Saving for Travel: The Contentment Challenge

I’ve been posting regularly on the different ways I am saving money for travel. However, now that I’m living abroad, I haven’t kept to these habits as regularly as I would like. When you live abroad you develop habits just as you do at home – you have a group of friends, routine, favorite restaurants, a bar with a favorite cocktail. Which, if you’re traveling on a short time – fantastic! Go for it, indulge every night! I’m in Costa Rica for the long-term though and even though many people come here for a spring break getaway, I can’t treat every day as if it’s a party and I have an endless amount of money.

Okay, so maybe that’s a biiiit of an exaggeration. I’m not throwing dollars bills out in the street, y’all. But I am eating out for almost one meal every single day, buying rounds for friends, and indulging in Happy Hour frequently. It’s by no means extravagant – I make enough to live here but I am by no means rolling around in money – and if this was the only place I ever wanted to be, it would probably even be sustainable.


Even though I love Costa Rica and I love my home and I have no doubts about staying here long-term, I DID move to Central America with the intention of traveling. There is so much to do in Costa Rica (seriously, this may be one of the most diverse countries, SO MUCH TO DO), I’m heading to Panama in a few days, flights to Guatemala are only $60 and I do plan on visiting the States later this year.

All really cool exciting things. Also all really cool exciting things that cost money.

I think that it is easy to forget the importance of saving money when you finally reach the thing you saved for. I saved and saved and saved until I was able to move to Costa Rica and then when I moved to Costa Rica saving money became an after-thought. Why save when I already had what I was saving for?!

The key for me, right now, is to start thinking of Costa Rica as home and trying to return to the habits normally in place – cooking at home, drinking only for special occasions, finding free things to do with friends – and, in general, taking advantage of what I have right now.

A while ago, my friend Moriah told me about The Contentment Challenge, which she had first heard about on Hannah Brencher’s blog (she wrote a book everyone should read). This challenge took place a few years ago and the general idea was to stop buying “stuff” in January, February, and March and focus on being content with what you already have. In Hannah’s words:

I will give up shopping for clothes, accessories, household decor, and “stuff” for 3 months, to focus my heart and mind on the root of true contentment. I will actively pursue fulfilling activities that will replace my addiction to material things.

Moriah and I attempted that challenge together in 2016 and it really encouraged me to pay more attention to my spending habits and think about how much I really spent on random things. I’ve decided to do another challenged based off from Hannah’s challenge, though I will only be doing it for the month of March.

My personal guidelines for this contentment challenge are:

  • During the month of March, I will refrain from purchasing books, clothing and other “stuff”.
  • While in Coco, eating out is limited to once per week and only for social occasions. (Aka not because I’m too lazy to make rice.) When on the road, I will still cook at least 1-2 meals per day at home.
  • No alcohol! I’ve already declared March Sober March for a few reasons. One of the biggest reason is that these “$4 Happy Hour Mojitos” a few times a week do actually start to add up. I’m not too fussed about this – I barely drink most of the time anyway – though I do see it being a bit of a challenge when I’m in Bocas del Toro and everyone else is drunk. But, hey, I’ve always been the fun sober friend and I’d rather pass on the $10 drinks for a cool excursion!
  • If I’m not going to use it or do it RIGHT NOW, I don’t need it. This includes any more writing, blogging, or language learning courses that I like to purchase and still haven’t gotten around to using.
  • Instead, I will use this time to take advantage of the things I already have – read those books I just HAD to have, take advantage of the travel writing courses I purchased, and create new outfits in my wardrobe.
  • I am also going to make a conscious effort to GET RID OF THINGS. Somehow I have gone from living out of one backpack to have 3 suitcases FULL of stuff. It’s nice to have more than just a backpack but I swear I haven’t even looked at half of the stuff I just HAD to bring back from the States. I’ve lost enough weight that some clothes don’t fit and read several of the books. I have no desire to have clutter like I used to in the States so I’m going to make sure I only keep the things that add value to my life in one way or another.
  • And with all that money I’m not spending? Straight to the travel savings account! (Because yes, even though I live abroad I still have a travel savings!)

Challenges are always more fun with others so I’m inviting YOU to join me! You don’t have to follow my guidelines – just decide what things will work best for you and get started! Join the Saving for Travel – A Contentment Challenge group on Facebook!

Have you ever participated in some version of The Contentment Challenge? What’s your favorite way to save money for travel?

9 thoughts on “Saving for Travel: The Contentment Challenge

  1. MJ

    My household runs on one income so a contentment lifestyle has become my norm except I am not 100% happy about it. I am going to take this challenge with the goal of changing my mindset about finances and work towards making money off the STUFF I have. And I do have a lot of stuff. So much so, I should be content with our current one income lifestyle.

  2. Megan Elford

    I really like the conditions you added to each of the things you’re working on. I always say something like “no more eating out” and then end up going out with friends, figure I’ve blown it anyway, and do away with the whole resolution! Yours are much more realistic, and I think I might even steal one or two for myself ;-). I can’t wait to hear how it goes!

  3. rochkirstin

    Different people save for different kinds of things. It’s good that you can something to inspire you and that’s your dream to travel. I also want to have that conscious effort of getting rid of things that I really don’t need.

  4. Cara (@StylishGeek)

    Wow! That is really a very interesting post! I have never heard of the contentment challenge but now I am so curious. I think this would help me as well. If I were to enter this I would think I would not spend anymore than $30 going out on a meal for a month, would not buy any new pair of shoes for a month, and would not be tempted by any new gadgets for a month.

  5. Sage

    This is pretty much how our household runs all the time, and it’s served us well. We’re completely debt free, and only buy essentials, except for splurge items. This has enabled me to build a nice collection of Louis Vuitton bags, Christian Louboutins, and antique jewelery. The little expenditures add up, and cutting those out has really elevated my lifestyle.

  6. Vera Sweeney

    This is such a great way to save up money! I love the idea of not buying things, with the holidays having just happened we truly have everything we need. Especially cutting out eating out can save so much especially with a family our size

  7. Chris

    I’ve never joined in any contentment challenge, but I do love saving money when it comes ti travel. Were same, I never buy anything that I don’t need. Thanks for sharing us this is a great way to inspire others how to save for travel and anything.

  8. Kyntra Strickland

    I love this challenge. Materialism and eating out can do so much harm to a budget and a savings account! Thank you for being so open about your plan; I’m excited to read how it works out in the future.


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