I was reading a blog post today on how to save money for travel. In the blog post, she mentioned how she cut back on her spending to afford travel. By “cutting back”, she gave up buying $300 dresses she’d only wear once and spending $150+ a week on drinks with the girls.
Then, she proceeds to say that anyone can travel by saving money.
By no means is she the first blogger to make such a post – I probably read at least one a week with similar advice. I get it, these are supposed to be inspirational posts to encourage others to pursue their dreams of travel.
But let’s get real for a minute.
Unless you’re in at LEAST the upper middle class, these tips will not work. You can’t cut back on spending $300 on clothes you don’t need when $300 is what you’re bringing home in a paycheck after taxes. You probably also can’t save $6 a day by cutting back on the expensive coffee you never have the money to buy either.
Let’s Look At The Numbers….
Minimum wage in the United States is $7.25 per hour. $7.25×40 = $290. If you are working FULL TIME in the United States at minimum wage, you are bringing home LESS than $300 per week. That’s less than $1200 per month, which may or may not cover living expenses depending on individual circumstances.
Working a minimum wage (or just above) job and barely making ends meet is reality for many people who dream of traveling. My HIGHEST paying job before I left the United States for $9.49 and I never had full-time hours.
“So, get a job that’s not minimum wage!” Look, I don’t want to get political here – I’ll save my minimum wage rant for another day – but let’s just say that getting a job that pays more than minimum wage can be extremely difficult, especially in small towns.
It’s a bit hard to save by cutting back on spending when you don’t have anything to spend in the first place.
The next advice for those who want to travel is always, always to pick up extra work. Get a second job, start walking dogs, start a freelance business that magically turns a profit…do all of the above. If that’s not enough? Get a third job.
But, listen, guys, there are only 24 hours in a day. Starting your own business doesn’t usually result in an immediate profit and getting another job isn’t as simple as walking into McDonald’s with an application. Assuming that anyone who wanted a second or third job could get one (they can’t), if all of those jobs are near minimum wage, you’re still not going to be savings thousands every month. And, again, 24 hours in a day. It is not physically possible to work more than three or so jobs, regardless of your work ethic. If you have a kid or other responsibilities? Forget it.
I understand the sentiment behind these posts encouraging us all to travel. Most of us do have something we can change to save or earn more money. (I won’t even mention how much money I spent on lunch at Sheetz in the States…)
But there’s not ALWAYS something. We don’t all have jobs paying thousands a month. We can’t cut back on the things we already only dream of having. We can’t apply for jobs that don’t exist.
Luck Does Exist
How, then, did I leave the country to travel? The reality is that, yes, I worked my ass off – but I also got lucky.
Until I moved to Costa Rica in October, I had never paid rent. Before my 2015 trip, I lived with a friend and then with my parents. Between my 2015 trip and leaving in 2016, I lived with my grandma.
I worked multiple jobs. Before I left in 2015, I had 3 jobs. I would leave the house around 6am and get home at 10pm or later – driving an hour to work each way. As mentioned above, the HIGHEST paying job was $9.49 an hour. The other two were $8 and $8.23. Before I left in 2016, I worked two “real” jobs, the highest paying just over minimum wage, became a Perfectly Posh consultant, and started writing articles online for way too little money.
I barely slept, I was sick all of the time, and, if I’m being honest, I was a bit of a bitch to be around.
But I was still lucky because I HAD the opportunity to have two or three jobs. Even more importantly, I had the opportunity to not pay rent.
The sad part is that if I had chosen to the stay in the States, I still would not have been able to afford rent. If I had stayed in the States, I would be struggling so much more than I am right now because I’m paying $350 for rent versus the $600+ I’d be stuck with in the United States.
It was 100% impossible for me to save thousands of dollars a month, to increase by savings by hundreds a month, by cutting back on organic salads, $300 dresses, and $15 cocktails three days a week, because I could never afford those things anyway.
This is the problem with many “everyone can save money to travel!” posts. You can’t save thousands by cutting back when there’s nothing for you to cut back. You can’t pick up a second or third job when there are no jobs available. For some of us, it’s not as easy as 1-2-3.
For those of you who are struggling in this situation right now – I hear you. I get it, I know. And I do truly believe that if you want to travel, someday you will. It might take sacrifice beyond not buying coffee every day but if travel is in your heart and soul, you’ll get there.
For everyone else – please remember your privilege. It’s easy to make a blanket statement like “ANYONE can travel the world if they just want to bad enough…just give up your coffee!” but it’s not always that easy.
Have you ever been in a similar situation? What advice do you have for others in a similar situation?
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