What are you, rich or something?
We get a lot of people asking us how we are able to afford such an extensive trip. No, we didn’t win the lottery. No, we didn’t get some sort of inheritance. We didn’t even rob a bank. For the past two years, since being back from our last road trip, we have worked our little butts off in order to follow our dreams. Yep, that’s right- we worked for all the money we saved to complete this trip- and we worked damn hard too!
Of course, it takes more than just working and saving to increase the number in your bank account enough to live off of for an entire year. We had to make many lifestyle adjustments as well. Here are some of our tips to save:
#1: Get Decent Jobs
The first thing we did was find jobs that we would be able to make decent money with. Nate decided to start his own tile and stone business. He does custom tile work in beautiful homes in all of the surrounding cities and towns. His business took off right from the beginning. This has helped us in so many ways. I find odd jobs all over the place. In the past two years, I have held four (sometimes 5) jobs at a time. My main job last year was working at a middle school in a new program designed to help children who struggle in certain subject areas. That position unfortunately didn’t last, so I have resorted to substitute teaching on days I do not work at the butter factory. Which brings me to my second job: working for a local butter making business. I stumbled upon this job when I got laid off from my position at school. I figured, I’m willing to try anything, so why not make butter! Well, I don’t actually make the butter. I bust my butt (sometimes getting up at 2:30 am to get to work for 3:30!) packing and distributing this deliciously homemade product. I also waitress at a local restaurant, which I have been employed at for almost eight years on and off. It is a great little restaurant and is my main job in the summertime. On the side, I clean for a local realty business. This is something that I find comes easy to me and the money isn’t half bad either!
#2 Cut Back on the Grocery Bill
Of course we know that it is very important to eat well but we also know that you can still do this by not spending an insane amount of money on groceries each week. After eating rice and beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner on our last trip, when we got back we were not very careful when grocery shopping; we were spoiling ourselves a little too much. We were spending close to 175 dollars on groceries a week!
We figured out pretty quickly that if we wanted to save as much money as possible, we would need to make some changes. Our first accomplishment: stop buying crap. By crap, I mean pre-packaged, processed crappy crap. Now, Nate and I have always been pretty good about this but we would splurge every now and then. That every now and then adds up! We started buying bulk foods as much as we can and when something goes on sale, we stock up. Something as simple as buying a frozen pizza instead of one from a pizza joint will save you at least 5 bucks or more.
I also started making our own granola/protein bars. I put together a bunch of snacks in the beginning of the week to grab for lunch. I cut up fruits and vegetables, make hard boiled eggs, roast a whole chicken for sandwich meat, etc, so we don’t have an excuse to buy lunch throughout the week.
Another thing we realized that was adding onto our grocery bill: beer. Oh, beer, you little culprit, you. Nate and I love a good beer. We truly enjoy sitting down at the end of the day to enjoy a nice cold beverage while talking about our day or making dinner. The downfall of loving a good brew? The cost! We were not quite willing to downgrade our beverage quality, so instead we cut back. 2-Buck-Chucks have also been a cheap, and delicious, alternative for wine!
#3 Stop Paying People to Make Food for Us
Okay, this was a hard one for us at first but now we got the hang out of it. You know when you work a ten to twelve hour day and the last thing you want to do is make yourself dinner? Or when you wake up a little late one morning and don’t feel like making yourself a lunch to bring with you to work so you figure you will just buy one? Well, that was us. We knew we were spending far too much money eating out so we made a plan: Only eat out once a week at first and downgrade from there. After about two months of doing this, we now only go out to eat once every two or three weeks. Holy crap! If only we knew how much money this would’ve saved us all along, we would already be on our trip!
#4 Stop Over-Consuming
Everyday you hear or see items advertised that you “need” or “want”. Whether it be electronics, clothing, cars, household items, etc.- we are influenced to believe that it will increase our happiness in life. Why throw all of these things into your life to complicate it? We decided about five years ago to stop buying presents for each other and for other people for Christmas, birthdays, etc. We did this for two reasons: One, we personally did not want or need anything else in life and Two: We would much rather spend time with people than buy them materialistic things that they will soon forget about or have no use for. We have found that simplifying our lives has been a much more affordable and better way to live. Certainly there are things you need in order to survive, but there a lot of things you don’t need as well. We have found that we enjoy our time together much more now than we ever have and it definitely helps the bank account too!
#5 Drive a 1984 Mercedes 300D
Nate got “Sadie” during his senior year of college. He wanted to convert a vehicle to run on vegetable oil as a fun little project. We have always believed in being as eco-friendly as we can, and this was a great way to help save the environment from toxic emissions. He got the car during his finals week, and worked on it for three full days instead of studying for exams- oops! Little did I know at the time that this would be the car I would be driving full time!
Sadie can not only run on vegetable oil, but she gets over 30 mpg! It is older than I am but is the most reliable and efficient car I have ever driven. I only fill up the gas tank once a month, if that. Yet another great way to save money!
#6 Live in an Airstream
Nate and I have always tried to find cheap places to live where we won’t be completely miserable. This can be hard, but it can be done if you do your homework. We live in a seasonal area where the summertime is the busiest. You can get what are called “Winter Rentals”. They are usually large houses that people rent out by the week for a ridiculous amount of money in the summer. But in the winter, you can rent them for super cheap. The downfall? The lease is only from mid-September to the end of May. So you have no place to live from June to mid-September. Our solution? Buy a 1972 Airstream camper to live out of in the summer.
We parked this silver bullet in Nate’s parents backyard for free, eating from his mother’s garden all summer. I bought a bicycle on Craigslist for 30 dollars and rode that to work or carpooled all summer. What better way to save money?!
#7 Steal the Internet
This is pretty self explanatory, but internet costs around here are about 55 dollars a month for basic speed internet. That’s 660 bucks a year!! It’s great if you have neighbors who do not have passwords to use their internet. If you aren’t lucky enough to have that, public libraries or relatives houses are great alternatives.
Also, get rid of cable! Nate and I have never once paid for cable, and we never will. We have friends who pay over 100 bucks a month for cable and internet- that’s absurd! Stop rotting your brain out and start saving money!
#8 Live Off of One Person’s Paycheck and Save the Other
This has been the hardest thing we have had to do yet. We decided to live off of my paycheck and save all of Nate’s in order to save the most that we can. I think if I made the same amount each week, it would be easier. But since I juggle four jobs, it can be difficult to figure out how much I will make each week.
I started by writing down how much I make each week on a calendar. We tallied up our expenses and found that if I make at least 500 dollars a week, that would be enough for our rent, groceries, electricity bill, heat, my student loans, our occasional trip out to eat and my gas. Nate would pay his student loans and gas out of his own money and save the rest.
Ultimately, all of these things have helped us to save what we need to in order to go on this trip. So, no, we are not rich. It has taken us almost a year and a half to reach our goal. Also, another interesting outcome to all of this is we have found ourselves enjoying life more now than ever before. Everything we have “sacrificed” for this trip has already made our lives better in some way, and we cannot wait to see what else is in store 🙂