MICE, Ink & Wanderlust

Making the Numbers Work: Financial Planning for Global Travel​

Getting clear on current expenses, income sources, and future living expenses are all critical steps anyone seeking to travel or move abroad must take to make your next move your best move.

For my travels, this was the one part I had together!

Eliminate debt

My first step was eliminating my debt and continually increasing my savings and available credit. I would have preferred to rent out my house, but it turned out to be far more hassle than I felt like dealing with, so I sold it in 2019 and moved to South Texas so that my youngest son could finish high school there with both his parents close-by.

I sold my house at the same time I quit my job. January 2019 was my last day as an employee. I moved out in February. Two months later, the house sold, so I stuck the proceeds from that sale into a few investment accounts.

The first task in any type of planning is to identify your goal and the steps it’ll take you to achieve it.

I wanted to leave the United States to travel digital nomad style when my son graduated high school in 2020. That gave me a year and a half to get everything in order and my businesses to the point where they would be profitable and sustainable no matter where I was in the world.

The next step in planning is to assess exactly where you are in reaching that goal.

I reviewed my living expenses and researched the costs to live in each of the places on my bucket list. I knew some places would be more affordable than the U.S. while others would be comparable or more expensive. So I simply planned to spend more time in the affordable places and less time in the expensive ones! My rent in some countries would be half to one-third of what I pay in the U.S. I currently work, on average, under 15 hours a week. I could work even less and still have more money than I would in the U.S.

Get a Clear Picture of Your Expenses

I’d already eliminated unnecessary expenses years ago, so my expenses are rather minimal. Here’s what my monthly personal expenses looked like for the year before my departure, not including groceries or incidentals:

Rent: $1,600
Renters insurance-townhome: $19
Car (lease): $497
Auto insurance: $158
Gas: $40
Utilities: $265
Cell phones (3 lines @ Verizon): $202
Internet: $120
Premium TV channels: $22

Total: $3,122

Rent: $300-950
Renters insurance-storage: $19
Car: $0
Auto insurance: $0
Utilities: $0
Cell phones (disconnect hotspot): $140
Internet: $0
Premium TV channels: $0

Storage unit: $84

Total: $543-1,193

(rental cars and gas costs yet to be determined)

That’s a huge difference! The money I’ll save can now go toward my travel and transportation costs without my even having to dip into any of my savings. A couple of other additional expenses I now have include travel insurance and travel health insurance, but those are biannual fees to be paid every six months and the first one varies. Plus I earn a commission off the travel insurance, so there’s that little rebate (licensed travel agent).

The other key was that because I began planning years ago when I’d leave, I leased a car rather than buy one so I wouldn’t have to pay for storing it nor continue to make car and insurance payments while I was gone. Initially, I was going to turn the car in just under a year early when the plan was to leave in 2020, but COVID did me a favor there by forcing me to wait another year. Since the lease was to end July 3, 2021, I was able to have the duration of my townhome rental lease coincide with the end of my car lease so I could be done with both at the same time.

Savings on Flights

By traveling regionally rather than flying back to the U.S. after every trip, I save literally thousands of dollars. I also use points and miles. For example, my flights from Houston to LAX and from LAX to Hawaii cost me a grand total of $11.20 and 19K points. (I later moved the LAX > HNL flight to an earlier date and got back a credit of 4K points.)

From Honolulu, the flight I booked to Bali was $508. To Singapore, where I’d have gone first, it would have been $211, but Singapore is not yet open to tourists. Had I been able to go from Hawaii to Philippines, as was my original plan, would have cost $442, and then $59 to Bangkok, $18 to Phuket, and $190 to Bali, then $220 to Australia and $250 to New Zealand. I could still have thrown in a side trip to Singapore from Bali for under $200. No super-long flights in sight either. Total win if I could have gone this route and spent 4-5 months out the gate in SE Asia.

But no. Again, COVID interferes with the plan so I canceled the Bali flight and the entire plan for SE Asia 2021 and rerouted to Central America first instead. I used only a few points this time for my flight across the Pacific and paid $255.

Saving on Foreign Transaction Fees

The other place you want to make sure you’re saving money is by avoiding foreign transaction fees. My best advice: Get an internationally accepted major credit card that doesn’t have any, like my favorite, the Chase Sapphire card. I earn 2 points per every dollar spent on travel with that card, plus 1 point on everything else, and I have no foreign transaction fees.

Second, make sure you have access to your cash without tax. Get a global checking account with a debit card that will not charge foreign transaction fees if you use the card abroad and offers unlimited ATM fee rebates, such as Charles Schwab’s brokerage checking account.

The most important thing is to do your research. Figure out what you’re spending, what you’ll save wherever you’re going, how much more you need to save or earn before you leave, and how you’ll manage your expenses while you’re gone.

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