A lot of people ask me, "how on earth can you afford travel so much? Don't you save money at all? The number of vacations you go for; it's ridiculous!"
Just so we are clear, i'm NOT one of those "Full Time Vacationers"; a.k.a World Ventures MLM folk (and by the way, I travel way more than probably 90% of them) who claim to earn a passive income while spending their lives traveling the world.
Note: Nothing against WV folk, everyone has their own preferred way of earning/saving their travel dollars; some more effective than others.
Oh and last I checked, I wasn't born a millionaire.
Lijiang Old Town, China
I still managed to SAVE $100,000 a year though, and that's AFTER vacationing in Europe once every 3 months, AFTER changing cars every year/Rolex's every month, and AFTER setting money aside for my retirement. Basically,while i'm nowhere near rich, i'm pretty much debt free despite all my vacations.
So how did I do it?
Just followed the 10 steps listed below, that's how.
Note: Just in case you're new to A Girl & A Bald Traveller, and don't remember if you've ever read any of our posts, refer to the picture above. If a picture with a tattooed arm in the center comes across as pretty familiar, it probably means this isn't the first time your reading our blog
1. No Cash? Don't Buy
I'm not a card person. I don't use credit cards for anything (other than obvious items like petrol & air-tickets); heck, I don't even carry an ATM card (my ex colleagues can vouch for that).
You see, I used to be an impulsive spender, whipping out my credit card for almost everything because I THOUGHT I was getting a discount, earning points, or for convenience; somewhere along those lines. I was wrong. Cards get you into debt, they trick you into believing you have money when you don't.
I now subscribe to THIS logic.
If you have $10 in your wallet, the day still passes somehow, and all you've spent is just $10.
Likewise if you had $50 dollars in your wallet, I can can bet you any one of my Rolex's you'd have spent more than $10 simply because you got complacent. With $50 in your wallet, the $8 Ramen in a coffee-shop suddenly looks affordable.
Me with $10 in my wallet? All I can afford is a $3 bowl of noodles.
So yes, Cash is King. If I don't have cash at that point of time; I don't buy. Two words; "walk away". (These two words have saved me a whole lot of money)
2. I Don't Bother Acting Rich (because I'm not)
My current ride, a 3.5L Chrysler 300c; paid up in fully so I don't owe the bank a cent
The reason most Singaporeans have trouble saving for a European vacation, is because they spend most of their lives trying to impress people who don't know them; and who frankly don't care.
Earn $2,000 a month? Buy a car! Earn $4,000 a month? Buy one of those cheapo entry level continentals; all paid for by installments of course. Oh, and let's not forget the Rolex/Panerai watches. Definitely possible on $4,000 a month. The Hour Glass offers 60 month installments, a Singaporean favorite.
Truth be told, I don't see how straining to pay for an entry level BMW impresses anybody. All it does is lessens the number of vacations you can take in a year.
The 5 Room BTO flat "The Girl" & I Share
Many Singaporeans I know like to compare how "beautiful their home looks" and are willing to pay in excess of $40,000 worth of renovation for their dream home.
Me? I just make do with whatever I can afford. I'd like to travel the world and ALSO save for retirement, but I sure as hell can't afford to do both if i'm going splash out 40k on renovation. Singaporeans can splurge all they want on renovation. I'm happy with the $24,500 I paid for my BTO renovation (before GST). While a project costing $40,000 worth of renovation probably looks nicer than what I have, does it really look $15,500 nicer than my place? I don't think so.
Heck, I even pay for my car in full, in cash (see point 1). Installments? Give me a break. Since I can't afford to pay for a Ferrari in cash, I'm not going to take up a bank loan just to impress strangers and swim in debt for the next many years. As much as possible, I'm not planning to owe the bank a cent.
When I want vacation time, I take vacation time.
Note: I took a staff loan for my renovation because I saw an investment opportunity at that time i'd rather take with my $24.5k to invest instead.
3. I Treat Myself To Just ONE Good Meal A Week
Beer and BBQ Ribs (served later) while enjoying the sunset in Swaziland, Africa
How many "good meals" do you need to have in a week?
"The Girl" and I reward ourselves with just ONE good meal a week simply because we can't afford to have great meals everyday and STILL save enough to go on our quarterly European vacations.
Our definition of a good meal? Sakae Sushi is more than enough. I don't want the worst, neither do I need the best. And yes, I'm not embarrassed to say I keep track of how many plates my budget (usually $50 combined) allows me to take. Could I afford to spend $70 on a good meal instead of $50? Well, probably; but then i'd have to gauge if I felt $20 more satisfied.
On weekdays, we make do with simple coffee-shop fare or simply head back for a home-cooked meal. If I were to spell it out in dollars & cents, lunch should never exceed $5, and neither should dinner. And just in case your wondering; I worked in Orchard Road. $5, a wide variety of food, very easily done.
Note: If I happen to exceed $5 for lunch on a particular day, the next day's lunch will be revised to $3, or lunch will be food from home until the exceeded difference is covered.
4. I Save First, Travel Later (Retirement Planning)
Whenever I hear about young travelers quitting their jobs to travel the world, I can't help but feel rather amused. I guess the YOLO culture is really on these days. Whatever happened to retirement?
While the romantic notion of quitting our job and throwing off everything just to travel the world to discover the meaning of life certainly sounds like an "adventure"; what on earth are these people planning to do for a living when they're back? Sponge off their parents money? Or perhaps start a travel blog and live off blogging income?
Give me a break, if you aren't a top travel blogger, you'd be lucky if your "blogging income" could even cover your bus fare home.
Maletsunyane Falls, Lesotho (Africa)
So yes, while I do plan on traveling the world full time someday, I'd rather travel occasionally (once every 3 months suits me fine currently) and build up my retirement fund. As much as possible, i'm trying to AVOID being the guy whose traveled to a 100 countries before 30 but becoming dependent on government handouts when i'm 50.
Having a disciplined savings habit is key. I save first, THEN spend whatever is left. Sometimes I save more, sometimes less; but NEVER did I save less than $8,000 every month; the minimum saving expectation I set for myself. (Not in the past 3 years at least)
5. I Travel According To My Income
My idea of a cruise ship; the Rocket Steamer, Bangladesh
The trouble with Singaporeans is their need for luxury and name recognition. Basically point number 2; the NEED to impress people they don't know.
This results in Singaporeans traveling to the worlds most expensive destinations, Paris, Rome, Tokyo, Iceland, the UK, wherever their friends know or could possibly be "impressed" by.
"Wah, you going to to Iceland? So rich ah?" Oh, and let's not forget the luxury part. "Taxi-driver, take me to Hilton Hotel please". "What!!! This Fish & Chips costs just 15 GBP! So cheap!!!"
Sleeping in "affordable accommodation" in Tanna Island, Vanuatu. Hotels? I can't afford them; maybe you can.
When I was still a Banker (i've since had a change of role with a pay cut), I made an average of around $15,000 a month.
Logically speaking, I should have been able to live it up in the "Hilton's or Ritz Carlton's". But being a Banker, I decided to do my math and came to the conclusion that if I kept on taking $10,000 European vacations, i'd probably be looking at a pretty bleak retirement. I then realized, I couldn't afford typical Singaporean style vacations (unless being in debt was my idea of life).
Note: I know you must be wondering how I can buy a BTO based on my income. The truth is, when I bought my BTO, I was still making around $6,000 monthly, my income only really picked up in last 3-4 years AFTER we had successfully bid for our flat.
With that, I chose to travel in the way A Girl & A Bald Traveller has now become known for;
Affordable, Realistic, and Comfortable travel is our motto. (If you haven't already read our previous posts, here are some of them)
- 27 Days In Europe "COMFORTABLY" Under 2.8k SGD or 1.8k Euros! (Including Airtickets)
- 12 Days Finland & The Baltics @2.5k SGD Nett! (Including Airtickets)
- 11 Days Luxury Travel In Africa @2k SGD Nett! (Including Airtickets)
- 18 Days Africa & Europe Under 2.2k SGD Nett! (Including Airtickets
- A Girl's Solo Trip. 10 Days in Kyoto, Osaka & Tokyo @$1.2k Nett! (Including AirTickets)
- How To Plan A 6 Day 5 Night Tokyo Vacation Under $1,000 SGD (Airfare Included)
6. I Make Sure I'm Paid What I'm Worth
Attending a dinner function at the Wieliczka Salt Mine, Poland
I can already hear Singaporeans saying, "chey, earn more then 100k, or course can save 100k wat, no big deal".
I didn't graduate from a local university. Neither did I have "white horse" parents or friends who could propel me to high places. I graduated as a Mass Communications student; and when I realized that the pay in this industry wasn't what I deserved, I jumped (to Banking).
How many of you think you're not paid enough?
Why are you there then? Because it pays the bills? Loads of property agents earn more than I ever did. Do I begrudge them their income? No. Because I know I wouldn't dare to give up my relatively comfortable Banking job to strike it out as a Realtor.
But if you're employed in a job that you feel isn't paying you the amount you deserve, (obviously I mean those of you without physical disabilities/health issues) what's stopping you from making a switch?
Hanging out with the island boys, Vanuatu
The answer is YOU.
YOU are your own stumbling block preventing yourself from being paid what you're worth. Earn just $3,000? (barring physical disabilities/health issues) YOU decided you're worth just $3,000 a month. I decided I was worth $15,000 a month.
So what are you going to do? Perhaps it's time for a career change? To a job that pays you what your really worth? Saving enough $$$ to travel the world might come faster this way. It did for me; just one year to reach $100,000.
7. I Invest (in watches)
A portion of my growing watch collection
I'm not going to go on and on about that typical story of inflation and time value of money (it's true though). Everyone (unless there's something wrong with you) wants to grow their money. Some people put it in fixed deposits, others dabble in stocks, and some (the dumb kind) just leave it in their savings account.
Me? I'm a low risk taker; not so much of a stock person. I buy watches at what I fe