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They say it takes 21 days to make a habit and now I’m 21 days into this lockdown (24, actually, but who’s counting?).
For me, the first week wasn’t too bad — I had chores and tasks at home to keep me preoccupied, and who doesn’t love an excuse to spend a weekend reading? The second week was harder; the “novelty” (if you can call it that) had worn off and days passed slowly since I’m juggling fewer work clients than ever before. Now, as week three comes to close, I’ve got some routine in my life, a little more motivation, and a silver lining in all of this.
But what does all of this have to do with travel? I’m glad you asked.
Although I can’t predict exactly how much longer life will stay restricted, I think it’s safe to guess it’ll suck for at least the rest of April. And that’s…another 21 days. Supposedly, that’s enough days to form a new habit. On the off-chance this lasts for 90 days — I hope not! — that’s long enough to settle into a whole new lifestyle.
It’s time to put that to your advantage and give your travel savings a makeover. Save now, travel later.
Makeover #1: Curb Your Spending Habits
Years ago, I shared my top tip for saving more money for travel: cut your habits in half.
Regardless of what you normally spend money on, it’s hard to cut out your favorite splurges entirely. It’s way easier to reduce frequency instead. Go to happy hour every other Friday instead of every week, for example. You’ll still have your social outlet, and you’ll save some cash in the meantime.
Well, I’ve bet you’ve cut your habits in half whether you wanted to or not. In fact, you’ve probably gone cold turkey. When all businesses are closed by government mandate — at least in most states — you have no choice but to stop spending on salon visits, new shoes, or Sunday brunch.
When things reopen, these things will feel even more like a special treat. There are absolutely things I intend on spending money for again…but maybe after learning to go without, I’ll treat myself a little less frequently. This is a great opportunity to stop spending on those extras and start saving toward a travel goal.
Makeover #2: Experiment with Cheaper Substitutes
I’ve accidentally stumbled upon a few cost-saving substitutes over the past few weeks. My favorite find so far is the Down Dog App (one of the products currently keeping me sane), a yoga app so you can practice at home. It’s so customizable that in many ways I like it better than physically going to a studio — and at $50/year, it’s way cheaper than getting a membership anywhere.
I’ve experimented with several other things already, too: some from necessity (when favorite products are sold out and I’m forced to substitute) and some because I have the time to play around with things. Not everything has been a win, but I suspect that I’ll still lock in savings from some of them.
Besides, variety is the spice of life. Change it up for entertainment’s sake!
Makeover #3: Sock Away Your Savings
As much as I miss my weekly date nights, I have to admit they were expensive. Now, while we don’t have the option of going out, we’re saving a good chunk of cash every single week.
In addition to the fun things we’re spending less on, there are a lot of not-exciting household expenses we’re saving, too. Working from home means saving on gas money and parking downtown. My husband is no longer dry cleaning clothes for work events. Neither of us is impulsively buying lunch while we’re out and about. I even switched my cell phone plan to less data since I’m always home on WiFi now.
These are temporary spending cuts: things that I expect to jump back up as soon as everyone returns to the office. In the meantime, we’ll have six weeks or more of extra savings that we never expected. If you’re still working and don’t need that extra cash to cover your everyday expenses, sock that money away. Government stimulus check? Sock that away, too. It just might pay for your next trip.
Makeover #4: Use the Time You Have Effectively
I don’t know about you, but right now my evenings and weekends are wide open. Without events or social obligations, I have nothing to distract myself with.
In an effort to not binge bad TV all night every night, I’ve set aside an hour every day to work on money-saving projects. One day I saved $197 by making a phone call for a price protection claim that I never would’ve found if I didn’t have free time. I painted one room of my house and have plans for several more — saving money on contracted labor — and changed my own car oil. I started watching YouTubes on how to install french drains in my backyard and sewed up a bunch of dog toys that were borderline garbage.
I’m not sure how many projects I’ll get through before life gets back to normal. At some point, I imagine my free time (and energy) will dry up. That’s okay. In the meantime, I’ve saved some extra cash by learning to DIY.
I’m an Optimist, but Also a Realist
I’m saving as much as I can right now. It’s my hope that at the end of this I’ll have a decent chunk of extra money for travel. Realistically, I know that means counting on our household income staying relatively stable — an assumption that won’t necessarily hold true. Because of that, I’m saving (and dreaming!) but definitely not spending it until I’m certain of our economic security. There’s also a good chance that even if I manage to make it through this financially unscathed, my community will not and we’ll want to help.
As for now, these makeovers are worth your effort. It’s a great opportunity to change your mindset on saving vs. spending and to evaluate what’s worth a splurge in the future. Instill good habits now while it’s halfway done for you anyway and then you’ll at least have the option of putting it toward travel in the future.
Are you saving for travel now? How?