How to Track and Save for Career Break
Deciding to go on a career break is difficult enough, but the tough decisions don’t end once you finally take that plunge and decide to do it. After making the decision to go, the first question most people ask is, “How much is this whole venture going to cost?”
The good news is that you’re going to have plenty of time to practice budgeting. The budget and money-saving doesn’t begin the day you leave. It starts right now. The minute you decide to go on an adventure like this is the minute you need to start focusing on money.
Be Realistic and Ask Yourself the Right Questions
Before you open your first spreadsheet, start an account on Mint, or think about anything money related, you need to be 100% honest with yourself about you, your spending habits, and what type of traveler you are. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you OK with hostel dorms (cheap, shared accommodations)?
- Do you think you’ll want a private room most of the time (hostels have these, too)?
- Are hotels more your style?
- Are you OK with cooking a lot of your meals in hostel kitchens?
- Are you OK with eating street or market food?
- What type of big activities do you want to participate in?
- Is overland travel the way you want to get around?
- How many continents do you plan on visiting (the more you go to, the more expensive it will be)?
Where to Begin
Sometimes the most overwhelming part of the budget is figuring out where to begin. If you don’t already track your spending, then start now!
- Open an account on Mint.com and start figuring out where your money is going.
- Break down your income vs. your expenses. (see Monthly vs. Travel expenses)
- If your expenses exceed your income, then you need to make changes.
- Cut back on things like eating out and drinking at bars.
- Stop buying new stuff. Chances are high that you are going to want to get rid of a lot of you clutter before leaving, so why buy new items now?
- Consider getting a second (or third) job.
- Think about selling off a lot of your stuff. You will most likely come home from your career break and realize that you have way too much clutter. Get rid of it now – sell it on ebay, Craig’s List, or have a garage or yard sale.
Once you get to the point where you are bringing in more than you are spending, then it’s time to go into saving mode. Open up a savings account somewhere. Research banks that offer high starting interest rates or specials for the first year. Any extra little bit helps. Then start paying that savings account, otherwise known as your career break travel fund, as you would your normal bills. Figure out how much you can start putting away each month, and pay it as soon you receive a paycheck.
Any little extra bit you earn or save, put it in the travel fund. Start getting into travel mode. Saving for a trip of this magnitude is difficult. You will have to turn down a lot of fun events before leaving on your career break. Going out to bars, dinners with friends, movies, shopping trips with the girls-all are things you are just going to have to say no to much of the time. It’s frustrating, and there will be times you question if what you’re doing is worth it. It is. It’s just all a manner of how you spin it in your mind.
Bypass a night out on the town with your buddies? Congratulations, you just bought yourself four extra days in Thailand. Turn down that shopping trip with your sister? Good job, now you can spend another week in Argentina. It’s all about priorities, and when you make the decision to take a career break and travel the world, it has to be the top priority in your life.
Warren and Betsy Talbot of Married with Luggage provide some video advice on how to think of your ‘number’ and stay focused on the goal:
Are you ready to start focusing on your number?