locals.
3. Become maniacal about inputting expenses into financial tracking software. When I turned 14, I asked my parents for a $10 per week allowance. They agreed but with one condition: I had to track my expenses in a bank ledger (and later Quicken). I used to think it was an annoying exercise but was willing to do it to get the $10 bill in my hand. Now, I am hooked on Quicken. If I don't input our expenses and income every week, I turn grouchy because I feel like my financial house is a dirty pigsty and nobody wants to live in a dirty pigsty, right? We know exactly how much money we have at all times in every account . . . which means that we never spend more than we can afford. [The obvious corollary of this trick is start using Quicken or some other software immediately, if you aren't already. Knowing how much you are spending will make you a much better saver.]
A lizard we found when we were walking through a random spot in Namibia
4. Indulge in walking. Our number 1 favorite travel activity: walking. We walk several miles every day, exploring the streets and nooks of the new places to which we travel. There are so many reasons to love walking: (1) it is completely free; (2) we get to understand the locale, meet locals getting from place to place, and find hidden treasures; (3) we don't have the time to spend money on other expensive activities annd tours; and most importantly, (4) we don't feel so bad if our walk lands us at the local bakery or cupcake shop.
5. Buy presents at the airport duty free shop. This sounds counter-intuitive, I know, because normally the airport duty-free stores mark everything up. But, whenever we are in a foreign country, we invariably end up with extra money in that particular currency---usually anywhere from $20 to $50 that we weren't able to spend before we got to the airport. We use that money to buy gifts at the airport because: (1) we are guaranteed to find kids' books in English for our nephew, (2) we don't have to worry about customs hassles (or security people confiscating our boomerangs ) because we're already inside the airport, and (3) we get rid of our extra change. Win, win, win!
That's my top 5. What are you favorite unusual (or not so unusual) savings tricks? And stay tuned on Tuesday when other fabulous travel bloggers will be chiming in.
* Unusual Travel Saving Tips is a post in the RTW Travel Planning in Retrospect Project, a weekly community project that seeks to gather insights and advice on round-the-world travel planning from those who have been in the metaphorical trenches. Stay tuned because, on Tuesday, some very fabulous travel bloggers will join in the discussion and reveal what they do to save. And, if you are a current or recently returned RTW traveler, we would love to hear your thoughts so get in touch with me if you would like to be featured via the comments or at theroadforks [at] gmail [dot] com.