For most of my life I have had two conflicting goals. I yearn to travel the world with a backpack and faint plan. I also feel the need to build a career, lay down some roots and save money for the future.
The conflict between the two aspirations came to a head a few years out of college. I was working and living in New York City, building my career and doing my best to enjoy all the place had to offer. But I had fantasized about traveling overland from Bangkok to Cape Town. Before I could make it a reality, I had to figure out how to save enough money. Saving money and living in New York City do not go well together.
I was an liberal arts major and hadn’t taken any accounting classes. An extra hurdle was that I hadn’t developed the skill of saving money. I quickly realized the only way to have a career and travel the world was to come up with an unconventional solution.
The only option in my control was my everyday spending. I could weigh each spending decision against the trip that I wanted to take. This did not mean that I chose a life of complete financial austerity. I was 25 years old and single living in the most tempting city in the world. I wanted to be able to experience it and enjoy my life.
Sometimes I couldn’t do or have everything that I wanted. If I bought a concert ticket then I would make a few dinners that week. I had to ask myself if spending at that moment was going to make me happy.
My new savings plan didn’t provide me with accurate information or adjust when I overspent. But it proved to be effective for me as my savings grew. I didn’t use a spreadsheet or know how to use any other money management tool. As this was the only path forward that I could think of I kept at it for a couple of years. It was impossible to do this every time I spent money. But I knew that if I could do it as much as possible I would be able to get that ticket to Bangkok.
Looking back, I am amazed that I was able to pull it off. Not only was I able to see great spots in the world I also met the woman who would become my wife. I spent several amazing months traveling around India with her.
Even though this approach was imperfect and arbitrary it gave me a formula for satisfying my wanderlust. Looking back saving would have been easier and faster if I had a way to automate it. Luckily a digital system exists today. It is an iOS app called Fiskal and it will help save your next trip, big or small.