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February 1, 2012

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Budgeting and Living with Less–Saving for Long Term Travel

While we can’t completely predict how much we’ll need to travel for one year (based on the variable of: Will we be making any money on the road?) we have come up with a rough figure.
We know we are keeping a hefty amount of our savings as a safety net and for our (eventual?) return home.  If we didn’t go that route, I know we’d both feel nervous.  While I’ve read of many families who do use their savings, I know they often have rental property making them money while they are traveling or another large source of income.  We do not.

Our travel goal is to save $30K.
That equals $82/day or $2465/month.
Considering our NYC rent for our one bedroom apartment costs more than that, it doesn’t sound like much.
However, we know we can rent an apartment/house for under a thousand anywhere we go and local food costs could be as low as $10-$15/day.
It will be more than enough to live comfortably and we are not aiming to live like queens.

Getting to this goal is a challenge.  We already live quite frugally and we don’t have a lot of ‘wiggle room’ to cut out.

  • We don’t have an extra car to sell or a small house/apartment to move to.  
  • We make our lattes at home every morning.  
  • We rarely take taxis or even use public transportation.  
  • We can’t ‘turn down the heat/turn off the lights’ because we don’t control our heat and heat/hot water/electricity are included in our monthly rent.  
  • We don’t do much shopping for ourselves and I’ve got a great network of moms that have either given/sold cheaply the next round of boys summer clothes/shoes.  
  • We didn’t exchange Christmas gifts because there was nothing we really needed.  
  • We bought the boys very, very little since we knew the grandparents would load them up for the holiday and their birthday.
  • I’d love to cut off the cable (Fios), but Chicken won’t budge.  We all have our things we can’t live without.  Hers is watching the NY Knicks lose basketball games most of the season.
  • We send our laundry out.  We could do it ourselves and save FIVE dollars a week.  Hmmm, up and down the elevator and through 3 locked doors with 2 toddlers in tow only to find that the machines are available or it’s broken or you are out of laundry soap or the dryer didn’t dry it all the way in that cycle OR spend FIVE dollars and they pick it up for me, charge it to my credit card (earning me miles to travel), wash it, dry it, fold it and deliver it back to me by 5pm the same day.  We all have our things we can’t live without.  I’m going to find a way to eat that $20/month savings somewhere else.
  • Oh Look!  I found a place to save $20!  The nanny is working one hour less per week.  Yes, we could ditch the nanny and save quite a chunk, but I’d lose my sanity and probably be a lousy mom.  She is worth every dollar.  She cooks, she cleans, she teaches my kids (and me) Spanish, she’s sweet and kind and my boys love her.  She’s staying.

So what to cut out?  Food, glorious food.
We order out quite a lot.  Too much.  I should be cooking more.  I really don’t like to cook.  Although it’s hard to remember–but I think I used to like it more a very, very long time ago.  The problem is that Chicken is an excellent cook.  And she loves it.  So when I cook, nothing is ever as good as what she makes anyway and….I’m not that good!  I’d rather eat her cooking (and so would she).
I’m more of an “assembly-er” type of cook.  Tacos, Burritos, Fajitas (see a theme here…), Pizza.  I’m great at putting things together.  I’m a snap at heating things up!  I am awesome at “defrosting the frozen organic veggies from Trader Joes and add a pat of butter”.   And I am a smoothie making extraordinaire.  But a cook?  Nope.  I’m much more of a baker.
Baking doesn’t get you far in a family with kids who don’t eat sugar and 2 moms who are very weight mindful.  You can only make so many healthy muffins.

At the beginning of the year, we sat down and made ourselves a tight budget.  I really thought Chicken would balk at cutting down on ‘eating out’ food costs but it turns out Chicken loves a good challenge–even if it’s food related.
She has a app on her iPhone and we track everything religiously.  She’s so competitive, this is perfect for her.
I realized that we both would get the ‘occasional’ fancy coffee out and have instead made another at home or brewed tea in a travel mug.  The month of January neither of us have bought a single coffee drink.  Not ONE!
We’ve cut out the trip to the diner every Saturday morning and made eggs/pancakes ourselves.  The weekend bagel run has been replaced with free bagels at church on Sunday mornings (Don’t worry it’s not the reason we’re going to church, we go for the free child care.  Just kidding!!!)
In addition, we’ve worked out a deal for me to take over more child care on the weekend while Chicken gets busy in the kitchen.
This past week alone she’s turned out:  Beef Burgundy, Salmon Cakes, Chicken Marsala, Chicken Pot Pie and Pan Fried Flounder.  I’ve made Tacos, Quesadillas and Pizza:)
This is such a sweet deal for me because I’d much rather be building things with legos and hanging with the kids while Chicken makes delicious meals.  Win!

We came out $120 ahead for January!  Yeah! This goes straight into the travel fund.

Now, at $100+/month it’s going to take forever for us to save up–so here are some other things we’ve decided will go directly into the fund:

All yearly bonuses/quarterly rewards
All raises
All birthday/Christmas cash gifts
All interest earnings
All healthcare reimbursements (because it feels like we already ‘spent’ that money)
Any extra income

I’ve even agreed to sell three of my antique pieces–my dresser, bedframe and a pair of tall glass cabinets.  It won’t get me much, the market is slow, but the pieces are not family items and furthermore, they are not ‘me’ anymore.  I’d also love to sell our huge desk.
This next year is about weeding things out–I’ve already cleared out an entire closet, donating the majority of the contents to the Bowery Mission homeless shelter–selling items of value that I can live without, and deciding what stays and what goes.
Ideally we’d love to sublet our apartment fully furnished.  Realistically, that probably won’t happen and we’ll have to put things in storage.  The less items we have to store, the easier life will be.
I feel like I have a to-do list a mile long already!

The projected date of departure is September 2013.  If we stayed in NYC, this is when the boys would be expected to go to ‘preschool’.
Instead, they will be enrolling in the experience of ‘world schooling’.