You might be wondering how we pay for our bicycle tours. Did we win the lottery? Inherit a bunch of money?
We don't stand out, financially speaking. No, we didn't come into money in some unexpected way, nor do we have trust funds just waiting to be cashed in when we need them. And we both have massive student loans that we are very slowly paying off.
Think about your expenses as... expendable. All the bills - internet, cell phone, electicity, gas, trash, and of course rent - are circumstantial. What if you have a house in your panniers? What if you cook all of your meals (or at least most of them)? What if you drink less alcohol? Okay, that last one didn't work out, but you get the idea. It is possible to live very inexpensively.
It is also possible for you to take control of your personal finances. Even if you think you are genetically predisposed to poor money management, I (Ramona) can assure you that you, too, can learn how to save money. Really. We have turned our own situation around and Ramona has helped other people do the same.
Here are the things we did and highly recommend:
First step: Pay off your credit cards! We had a little bit of personal savings, and we figured out that if we put that into paying off the cards, we could pay off the remaining amount within a month or two. One bill exterminated. And credit card bills are the worst! They just get bigger and bigger. Once paid off, we started putting the money that was monthly payments into savings instead.
Second Step: We figured out roughly how much money we would spend per day on food, drink, and campsites, and increased the amount a bit so we'd be safe. Then we estimated how much we needed per month, including student loan payments.
Third Step: Then every month, we saved. For about a year and a half we were just saving and reminding each other "Either we go out tonight or we get two more days on our bicycle tour". Do I really want this skirt? Will it go with us on tour or will I be selling it for a couple of dollars at a garage sale next year? How much do we save when we cook at home and drink coffee at home? It all adds up.
Fourth: Many bank accounts. We opened a couple of free savings accounts and made one the spending money account and one the landing money accout. Landing money is the savings we do not spend until we have to, and then we spend it on getting settled somewhere so we can work and support ourselves. We each have a checking account that acts as the student loan payment account. We put away the amount we needed for six months, leave the automatic deductions on, and let the loan pay itself for a while, never touching that money.
When we run out of spending money, time's up! We stop somewhere, we find more work, we settle down maybe. Meanwhile we've looked into and had some success with working freelance online. Not easy, and even harder when travelling around, but worth the freedom of making plans from day to day. We looked into house sitting gigs, and started house sitting for friends and family to build up some references. Imagine two weeks riding and then two weeks to a month living in a foreign country, working from home and exploring the neighborhood. We looked into WWOOFing, but so far we haven't actually used that option.
Of course, we also have a network of friends and family members who we have visited. Luckily, they seem to like us, too, so they are happy to have us, at least for a little while.
One day we will be forced to make decisions based on our financial situation - but so far we've been able to wing it and continue on. And we have not yet dipped into our landing money.
If you are interested in personal financial planning, that happens to one of the consulting skills Ramona possesses and she is available for hire. If you have questions or want to hear more, send us a message Marks /dot/ Moody /at/ gmail.