Married with Luggage: Saving Money to Change Their Lives

It’s easy to think that to travel the world you need to spend a lot of money. And the thought of being able to save enough money can seem daunting. But if you really want to realize your dream, you will find ways to make it happen.

[singlepic=1717,200,,,right]That’s what Betsy & Warren Talbot, of Married with Luggage, have done. In two years they have managed to save $100,000 towards their dream travels, enough to live on the road for three years! But it didn’t come easy. Before saving, they recognized the need to get out of the debt they were in. They made radical changes to their lifestyle, including moving across the country, and found creative ways to still have an active social life without breaking the bank.

They share many of the ways they managed to get out of debt AND save in their free eBook, “How we saved enough money to change our lives (and how you can, too!)

Among the chapters include:
How We Saved Half Our Income in One Year | Creating a Lifestyle to Support Our Dream | Selling Our Possessions | Determine How Much Money You Need | Find out Where Your Money is Going | How to Have Fun on a Tight Budget | Making Money off Your Junk | and Online Tools for Managing Your Money

Betsy shares with us why they decided to take a career break, some more insight on how they saved money, and their plans during and after their travels.

What are your current careers?
Warren is a Director at Microsoft, and I consult with solo entrepreneurs on planning and projects for their small businesses. Warren also started a side business last year developing WordPress websites, which has been very successful.

[singlepic=1718,250,,,left]Why did you decide to take a career break and why travel?
Like most people – we worked too many hours and thought that when we both retired (in 19 years) we’d slow down and enjoy life a little more. Then my brother had a heart attack in his 30s and a good friend – also in her 30s – had a brain hemorrhage all within 4 months. We were saying all the usual things about how life is short over dinner with some friends, and then after a steady stream of margaritas the topic of our life dream came up. The more we talked the more we wondered what was really standing in the way of all that. (Thankfully both my brother and our friend have recovered.) By the next morning our goal was set, all that was left was the planning.

You have radically changed your lifestyle in order to save for this break. What has been the most difficult thing to give up? What has been most difficult is the change in our social life. When we first started saving we cut out almost all eating out and socializing, and it took us a while to find a way to make that work in our budget. To give you some perspective on that, we realized were eating out 13 times a week (together and separately) including dinner out most nights of the week. Keep in mind that we originally moved from the Boston suburbs to an artsy neighborhood in Seattle in order to have a better lifestyle, and we were fully taking advantage of it! We eventually learned to appreciate happy hour in lieu of full dinners, game nights at home, potluck parties with friends, and even the search for a good bottle of wine under $10 (“Menage a Trois” has won the honor of the Talbot house wine).

One of the funniest money-saving stories was early on when Warren decided to save money by cutting his own hair. He bought the clippers as an investment ($50) and thought he would save $25/month for the remaining 24 months before our trip (total savings = $550). When it came time for the first haircut, he asked me to help him cut the back, and he became frustrated that I wasn’t pressing hard enough with the clippers to give him a uniform “buzz”. He finally got frustrated and grabbed it from me to show me how it was done. He then dug a 2-inch bald spot into the back of his head as my eyes went wide and I started to laugh. Was it really worth it to save $550 over 2 years? We both agree the story alone is priceless.
One of the reasons I love him is that nothing ever seems like the end of the world. He just laughed and said it would grow back, and from then on he never asked me to help him cut his hair. He’s continued doing it ever since then and never had another incident. And we are almost $550 richer (which is another 5-1/2 days on the road!).

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in saving money that you want to share with others?

  • If you have debt, pay it off. If you can’t pay your debt off right away, at least stop buying new stuff. You will never be able to freely follow your dreams if you owe money to other people. And you’ll never pay it off if you keep adding to it.
  • Keep track of your spending for one week. You’ll be shocked at where your money is going. I would have never thought we ate out 13 times a week until I saw proof of it myself. And guess where most of our savings comes from now? That same money we were spending on restaurants. You probably have the money you need to at least get started on your dream. You’re just spending it somewhere else.
  • Break your savings goal down into bite-sized pieces. For instance, we have figured that our budget for the trip is $100/day. It makes it really easy for me to say no to a new pair of shoes if I know it will gain me an extra day on the road. Figure out your number, and it will be much easier to save a little every day than thinking of a big overwhelming number that you can’t wrap your head around.

[singlepic=1715,250,,,right]How much have you saved for your travels and how long do you plan to travel?
We’ve saved $100,000 so far, and we’ll have even more by the time we leave in October. We plan to be gone for 3 years, longer if we can bring in enough revenue creating websites, writing and consulting. We’ve learned a lot by reading the blogs of other travelers, and we plan to travel slowly to both save money and fully appreciate what life sends our way.

What are your plans after you are done? Do you plan to go back to similar careers?
We’d love to continue a traveling lifestyle with a small homebase, and we’re open to having that base in another country. We figure that the worst-case scenario will be that we come back to our regular lives and get regular jobs, but we hope not. Just the planning for this trip has changed our thinking about what kind of life we can live, and we cannot even imagine how much more that will change as we begin traveling. We expect our creativity to blossom on this trip and open up options we can’t even imagine. For us, the key going into this process is that we must learn to open ourselves up to the possibilities, which is not natural for most of us. If I could write about life, meet people, and finally learn to play the guitar I’d consider that a very successful career. Warren is a born connector, and with his background I could definitely see him working with venture capitalists and startups around the world, especially in “do good” fields that mirror his beliefs.

How do you plan to use your career break to reach those “post-travel” goals and do you have a savings plan in place for that period of time?
We actually have a separate savings fund for “re-entry” and would love to never have to use that money. We will be actively working every day during our trip to make it into a permanent lifestyle, so it is more of a permanent career restructuring than anything.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could all pursue our talents and interests and have a great time doing it?

You can follow Betsy and Warren’s travel preparations and future travels on Married with Luggage, and also on Twitter @betsytalbot. And get a copy of their free eBook here!


Other comments

4 Comments on "Married with Luggage: Saving Money to Change Their Lives"

  1. Betsy Talbot on Mon, 8th Mar 2010 10:54 am 

    Thanks for the nice profile, Michaela! We have been transformed just by the act of preparing for this new adventure, and I highly recommend it to others – even if you won’t leave on your adventure for several years. It is life-changing to actively work toward your big dreams.

  2. Sherry Ott on Mon, 8th Mar 2010 3:37 pm 

    Very inspiring! Excellent idea to have a Re-entry savings fund kept separate. I sort of did the same. When I reached a certain point in my account – I knew I’d have to come home. That point allowed me to live in the US for 6 months without a real plan/job as I figured out my next steps.

    Thanks for sharing your story! Based on my experience and a willingness to travel to ‘cheaper’ countries – $100,000 for 3 yrs will be PLENTY! Mainly because you have some great skills (computer/wordpress) that you can use on the road and also earn. I consult and teach while I travel/live in other places which has allowed me to not really touch my savings!
    Good luck with the Ebook!

  3. marta on Sun, 14th Mar 2010 3:45 am 

    woww that would be enough to keep us going maybe for 6 years!
    although we didn’t save that much, anyone can pursue their wanderlust even just by selling a car, saving for a couple of years and sharing the cost of accommodation by let out a room for example and you could easily achieve a realistic figure of $15’000/20’000 enough to make you go around the world a year.

  4. Best of the RSS – What’s on the Web this Week | AirTreks Travel Blog on Thu, 1st Apr 2010 4:03 pm 

    […] at Briefcase to Backpack interviews a married couple who managed to save $100K for their trip, in 2 years! Those guys definitely deserve a […]

Career Break Guide Table of Contents

Meet Plan Go