Saturday, October 5, 2013

From Spendthrift to Penny-Pincher

It is interesting how travel―or the prospect of forthcoming travel―can focus the mind, and change long-held habits seemingly overnight. I write about this today, because just last week I bought an early bird return ticket from Adelaide, Australia to Athens, Greece. Although the trip won’t take place until late April, 2014, I am already thinking about the journey, and planning my extended itinerary.

I am also trying to work out where I can cutback and rein in my spending. Obviously, the less I spend over the next seven months, the more I will have to live on when I am travelling. On my iPad 2 I have a copy of Numbers, Apple’s excellent spreadsheet application. For the past year or so I have been maintaining a daily spreadsheet of my expenses under various categories, including groceries, transport, phone and Internet fees and other expenses.

The great thing about maintaining this daily record of expenses is that I can see at a glance where my money is going, and more importantly where I can make savings.

One of the line items in the spreadsheet documents spending which I, for better or worse, call ‘Eats’. This is where I add up expenses such as coffee, sandwiches, bagels, cakes and other light snacks. To my surprise, I recently noticed that for several months I have been spending an average of $250 each month on ‘Eats’. While that doesn’t seem like a lot, if I maintain that spending level, the figure adds up to $3000 a year. Three thousand dollars! I could buy an economy class return ticket to pretty much any city on the planet for that price.

Now you might argue that while that may be true, surely I am not advocating never again buying a cappuccino and cinnamon donut. You would of course, be right. But even if I can reduce that discretionary spending by half, to $1500, I could still purchase a ticket to most places across the world, and in deed, the early bird ticket I bought last week cost me $1620.

While I don’t want to turn into a modern day Scrooge, my goal over the next six to seven months is to focus on the journey ahead, and to reduce my discretionary spending to a level that allows me to enjoy life without feeling like I can’t leave the house for fear of spending a few dollars on myself before departing Australia’s shores.

Feel free to use the Comments section below to share your successful strategies for saving money before long planned vacations. Any suggestions and advice would be greatly appreciated. 

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