06 Jul Why Finding Money to Fund Your Dreams Can Be Easier Than You Think
Dorene and Troy are an Ex-Marketing Executive and TV Editor couple from Canada. They’re redefining their mid-life by lifestyle redesign and full-time transformative travel. They help people who feel stuck and uninspired to make meaningful, conscious change in their life, work and travel at Travel Life Experiences. We are thrilled that they’re sharing with us their own experiences rethinking their spending. We really think you’ll get a lot from their valuable tips to help fund what you want in life!
The hardest part of changing our lifestyle was making the decision to do it. Two and a half years ago, we left our comfortable lives – with a home, car, and full-time careers – and transitioned to a location-independent, freelance-working lifestyle in order to travel and live in other parts of the world. It was far from easy. It required shifting our priorities, starting new habits, and taking measured steps, one at a time. That was our formula in finding the path and means to support our dream lifestyle.
There was one thing that made the biggest difference in achieving our goal to support our new lifestyle: we wished we started it earlier in our lives and our marriage. It’s obvious, but why didn’t we do it?
Before we could go after this new lifestyle, we had to look at ourselves.
We had to look at our own spending habits.
It is the one thing that we are 100% responsible for and it is within our control.
We CHOOSE how to spend your money, and it doesn’t matter if we had very little money or a lot of it. This is solely within our realm of control.
To do that, we took a good look at our financial position – an honest, no-excuse monthly spending picture on how we spent our money.
Being open and courageous in taking this responsibility allowed us to:
- Reflect and challenge each other on what we spent our money on;
- Shift our spending towards funding the things (and more importantly, experiences) that we really wanted in our life.
This is a fundamental principle, so why didn’t we do it all those years?
Because we were afraid to see our spending habits.
- We wanted to avoid criticism from each other and hide from our guilt.
- And we didn’t want to make an effort to do this because it felt like it would be hard, tedious work.
Budgeting doesn’t have to be a daunting task, and we discovered some simple tools that helped us change it from challenging to straightforward.
This useful monthly financial picture template took out the hard work of setting it up. This model computes the additions and deductions automatically. You can download a copy of the template to review on your computer.
Here is how to use it:
1) Fill in your income and expenses, including all personal and household expenses each month.
2) Check your pay stubs, past utility bills, credit card statements, wherever you have this information. Even if you are not entirely sure, you can estimate, and update later with more specific details. An estimate is better than nothing at all.
3) Think about every expense — coffees, restaurant meals, haircuts, snacks, and gadgets. Estimate how much you spend on these things each month. If they aren’t done every month, account for it anyway.
There is only one way for this tool to be useful: it is by being honest with yourself.
If your dream is important to you, there are ways to pay for that dream over time.
Other useful tools to track regular expenses in the future include apps such as:
Trail Wallet (for tracking traveling expenses)
Freshbooks is the ultimate software for self-employed and small businesses. We use it to track our business and personal expenses directly from deposits and withdrawals from our bank account. It saves hours of time, tracking, recording and creating summaries for annual taxes. The link for Freshbooks includes a free trial. We love it, and there’s no risk for you to give it a try.
The outcome of our financial review
In the process, we learned a lot more about ourselves and that we could come out of this task with a positive approach to our finances moving forward. Here is what we discovered:
1) Time and effort
We wish we took the time to start this process earlier. We know if we did this earlier, we could have saved more to fund our travel, work, and living lifestyle.
- Our small expenses added up to a huge amount over time.
- Having information in front of us forced us to have rational conversations together. We became more aware where the money was going so our conversations were specific. And we knew many of our spending habits were inconsistent with our goals.
This is also a no-brainer comment, but we needed the numbers in front of us to discuss our debt. We learned to divert more funds to pay our debt, which meant a faster way for us to pay for the things we wanted. We paid off our high-interest expenses first and tried to avoid future interest charges wherever possible (i.e. credit card interest – the biggest culprit).
3) Eating out
We spent way too much money on eating out, and we knew it. But we didn’t see how big this expense was until we went through this process (which was close to US$400/month on restaurants and take-out). We loved this escape on a Friday night, but the US$400 could easily pay for flights quickly. I don’t love cooking, but I also like having money for travel, so we forced ourselves to eat more at home. Gradually, we cut down on the number of times we ate out. When our motivation to go out was to socialize with friends, we would change our plans to host a simple meal or potluck dinner.
4) Cut the daily escape coffees
Going to our favorite café and eating lunch out were welcome escapes from a hectic day. This is one of our biggest money-sucking costs that compounded without warning. A specialty coffee every day of the workweek added up to US$1,200/year, or ordering a regular brewed coffee was close to US$500/year! We bought a fancy coffee machine for home and some take out mugs, and we have never looked back since then.
5) Negotiate better rates for utilities
We were lazy. We did not take the time to challenge our monthly costs. When we looked at the costs – the added time to negotiate on the phone was worth it! We were spending a fortune on a landline phone, the Internet, and cable to the tune of US$420 a month! (Note: These are costs from Canada, which are some of the highest rates in the world.) We negotiated with our cable and cell phone provider for lower rates.
One expert tip is to call your phone/cable or Internet services retention department (the department responsible for winning back clients) and mention you would like to cancel your service. This opens up an opportunity to renegotiate and see what they will offer to keep you as a customer. Record the date that you sign up to new services. Typically, new rates last to one year. Then, before the year is up, call again and see what prices they can offer. We managed to save over US$250 per month with this strategy; a savings of US$2400 per year!
You can leverage the same strategy to renegotiate better rates with your utilities, bank fees, or any services you can think of. For example, why do you pay bank fees for a checkbook you rarely use? What about overdraft services that you never use? What about annual credit card fees and you hardly use many of the card features? You can even do this on your mortgage, by taking the time to shop around. Services are competitive, so you deserve to save money for the extra time to renegotiate. It is worth it!
6) Focus on priorities consistent with your dreams
Money is a means to fund your dreams, so why not plan your future using your values?
Entertainment is a difficult cost to reduce, but it’s not hard if there is something more important that you want to fund in your life.
We started with our home phone service. We rarely used it, and everyone called us on our cell phones, so we canceled it. We didn’t use our TV or cable in every room. In fact, we eventually sold all the TVs in our house and watched our favorite shows online. There are so many low-cost cell phone plans out there. Consider researching to see what a lower plan includes –and pay for basic services.
7) Renewal Charges Are Sneaky
Online purchases are a big culprit, especially with automatic renewal charges as well as credit card annual membership fees. Keep a simple document of annual renewal dates so you can cancel them if you aren’t using them. For instance, I signed up for an online training program and forgot that it automatically renewed. In one case, it renewed at a higher amount because I didn’t track the details. Shame on me! A week before these products expire, re-evaluate whether you need them or not. If you haven’t used it in the last 30 days, is it worth your hard-earned money?
8) Selling Your Stuff
This is a much larger topic, but have you considered selling the stuff you rarely use to pay off your debt or fund what you want? If you forgot something that is collecting dust in your basement and haven’t used it in 30 days, realistically, these are items you can turn into cash. We took a more extensive approach, and we sold everything we owned to travel full time and live location-independent. This may not be for you, but it’s an example of how dreams can be funded. If you are spending money on storage fees do you even need this stuff? Can you ask your family to store something for you?
9) Other nasty spending culprits
1. Hairdresser- This is a big one for me, I found a cheaper hairdresser and started buying take home color. The savings of US$150 per visit was enough for me to look for alternatives. Better yet, I get my haircut when I travel. I show a picture of me on my phone with my favorite haircut/color and get them to duplicate it. With this strategy, I easily save about US$200 every time I get my hair done.
2. Boredom shopping – Have you ever gone out on a Sunday afternoon to the mall out of boredom and returned with something you rarely use? Need I say more?
3. Gym Memberships – Have you ever kept a gym membership in case you decide you will start going? Well, you won’t. I know this from experience. Cut the membership, then buy a US$5.00 app on your phone and work out at home.
What was our end result of this process? Saving big time on expenses that didn’t fund our dream. We are living comfortably 2.5 years later, living, traveling and working full time, and not missing the things (and expenses) that we shed from our lifestyle.
Do you spend money on the things you want most in your life? How do you find money to fund what you want to do in life? We’d like to hear your feedback.
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