Over on my Instagram there’s two questions I get asked on a regular basis. The first one is “Do you homeschool your kids?”. Nope, we leave that up to the professionals. The second one is “How do you afford to travel so much?”. I’ll try to answer that below.
Everyone has their priorities in life. For us, we love to travel. We also want to raise kids who are world-citizens, who love trying new things, and kids that want to explore. We would love to be travelling every spare minute, but unfortunately (like for most of us) that’s not an option. Instead we opt for exploring our local river valley, day trips around our province, and camping as often as possible. We are always in planning mode and saving for major trips either months or years in advance. Taking these trips, even camping through the summer, requires us to budget and cut back on things that we would sometimes like. However, as exploring is a priority, we never feel like we are missing out.
Here is how we do it-
- You need a budget. And you need to understand your budget. Taking a money management course can help you save literally thousands of dollars a year- just by figuring out where money gets wasted and where unnecessary funds are being spent. I recommend taking a class, like those from from my friend Selina Gray, in order to sit down, go through your finances and actually figure out exactly where your money goes. Spreadsheets and pre-planning isn’t always fun, but a bit of work can bring you to your goals.
- Involve your kids. We let our kids plan our trips and research with us. Then when they ask for something like going out for dinner or a toy they can live without, we can remind them of what are family goals are. Violet, 7, can easily understand and accept the concept of not getting a new bike because she wants to go on a holiday as a family.
- Make a vision board and hang it somewhere you see it everyday. If you see constantly see your goals (pictures of the beach or Europe or the mountains in BC or wherever you want to travel to) you will start making more decisions to lead you towards them. Next to my computer is a picture of our next big trip- whenever I’m tempted to online shop I’m reminded of the bigger goal. And I know that memories made from travel are worth more then the short term joy of a new swimsuit any day.
- Reassess your mortgage. Talk to a mortgage broker to ensure you are getting the best rate and the best mortgage for you. We have saved thousands of dollars by reevaluating our mortgage on a yearly basis and making sure we are always paying the least amount of interest with a mortgage that fits within our lifestyle. Our Mortgage broker, Sarah, is fantastic and is full of great advice- I’m shocked when I hear that people don’t use a Broker when assessing their mortgage.
- If it’s not on sale we don’t buy it. Meaning I only buy groceries on sale. Period. I plan out weekly meals with the help of the flyer, and stock up on the things we need. My kids already know to ask “Is this on sale Mom?” before they ask if they can have it. Obviously we splurge everyone once in a while on a watermelon in winter or fancy cheese for a Friday night caricature, but our meals are always based on what’s a good price. We also have embraced buying store brand products, having “Meatless Mondays” and cooking from scratch.
- Open up a separate saving account for travel, one you can’t touch from your banking card. Transfer payments into your account, either with a automatic withdrawal system or weekly as you save it. Set your goal as a family and work towards it together (you could even build a chart they can colour as your reach a savings goal). Kids can understand the value of having fun as a family and can understand the process of saving money as a family if you include them in the process.
- Embrace hand me downs, embrace swap pages and second hand finds. I used to buy way too many cute kids clothes but then realized that they just wanted to live in $6 dresses from H&M all summer and leggings all winter anyway. As photographer it’s sometimes hard not having my kids dressed the way I’d like (Shop the Skinny and all their summer camp clothes are killing me right now!!!) but it was something to sacrifice in order to live the life we want. I also shop sales and sometimes buy a season ahead on clearance. However, the best way to save money is to just not spend it, so we’ve embraced a less is more mentality for clothing. (Annnnd I’m still working on this- I recently filled up a whole cart from Zara and then literally unplugged the computer and just walked away. The next day all that money I was going to spend on that cart got transferred to our travel account).
- I’m sure you’ve heard all the basics– start bringing leftovers for lunch, make your own coffee/bring your own water bottle, unplug appliances when not in use and turn off lights, stop smoking, stop drinking, get rid of cable, cut out the banking machine fees, get a part time job, rent out a room or rent out your garage…… but you need to decide what you can take on. Taking on too much can feel like a burden, so start small and work on one thing at a time. And once you do take the thing on, save the money monthly in a separate account specifically for travel.
- Get a travel Credit Card. However I don’t recommend a credit card if you aren’t paying it off every month. But if you can, definitely do your research for the best one for you. We try to travel on travel points as much as possible and we put everything on a credit card to get them. The best travel cards we have found are the WestJet MasterCard and the RBC Infinite Avion card. They are both awesome, have high rankings and allow travel with no blackouts. West Jet’s $99 companion fare is worth the credit card alone (plus the points add up fast and can be used towards any flights, anytime!). We often travel exclusively on points because I put all our household bills and every little $2 drink purchase on it- but if you aren’t paying off your credit card every month, the interest you’re playing isn’t worth the free trips.
- Remember that things are just things. And it turns out things generally don’t make us happy. I have a lot of friends who are bloggers and they seem to always always the coolest new purchases . While I like pretty things, I like exploring more. At the end of the day you need to sit down and figure out what your priorities are and what you can cut out in order to achieve your goals.
I know that even with the most careful planning that saving for big trip isn’t always a reality. We’ve been there. The years when I started my business I ate noodles every night and never had a surplus of money at the end of any month to put towards ANY savings. I get it. I’m grateful now we have money we can be saving. But remember with kids, it isn’t always the big trips that matter most. It’s spending time trying new things as a family and being together. So whether you’re saving up for a trip to Europe or saving up for a weekend at a local provincial park, you’re giving your children memories and pushing them outside their comfort zone. That’s what exploring is all about.