How do I save for gallivanting around the world when I barely earn enough to pay for my monthly bills?

I live to travel, so I have to find a way.

I don’t know how others manage, but here’s how I do it.

Whenever I can, I set aside a travel fund. It’s never much, of course, and almost always, it’s completely wiped out after a single trip, so I have to rebuild it again and again from scratch.

I put down my daily expenses – to the last centavo – as I’ve always done since I started globe-trotting, so I know where my scant earnings go. I also record all of my earnings. BUT ifever I earn something extra or make money out of ANYTHING that is outside my expected monthly earnings, I make myself believe I did NOT earn a surplus and squirrel it away in my Travel Fund.

That means if I win an appliance or a gadget in a raffle and I sell it, the proceeds go straight to my travel fund. If I get an outside writing assignment or if I moonlight and earn extra, the cheque is NEVER cashed. It goes straight into my Travel Fund. Same way if I get per diem on official trips or allowances from sponsors.

And whenever I travel, I don’t buy souvenirs. I can’t afford to pay the outrageous sum for excess luggage and I need to travel light anyway. So, I can never be counted on to buy things for friends or serve as courier for people while I’m on the road. I know the exact cash I need for each day and I stick to my budget.

I transact with cash or debit cards. I never had a credit card. And I’m not interested in having one. Credit cards charge outrageous interest if you don’t manage to pay them in time and I don’t want to be trapped in debt spending.

I never spend to eat out. As part of my daily coverage, I dine in five-star hotels and restaurants often enough. So, unless someone treats me to dinner, I’m happy with a P25-P35 meal (one cup of rice and one viand) at the corner store or tinned food and crackers or whatever I can buy from the grocery using Gift Cheques (GCs).

I buy almost everything I need with GCs – from medicines to basic commodities, massage and trekking equipment. Unfortunately, I can’t use them to pay for utilities and transport. Hence, if I can, I telecommute to save on cost, time and effort.

Way back, I used to buy at least one dress a week. Now, I don’t buy clothes anymore. I don give-away shirts and jackets instead. Sometimes, we even get give-away shoes and sandals. However, walking about with the “branding”, I have to be mindful not to sport the competitor’s shirts during presscons.

I don’t watch movies (unless it’s sponsored). Same thing for concerts, musicals and other shows. I don’t have Cable TV. I don’t even have a TV at home. Whatever I wish to watch, I can download and watch from my PCs, laptops or tablets. And why bother with vicarious pleasures? All my adventures are LIVE, up close and personal, in destinations many can only dream of.

I don’t have a post-paid plan for my phones. I use pre-paid so I can limit my spending.

I own my run-down place so I don’t have to pay rent. I just hope my unit doesn’t crash down on me anytime soon.

I don’t buy furniture. All that I need, I already have.

I don’t bother about my looks anymore. There was a time I can’t be caught dead without make-up, but as soon as I discovered the pleasures of backpacking, I found it’s ultra-convenient to go au naturel. Now that’s another burden pared off my budget.

I’m still addicted to books though. So, I’m a big fan of Booksale and second-hand bookshops with re-priced stocks (they can slash the price up to three times or more). If they don’t have the title, I download the book online or borrow from bookworm friends.

I used to go to the gym but then I never paid for my gym sessions or my dance lessons. I’ve always had scholarships. Now, I don’t have time for them anymore.

I don’t have a car and don’t plan to ever get one. The cost of parking space is equivalent to the cost of a condo unit – and the gas! I can always commute and use leg power.

I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs and am not shopaholic. I don’t do gimmicks, too. I have more than enough events – from fashion shows to art exhibits, amuse me each day.

Indeed, many of my trips –local and foreign- are sponsored because I cover transport and travel. However, I extend my trips at my personal expense to do what I really want.

I do pay a price to travel where I please but I have no regrets.

A friend of mine laments she can’t travel because she never had enough money. I think she just doesn’t want to travel badly enough and thinks it’s a waste of good money.

You don’t need a million pesos to tour the world, if you can compromise with the board, lodging and transport (but more about that in my future posts).

As for motivating myself, I don’t do dream boards, but I love to do lists.

And somehow, when I write down the destination, I get to see it. Visualization helps a lot too and autosuggestion. I kept a map of Mongolia near my bed and soon enough, I was hunting with golden eagles in the Altai. I put a token from Paris on my desk and in no time, I was in the City of Lights. I kept a statuette of a breaching great white shark on top of my PC – and voila, I got my trip to South Africa to dive with great whites.

And yes, I’ve serialized “Globe-trotting on a Shoestring” at the Manila Bulletin – for budgeting while trip-planning and on the road itself.

I’m putting out the series here next.


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