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For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to travel. Having just graduated college and being only 20-years-old, I have decided to say “Why the hell not?” There is no reason – besides a serious lack of funds – that I can’t travel, at the very least, across country.

 

However, like I said, I’m freshly out of college. My only form of income is my Copy Editor position at Book In A Box and some freelance extras on the side. I make zero dollars from my blog right now, and in a few months my student loans will be debt rather than help.

 

So, how can I become a travel writer with literally no money? The best answer is to win the lottery, right?

 

Wrong, though I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt.

 

With a little bit of careful budgeting and money management on my part, I can definitely save up a decent amount of money for my first trip somewhere. The only problems are the hefty costs I have to pay each month, such as rent (about $600 with utilities), credit card debt (currently, I am $1,300 in the hole), and basic necessities like groceries (around $100 with dining out). Plus, with my irresponsible shopping habits, I probably rack up another $200 monthly on clothes and knick-knacks.

 

So, the first step, instead of focusing on what I want (like a renovated cargo van with bed and kitchen), I need to focus on how to diminish my current costs to the bare minimum, starting with the non-essentials.

As you can see, I wasn’t very budget conscious in 2016. I mean, seriously, almost $5,000 on shopping expenses? Granted, that includes groceries and emergencies, but still! That is a crazy amount.

What you’re looking at here, unfortunately, is THIS MONTH, April 2017. This is why I’m starting to write this blog series. I have got to hold myself more accountable for my spending habits.

Rule 01. Clean out and Don’t Buy More

I currently have a very full closet of clothing. Fashion has been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. However, if I am planning on future long term travel, not only am I going to have to trim down my fashion selection immensely, I am also going to have to stop buying more clothes.

One of my absolute favorite Netflix documentaries is about The Minimalists. These two guys are so inspirational in the way that they barely live with anything except the clothes on their back, and guess what? They are some of the happiest humans I have ever followed. I am also in dire need of reading their book.

Becoming more of a minimalist about my shopping habits, such as dropping off clothing at Plato’s Closet and NOT returning home with twice the amount, will help me minimize my clothing costs and make my closet more manageable for when it’s time to pack up and go.

Something new I have been trying is going through my closet at the end of every month. My style changes so often that clothes I buy in March, I typically don’t like as much by June. By continuously rotating clothes out of my closet, I keep my style fresh and I don’t hoard too much.

Probably the best advice I need to give myself is to remember that clothes are just material. I love fashion, but if I want to reach my dream as a travel writer, I am going to have to sacrifice my need to shop till I drop.

Rule 02. Cancel Subscriptions

Okay, this is definitely a tough one, especially since I have subscriptions for things like The New Yorker, DuoTrope, HBO Now (purely for Westworld), Netflix, and Archie. Out of all of those, Netflix is the only one not coming out of my pocket, thanks to a generous donation of gift cards at Christmas.

However, The New Yorker has become more of a resource for when I need short story ideas, and most of the time I don’t read the whole magazine. That is $50/year, right there.

For HBO Now, I paid for it just to watch Westworld, and in case you didn’t know, that awesome show may not be coming back till 2018. So, why not cancel the subscription and renew it when the new season comes out? That’s $14.99/month.

DuoTrope is a website I use to find literary magazines to submit to. However, recently I have been putting off short stories to focus more on my blog. So, I could easily cancel the subscription and renew it when I have a piece to submit. That’s $5/month.

Last, Archie is a social media manager that I use specifically for Instagram. It has really helped me up my engagement when I’m too busy to be on Instagram for multiple hours. I have gained a good following since I started my subscription with them.

However, it’s $19/month – by far the most expensive subscription I have. So, I may have to cancel it for a bit, try and grow my Instagram organically now that I have a decent amount of followers, and see if the subscription is still worth it.

Once these are all canceled, that is $517.88/year saved with these subscriptions canceled. There’s gas from Florida to California, and all I had to do was press cancel.

How many subscriptions do you have that you really use? Add them up. If you canceled them, how much would you save a year?

Rule 03. Manage Your Income & Necessary Expenses

In order to save extra money, I have to be making money, and as mentioned previously, I’m not. The majority of my income…Okay, ALL of my income, comes from freelance gigs.

My Copy Editor position at BIAB brings me in about $300 during a good month and $50 during a bad month. This is due to its project-based nature. I get paid when there is work. If there is no work, well then I don’t get paid.

So, how do I earn a more forgiving income?

One of my goals for 2017 is to start making money off of this blog, but even blogging can be pretty iffy. I lack transportation, which leads me to be unreliable for a 9-5 job. So, my best option is to find a remote position with guaranteed work.

Plus, the best part about a remote position is that it’s remote. I can work from anywhere, and when I’m ready to pick up and leave for long term travel, I can still rely on that job. This is important to keep in mind, especially if you’re like me and plan on traveling a lot.

The other awesome thing about a remote position is I don’t have to live in Orlando, FL.

Don’t get me wrong, Orlando is great. However, rent is astronomically high. I would really like to get a studio apartment, but I can’t afford a $1,300/month bill. Most of my roommate options are moving away to get jobs in LA or NY, which also have really high rent.

The answer?

If I’m going to have a remote job, I might as well move somewhere with cheap rent and limited places for me to spend money.

As easy as it would be to move back home to Spanish Fort, AL and pay zero rent, I rather not take seven steps backwards and live with my parents (love you, mom and dad). So, where do I go? What cities and states in the US have cheap rent?

So far, I have done some research on a couple cities in Arizona; Rochester, Minnesota; and Huntsville, AL, which this website named the number one most affordable city in the US (plus, I have family there).

As for finding that remote job, the best way is to keep my resume updated and continue to send it out to possible employers through websites like Indeed. A great way to stay updated on available jobs is to follow a filter on Indeed.

In order to do so, you have to be logged in (I recommend an account, because you can also “save” jobs for later if you don’t have time to apply right then and there), and you just have to search for what you’re looking for and track it.

For example, if I want a daily email of all available travel writing jobs, I will search “Travel Writer” or “Travel Writing” and then I will follow that specific search. Then, I will receive daily emails from Indeed.

Rule 04. Become a Travel Budget Expert

I have never been very good with money, but I made it a goal of mine to get better this year. The information in this article was learned through trial and error, as well as research.

My favorite thing to do is to get on Pinterest and look up frugal advice or travel budget hacks. Then, I always follow the links through to whatever blogger is blogging about it. It is a great way to find a new source for info. Plus, it’s cool to see how other travel bloggers have made it.

Some travel blogs I recommend you visit for inspiration include:

A Broken Backpack – This blog is ran by Melissa Giroux. She is so inspirational, backpacking around the globe and blogging about it.

Goats on the Road – Nick and Dariece are a 30 year old couple that have been traveling debt free for 8 years. This couple is basically travel goals, and their content is super informative.

33 and Free – This blog is written by a couple, who decided to sell everything they had and travel until they couldn’t afford it anymore. They are major inspiration for a zero excuse attitude toward long term travel.

A Dangerous Business Travel Blog – This blog is ran by Amanda. She was inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien to visit New Zealand and hasn’t wasted a moment since.

On top of all that, I have found that is also important to become an expert on my own spending habits. Included with this blog post is a FREE Biweekly Spend & Save Worksheet. I recently developed this worksheet to hold myself accountable for my spending. You can download it here or at the end of the article.

This worksheet is really simple, but I have found that it can make life a hell of a lot easier. I sit down on a Sunday evening or Monday morning and I plan out my spending for the next two weeks. I write down how much money I have, and I plan how much I will spend. Then, any money that is left over, I put it into a savings account, which leads me to my final rule.

Rule 05. Open a Savings Account & Don’t Touch It

I recently had to dip into my travel savings to pay off credit card debt. It was the most gut-wrenching feeling on the planet, but it had to be done. I know that I cannot save until my credit card debt is fully paid off. I want to be able to save guilt free, and that means no more debt.

Of course, in six months I will have student loan debt to handle, but for now, I need to get my credit cards handled.

I have about $200 left on one of my credit cards to pay off. Then, I can officially start saving toward travel.

But, what do I use to save?

Well, I have a PayPal account that I use to transfer my freelance cash into. Then, I just don’t touch it. I make the money, but I pretend like I don’t. Right now, I’m at about $350 in savings for that account, and I’m hoping to grow it every month by at least $200. That way, when my student loan debt needs to be paid and my rent is no longer covered, I will have savings to keep my afloat.

I also have a savings account with Qapital. This app will allow you to set certain rules and connect to your checking account. One of my rules is to round-up every dollar I spend and put the spare change into my Qapital savings.

It may not seem like a lot, but just by doing that for about seven months, I was able to pay down one of my credit cards by $225. It truly adds up over time.

I also recommend doing some light reading on savings accounts and how to maximize your savings. Just like budgeting, it’s important to become an expert in what you want to do.

Becoming a travel writer is going to take time, effort, and a lot of money. Thankfully, I’m young. I have the time to get my life together and to budget. That beings said, dreams are dreams. If you have a dream to do long term travel, there is nothing stopping you that can’t be conquered.

I’m hoping that this post, along with future posts in this series, will provide you with the knowledge you need to accomplish those dreams. I built this blog with the initial goal to inspire. I had no idea that four years later I would be an advocate for travel writing, but here I am.

There is no telling what could happen today or tomorrow. So, don’t learn the hard way. Set yourself budgeting goals, download my helpful worksheet, and share this post with friends and family. Let them know what you’re setting out to do, and let them help you be accountable for wasted time.

Thanks so much for visiting my blog and giving this post a read. If you enjoyed what you read, please subscribe to my blog. Plus, when you subscribe, you receive a FREE ebook on the First Steps Toward Becoming A Travel Writer.

Lots of love to you all. Follow me on my social networks to stay updated.

Always,Jinapher J. Hoffman

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