I was thinking today about the “budget” for this trip. I realized that my attitude has become “it will cost what it costs.”
I don’t say that because we have unlimited funds, or because I’m being flippant or financially irresponsible. I say that because I actually have no idea how much this will cost in real life. And once we’re there, it will cost what it costs. We’ll adjust our spending habits as we go, pay for some of it later I’m sure, remind ourselves that this is likely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, then hold that tendency in check enough not to go crazy at every tourist trap.
We are ridiculous privileged to be able to afford this. Let me acknowledge that right off the top.
But we do have some specific strategies for increasing the affordability of this adventure:
- Tim’s company pays its employees for one week of volunteer work per year. We’re using that week at a camp in Australia.
- Our accommodations in Australia and NZ are almost all covered by the cost of two memberships for home swap/home exchange sites that have resulted in us paying roughly $600 for 34 nights of accommodation for 5 of us. (More on this in a later post).
- We will do some work in Australia that will allow us to write off a portion of the trip as a business expense.
- We are staying in places that have kitchens (except in Asia) so that we can do much of our own cooking.
- We booked our flights way in advance to take advantage of lower prices.
- Our kids cut back on extracurricular activities this year and we diverted those funds toward the trip. (Any parents of competitive dancers and hockey players will know this is not an insignificant savings)!
- Rebecca has focused on growing her business in ways that should yield benefits upon our return.
- Rented vehicles for 6 people seem to be a lot more expensive than for 5 — we only have 5 of 6 of us travelling together at any one time, so can hire a smaller car.
- Our kids have been working and saving money to pay for many of their own excursions and purchases, including asking for cash for the trip as recent birthday and Christmas gifts.
- We considered homeschooling Jonah this year to save on school fees, but calculated that my lost work revenue would outstrip his tuition costs — so he’s been at school.
- We’ve set modest expectations. This is a “doing life” trip not a “vacation” — we won’t be doing expensive things every day.
- We’re bringing our Lonely Planet guides and apps with us and will look for cheap and yummy restaurants along the way. We don’t expect to splurge on food very often.
- We’ve worked extra hard in recent months to bank vacation time and extra income.
- We’re relying on friends at home to help watch our house and our dog etc. to avoid expensive kennel or house sitting costs.
- We’ve stopped or cut back services on our phones, TV etc. at home while away.
- We’ve spread out the trip costs over recent months, staggering the purchases of flights and membership fees so that they have less of an impact on cash flow all at once.
- We’re using US cash on hand to pay for things that have US prices, to save a bit on currency exchange.
- We’re remembering that we’d have to pay for groceries and gas for the car if at home anyway!
I may think of other things to add to this list, but it’s a start…