It’s been four months now since my return to New York from my extended travels abroad. I landed at JFK with a broken left wrist and less than zero dollars in the bank. Since then I’ve recovered from surgery, completed physical therapy, got a part-time job, started paying back my student loans, and managed to save about $2,000 towards travel.
My commitments in New York to my job and yoga teacher training last through June, so I’ve got five more months to go before I’m free to roam the world. This feels agonizingly long, and it’s a huge challenge for me to peacefully stay put. I still don’t know where the next stop is (and feel it’s much too early to decide) but my latest ideas include Costa Rica and Spain.
I believe entirely and advocate for the individual’s potential to adventurously live and travel without money, but I also agree that having money is more convenient.
My savings goal is $1,000 a month and since the last post I wrote about how to save money, I’ve come up with a whole new list of more strategies:
1. Consolidate your loans
If you do not have any loan debt, realize how incredibly lucky and advantaged you are. If like I, you are partially responsible for the $1 trillion of student loan debt in the U.S., and have entered what I call the “ungraceful period,” then I suggest consolidating. Actually, if you’re still in the grace period, you might qualify for lower interest rates or other benefits by consolidating now.
If you have entered the “ungraceful period,” then I suggest consolidating.
By consolidating my student loans, my monthly payments are lowered from $300 to $200. It’s still heartbreaking that I owe that much per month, but $100 less makes a big difference, considering how little money I make. It also simplifies the process of making payments– I only have one payment with one closing date each month. The only disadvantage is that the “life of the loan” (isn’t it weird how they personify debt by giving it a “life”?) increases from ten to twenty years. I’ve reasoned that I’d rather live for the moment and pay as little as possible now without deferring altogether.
The process of applying for consolidation was far less confusing and stressful as I expected it to be. I used this site, which is only good for federal loans. It should only take you about an hour to complete, but can be saved and completed in multiple sessions.
2. Get a miles/travel rewards card and use it for EVERYTHING
Using a travel rewards credit card is a great but dangerous way to earn your way to travel. I got my first one, the Bank of America Travel Rewards Visa a week ago. Some if its admirable features include no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, 0% interest rates for the first year, and a considerable bonus points offer. The points I earn qualify me for discounted flights and baggage fees. The downside is a high interest rate after the first year, and everything else typically horrible about credit cards, namely that they create the illusion of having money when you don’t.
The points I earn qualify me for discounted flights and baggage fees.
I promised myself that I would use it responsibly, stick to my budget and only spend what I normally would. Nonetheless, within the first week of having it I have spent about $300.00 on things I wouldn’t have without the card, including brand new lingerie and a down coat.
I’m hoping the initial hypnosis my new credit card has cast on me wears off promptly. Despite my personal failure in credit card responsibility, I recommend a travel card to anyone saving up for travel. If you’re going to be spending money, it might as well be earning you discounts on flights.
3. Go holistic: Stop paying for unnecessary medications
I’m not a healthcare professional nor do I claim to know anything about the individual health problems of my readers. I do however believe that Americans spend too much money on unnecessary prescription and over-the-counter medications for minor ailments like headaches, cramps, and indigestion, and cosmetic concerns like acne or eczema.
If you want to cut back these costs, consider educating yourself about holistic health. Holistic healthcare focuses on preventing ailments and treating the cause rather than coating the symptoms with drugs. Medications only temporarily relieve you from pain. If you don’t address the cause, it will come back, and you’ll have to buy more medication for the rest of your life.
To start: Drink more water. Sleep more. Exercise more. Do yoga. Eat a lot of vegetables. Meditate. Be happy, kind, and loving. Quit smoking, drinking alcohol, and all the other habits that you know are harmful to you.
4. Wear glasses, not contacts
When I was in the seventh grade I was triple-burdened with braces, glasses, and early-blooming puberty. I’ve since had brace-less straight teeth for years and have grown into a feminine body that I love, but I still won’t know how many fingers you’re holding up from across the room without the aid of prescription paraphernalia.
For years I have preferred to wear contact lenses for strictly vain reasons, but it’s time to cut back. A box of six lenses costs me about $40. I’m meant to wear a pair for only two weeks before discarding, but I usually do for a month. So while I’m destroying my corneas, I’m also spending about $15 a month to do it. It probably comes out to more because I so frequently lose or tear them. If you splurge for the daily kind, you probably spend double what I do.
Be less vain for the sake of saving money.
I’ve decided to challenge myself to be less vain for the sake of saving money. I bought a cute new pair of glasses for only $98 at Warby Parker. If I wear the glasses instead of contacts all year, I cut down my eye-wear spending in half.
5. Gym Hop
In part one of my saving money guide, I suggested avoiding gym membership fees by creating a free, outdoor exercise routine like running or biking. Since then, the temperatures have dropped to miserable lows and my efforts to bundle up and run have proven there aren’t enough scarves in the world to prevent me from getting sick from running in New York winter.
Be a gym slut. It will save you money.
If you live in a city with cold winters and more than one gym, I recommend gym hopping. Most gyms and sports clubs offer special discounts to first timers, or have promotions on sites like Groupon and LivingSocial. Take advantage of all of them and don’t get too comfortable at any of them. In other words, be a gym slut. It will save you money. Right now I’m using the thirty dollars for thirty days deal at New York Sports Club. When that expires, I”ll use promotions at Fitness Collective and Gold’s Gym. It will be spring again and warm enough to run outside before I ever use up all the local promotions. If you don’t live in New York or a city of similar size, there are probably less options for you. How do you save money on fitness?
6. Access Your Public Library and Used Bookstores
I like to read a lot and I don’t want my savings plan to prevent me from it. I really enjoy browsing bookshelves in cozy, local bookshops, but the prices of new books are outrageous. My new book shopping strategy is to browse in bookshops and photograph the covers for title and author info. Then I check the public library for them or shop around for the lowest prices of used books.
See part one for more money-saving tips.
Do you have more tips for saving up? Leave a comment to spread your knowledge.
*Featured image PC: 401kcalculator.org