Top Tips for Money Management
As we move from country to country and encounter different backgrounds and cultures, one question remains the same, “How can you afford to travel”? The answer is simple, “Save your money”. I know that sounds like the obvious, but the challenge is ACTUALLY saving! I've had discussions with many people across the world and we always end up in a lengthy conversation regarding how we manage our finances to afford our travels. Now, I want to take some time to share with you what I have learned from personal experience over the last few years on financial management.
I learned to build awareness of our spending habits when Lorena and I moved to Atlanta. We were in the process of planning our wedding and tracking expenses became a must in order for us to stay within our budget. Lorena is a visual person and although we discussed expenses, she needed to see them. This is how the Expense Bible was created...a book which was used to keep track of all our expenses. By this I mean, every single thing! All the bills, dinners out, groceries etc. I will admit, that keeping track of expenses just plain sucks! It is not an easy task and it can honestly be a burden, but how can you try to manage something that you are not even tracking? How will you be able to point out your largest expenses if you are not aware of them? My first word of advice is to track your expenses. I am not talking about knowing how much you pay in rent and utilities, I mean the little things...what you bought for $0.79 at the gas station last Tuesday. It can be tedious, it is not fun and you might even think it won't make a difference, but trust me...it does. Once you start tracking your expenses and building awareness, you will learn more about your spending habits. I recommend using a notebook or an app to keep track of all of your expenses. This will help make everything very visible to you. During our travels, we started using an app called “SplitWise” which allows you to record your expenses and generate simple monthly reports so you can easily see where your money is going each month. You won't be able to save, if you are not aware of where you are spending your money.
1 month challenge
GIVE IT A SHOT! Pick a month and start tracking ALL your expenses. The purpose of this challenge is to build awareness of your spending habits. I always find it interesting when people say “I want to do this, but I can’t afford it”. Why not? What are you wasting money on that does not allow you to do what you really want to do?
REDUCE EXPENSES: NEEDS VS WANTS
We all have different spending habits. All humans have needs, but a lot of us also have wants. One of the biggest challenges for humans is thinking we "need" things. I have heard many people say "I need a new car" or "I need new clothes". Do you really need those things or do you want those things? Is society telling us we should have the nice car and nice clothes to fit in? For example, maybe your car broke down and you need to purchase a new car to get to work. Fair enough. Now, do you really need a 2018 Mercedes or will a 2015 Ford fulfill the "need"? Your need was a car to get you to work. The need did not require luxury and a brand name manufacturer. That is when our "wants" kick in. Our "wants" just took the price tag from 20k to possibly 40k. I am not saying we should not splurge and enjoy life, but I think people should compare the cost versus the benefits they receive. Next time you are going to purchase something ask yourself "Do I need this or do I want this?" You may be surprised at the number of things you might end up passing up. Once you begin to build awareness on your spending habits and making changes if necessary...apply the 50/20/30 rule!
LIVING THE 50/20/30 RULE
So this is our HOW! How do we save money?..By applying the 50/20/30 rule. This rule helps you build a budget by using three spending categories:
50% - Of your income should be going to living expenses and essentials. This would include rent, utilities, groceries and transportation.
20% - Of your income should go towards your financials goals. This can mean savings or debt-reduction.
30% - Of your income should be used for flexible spending. This category includes your beer money, dinner, travel and random night outs.
Please keep in mind that all of these are just guidelines. Some people will be able to spend 35% or 40% on living expenses, but need 50% of their income for flexible spending. No person is right or wrong. All of us have different likes and dislikes and everyone will spend their money however they please.
FOCUS ON THE FLEXIBLE SPENDING CATEGORY
This is one of the categories that I have really focused on. When we lived in Chicago and Atlanta we were always open for brunch, dinner or random beers with friends here and there. We all need to have some fun, but do we have to do it 2 or 3 times a week? What about visiting the same bar or club week after week? Should I keep going to my favorite restaurant every weekend and spend $50-$100? I am sure some people feel very strong about their spending habits and I respect that. Some are happy going out every weekend and spending their money at their usual places. But when it comes to that question of "how are you doing what you are doing?" The focus is there...I decided to save money, focus on my needs vs wants in order to be able to make memories in different places of the world!
So I encourage you to take my challenge! For the next month when you are tracking your expenses keep a close eye on your weekend spending habits. You might notice that you can easily blow through $200-$300 in the blink of an eye...but did you know that some cities have roundtrip flights for a fraction of that cost? What if you save that money for 2 weekends? 3 months? All of a sudden you can afford that vacation or getaway you could not afford before. It all comes down to priorities and where you decide to spend the money you worked so hard to get.
When you get older, will you remember all the bottle service you got at the club or will you remember that week getaway to Guatemala when you hiked a volcano or your adventures while discovering the Tikal Mayan ruins?