Saving money for any kind of project is hard work and can also be demoralizing if you’re cutting back on all of the social activities in your life to save for future fun. We’ve never had success with this kind of budgeting strategy for a few reasons: it’s boring, we always end up breaking the “rules” and we feel guilty about everything we do. Since we obviously need to save money to do the trips and projects we love, we’ve had to find ways to save money that actually work and that allow us to have fun at the same time. Here are a couple of examples of ways we’ve saved money in the past that might give you some ideas to get your dream project started:
1) We got rid of our cell phones 3 years ago.
Back in 2011 when we still had our house, we were trying to save money for something – I don’t even remember what it was. I just know that we had failed several months in a row to save any money because we kept spending it on presents, eating out, clothes and wherever else money goes when it disappears from your bank account. We sat down one night and talked about the fact that we were never going to be able to save money if it meant cutting out all of the good stuff in our lives. Instead of giving up, we decided to look at our other expenses and see if we could cut out something else. That something turned out to be our cell phones. On November 1, 2011 we cancelled both of our cell phone plans and switched to a landline. For one year, we had a $30 phone bill instead of $120 which saved us $1,080 in one year.
After we sold our house in November 2012, we decided to go without phones altogether even though people told us we were crazy. We haven’t had a phone for two years now and this has saved us an additional $2,880. Instead of paying for a cell phone, we use an iPod to make all of our calls using Skype and FaceTime. We use Facebook chat and email to “text” people if we need to get in touch and we make more precise plans so that we don’t need to make last minute calls on the road. It takes a bit more planning and patience, but it works!
Depending on what your salary and expenses look like, you might think that saving almost $4,000 is nothing, or you might think it’s a lot. The point is that we easily cut something “essential” out of our lives and saved a chunk of money that could pay for something more meaningful like a plane ticket to Australia or a camper van for road tripping :)
2) We reduced our living expenses instead of our social expenses.
Last year we decided to take our money saving theory to the extreme. We carefully planned our living situation so that we’d have the lowest living expenses we’ve ever had, but we didn’t touch our social budget at all. In 6 months, we were able to save $7,000 and had a blast doing it. We were going out a couple of nights a week to have dinner and drinks with friends and it didn’t feel at all like what saving money is supposed to be like (devoid of fun). Here’s what our monthly expenses looked like:
Car Share: $30
Our total expenses each month added up to $1500 for 2 people which for us was amazingly low. We lived in a bachelor apartment downtown that was a bit grungy, but we didn’t mind. We liked it because it was cheap, small, close to work and it made us feel like we won the lottery every month when we saw our savings growing! At the end of our trip to Europe this summer, we were able to take that $7000 and buy our camper van so that we could start another adventure right away.
This is now our favourite way to budget (obviously) and we’re about to do something similar for the next 5 months while we’re house sitting and working in Washington.
If you’re having a hard time saving money or even just getting out of debt, take a look at where your money is being spent and try cutting out a boring expense or two that might make it easier for you to make your dream project a reality. It doesn’t have to be a cell phone, but it might be a small recurring expense that really adds up over time. Good luck and send us an email if you have any questions!