Where do you get money to travel? My damn self!

travel meme

Look there have definitely been times when my bank account has given me that response, but traveling requires creating a money goal and sticking to it. I can’t afford to travel on a last minute whim UNLESS I have already been setting money aside as a general traveling money goal. Because traveling has become a thing I enjoy in my late twenties, I always include a travel line in my monthly budget (or as I call it wealth management because the word budget makes me thing of money in a negative way).

I’ve written before about the wonders of using a spreadsheet and other visuals to keep track of your expenses and money goals so I would recommend you check that post out! For me traveling is a category I take into account every month when I plan out my wealth management. This does not mean that I am traveling each month, and it also does not mean that I am setting aside the same amount each month.

The point of budgeting is to be flexible based on the needs you are facingwhich for me means that sometimes I may not put much aside into my travel money goal because I have other priorities for that month. However, there is always something no matter how small that I have in that goal because it is something that I enjoy doing.

In addition to actively creating a money traveling goal, I recognize that my ability to travel is a privilege as well. I know that I do not live paycheck to paycheck. I used to, and during those days traveling was definitely not on my radar because I wasn’t sure how to do it. I am financially stable, even though sometimes I don’t feel like it. I also acknowledge that the only responsibilities I have are to myself and my two dogs, which means that I essentially only have to financially take care of myself (housing, etc.). I am certain that if I had children, my approach to saving for traveling would change and that is a challenge I may someday have to figure out.

Budgeting is about learning how to prioritize whatever is in your life at the moment.

I’m planning on writing a future post about executive functioning and budgeting, as it is hard to budget if we don’t first work on our executive functioning skills. Prioritizing is an executive functioning skill.

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Egypt (dream trip since I was a child). I didn’t decide on this trip until early March, and I was supposed to take the trip in mid May. I had some money already in my general traveling goal. As I mentioned before, I actively work on this goal each month because it is a priority I have made for myself. However, the amount I had already been setting aside wouldn’t be enough.  I essentially had two months to work on this money goal before the trip. I saved up the following toward that money goal:

March – $480
April – $545
+Amount I already had in my general traveling goal – $515
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Total in this money goal – $1,540

That meant that $1,540 was my working budget for all of my Egypt expenses. This takes into account flights, lodging, travel size items and spending money while in Egypt.

How did I get this money?

  • Proactively setting money aside each month for travel, even if I didn’t know any specifics yet.
  • Cutting back on expenses during the months of March and April by doing small things, such as:
    • “Hay comida en casa” which translates to eating at home
    • Buying groceries the week of needing them. This helped me in terms of not tossing out as much that ends up spoiling because I somehow forget I won’t eat everything right away.
    • Driving less, which meant I wasn’t spending as much on gas.
    • Going out less.
    • Buying only things I really needed — no splurge purchases!

A key thing to take into account is to also be flexible even when you have your money goal set. In my case, I had to dip into my travel money goal amount for a work trip I had in late April. While some of the basics were covered by my job for this work trip, I had to cover a few other expenses myself with the possibility of not getting reimbursed for these expenses as I work for a non-profit. This meant my initial $1,540 went down, but that was OK because I re-calculated what I had to work with toward Egypt.

As with anything, if something is a priority that you want to save for, then you create a money goal and work towards it! Traveling is a priority for me, but as life comes and goes, that may change and I may find myself creating a money goal for something else that becomes important to me as a person.

If you want more tips on how to be cost effective when planning a trip, read my other post: Be Money Smart When You Travel. In the future, I plan on having specific posts that break down what trips to different places cost. Oftentimes I am googling like a madwoman trying to figure out how much money to save or take with me to certain destinations, so I figured I can’t be the only one that wishes more people would outline their expenses when they went on trips. I’m trying to look out for anyone who wants to be money smart when traveling!


What are some things you prioritize as money goals? Share below!

Imposter Syndrome

mrkrabsimposter

Real talk:

I feel like an imposter when it comes to this blog and my ability to help others financially. To be fair I also feel like an imposter in a lot of other aspects of my life from writing to comedy to anything, really.

Here’s the thing: I know that I know things about finance, which I learned through the many mistakes that I have made. I’ve gotten a pretty good grip on my own finances, and know that the tools I use and the habits that I practice can help other like-and-ready-minded people like myself.

Then, why do I continue to feel like an imposter?

Feeling like an imposter is my crutch. It’s an easy to go to excuse to limit myself.

Recently my lack of struggle against the imposter syndrome has led me to procrastinate on a money project that I was working on for someone else: a spreadsheet. It should come as no surprise that spreadsheets are my go-to tools when it comes to wealth management (also known as: budgeting). As someone with an English major background, I used to detest spreadsheets.

Now I find myself fascinated by how they function, and most of all how to make them easy on the eyes and user-friendly. My motto is: if a spreadsheet looks ugly why am I going to be motivated to stare at it. So, a friend hired me to create a spreadsheet for them.

It’s not the spreadsheet that it’s the issue. I’ve made other spreadsheets for other people before. It’s not that I’ve been busy. I mean I am, but I’ve gotten pretty good at whipping up some basic “get your life together” spreadsheets. It’s just that now I am trapped in my head, thinking “who am I to offer this to that person?”

I was behind on a lot of payments. I owed a lot of money. I was sued by Capital One. I filed for bankruptcy. These are all failures. I’m a loser. What do I think I have to even offer to other people with this Breaking the Piggy Bank project?

What do I have to offer?

A spreadsheet? Yeah, but why shouldn’t this person just find someone who has been great with their finances for years and is natively great with numbers instead of me?

After letting my imposter syndrome take control, I decided to do some reflecting. The question turned to: What don’t I have to offer?

I’ve gotten my shit together (financial, at least). I don’t judge others for their finances. I have explored different avenues of budgeting. I have been doing well for at least the last year if not two years!

Ok, enough pep talk.

This particular post is what I would define as a “in progress” post. I think we are all constantly “in progress”. Sometimes, we just have to navigate through these crutches that we hold onto for dear life. Whether that crutch is feeling like an imposter or in terms of money management, feeling like no matter how much we make, we just can’t get out of debt. We become comfortable in using these crutches. Then we miss out on the progress that could have been made.

FYI, here is a sneak peek at the snazzy spreadsheet that I am creating for this friend. Know how long it took me to finally whip this template concept up once I finally kicked Mr. Imposter out? It was a pretty quick turnaround. All that is left is to enter the formulas.

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Things to check out this week:

Speaking of imposter syndrome and inner critics. Writer and wonderful writing professor/mentor, Luís Alberto Urrea, wrote this short piece that is worth a read for those of us with constant inner critics. Go read “The Mr. Smith Syndrome” online. 

Got something to say about this blog? I’d love to hear some positive things to help keep the Imposter Syndrome at bay. Comment. Tweet at me. DM me on Facebook or whatevs. You can even tell the Pig at Ask the Pig.

Will Travel For Work

travelingdog

Back in the spring, I received the opportunity to attend a national learning conference in Tucson, Arizona for work. The conference was scheduled for October. I thought, hey this sounds like a great opportunity for me professionally and also OH HEY I GET WARM WEATHER IN OCTOBER, YES WHERE DO I SIGN UP? The best part? This trip would be covered by my job.

My flight and hotel room had been booked, and any meal expenses would be reimbursed after the trip. But let’s talk about those meal expenses.

Given that I would be at a conference for all of the days during my stay in Tucson, the only budgeting I had done came down to those meal expenses. Typically my monthly wealth management (what I refer to my budget) plan takes into account all my bills and extra expenses. The general categories that I break it down into are:

Mortgage
Student Loans
Car Insurance
Phone/Internet
Car Payment
Repayment Loan Plan
Netflix
Spotify
Therapy
Gas (typically runs less than $140 a month)
Groceries (typically accurate estimate of what I buy from Aldi a month)
Leisure (a set limit on how much I am allowing myself to spend on fun things that month)
Safety funds (a general amount I give myself as back up for the month)

Any money that doesn’t get added into those categories is left in my general balance or added into special categories for that month. For example, if I know I have to pay my dentist deductible that month, then I add that as another category. For October, I had added a category for “Arizona meals”. For this, I had set aside $140.

My time in Arizona was scheduled from Sunday through Wednesday with some meals provided by the conference. Per my employer, any meal that is not provided by the conference is theoretically covered, but we will get to that in a minute or two.

I felt confident with my $140 because I also had that extra amount in my account for my general balance. Silly me, I totally forgot that life will continually throw some financial curveballs my way!

In this case, my dog injured himself. Those vet expenses add up, ya’ll. On top of that, I had some medical deductibles to cover and also had to pay some other things at home. That extra money in my account? Gone after these unexpected expenses.

This left me with only the $140 I had set aside from my meals in Arizona + gas for my car. Even typing this out, I feel embarrassed on spelling out how little I had in my bank account. This isn’t a joke. I didn’t have a savings account hidden somewhere. I have a four month plan for getting a savings account in its feet, but at the moment there was nothing else. I should mention, I get paid on a monthly basis, on the 16th of every month. My Arizona trip was two weeks before pay day. With my $140, I still felt confident I could make ends meet. After all, once I returned to Chicago, all I had to do was not go out. Gas to get to work and back was covered.

Let’s just say meals at a resort are a lot more expensive than normal meals at home. I paid $3 for a bottle of water one morning. That was before I found a stash of free water bottles that were complimentary to hotel guests that joined the morning hikes. Yes, I got up early for those damn hikes and my complimentary bottle of water! I also made sure I went to the complimentary tequila toast every day because tequila!

In the end, I will get reimbursed part of what I spent on meals by my employer. Granted, I probably won’t see that money until 2018 (the process for reimbursements always seems to be very, very slow), and it won’t be as much as my meals actually cost.

So, am I good now? Yes. I chose to wrote this though to be completely honest. Typically when we talk about money, we don’t want to reveal to others how much we actually have. Saying I only had $140 + gas in my account opens me up to plenty of judgment. You may be thinking I’m reckless or I still don’t budget appropriately. You may be way better at budgeting than I am or have a different approach, but again, this is about chronicling the journey of financial management. For me $140 was scary, especially post-bankruptcy, however, it’s still a step forward. Why?

Four years ago, I kept going under in my bank account. I kept racking up overdraft fees. I kept not paying my bills on time.

Fast forward to the now: I pay my bills. That has perhaps been the biggest financial accomplishment for me now. I am able to pay those unexpected vet bills now. I can cover other home expenses when my mom is unable to. I can typically spend money on leisure activities, too, and I am able to save money for traveling (non-work related). Having the ability to do these things, makes me note that I have progressed and accomplished a financial stability that I never imagined I would find.

I can have $1 in my account, and I still will know that I have come further than I ever imagined. Obviously, $1 is not ideal, and it is an exaggeration on my part. However, all I’m saying is I made my peace being down to $140. It is an upgrade from having my card declined at a White Castle at 1 AM in the morning, and that is a story for another post!

P.S. I got to hang out my the lazy river in my downtime. You don’t need any extra money to ride a floatie in style.

Treat Yourself!

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… but plan for it ahead of time.

Look, I’m not a financial adviser. I haven’t written books of money from the perspective of a millionaire that pulled herself from her bootstraps. I haven’t helped thousands get their financial shit together through sold out speaking engagements, and I most certainly have not been booked by daytime TV in any capacity. I’m only talking from experience, and as with even expert opinions, you should take what I say with a grain of salt and decide for yourself what is best for you.

I get it. I want that. I want it now. I got to have it. Impulsive purchases give us a high of sorts. For me, it happened to be a coping mechanism to deal with my depression where buying more clothes felt like a good idea at the time, even though my closet was already overflowing with clothes I never even wore! Seriously, my mom and friends are notorious for telling me I always wear the same three items of clothing despite everything I have. Kind of like Charlie Brown, though nobody ever berates him about it. 

So, is treating yourself bad? No, but learning how much to treat yourself can be challenging.

Let’s go back in time. I grew up low income. My mother was a single parent working minimum paying jobs while trying to raise my sister and I. Going to the store was more about window shopping than actually buying things. Oh, you want McDonald’s? Sorry, no money for that. It was all about the essentials, and while my mom was certainly thrifty and resourceful, guess what happened when I started working while in college?

I went in the opposite direction of being thrifty and started buying anything I wanted (while still paying my half of the rent). I had absolutely no filter because as naive as it sounds, eighteen year old Angelica thought she was suddenly rich on her own minimum wage!

The majority of my checks working at some mall teen store went directly back into that store because of the enticing employee discount. I kept upgrading my computers and phones, as if I actually had the means for it. At this time, I still paid everything on time and had great credit until a few years later when treating myself finally caught up to me.

I hit the kind of wall that you hit when you’ve had one too many drinks.

After hitting this metaphorical wall, I then went into the other direction with the mentality of: I HAVE TO BUCKLE DOWN. Can’t spend money on that, or that or this, no more spending money.

Yet, that also was not the best solution for me. Having the mentality of “can’t spend money on that” just made me feel more guilty and horrible about myself and what direction I was headed toward. What was a girl to do?

PRIORITIZE.

It’s been a year since I have been practicing a solid budget, and I still get to treat myself. The difference? I have an annual budget on Excel (we’ll discuss this in more detail in later posts) where I am able to view at a glance each month, determine necessary expenses (bills, groceries, utilities) and then figure out how much money is left over that I can spend on other things I want. This way I can treat myself to coloring my hair or going to a concert or taking a trip.

I’ve even set dates that I know for certain that I want to treat myself on, and actually save money ahead of time for that Treat Yourself Day that I picked. If you know that next month you want to go out on the town, then save for that night this month! Obviously, this should be different from a normal savings routine. It’s better to be proactive than borrow money from your actual savings account for a Treat Yourself Day.

It’s OK to treat yourself, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. Why is it that money has a tendency to make us feel guilty? Guilt doesn’t make for the best relationship, and something I learned from reading plenty of self help books this past year is that in general we have to learn to have a much more positive relationship with money.

So, treat yourself responsibly. Plan ahead or prioritize current expenses in order to feel less guilty about it, and also to maintain control over how, when and with what you treat yourself.