Making beautiful memories together: Gretchen with her daughter on Mount Pulag
Traveling, for me, is a crucial part of nourishing the spirit and renewing a sense of awe amid everyday stresses. I am fortunate that as a freelance travel writer, I am able to engage in two of my greatest passions (apart from my daughter): experiencing more of the world and writing about it.
But as a breadwinner and a yaya-less mother who deals with a messy house and toddler tantrums on a daily basis, I often get asked – “How do you get to travel as much as you do?” The bewilderment is understandable, given that I have a mortgage, insurance policies, and bills to pay, including my daughter’s regular Kinder Egg fix.
But I assure you: there is no secret formula, shortcuts, or hidden treasure at home. Like any worthwhile pursuits, being able to travel despite financial and motherly obligations depends on proper handling of finances. With this, debts are prevented and seeing more of what’s out there becomes achievable. Here are a few rules I follow in earnest to afford my lifestyle:
Reduce non-essential expenses. Audit well.
Saving for travel also means foregoing nice-to-haves: expensive gadgets, gourmet coffee, movie houses, pricey restaurants, and brand new clothes. Before purchasing, I ask myself: is this something my family needs? Can they use it for the long term?
I keep receipts from purchases and payments, then plot all expenses against my monthly income in an Excel sheet and a notebook. This helps me assess if I have extra cash available to spend on travels – that is, after I’ve set aside monthly savings and income for shelter, food, bills, and insurance.
Aim for more than just keeping your family afloat. Save up.
Financial reserves are a cushion for emergencies. They also keep one from incurring debt. Also, more savings means more for funds for travels!
What I do is to save spare change plus at least P30 daily in my daughter’s piggy bank. I also regularly scout my home for unused pieces that I can sell online for extra savings, from my daughter’s clothes (even used ones!) to untouched wedding gifts and lippies.
Constantly expand your skill set.
Do you have special skills that you can practice to earn extra cash? Perhaps you love to bake cupcakes for friends. Maybe you are good at graphic design, social media management, or writing. It could be that you enjoy organizing trips or stringing video clips. These are skills that you can hone and pitch to friends, companies, clients, and even publications (as I do) to create more income to supply travel funds.
A few years ago, I also started learning more about photography as well as making travel-themed accessories – both of which I use to pool in more funds.
If your goal is to travel more, the best way to afford it is to go for practical solutions. That means opting for budget lodges or smaller hotels than full-service ones, maybe even go camping. You can also reduce costs by bringing your own food and water and staying in to cook instead of dining out. Joining carpools, finding budget group tours, and taking public transportation like habal-habal are great ways to save while traveling, not to mention a great adventure for kids!
Plan in advance.
While I do love random and spontaneous trips, the years have also taught me that planning trips in advance – instead of just jetting off on a whim – helps keep my monthly budget in check. Advanced reservations, especially for plane tickets and hotels, also lead to lower and cost-efficient rates.
Time is money. Choose what you do with it wisely.
Every second spent is an opportunity to earn. For better time management, I keep a planner to jot down what needs to be done within the day and for the week. It also allows me to finish work faster. When I can accomplish more in a day, not only can I do other income-generating activities, but I also enjoy more free time with my daughter.
Seek opportunities and connections leading to more travel.
About half of my trips are paid travel writing assignments (for print publications or for my blog), many of which from clients whom I met through friends or were referred by people outside my network.
One thing I would like to stress though is that paid travel opportunities don’t simply fall on your lap. You have to go out, make friends, and constantly expand your network. Submit your work to publications, join online travel communities, and attend workshops as well as travel-related events. Most of these are free of charge and are great ways to meet people who can lead you to more earnings and adventure.
Don’t sell yourself short.
Still, the best way to finance travel is to ensure that your main source of income is more than enough for food and occasional trips. As a freelancer, I advocate for projects that are sustainable and impactful, not penny projects found on freelance content mills. Such projects, like $5-per-500-word articles, may pay the bills now but leave no space for long-term growth. When you stop working on them, funds for necessities also stop and debt almost always follow.
This also goes for regular office workers. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for what you think you are worth. Know your skills, abilities, and selling points. And never settle, because dreams cease to happen when you do!
By committing to this collective mantra of intentional spending and saving, not only am I able to make a brighter life possible for my daughter, but I am also able to live a life where motherhood and personal dreams can coexist.