Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Top 5 Financial Barriers...and How to Overcome Them

Most people would love to travel if given the chance - especially on an ongoing or long term basis. Arguably, traveling is the most liberating, self-discovering experience one can ever have; it makes life worth living again.

The thing that most often stops people from actually traveling... is money. 99.9% of the time, money stands in the way. I know this from personal experience. This post is designed to acknowledge some of the challenges the average aspiring traveling faces and what to do to remedy these challenges to save up some money before leaving on that trip of a lifetime.

The following are the top five financial barriers that people face and how to avoid (or better yet,  overcome) them:

5. Car payments. These types of payments can easily be eliminated. You're going to be traveling, so you probably won't miss the car much anyway. Either sell it and get rid of it completely, or sell it and buy a cheaper used car with cash so you can keep the extra money. If you're caught up on having the latest and greatest car, you will never be able to travel - unless you're a millionaire of course. If you were a millionaire, you wouldn't need to read this blog, though. :)

4. Too many monthly splurges disguised as necessities. The little expenses add up...more than you might think. Do you really need to go to Starbucks every morning? Make coffee at home and put it in a to-go cup. I hear Costco sells some killer Dunkin' Donuts coffee.... Also, do you really need that gym membership? You can do quicker and more effective workouts at home with minimal equipment (an exercise ball and dumbbells) or no equipment at all. (More on exercise later). Do you need both a landline AND a cell phone? Cut out the land line and stick with just a cell phone to save yourself $50-$100 USD each month. Do you need to eat at so many restaurants? Cooking at home is much cheaper...and healthier. If you have a system down, planning meals and cooking at home can be quicker and easier than eating out, too. These are just a start, but I'm sure you can think of more.

3. Medical bills. Yikes... Medical bills can be worse than the actual injury or illness one might be suffering from. I can relate to this one as my son fractured his ulna about 4 weeks ago. We're thankful the break wasn't that bad and he's doing just fine now with another 2 weeks to go with the cast. What's ailing us now are the bills we received in the mail. Since we're self-employed, we have crappy insurance with a $5000 deductible. The situation is much worse for a lot of people. Medical bills can take a toll on even the most frugal person. One word of advice here is to always make sure you have extra money put aside for these predicaments, and travel insurance is a MUST when you start your trips. To get these bills paid down before you leave, use the money you saved from implementing the ideas in #4 - or get started on one of the on-the-go jobs ahead of time. 

2. HELOC debt. Yikes again... Same advice here - use the ideas in #4 and get an on-the-go job well ahead of time. Also, you could TRY to sell your house, but in the current market I wouldn't count on it. Another option is to approach a debt consolidation company to help lower the payments and interest. 

1. Credit card debt. I used to be the queen of credit card debt. I once had over $20,000 USD charged up between several different cards. Obviously I wasn't doing any traveling during this period of time; I think it was during the time my husband worked in an office job and made a crap salary. I just recently got it all paid off, and now I'm ready to travel again with a clear conscience. The strategy that worked for me was to 1) make sure the cards had low interest (or zero interest if possible), 2) start a business, and 3) use the on-the-go jobs to bring in more money than we spent. After a year and a half of plugging away at it, we finally paid it all off. You can too if you budget correctly and don't give up. You may not be able to travel for a year or more, but you will at some point. Traveling debt-free is the only way to do it, and you will be much happier for it. Keep your eye on the goal and you will get there.

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