Facing the Finances of long-term travel

piggybankOne of the questions most people have when considering long-term travel is about the financial side of it all. We know we need to have the money available, but the logistics of finances of long-term travel can be a convoluted mess to try and sort out. I’ve written about this a few times, but I did it after the fact – a few years after I went through the process.

My friend Jessica is just now launching into her new adventures, and has been wading through the muck and mire of setting up and organizing finances for that. I asked her to write a post outlining and detailing the minutia she needed to consider and what kinds of problems she encountered.

As you read through this post, I hope it gives you some ideas of what kinds of things to think about, but be aware that this is only one family’s approach. It will be interesting to come back to Jessica in a year, once her plan has been put to the test, and see what ends up changing and morphing. You can follow along with their adventures at Goodie Goodie Gumdrop.

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Our family is planning a lifestyle change that involves long-term travel which requires us to research and develop various systems for handing our finances. I don’t know about you, but when I have to deal with money management and multiple bank accounts I get sweaty in places I did not know could sweat, my heart rate rises and I back-burner this task every time. Last week we hit a wall on our “to do” list and it was time to face the finances. It is a daunting task to say the least, but I did find some ways that helped make it more manageable.

  • Network: A week before you plan to dive into what appears to be the black hole of finances go to your traveling “tribe” and ask them which banks and credit cards they use and why. It is amazing what you learn when you take your questions to the social media world.
  • Identify: Make a list of the areas you want to explore, for example, credit cards, brick and mortar banks, online bank, accounts receivable. Then establish how many bank accounts you want of each.
  • Schedule: Make a schedule that includes what needs to be accomplished and focus on one item per day. Once you have it outlined and broken down into manageable tasks you will be surprised at how easy it flows.
  • Breathe: Remember to breathe. I know when the topic of money comes up many of us freeze and forget to breathe (myself included).

Now that you have everything broken down into manageable tasks it is time to identify what you need to consider within each area.

CREDIT CARDS

  • No annual fee: It was important for us to have a card that had no annual fee. The $100+ annual fee may not seem like a big deal today, but once you have a couple of cards (and a limited budget) it can become costly.
  • Interest rate: This was not a major consideration for us because we only plan to use the credit cards for emergencies and for large purchase (flights, hotels, etc). When we do use it we plan to pay it off immediately, but if your trip will be funded partially by credit cards you will want to get the lowest interest rate possible.
  • Foreign Fees: This was a big one for us. If we did find ourselves in a country or situation where we needed to solely survive on our credit card we wanted to make sure we were not racking up the foreign fees. Also, find out if your credit card company waives all foreign fees or just fees from select banks. Remember, even if they say they waive foreign fees you will still be charged a fee from the bank who owns the ATM.
  • Chip: When we were in Paris for the summer this one became an issue several times. One situation I remember vividly was when we were trying to buy train tickets from a kiosk. Our credit card needed the chip in it and since none of ours had it we needed to wait in the long line to deal with an actual teller, we almost missed the last train to Giverny. Do your research and determine whether or not the country you are traveling to requires a chip in their credit cards.
  • Annual fee versus mileage: I know one of our cards had an annual fee if we wanted the mileage earning feature. Do you want to pay the annual fee in order to get the mileage? I guess this depends on how much you plan on flying. If it is a one year, around the world adventure it might be to your benefit to pay the annual fee and rack up the miles.
  • Travel protection and Insurance: Do you want to have at least one card that offers travel protection or insurance for rental cars? We specifically kept our American Express for this reason. We did consider canceling it because it is not accepted at many establishments on the ground, but it has great perks and if you lose your card they will have another one to you within 24 hours.

BANK ACCOUNT FOR PERSONAL

  • Brick and mortar versus online banks: You need to decide if you want to use brick and mortar banks or online banks, or maybe a combination of both. Often there are different perks with each. We found that the online bank did not have a lot of the fees that the brick and mortar had, but the brick and mortar could offer a personal customer service that the online could not.
  • Minimum balance requirements: Does your personal bank account require you to have a minimum balance in your account? If so, how high is the monthly fee? Will you be able to maintain that balance or should you maybe look for a bank that does not have a fee? Will your bank allow you to have several accounts (checking, savings, business) at their bank and use the total in all accounts to meet the minimum balance requirement?
  • Transfers between banks: It is likely (or should I say I highly recommended) that you have multiple bank accounts from different institutions. Make sure your bank can transfer money between your different banking institutions without a fee. Also, are you able to do it personally online or does a representative from the branch need to do it?
  • Waive ATM fees: Find out where you can use your ATM card without having a fee attached to it. Some banks have specific locations that you can use, some specific countries and some charge a fee every time. Remember that your bank may have a fee and the bank that owns the ATM will have a fee. You want to do your best to reduce or completely eliminate the fee your bank charges because the ATM will always have a fee.
  • Wire transfers: In the case of an emergency will your bank transfer money for you? How much will it cost and do you need to be there in person at a branch to make this happen? (Note from editor: This is HUGE. One of our banks required that we were physically inside one of their branches to send a transfer. That was problematic when we were in South America.)
  • Linking accounts and transfers within the bank: Make sure you have linked all your bank accounts within one institution together and you are able to access all of your information online. Do this before you leave!
  • Kids accounts: If you have older children who might need their own account and access to it you want to try to find a bank that can hold all of these accounts. Make sure you can easily transfer money online into the kids accounts as needed.
  • Foreign fees: I mentioned this one above.
  • Overdraft protection: I would get this with your personal bank account. There are no fees associated with having it and it offers you an extra level of protections should your account go empty.
  • Throw away account: It was recommended by a friend that we have one account that is a stand alone account at an online bank. This card would be used for those situations where the ATM seems a little sketchy. The idea is to only transfer a small amount to this account and then withdraw it.
  • Scan paper checks: I suggest trying to avoid having any payments made to you via paper check, but if you must then be sure to check with your bank to clearly understand how someone at home can take a picture of it, use an app and upload your check for a deposit.

BANK ACCOUNT FOR BUSINESS

  • Accounts receivable: If you will be receiving payment from clients while you are traveling then you need to consider how you will handle this. There are many options, paypal, direct deposit, scanning paper checks (last option, see above), etc. If you contact your business bank they will be able to describe all the options that are available to you.
  • Accounts payable: Check with your bank before you hit the road, you would be surprised how many options are available for accounts payable. Banks offer the service of sending money via email which the receiver can transfer immediately, they offer the service of sending a check payment for you so you don’t have to actually write and mail the check and if all else fails there is always the old school, wire transfer route.

LOCAL BANK

  • Brick and mortar bank (at your destination location): Some travelers like to open an account at their local location if they plan on staying for a longer period. Also, if you use a large global bank (e.g., Citibank), you can keep your account at home and open a new account at your destination. Doing so will permit you to make a no-fee cash transfer between your home (pre travel) account and your destination (active travel) bank account. Check with your bank in advance as policies often change and jurisdictions where non-fee transfers are permitted can be limited.

OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER

  • How many bank accounts do you want? Checking or savings, or both? How many credit cards will make you feel comfortable?
  • Do any of your banks have the ability to do a quick loan, at a good rate, if necessary?
  • Do you want to carry some traveler’s checks just as an extra precaution for a rare situation that none of your accounts are working?
  • Make sure your cards will not expire while you are traveling.
  • Let you credit card companies know you will be out-of-town. It would be unfortunate to land in a new city and find that your cards have been block because the company thinks it is suspicious activity.

I truly hope this has been helpful for any of you readers thinking about hitting the open road. I have to admit that it was overwhelming when we started, but as we slowly moved through that checklist for finances of long-term travel we did start to feel an intense sense of accomplishment. Now that we have completed the finance part of our travel planning I realized that like anything in life it was time-consuming, but not as hard as I had anticipated.

Follow along with Jessica and her family at Goodie Goodie Gumdrop.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

10 Ways to stay on the road longer than you can imagine

Today I would like to introduce you to the Polish duo Agness and Cez, travel companions and founders of eTramping.com, a blog focusing on cheap travels under 25 bucks a day. They have been enjoying their lives on the road since 2011 trying to inspire another to follow their steps. Here are their best tips for traveling on the cheap.

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Many people dream of long-term travel and being on the road forever. Some sell all their possessions, some save up money for years in order to afford it. A year, two, or five years of travels can sound expensive at first. However, when you consider that you do not have rent or a car payment in this lifestyle (or much room to carry any possessions), it can actually be very cheap to live this way, provided you can work a little along the way, or do some kind of virtual freelancing or contract work.

In fact, if you do some research, you will find out that travel can be affordable as long as you plan for it and prioritize it in your life. Here are 10 ways to stay on the road longer than you can imagine:

 

1. Always travel off-season.

Before visiting a certain country, make sure you get there off-season. In this way you can save at least half the money you would spend when travelling in peak season.

Just to give you an example – you are planning to travel in Europe. If you make it there between October and April, you will get cheaper airfare, find more budget rooms, spend less time in lines, and meet more Europeans than tourists.

 

2. Go couchsurfing.

Have you ever heard of couchsurfing? If not, it’s high time to get familiar with this term! Couchsuring is a web portal that offers its users hospitality exchange (free couch to sleep on, showing around the place, etc.) and social networking services (helping each other with travel issues). It is free of charge and you should not have any problems with finding a host anywhere in the world.

CS is a great way of exploring places on a budget; you can meet amazing people who can look after you and show you around. If you are a solo traveler afraid of getting lost in a big city, you should definitely set up your account and join the couchsurfing community.

 

3. Travel with a partner.

Travelling with a partner or a group of friends can save you a lot of money as you can share the expenses. When in Asia or Europe, you will see that a single hotel room often costs nearly the same as a double. And by splitting taxis, chores, guidebooks, and picnics couples save both time and money!

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4. Be smart about accommodation choices.

Trust me, you do not need a five-star hotel to enjoy your travels. Instead, you can choose to stay at guest houses and budget hostels. You can book a variety of inexpensive, off the beaten path accommodation types — and none of them involve splitting a room with strangers, camping, or couchsurfing.

A lot of people associate budget travel with roughing it, but it is possible to be comfortable. In fact, by avoiding the beaten path, I usually have a less expensive, equally as comfortable, and more interesting cultural experience. Besides, you can meet amazing people who might join you and share the costs of food with you.

 

5. Travel by land, avoid flying, and always choose local transport.

By far, this can be the single most expensive purchase of your trip. One flight inside Asia costs from $60 to $300. Instead, you can travel by local buses, trains, vans, and ferries and do the same trip for $10! Your journey might last much longer and it can be less comfortable, but at the end of the day you have more money to stay on the road.

Another thing is to travel by local transport. By avoiding taxis and travelling around the country using local transport, you can save a lot of money. For example, taking the subway is the cheapest and fastest way to explore Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. The subway tickets in Shanghai only cost RMB2 (£0.20/ $0.30). If you take a taxi it would cost you at least RMB200 which is $30.

Plane entrance!

 

6. Try local food and avoid Western style restaurants.

Most of the countries in Southeast Asia are full of really expensive Western restaurants where you can get a cheeseburger, pizza, fries and coke. You can treat yourself to amazing Khmer food instead (in Cambodia). It is going to save you a lot of money as Western food costs up to 5 times more than traditional Thai, Khmer or Vietnamese dishes. Would you fancy a plate of rice and vegetables topped with spicy sauce for less than $1 or a takeaway cheeseburger and coke for $5?

 

7. Keep your partying in check.

You are on your holiday and you obviously want to have fun. However, the alcohol in a foreign country might cost a fortune, especially when you are out off limits. For example, in Cambodia or Vietnam, it all starts with a $0.5 draft and by the end of the night you find yourself broke.

Going clubbing every night is not the cheapest entertainment option so you should always keep your partying in check. Some locals can take advantage of you being tipsy or drunk and rip you off. If you feel like you might over spend on alcohol, take a friend or two with you to keep an eye on your tab.

 

8. Get a job on the road.

Before setting off your travel, think of various jobs you can do when travelling, such as

  • IT specialist – you can do some programming, web design, SEO.
  • Teaching – China is a very affordable place to live in. With a free apartment and food provided by most of the schools (if you are interested in teaching English), you can live a fairly luxurious life and still be able to save some money for your future plans, whatever they may be. Did you know you can save up to $18.000 a year teaching English in China while still travelling and enjoying yourself a lot?
  • Anything related to Tourism (Tourism Management – you can easily get a job in a hostel or restaurant around the world, work as a hotel/restaurant manager while still enjoying long-term travels and foreign culture.

 

9. Earn money from your travel blog.

Many travelers use their blog as a source of income when travelling. It can actually bring you from $50 to $3000 a month, so the hard work pays off. The best idea would be to start thinking of your travel blog before you go travelling. Do some research, think of what design you want, come up with a catchy name, your own slogan, logo and design. Connect with fellow travel bloggers, start your first interactions and get familiar with social media network.

Don’t wait till you get on the road as you might not manage to balance blogging with your travel. Believe me when I say it’s a very tough and time-consuming work!

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10. Get off the beaten path.

I will not surprise anyone by saying that tourist areas are the most expensive to stay at. Therefore, the best idea is to stay outside busy city centres, a few kilometres away from all hot spots. You will not only be able to negotiate a much cheaper price for your room, but you will also have an opportunity to get to know some locals, discover local areas, and see what other holiday makers will not see. If you feel like going to the city centre, rent a bike for $1 or $2 per day (prices for Cambodia and Thailand) and go there by bike – healthy, eco-friendly and affordable!

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As you can see, everyone can afford to travel even for a longer period of time than a week or two. It is a matter of prioritizing things in your life, making a good plan, and being well-organised. Follow these 10 steps and after a week you will see how much less money you have spent in comparison to other fellow backpackers and tourists you meet on the road!

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Will you find a way to make it work? Or reasons why it won’t?

You know the drill – I’ve hammered on the financial side of this dream stuff enough. If you want to make it happen badly enough, you’ll do what it takes to figure it out. If you don’t, you’ll make excuses why it won’t work. It’s up to you, really.

I’m not the only person saying that. Today’s guest post comes from Mark from The Time To Go Is Now. He’s saying the exact same thing. How badly do you want your dream?

OystersFor as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to travel.  To travel as much as I possibly could.  However, I had resigned myself to the standard vacation-based travel and looked upon continuous travel as a fleeting daydream of youth or an answer to the question, “What would you do if you won the lottery?”

But as I got older I came to a couple of conclusions:

  1. confining my passion for travel to my allotted vacation days was insufficient
  2. I was not going to win the lottery

As I schemed about ways I could get more work-from-home time from my current employer and looked for jobs that would allow me to work from home all of the time I began to come across blogs from people out traveling the world for months and years at a time. At first it seemed to be a lot of folks in their twenties with good jobs who were able to pay off their debt and go travel, but the more I looked the more I found people who were not only closer to my age and older but in more difficult financial situations than I have had to deal with in years.

My brain went to work and I started to do the math.

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Fortunately, I had been inadvertently preparing for this for years. I didn’t realize how close I was; it just never occurred to me. For several years after college I was living paycheck to paycheck. My chosen career path was going to be neither easy nor lucrative so I made a change and eventually found a job that paid a bit more and that allowed me to start paying more on my college loans and credit card debt.

PompeiiI eventually earned a promotion that allowed me to pay more and as debts began to disappear I began to save. I didn’t really know for what I was saving; I just knew that I didn’t want to owe anyone anything ever again.

In March when I started thinking about quitting my job and traveling the world I examined my finances and realized that if I liquidated everything (not counting my retirement account), cut back on my spending and made some extra money I could leave at the end of the year.

The excitement and joy that washed over me was so powerful that the fear of the unknown faded almost completely. For once in my life I was confident about a major life decision. “I can DO this.”

The thing is while I was paying off my debt, I was not nearly as aggressive as I could have been. How had I not thought of this before? Why hadn’t I looked into it? How many years did I waste?

Since I didn’t really have a goal I didn’t make drastic cuts in other parts of my life. I’d still go on vacation and out to dinner. If I had come to the decision to pursue backpacking around the world when I was 25 I could have accomplished this goal much, much sooner. Sure, it would have been tough and it would have taken a while but not nearly as long as it already has.

Anything you really want to do, whether it is traveling or songwriting or starting your own business, you are going to attack it. You are going to find a way.

If it is not something you are fully into you will find reasons why it won’t work

You have to find a way to push and persevere. I got lucky. I was focused on paying off my debts and thankfully independent travel springs from the same source.

I can’t tell you it is going to be easy because you may have to make some big sacrifices. There has to be a trade off because you can’t do everything and changing the way you’ve always done things can be terrifying. I can’t give you a formula because everyone is different.

LeMansMost of the basics are the tips you hear from financial advisors: Get an additional job, live within your means, set a budget, eliminate debt and save. You have to figure out what works for you. What you’re capable of. What you’re willing to live with. What skills you can develop.

You don’t have to try and do things the exact same way someone else did. There are hundreds of blogs out there from people who have successfully followed their dreams and they aren’t all necessarily about travel. Take the time to research and find the advice that is right for you. Take what you need from each and make it your own. If you find a gap in the knowledge, find a way to fill it. Someone out there will be glad you did.

Mark and his girlfriend Julie are quitting their jobs at the end of 2013 and embarking on a 12 month (hopefully longer) round-the-world backpacking trip. Their blog, The Time to Go Is Now, documents what led up to their decision, what they are doing to get ready for their trip, reports back from their travels, and any other random thoughts that occur along the way.

 

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

7 Truths of location independence

location independenceI know a lot of people with location independent income streams and am always amazed at how diverse they are. The only constant is that we all rely upon our interests and strengths and somehow manage to monetize them.

Overall, I think there are seven truths you’ll need to embrace in order to develop an income stream that doesn’t rely on being in any one location.

1) Know that nothing will ever go according to plan

Never. Ever. No matter how carefully you plan, how many lists you make, how judiciously you’ve crossed every t and dotted every i, the end result won’t be what you first imagined. That is a basic fact of location independence.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t make those plans, cross those t’s and dot those i’s. Just know that, when all is said and done, things will have changed. Repeatedly. That’s OK – it’s all part of the game.

2) The universe will help you

It’s true. The universe really will conspire to help you out – but not a second before you need it. It’s almost like Harry Potter barging through the wall to Platform 9¾ – he needed to take a deep breath, trust it would happen, and go.

That’s exactly what you’ll need to do – just go, and know the universe will be there on the other side.

3) When at first you don’t succeed…

Notice I said when, rather than if? Because you will fail. And then fail again, but as the old adage says, try again. With each failure, you’ll learn a little bit more.

It’s easier said than done, but don’t look at those failures as failures, but rather learning opportunities. I know, I know – that’s as trite as they come, but it’s really true. Each time you blow it, you’ll know what doesn’t work and figuring out what doesn’t work is just as important as knowing what does.

4) Sometimes it takes desperation

It’s funny how it happens. You’re doing everything you need to be doing, but it’s not coming together – until you’re desperate. There’s something about that desperation stage that brings is all together.

I don’t know how it works, and I don’t know why, but I do know that sometimes it just won’t happen until you’ve exhausted all options and have no idea where to turn next. Then suddenly, as if by magic, it happens.

5) You can learn anything when you need to

There’s something about desperation that leads to learning. Quickly. When you need something – really need it – you’ll learn what you need.

You’re more capable than you thought you were. You have the ability to do way more than you’re doing now. When you are faced with the need to learn something, trust in your abilities to learn it and forge ahead. It’ll happen.

6) Know your why

Developing a location independent income stream is hard – just as hard as developing your current profession. It will take a lot of hard work and creativity to pull it off and, if you don’t truly know why you’re doing it, you’ll give up.

Define your why, know why you’re doing this, then keep pushing on.

7) Surround yourself with like-minded people

I can’t emphasize this enough. Being around other people who believe location independence is a) possible and b) a good thing is maybe the most empowering thing you can do. Interacting with people who see it as a perfectly normal lifestyle makes it seem… I dunno… normal?

If you’re constantly battling to swim against the current, you’ll get worn down and will be more likely to decide it’s not worth it. Being surrounded by others with the same goals and aspirations means you can all float downstream together.

Location independence is a great aspiration for many as it opens many doors. If you are committed to making it happen, you can do it. Persevere, and know it won’t be easy.

 

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

How to afford an extended journey

money bagsOne of the most common questions we’re asked is, “How could you afford an extended journey like yours? How much did it cost? How much would I have to save to travel long-term?” That is a hard question to answer.

Trying to say how much an extended journey costs is a bit like trying to say how much a house costs. Or a car. Will you be satisfied with a small house in North Dakota? Or do you demand a mansion in the middle of Manhattan? Will an old, beat-up Toyota be sufficient to get you to work, or do you need a Rolls Royce?

I will say that we spent around $25,000 per year on our journey. That translates to roughly $50/day with a bit left over for incidentals. We lived quite comfortably on that. The total cost for our entire nearly-three-year journey came in at approximately $75,000.

John and I are, by nature, quite frugal. We’ve never had extravagant needs or wants and have always lived beneath our means. When we were traveling, that didn’t change at all. We camped a fair portion of the time in order to keep costs down, and stayed in cheap hotels ($15 – 30/night) the rest of the time. In the USA and Canada, we very, very rarely stayed in hotels due to the costs.

One thing we did not skimp on is food. We demanded a lot from our bodies, and had to provide good food for fuel. We ate a lot, and we ate well – lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, plenty of meat, and tons of beans & tortillas! I suspect we spent more on food than most travelers, but it was worth it to us in order to maintain healthy bodies. Supermarkets were our best friends in expensive countries, but we regularly ate at restaurants in other countries.

stack of moneyWe are also of the belief that it is cheaper in the long run to buy good equipment in the first place. We spent a pretty penny buying quality gear before we left home, but that investment paid off many times over. We had very few equipment failures and didn’t have to replace much at all – despite putting it all through extensive use in demanding conditions.

So the question then becomes: How much will YOU spend? Only you can answer that question. Will you ride a bike and spend nothing on gas? Or will you put thousands upon thousands of miles on a gas-guzzling SUV or RV? Will you stay in 5-star hotels, RV parks, or camp in the wild? Cook your own food or eat in restaurants? Stay in one country or region for extended periods of time or flit from one country to another in planes every few weeks? Only you can answer these questions.

But one thing is sure – there is a way of traveling to fit nearly every budget on earth!

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Here are some other posts I’ve written about the financial side of long term travel:

How to finance long term travel (with advice from many bloggers)

 

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

How to organize finances for extended travel

ATMOrganizing our finances for extended travel was probably one of the most difficult aspects of our journey. How can we arrange it so we have access to our money from all over the world? How can we pay our bills from Timbuktu? How do we even know how much and to whom we need to pay?!

Getting it Set Up in the Beginning

The process of getting everything organized took many months – many months of working diligently every day to make sure it was all taken care of. Getting our checking and savings accounts organized so we knew how to access money from remote corners of the world took time. Even so, once we took off there was still more that came in and we had to deal with that from the road.

Start early on the process, as it’ll take a long time. This is definitely one area that you don’t want to put off til the last minute!

I started about four or five months before our departure. Every day I picked up our mail and sat down at the computer with the stack of bills and junk mail. Since we would be renting out our house, I didn’t want all that junk arriving. I researched on the internet until I found some address, then wrote and explained our situation and asked that they stop sending mail to this address. If I found an email address, I emailed. If not, I sent an actual paper letter through the mail.  Sometimes it worked; sometimes it didn’t, but at least I made an effort to stop the flow of junk mail coming to the house.

stack of billsMy next step was to attack the bills. First I read the bill to see if  I could set up an autopay – a lot of them did. Each time I got a new bill, I went to the website and set up autopay and asked for electronic bills only. That process went on for an extended period because many of the bills were only due every quarter or even twice/year. If a bill came – I tried to set it up on autopay.

Although most of my bills could be paid directly and automatically, there were a few bills that couldn’t. For those, I contacted the company and explained my situation – and asked what they could do for me. Mostly, they were happy to work with me and we were able to set up an autopay situation. If that didn’t work, I set up billpay through my bank – they would send out checks from my checking account as needed.

It took over a year before we managed to find all the bills – well, almost. After three years on the road, once we were back in Boise, we discovered the bill for our irrigation water had somehow slipped through the cracks and we were months away from them starting the process of repossessing our house. Ouch! Trust me – you want to avoid missing a bill; the late fees were more than the bill itself.

For other mail, I changed our address to my sister-in-law’s house. She checked to see if anything important arrived and contacted me via email if it did. I could then make a decision on how to deal with it.

Another option you have is to use one of many mail-forwarding services that have opened to meet the needs of the many full-time snowbirds. You can arrange for them to hold your mail and ship it out whenever you contact them with an address. These services are great, but they will not open your mail to let you know if something important arrived.

Accessing Money from Wherever

ATM signThe next thing we needed to figure out what how to access our money from wherever we happened to be. We had used an ATM card in the past, and knew it would work quite well – there are ATM machines in all major cities and many small towns all around the world. However, most of them charge outrageously high fees, which would readily cut into our meager savings.

Fortunately, someone told us about the Schwab One account from Charles Schwab. We opened an account with them, and had an ATM card on that account. With that card, we paid NO fees anywhere in the world! NO FEES! I simply accepted the charge on the ATM machine, but Schwab paid me back for it and I didn’t have to pay it in the end. It worked very well.

I have also heard that Capital One offers a no-fee ATM card as well.

We also carried a credit card, and set up online banking so we could pay the bill online. Outside of the USA, we only used the credit card sporadically, but it came in handy for large purchases. Being able to pay the bill online meant nobody was bothered with a bill arriving in the mail, and we could quickly check the balance and make sure nobody had intercepted the number.

HOWEVER – I have to put in a HUGE WARNING about US Bank. We had two credit cards with us on our journey, in addition to our ATM cards. The card from US Bank was an emergency card only and we never used it. That said, we had more hassles and headaches with US Bank than we did with our other two banks combined. What it came down to was that they designed their system to flag anyone logging in from South America – so each and every time I tried to log in to make sure I had a zero balance, I got locked out. Regaining access meant rounding up a computer with fast enough internet that I could use Skype, sitting on hold for a long time, then finally explaining my situation and they checked my balance for me. Needless to say, that got old.

I went way up the ladder and ended up speaking with the head tech guy – he told me the system was designed that way and there was nothing they could do about it. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that if you are traveling in Africa or Asia, you will have the same problem. I say avoid US Bank and go with someone who can deal with international travelers.

Other Tips

Be sure you write down all card numbers and the phone numbers to contact in case of emergency and store them somewhere separate from your cards themselves. If your cards are stolen, you may not have access to internet to get the numbers – and you don’t want to delay in calling to report it stolen.

We also emailed all that information to ourselves in case everything we had was stolen.

*************

Probably the most common question we get regarding finances is, “How can you afford it?” Here is a post with information about we afforded our travels, but it also links to articles on many, many other blogs about those bloggers afforded their travels. It’s a great resource!

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

How do travel bloggers support themselves when they are old and gray?

money bagI came upon an interesting post today – one that made me think.

Okay, I get how full-time travellers support themselves. They get sponsorships, volunteer in exchange for accommodation, they teach English, work odd jobs, travel slowly, they sell photography and ebooks, make a bit of money freelancing or from their blog… but for those that have been doing it for years – I’m talking about at least 2 or 3 years, I’m wondering… how are they saving for the future?

And that is a good question. There is a part of me saying, “What difference does it make?” Or “Why should I bother telling you?” I mean – you wouldn’t ask your hair dresser or bank teller or the woman who issues your drivers license that question, right? So why travel bloggers?

And yet, on the other hand, I do get that it’s a question a lot of people have. The financial aspect of long-term travel is the one that leaves many potential travelers scratching their head. Even if they could figure out a way to meet their day-to-day expenses, what about later? What about when they are old and gray and sitting in their rocker? Will they even have a rocker?

There are many different angles that people take toward saving for “retirement” – both in travel blogging and in other professions as well. Some people choose not to think about it and figure they’ll cross that bridge when they get there. Others save diligently, oftentimes at the expense of enjoying today.

The important thing to remember here is that travel blogging is no different from running any other small business. The accountant running his own practice can choose to put part of his income aside or he can spend it all now. That woman running the boutique clothing shop down the road? She won’t have a pension to rely on, and makes the same choice. Each and every small business owner in America (and presumably elsewhere) is in the same boat.

So you’re wondering how we approach our retirement? Here’s what we do.

money treeBoth my husband and I were schoolteachers. I taught 21 years; he taught 20 years. Although we didn’t get paid the big bucks many people do, we lived beneath our means and squirreled away whatever we could. After many years of teaching, it added up. We started blogging in our late 40′s/early 50′s.

Now, our efforts are going to establish a passive income – money that comes in without us doing much at all. Most of our income is in the form of rental income – we invested the money we saved from teaching in real estate and now rent those houses. We hire a property manager to take care of the houses, so we don’t have to do anything.

We’ve also written some books. (I’ve got a new one coming out next month! Click here for a preview.) With any luck, those books will continue to sell for years to come – and bring in an income.

The key to passive income is that it’s an ENORMOUS amount of work up front. Writing a book is no small feat. Saving enough money to buy our rentals wasn’t easy. Whatever your passive income will be, plan on putting in many hours before you make even one single penny.

But really – isn’t that how any small business operates? Your local hairdresser bought all her equipment, stayed open long hours cutting hair, worked tirelessly on PR so people knew about her shop, and barely eked by.

She did all that with the hope that, when it came time for her to retire, she would either a) have enough money saved up to live on or b) be able to sell the shop for enough money to live on.

That’s exactly how travel bloggers do it. Travel bloggers, however, have the added knowledge that we don’t have to live in the USA, UK, or Australia. If our passive income isn’t enough to maintain a comfortable life in those expensive countries, we can move to Thailand or Argentina or Mexico. It’s great to have options.

 *************

Here are some posts I’ve written about our specific finances while traveling full time:

Debt: The #1 Dream Killer

How to finance long term travel (with advice from many bloggers)

How we afford long term family travel

A traveling lifestyle: The result of wise choices or luck?

How Do We Pay for our Extended Family Trip?

Details on how much our extended family trip cost

 

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

How to get international teaching jobs

“How can we get international teaching jobs?” That’s a question I hear on a regular basis.

international school ethiopia

We spent seven years teaching at the International Community School in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In fact, our twins sons were born while we lived there. It is a modern facility with great resources.

My husband and I are both professional teachers and spent twelve years teaching in international schools. We first moved overseas to teach in 1993, and spent two years teaching in Alexandria, Egypt (I taught 3rd grade, he was our computer coordinator). We then moved to Ethiopia where we taught for seven years. Our next stop was Taiwan, then on to Malaysia, before deciding to move back to Idaho.

I’ll do my best to answer this question here.

I have two caveats to point out: First, I should say that we left the international school jobs scene and moved back to the USA in 2005. With the rapid pace of technology, a lot is changing and I hear more and more teachers are securing international teaching jobs via Skype rather than attending job fairs. Be sure to be open to all options and ask lots of questions. Things change quickly in the international scene.

Secondly, we are both long-time, certified teachers. We are not ESL teachers and we did not teach ESL classes. We taught in international schools that were accredited in the USA – meaning they were just like the school down the street from you, except they happened to be located in another country. Our students were children of diplomats, aid workers, or any other child who needed/wanted an American style of education.

What do you need to apply for international school jobs?

Generally speaking, you will need a teaching certificate from any state in the USA, Canada, the UK, or Australia. Each school is different, and some accept certificates from other countries. Be sure to check the regulations for each school.

read aloud in 1st grade class

Classrooms look very similar to those in the USA and they are typically fairly well stocked.

At least a few years teaching experience is a big plus. It is very expensive to move teachers abroad, so they want to make sure you know what you’re doing before they invest in you. If you are in a high-demand discipline, there is a chance you would get a job straight out of college, but not for most teaching jobs.

International experience is another plus. This can take the form of extensive travel or volunteer work. Again, because it’s expensive to move you over there, they want to know that you can handle the demands of living in another country.

Why you should consider teaching abroad

The education YOU will get will change your life. By immersing yourself in foreign cultures, you’ll learn to be more tolerant and understanding of other people.

International teaching jobs can be more financially rewarding than teaching in the USA. I say CAN because that’s not true for all schools. Some schools will pay you barely enough to live on, but there are schools that pay handsomely. For most of our years abroad, we got paid about the same as we would have gotten in the US, but since housing was provided and we didn’t have to pay taxes on our income, the net result was more savings. Our first two years in Egypt, however, we were paid $11,000/year for full-time teaching, with room and board provided.

Benefits of teaching abroad

Each school is different, so it’s important to specifically ask what the school provides before you accept a job. We taught at four different schools, which were all different, but in general they provided:

international kids

Kids learn to see beyond skin color when they’re in a class with children from all over the world.

Transportation to and from country: All schools should pay your transportation from your home of record to the school and they should pay to fly you back home at the end of your contract. Our schools also provided yearly trips back home. Not all schools do that.

Housing: Most schools will provide either housing or a housing allowance. If you will get a housing allowance, be sure to ask what kind of house that can pay for – I’ve heard of schools that pay very little that is not nearly enough for a decent house. We always had to pay utilities ourselves. If you find yourself in a financial situation like this, you can always find a letting agent in Richmond to help you find a home should you be placed in the UK.

Teaching materials:This varies tremendously from school to school. Some schools are more open and will allow you to teach the way you want, while others are more strict about sticking to a set curriculum. I hear that, because the US schools are so ingrained with No Child Left Behind now, that international teachers have had their freedom curtailed as well. Be sure to ask specifically what you will be expected to do.

facilities in international schools

Facilities are generally quite good in international schools with state-of-the-art technology. This was our school in Taiwan.

Awesome kids:For the most part, the kids attending international schools are great. They’ve got a lot of parent support and you won’t have major discipline problems at all. That said, certain parts of the world are known for having more problems. From what I hear, schools in the Middle East tend to have more problems because the kids come with a sense of entitlement and fully expect to be able to buy their grades.

 

How to get a job in an international school

Like I mentioned above, things are changing quickly. We used to travel to job fairs when we were looking for new international school jobs. All teachers looking for jobs and directors of schools looking for teachers converged in a certain place for a weekend. With any luck, you would find a good match and be hired. Now, you might not need to go to the job fair, but be sure to communicate with the directors of schools you are interested in to find out.

Be aware that international schools have a very different timeline than schools in the US do. Whereas you will most likely be hired for a new job in July for the coming school year in the US, overseas schools do the bulk of their hiring in February. Any positions that were not filled at the February job fairs will be filled as soon as possible, but there is a June job fair for last minute hiring.

Here are some organizations that will be invaluable in your search for an international teaching job:

International School Services (ISS) 

Search Associates

UNI Overseas Recruiting Fair

Teacher Kick (for Latin America)

Teacher Hit (for Europe)

The first phase of the process will be completing the applications and getting your references submitted. You will not apply to each individual school, but will do all that through the organizations listed above. You may choose to go through only one organization or many, depending on how badly you want a job. Start early because this process can take some time.

classroom in international school

The best part of teaching in international schools is the kids – it’s so much fun to have kids from many different countries.

Next, you will start to receive notices about jobs available. Each organization handles this differently, but they’ll walk you through it. Look through the notices for jobs you think you are qualified for. Be aware that you will need to be certified to teach that position.

Contact the director of the school asking about the position. Many times, they won’t write back so expect that. Many of them simply expect that you’ll be at the job fair and they’ll meet you there, but it won’t hurt to write in advance.

*****Be open to everything.***** The main problem I’ve seen is people having specific ideas about where they want to go. The trouble is that the places they want to go are most likely the places everybody else wants to go as well. Sometimes the best schools and most amazing experiences can be found in the least “desirable” countries. People tend to love teaching in Sudan or Cambodia so don’t rule them out.

We spent twelve years teaching in international schools and those years have shaped my life. I highly encourage you to check it out!

Festival in international school

Because outside social events can be limited, international schools provide many activities for the students.

celebrating Halloween in Taiwan

All major US holidays are celebrated in American schools abroad – including Halloween. This was our school in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

celebrating easter in international school

Because you’ll want to teach kids from other countries about American holidays, you’ll be able to spend more time doing things like coloring Easter eggs than you could in the USA.

 

christmas in taiwan

Christmas is always a fun holiday to celebrate – no matter where you are!

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

5 steps to location independence

I know many of my readers dream of living a location independent lifestyle. Here are five things to think about when planning to make location independence happen. Today’s guest blogger is Ryan Gibson.

balance is the key to lifeFor many of us, the path to true happiness and a lifestyle we adore is one that allows us to live for the moment, with the people we love, in a place that we love. For most of us, the source of stress that arises in everyday life is because we can’t find the right balance. Whether it is a long commute and short night sleep, or money issues and bank balances – or just a job that we don’t enjoy – the source of unhappiness is often because we’re not finding the right balance.

After all – we grow up in life believing that our life has to be a day job, a commute, and then a short evening spent at home with family. But what’s to say this is the right way?

There are many ways to achieve location independence – all it takes a bit of experimentation to see which kind of lifestyle works for you.

A couple of years ago a friend of mine was a London city professional – which meant he was commuting for three hours each day on cramped public transport, working nine or ten hours at a desk, and then trying to find time for himself and his partner when returning home.

I know from chatting with him this became increasingly difficult – as they both had other commitments aside from each other (such as friends and hobbies). And even when they moved in together, two years later, they still found it a struggle at times. That’s not to say they didn’t enjoy their lives – they loved living in the big smoke – but sometimes their balance was just a bit “off”.

Making a change

My friend decided to try a different way of living for a while – not a permanent change, but a period of time long enough for them both to enjoy each others company, and life without other commitments. I could see how excited they were to try out this new lifestyle – and it became obvious that this was clearly the right lifestyle choice for them.

old suitcaseSix months ago they decided to move to New Zealand and Australia. They lived for four months in Australia and now they’ve settled in Queenstown, New Zealand. It’s a move that has done endless amounts for them as a couple – I hear now only good things, and the new lifestyle change has brought them closer together.

They now support themselves working freelance, part-time – without any pressure and with plenty of time to relax and explore the gorgeous countries they moved too. I must admit – I often contemplate whether such a move would benefit myself as much as I’ve seen it benefit them. It’s so tempting to follow in their footsteps.

Making it permanent

Whilst my friends are only planning to be away for a few years – many people achieve this lifestyle as a long-term plan. Here’s how you can achieve a similar lifestyle long term:

1) Think about your industry

You’ll need to be working in an industry that lends itself well to location independent working – and most people I know that are effortlessly fitting into the location independent lifestyle are actually in the digital industry. Working online, or making money from online pursuits – something you can do from anywhere – is frequently referred to as being “digital nomads.” If this is something you plan on doing for the long-term you need to make sure your career path, industry, or job is something you can do from anywhere and doesn’t require regular commitment to a specific location.

2) Don’t be afraid to ask

don't be afraid to askThis is perhaps my biggest piece of advice. If you feel your job could fit well into a location independent lifestyle, then don’t be afraid to ask your employer about this. Many companies are embracing this way of life – and many are now completely open to some staff members working remotely. After all, we have Skype and the Internet to keep us connected. If you don’t ask your employer about these opportunities you may never know if they’re possible.

3) Think about Visas

Does the country you want to move to offer the chance to live and work there? New Zealand and Australia are great as they offer 12-24 month working holiday visas – which are inexpensive and easy to apply for. Whilst this is only a short-term solution in the long-run, it would give you two years of location independent working in a great location to get your feet on the ground.

4)  Be savvy

Be savvy with your decision and make sure you’re prepared. It takes a lot of self-discipline to work independently – so be sure you’re ready. Maybe do a test run for a month or two and see how you find it. Some people may find they actually miss working in an office and don’t enjoy location independence – so make sure it’s actually what you want.

5)  Find a partner

If you can share this lifestyle dream with someone, that’s a great way to feel secure and comfortable as you head away. Whether it’s a romantic partner or a friend, heading into this decision with someone you know and care about makes the process even more enjoyable. You can overcome any obstacles together and share your successes and struggles.

Ryan Gibson is resident blogger at AsiaRooms. When not working he spends his time travelling the globe, drawing on his travel experience and passion for travel to spread the good word. Ryan is also a social monkey and can be found lounging around on Twitter & Google+ and loves to interact with other travel bloggers

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

How to save money on lodging while traveling the USA

Travel can be expensive or it can be cheap. It all depends on your priorities.

For most people, the most expensive part of travel is getting from point A to point B. The second most expensive part is paying for a place to sleep every night, but there are plenty of ways to minimize those expenses. Here are a few ideas on how to save money on lodging.

tentFree camp   As cyclists, we spent many nights on the side of the highway – we just head back into the woods and find a place to camp. Unless you’re cycling, that strategy most likely won’t work well for you. In the USA, you can camp for free in all national forests and on BLM land, as long as it isn’t posted to camp in designated sites only. Simply find a dirt road heading back off the road, drive for a mile or so, then find a place to put your tent. It’s free and it’s easy and, in the western part of the USA, very easy to find a spot. In the eastern USA, it’s not such a good strategy as there aren’t many national forests and very little BLM land.

Couchsurfing  Using hospitality sites such as couchsurfing, warmshowers (for bike tourists), or hospitality club can be a great way to keep costs down. Not only will you have a free place to stay, but you’ll meet wonderful people. Be sure to be very up-front about what your plans are so your host knows what to expect.

Pay camp  Camping in campgrounds is the next cheapest option. All national parks have campgrounds and many national forests and monuments have them as well. In addition, there are private campgrounds in nearly all popular tourist destinations. Fees vary tremendously from around $5 to $30+/site/night. KOA tends to be the most expensive, but sometimes they are the only game in town and they are still cheaper than a hotel. In high season, be sure to make reservations in advance as campgrounds tend to fill up.

hostelHostels  Hostels aren’t nearly as popular in the USA as they are in many other countries, but some do exist. For solo travelers, hostels are nearly always cheaper than hotels because you pay per bed and share a room with others. Be aware that hostels tend to be more expensive for a family, that’s why we didn’t use them much in our travels.

Local motels  Older, local, Ma & Pa motels tend to be cheaper than big chains. Granted, they aren’t as nice as the more expensive places, but if you’re looking to save money they’re worth it. As we cycled through the USA, these were the only motels we stayed in. They tend to be located on the OLD highway into town rather than along the interstate. The interstate, being new, is lined with new hotels, but find the old road into town and you’ve found the older, more established community.

Chain motels or hotels If you need to have lodging lined up in advance, this is the way to go. This level of accommodation can be found on the internet and prebooked through one of many hotel comparison sites. You can find any price range here from relatively cheap to outrageously expensive – for that major splurge :)

Each traveler needs to set his or her own budget and act accordingly. There is a way to fit nearly every budget with a bit of creativity.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

7 Secrets Travel Agents Don’t Want You To Know

As a former travel agent, I’ve learned a thing or three about finding the best deals.

The truth is, many travel agents do have tools (and connections) to help them find the best deal anywhere. They’re also armed with industry knowledge of routes, hubs and the best supplier for each.

But you know what?

Many travel agent “secrets” can be used by the public. And in this post I’ll share you with several simple tips to save you a hundred dollars (or more) on your next vacation.

Ready? Then let’s roll…

#1. Airline Consolidators

Also known as “bucket shops”, airline consolidators are where travel agents go to buy tickets. They’re sort of like a giant warehouse of airfares: travel agents routinely buy tickets from consolidators and mark it up to boost their commission.

Which doesn’t do much for you, does it?

Instead, you can deal with (some) consolidators directly.

Here are just a few to get you started:

http://www.1800flyeurope.com/
http://www.airfare.com/
http://www.airfareplanet.com/
http://www.airlineconsolidator.com/
http://www.airtreks.com/
http://www.bargaintravel.com/
http://www.cheaptickets.com/
http://www.economytravel.com/
http://www.globester.com/
http://www.tfitours.com/

#2. Clear your Cookies

Have you ever found a cheap flight, only to find it’s gone up – a lot – just a few hours later? Clear your cookies and try again. Sometimes (but not always) you’ll see the old price. It’s a trick booking sites use to get you to buy now – and it works. You see the price has gone up and buy to prevent paying more tomorrow.

(Note: Sometimes airfares do go up on their own, so this isn’t fail-safe. But give it a shot – you never know!)

#3. Think Globally, Book Locally

Local providers are almost always cheaper and – thanks to the Internet – you can book with them directly instead of paying the middleman.

For example, let’s say you want to rent a car while traveling in New Zealand. Simply Google “local car rental Auckland, New Zealand” and you’ll have dozens of options to choose from!

#4. Be Very, Very Flexible

It’s possible to save over a hundred dollars if you can fly a few days early (or later). This is especially true for international flights, both due to its distance and holidays you aren’t aware of!

#5. Book Six Months In Advance

A rule of thumb I learned as a travel agent: always book in advance. The only exception? You’re planning a last-minute trip or found yourself inspired to go somewhere new.

A recent report from the New York Times revealed the best time to purchase tickets is roughly 21 – 24 weeks in advance. You can wind up paying significantly more if you wait – so if you’re ready, act now!

#6. Buy Your Tickets On Wednesday

Hat tip to Peter Greenberg for this one.

To summarize his article, fare wars between airlines start on Friday, and Wednesday is usually when airlines are willing go the lowest (before the weekly process begins again on Friday).

#7. Leverage the Cheapest Hubs

All airlines run the majority of their flights from one or more hubs. For example, American Airlines’ main hub is Dallas, while Delta’s is in Detroit (both airlines have multiple hubs, these are just examples).

Next time you’re booking your flights, check for flights to major hubs first. Then see if it’s cheaper to purchase a ticket there and an onward ticket versus a direct flight. You can see a whole list of hubs here.

So there you have it: seven simple secrets travel agents have used for years. Now it’s your turn!

What tips do you have for saving money on flights? Let us know in the comments below!

Adam Costa is Editor in Chief of Trekity, a free travel inspiration website and co-founder of the Travel Blogger Academy, which helps people build successful travel blogs. Follow Adam on Twitter.

travel pics

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Becoming Location Independent: Where do I start?

life is like a coin. You can spend it on anything you want but you can only spend it onceFor many dreams, having a source of income that does not revolve around physically being present in a certain place is a must, but creating that situation can be difficult. It may seem, at first glance, as an impossible task, but I believe we’re all up for reaching our own personal unreachable star.

I’ve met hundreds (thousands?) of people throughout the world who support themselves in one way or another. Here are a few of the many ways people have done it over the years.

Develop a passive income stream

This is, most likely, the dream. All of us would love to have a way of generating income without actually doing much. That’s exactly what passive income is. It will take a bit of work up front (or maybe a LOT of work up front) but eventually the payoff will be money in the bank without much effort. Examples:

  • Book royalties
  • Rental income
  • Interest on savings

Build an online business

In today’s society, this is a very common and realistic goal. If you can find a niche that needs to be filled, you’ll be set. Don’t expect it to pay off immediately, but it can be your ticket to freedom if done right. Examples:

  • Content or information website generating income from ads
  • Offer specific kinds of services in exchange for a fee
  • Sell products – either physical products or digital files
  • Affiliate marketing

Freelancing

This is a wonderful option for just about anybody. Nearly all of us have some sort of marketable skill we can leverage for pay if we’re creative and willing to persevere. Some types of freelancers are:

  • Writing
  • Photography
  • Web design
  • Advertising
  • Graphic design

Part time consulting

If you are in a high-paying field, this option is perfect. Many people offer consulting services in a wide array of fields and are paid enough for a few weeks of work to finance several months of living the dream.

  • Computer programming
  • Engineering
  • Personal Finance

Seasonal work

Depending on what your dream is, seasonal work might be perfect. It’ll get you into wonderful locations and pay your expenses while there.

  • Ski resorts
  • National parks
  • Life guard

Expat

Becoming an expat is a great way to see the world, if that’s your dream. Not only does it pay you a salary, but it allows you to live in a foreign country immersed in the culture. Just a few of the many jobs available overseas are:

  • Teachers
  • Medical workers of all kinds
  • Engineers
  • Diplomats
  • Aid workers

How will you accomplish your goal? Only you can answer that question.

The beautiful part of all this is there are as many answers to the question as there are people asking it.

 

in this world we need to take chances sometimes they're worth it and sometimes not but we won't know unless we try

More information here:

Location Independent
64 Ways location independent people earn a living
Designing a digital nomadic lifestyle
Location Liberated

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Are You a Mileage Hoarder? It is Time to Show Your Family the World

I’m worthless when it comes to airline points. In fact, I’ve opted for a cash-back credit card rather than deal with points. But Justin, proud papa of the InACents family, knows the ins and outs of accruing those points. Here he’s got some ideas about actually using them.

money bagI am a self-proclaimed travel hacker. I have learned the ins and outs of mile and point collecting enough where I can build up large amounts of rewards for our family with little or no out-of-pocket expense. Along the way of learning about the various rewards programs and how to maximize savings and rewards, I have had a keen observation on those that collect. There are three categories of mileage and point collectors. Where do you group yourself?

The Non-Interested

First is the person who does not have any interest in collecting miles or points and saving money by using reward programs to their advantage. They either assume their time is not worth the effort, or they are just too lazy to want to learn the tricks that could save their families thousands of dollars each year.

Others that can be categorized in this group are those that may have a couple of reward accounts, but know nothing about managing them or maximizing their value. They know they should gets the rewards, but have no idea on redemption.

The Expert Reward Traveler

extra pointsThe second group of people are those that totally get every little deal of the system. They understand about using shopping portals to maximize their rewards during key promotions, they read all the popular forums and blogs, and they hop and jump all over the world using miles and points to experience travel that they otherwise not be inclined to purchase outright with cash. They are experienced pros and live off the rewards of their labor.

The Point Hoarder

The last group of people are those that understand how to build up their mileage and reward accounts. They may have one account with tens of thousands of miles or points, or might even have rewards across many different programs. The key difference between these collectors and those in the Expert Reward Traveler group is that the hoarder people do not ever use the rewards to their benefit.

I used to be in the third category of mileage and point collectors. Our family has never been frequent flyers enough to earn any substantial rewards in any one program, let alone status. We have accounts in practically every travel reward program you can name. Eventually, over time, we had built up quite an arsenal of rewards, but were always saving them for just the right moment to cash in.

Eventually, after I started to learn more about mile and point programs, our family made a plan to visit Hawaii. This summer my family’s dreams will come true. We will be flying out of Ohio to Hawaii, with a several day stopover in Los Angeles to visit Disneyland, all for free. Then we felt inclined to invite my wife’s parents along too, so I used miles to get them out to Hawaii. All for FREE by using those valuable rewards! In addition, a week’s worth of hotel rooms will totally be covered with points. Our family finally moved out of the Hoarding group and into the Make Your Family Happy group.

What to do with all those miles, points, and rewards?

I equate redeeming rewards to making a large purchase. For years we save up large sums of money towards a new vehicle purchase or home. You might be sitting on tens of thousands of dollars in the bank that is allocated towards that future investment. The problem comes when it is time to turn that money in for the reward. It can be a very scary proposition to lose that nest egg.

To give an example, after my wife and I married, we saved every single cent that we were given from our wedding. Every year we took our tax return and deposited it directly in with our wedding account. We continued to keep adding onto our account, and eventually the account grew to a large sum of money.

The main goal of all that money was to one day purchase our dream home together as we knew the home we were in at the time would eventually be outgrown. Then, out of nowhere, we found our dream home, and were placing an offer on it within 24 hours. Over the course of the next month or two, we were placed into every new home owner’s fear: how much to place on the house for the down payment?

money bagsWe had spent years building up this large cushion with the sole purpose of being able to use it for a house, but when it came time to actually cash in the money, it was a scary venture. All that money provided a peace-of-mind in case we lost our jobs or a real emergency surfaced.

We all know the rewards are well worth the investment in the end. Whether it be a new home, vehicle, or a dream vacation. After you saved all that cash, miles, or points, the reward in the end should ultimately make you feel happy and satisfied with your investment. The mileage or point hoarder needs to realize that if the rewards are sitting in your account, they are not saving you any money.

While the rewards sit idle in your account, one risks the chance of either a) losing the miles or points due to inactivity within a certain period of time as stipulate by each company, or b) worse, the company devalues the rewards program and now all of a sudden your rewards, which might have gotten you a free domestic ticket or hotel night, now will not cover the cost of the reward. Airline companies and hotels change their redemption levels all the time. What used to cost X amount of miles or points now might cost X+Y. Companies rarely lower the standard amount of rewards needed for a redemption.

The whole system is a big game of cat and mouse, supply and demand. Companies can pump in millions upon millions of rewards to their customers, all while controlling the amount of inventory necessary to redeem. Therefore, if you have miles or points sitting in an account, spend them. That is the point, after all; to experience the true reward of the rewards program, not to have an account full of, I use this term loosely, worthless points. Saving up for that big ticket item may never happen if the company devalues your points.

If you do not step out of your comfort zone and use that large pile of cash sitting in your account, you may never be sitting on a couch in your dream home with your wife in sweatpants sitting next to you with enough room for the kids to run around in another wing of the house. Now get out there and see where those miles can take you.

Learn more about saving money and traveling more at InACents.com

InACents

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Debt: The #1 Dream Killer

big debt small manI hear so much about debt in this country and, truth be told, I’m puzzled. I don’t understand how anyone can put themselves into the massive amounts of consumer debt this country is known for. It seems to me that debt is the main dream killer in our country.

I get that sometimes the debt is beyond someone’s control. Even a minor medical crisis can put one in debt for the rest of their lives in the USA. Sometimes taking out loans for university in order to pursue one’s passion makes sense. A reasonable loan to buy a small house isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

But I hear over and over again about the massive credit card debt the average American carries and I’m dumbfounded each time I hear it. The average credit card debt per household in America is $15,956.

It seems to me that carrying that debt means that you’re paying for yesterday’s dream at the expense of what you want to do today. Debt kills dreams.

And that doesn’t make sense to me.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll tell you up front that I’ve never been in debt. I did graduate from college with a small amount of student loans, but they were offered through a special program to entice Special Ed teachers and were completely forgiven after five years of teaching Special Ed. That’s it. That’s the only debt I’ve ever had.

erase debtEvery car I ever bought was paid for with cash. Every article of clothing or piece of furniture for my house I paid for with money I already had. My bikes, my vacuum cleaner, my blender – all paid up front. Every house I’ve owned was paid for with cash. Granted, we’ve chosen to live in Boise where housing prices are reasonable – our houses did not cost half a million dollars.

And yet John and I were both school teachers. Teaching is not exactly known as the highest paying profession in America ((insert sarcastic voice here)).

I can’t help but feel that if two school teachers can live debt free, then you can too. It’s all about setting priorities and spending wisely.

Do you really need a brand new $50,000 car or would an older used one get you to work and back?

Is that 3,000-sq-foot home necessary or can you live in something smaller?

What about that couch in the living room? Does it need to be replaced now or can you wait until you have the money saved up?

Is that shirt or those shoes worth going into debt for?

Are you paying for yesterday’s dreams?

shackled by debtI look at our life right now and I realize that the reason we are free to live the way we are is because of the freedom we have to spend our money as we choose today. We’re not paying for choices we made last month or last year. We’re paying for what we want to do today.

Every penny of our income now can be spent on today’s dream.

I’m not a financial guru and don’t claim to be qualified to provide financial advice. But still, common sense tells me that paying for yesterday’s dream isn’t a good idea. If that’s what you’re doing, get yourself out of debt. Then you’ll be able to breathe life into your dream.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

How to finance long term travel (with advice from many bloggers)

The 4 P's of Living your dreamHow to finance long term travel? It all comes down to priorities.

international moneyThe other day I was talking with a friend. “I would love to travel like you do,” she said, “but there is no way I could afford it.”

She was decked out in designer clothes and Coach handbag and I knew she drives an expensive SUV. Those items shouted her priorities loud and clear. She obviously was not budgeting for travel.

I have nothing against designer clothes, fancy handbags, or schmancy cars. I don’t fault someone for buying a gorgeous leather couch or big screen TV for their living room. The latest and greatest laptop. The newest version of PlayStation for the kids. Iphones and Ipods and Ipads. It’s all fine…

…if you’ve made a conscious decision to buy it.

What really drives me crazy are the people who say one thing with their mouths, yet totally another with their bank account.

every accomplishment starts with the decision to tryFor us, a travel lifestyle was a huge priority in our lives. We made other decisions based on that. We didn’t buy great big fancy cars; we bought a small old used one. We bought our clothes at thrift stores. Our furniture was all hand-me-downs or things we picked up at yard sales.

We’re not independently wealthy (both my husband and I are TEACHERS!) but we’ve made it work. We’ve made it work by being very consciously aware of our priorities and always living beneath our means.

On our teacher salaries, we weren’t raking in the dough, yet we still managed to live on one salary and save the other. We did that by eating at home rather than restaurants, by being satisfied with a small home, and being frugal in our overall lifestyle. We were able to finance long term travel by making tough choices.

If you want a travel lifestyle, you’ll need to make choices. You can choose your Manolo Blahnik stilletos, Versace gown, and 5000-square foot home, or you can choose to travel. It’s up to you.

OK, so I may be exaggerating a bit here, but it’s the idea that counts. We make those decisions with our pocketbook. If we make conscious decisions about where we spend every penny, then we’re actively choosing what’s highest on our priority list.

If you’re not happy with what you’re seeing, change the list. It’s that simple.

family cycling in New Mexico

Traveling on bikes was important enough for us to make it a priority

Here are some posts I’ve written throughout the years about how to finance long term travel:

Need help saving the cold hard cash you need to live your dream?

How we afford long-term family travel

How can you live your dreams?

A traveling lifestyle: The result of luck or wise choices?

How do we pay for our extended family travels?

Details on what our 3-year family bike tour cost

I’ve spent hours combing travel blogs looking for posts showing how various people made it happen. We are all very different and have very unique situations, but I think seeing how others made it happen may be able to spark a thought for us. So – here are oodles and oodles of posts from people of every age and background on how THEY made the dream come true. Enjoy!

So Many Places: Patience! Patience and persistence. We just met our savings goal after THREE YEARS of saving and sacrificing.  They also have a whole page on saving money with lots of articles.

The Nomadic Family: We took a deep breath and said we’d go for it. Cut almost all extras from our lives and learned to live on half of our income. We saved the rest, and on that, our dream happily floats. Here’s their post on Voluntary Frugality.  They also compiled a wonderful post with information from ten traveling families on how they made the travel dream happen.  

Budget Travel Adventures: How I do it? I can be a bit frugal and I manage money well so those work well together. Putting together a budget spreadsheet is my way of trying to save money with a tangible, simple way of tracking what they spend. Here’s his post on Using a Budget Spreadsheet

The Dropout Diaries: The first hurdle was getting my husband to believe that a traveling lifestyle was possible. Once he was on board, it was a matter of researching, planning and working my butt off with a second job that paid for the camera and laptop I needed to work while on the move. The second job vanished when the company folded just before we left Singapore, but somehow another offer landed in my lap a few days later! It IS hard work to work and travel (and be a mum) but I think the effort is worthwhile. I see much more of my daughter now than I did when I had a “real” job.   Here’s Barbara’s Funding a Dropout post

Europe for Visitors: Writing practical advice for people who are researching where to go, what to do, and how to spend their money.

Leave your Daily Hell: How to travel if you’re young and middle class

Katie Going Global: How I financed my career break

Twenty-Something Travel: How I saved $20K in less than 2 years

This Battered Suitcase: Tips for saving money

Open Travel Info: The 8 best tips to afford long term travel

Nomadic Matt: The secret to long term traveling

Around the world in easy ways: Turning our travel dream into a reality

WorldSchool Adventures: Decide. Commit.

LL World Tour: How could you afford to travel around the world?

Life Without Pants: How to prepare for a vagabonding adventure

Get Rich Slowly: How I save money while traveling

Adventure Sauce: How to sleep for free

Moneyland: How I saved for my dream vacation

Great Family Escape: Travel Budgets from various bloggers and  Even an idiot can save for travel  and Saving and making money while traveling

Family Trek: Making work work for you and Achieving the family travel lifestyle with patchwork income

Around the World “L”: Loot to Scoot: Strange Secrets to Save Travel Money

Pearce on Earth: Entrepreneurship

Living Outside of the Box: How we made it happen

Pick the Brain: 7 steps to making your dream come true

Around the World in Easy Ways: How many rupees will you need?

Legal Nomads: An FAQ page with tons of info on the financial side of travel

QiRanger Adventures told me:  Korea is an amazing and diverse country, where you can literally travel from one end to the other in under three hours for less than the price of a night out. Every week, we choose a destination and explore the city and sights, keeping our budget low. During the semester breaks, we take advantage of cheap flights out of Korea to nearby countries for extended vacations. How to we pay for all this? We actively save in preparation for our travels and try to secure paid writing or video assignments to cover portions of the cost.

The Minimalists: How to find your freedom

Professional Hobo: Travel fulltime for less than $14K per year

Never Ending Voyage: How we saved 75% of our income for travel

Travels of Adam: How far will $20,000 take you?$20,000 gave me the chance to let loose and have fun, to have a boyfriend for the first time, to learn to speak with strangers, to sometimes trust people and to sometimes not. It gave me the chance to learn and to experience. To cook. To take care of myself. To get lost. Twenty thousand dollars gave me the chance to see the world, to experience the world. To do what I wanted when I wanted, for whatever reasons I wanted. It was the best money I ever spent on myself.   Adam also wrote This is My Grad School – it’s all about priorities.

With 2 Kids in Tow, It’s Backpacking We Go: How much did our year on the road cost?

Suitcases and Sippycups: How to afford long-term family travel

Discover. Share. Inspire: Landing in the lap of luxury and Nine ways we earn money to fund our travel lifestyle

InBed.Me: Budgeting advice for travelers taking an extended trip

Voluntourista: Balance, Blogging, Money & Saving the World

World Biking: How can you afford to cycle around the world?

Solitary Wanderer: Five (Simple) ways to build your travel fund

Escape Artistes: Help! I’m Location Independent

1 Dad 1 Kid: How I find our family travel

You CAN finance long term travel – it’s easier than you think!

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Need help saving the cold hard cash you need to live your dream?

Let me guess. You want to pursue your passion and live your dream. You want to head out to travel the world or go back to university or open your own business. You want to look back on your life someday and say, “I lived life on my own terms!”

But you don’t have the cash.

Cold, hard cash can be hard to come by and, sometimes, the money aspect truly is what is keeping people from living their dreams. Our friends Warren and Betsy Talbot over at Married with Luggage have come to the rescue.

Dream-Save-Do Warren and Betsy recently released their book Dream | Save | Do – A No-Nonsense, Step-by-Step Blueprint for Amassing the Cash You Need to Live Your Dream. It’s awesome. Truly, it is.

In the book, they cover all the bases and walk you through, step by itty-bitty step, exactly what you will need to do to save the money you’ll need to live your dream. What you do with this information is up to you.

Warren and Betsy will help you:

  • Automate your savings to bypass willpower issues (hey, why test it if you don’t have to?)
  • Create some homemade porn to keep you motivated (but not the kind you think!)
  • Build your first crappy budget and then make it into a great one.
  • Combat peer pressure and possibly even make people jealous of your new thrifty lifestyle.
  • Live large on a small entertainment budget.

Here are just a few tidbits of wisdom they’ll give you:

It doesn’t matter that you don’t know how something will turn out or exactly how you’re going to do it. It doesn’t matter that you don’t know all the answers (who does, by the way?) What matters is that you take the first step, begin action immediately, and continue taking action every day until you reach your dream.

Regular people might call this a savings account, but we have dubbed it The Vault for a very simple reason. Once your money goes in, it does not come out until you reach your goal. It is out of your reach. Picture your guard dog standing at attention in front of The Vault door, protecting you from yourself. Yep, he’s guarding your travel money now. Are you getting the idea?

Focusing on that big number is just going to freak you out. If it doesn’t freak you out, it’s going to seem so unattainable that it won’t feel real. And if it doesn’t feel real, it won’t be long before you’re veering off The Roadmap altogether, your goal banished to dream purgatory to finish out its life among the discarded treadmills and gym memberships. We don’t want that to happen.

As they say, as with most things in life, the outcome is entirely up to you. Click here to view more details

(I should also add that Warren is a pretty darn awesome tech person. He’s helped me out on my blog when I’ve gotten myself into deep doo-doo. Maybe he can help you too.)

This is a sponsored post

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel