STATS – Day: 92 | Distance: 18,661.4 miles | Location: Washington, DC | Money Spent To Date – Transportation: $1,149.13 (includes airfares) | Food: $364.54 | Stay: $466.55 | Play: $251.16
I’m back in Washington, DC at the end of my experience of living abroad. In the past 3-months I’ve been to 6 countries, 14 cities and 38 districts (31 of which were in Istanbul alone).
Unfortunately, contrary to popular belief…I am NOT made of money.
My MONEY MAGICK lies in:
- Making meaningful connections
- Altering plans accordingly
- Get to thinking like a local
- Improvising whenever possible
- Creating a budget/stay on it
- Kicking expectations to the curb
*just in case anyone thinks I misspelled Magick, I’m using the word deliberately to show that YOU have the ability to make things happen.
Making Meaningful Connections has brought so many blessings into my life. The mega fabulous people I have met, hugs shared, laughed with, learned from, and exchanged stories are like cherished poems from a favorite author. I have learned how to make incredible meals from inexpensive ingredients, I’ve learned shortcuts or “longcuts” to get different places and appreciated the beauty of local hangouts, small hidden gardens and getting lost.
Altering Plans Accordingly as “plans are only plans, and life happens constantly”. I am a natural planner, but over the years my planning has evolved into a much more loosey-goosey version. I make general structure plans (begin dates, end dates, transition dates and destinations) and let the details be naturally created as I go. For example, if I’m seeing a city for the first time I’ll research maybe 1 or 2 “must-see” places and then wander, meet people, eat street food, and DISCOVER the rest of the time. I don’t want a life where I simply collect postcards. I always assume I’ll be back, even if I never do. I leave myself WANTING more.
Get Into Thinking Like a Local is critical when traveling on a budget, and I would also state that it is one of the BEST ways to get the MOST out of any experience. I don’t fall into the money trap I call “Conversion Confusion”. For example: If I’m in a country where the U.S. dollar is strong, 1 USD = 3 Lira (Turkish dollar), I don’t look at the conversion value, I look at the LOCAL VALUE.
1 lira is still only 1 Turkish dollar for the locals.
I go out for tea and see that one place charges 6 lira for a tiny cup of tea. Conversion Confusion tells you “oh, that’s only 2 USD ($2.00)”, but it is still 6 dollars to a local. So would I pay 6 dollars for a tiny cup of tea? “No”, I wouldn’t pay 6 dollars for a large cup of tea! So I’ll go find a place that sells it for 3 Lira or 1 Lira. Locals wouldn’t pay that ridiculous price, so why would I?
I buy groceries instead of eating out, and I check prices in different parts of the city. Sometimes just going a block farther can yield big savings. I’ve found price differences of up to 50%! It’s not that hard to wander into a grocery store while I’m out adventuring and see how much a few items I use the most are priced (eggs, rice, tomatoes, peppers, bread or chicken). If I find a good price I pick up one or two items that can be easily brought back. The kitchen I used had no freezer and only a refrigerator and one propane burner. Small, simple ingredients are all that’s needed.
When choosing museums, tours and events – do some research to see if there are “free days” and capitalize on as many of them as possible. I found some really fantastic places for the whole family that were only 5-10 local dollars verses 30-60 local dollars and many more that were absolutely FREE.
For airfare, I look at the airline of the country I’m flying to (for this adventure, I looked at Turkish Airlines). I’ve found that the fares are usually more reasonable, the plane is more comfortable, the food tastes better and all amenities are usually included (checked luggage, alcohol, in-flight movies, fuzzy socks, eye-masks and other fun stuff).
Using public transportation (buses, ferries, metro, tram, local train, mini-bus) can help your money stretch far. Sure it takes a little longer, and can be somewhat confusing at first, maybe even downright intimidating or scary….but the adventure is worth it! Using public transportation offers you more options to stop when you see something cool or unusual, or stay on when your feet just need a rest. Fares are discounted if you use a transit card (easily obtained and used) and the more transfers you do, the cheaper it gets.
Note for those traveling to Istanbul. To add money to your transit card “Istanbulkart” you don’t need to understand Turkish. Just do the following:
- Hold your card up to the reader (keep it held there with one hand)
- Wait for the machine to say something (it will display your balance in a formula)
- With your other hand feed in your money (bills only, no credit or coins)
- Wait for the machine to say something else (this will display your added money into the formula)
- Wait for the machine to say one last thing (this will display your total new balance)
- Remove your card from the reader and enjoy your day
Improvising Whenever Possible can bring big wins for your budget. I did a work-trade for my room at the hostel which saved me about $700+ dollars. I would do laundry, cook (I’m already cooking for myself, so how much harder is it to cook for more), watch the front desk, translate for guests (different accents can throw off anyone). It didn’t take up much of my day and gave me an opportunity to meet more people and make those meaningful connections.
Think about working while on travel, especially if you’ll be gone for a while. Teaching a second language, entertainment gigs in bars and pubs for musicians, writing assignments, computer programming and other short-term technology projects, giving tours and even selling arts & crafts are quick and “fairly” easy ways earn money on the side.
Creating A Budget and Stay On It was critical to managing EVERYTHING. It is how I know immediately how I’m tracking at any given time and where I need to make adjustments if needed. I had $3,000 saved for this 3-month adventure which would include airfare (USA ->Turkey -> Belgium -> Switzerland, -> Turkey -> USA), lodging, trains/metro/bus/ferry, museums, toiletries, gifts, food, hookah…..all of it!
Every expense I wrote down at the time I spent it. I carried a notebook with me and as each page filled up I would do the conversion and grand totals in my 4 main categories listed at the top of each blog (Transportation, Food, Stay, Play) and every 2-3 pages I’d total all the expenses and divide by the number of days to see if I was staying on track.
To calculate what my daily expenses should average, I subtracted my airfare tickets ($773) from my original $3,000 = $2,227 divided by 92 days = $24.21/day
$24.21 per day for EVERYTHING
My goal for myself was to come in way under that. I set a goal of $15.00/day, just to see if I could do it. By practicing my OWN MAGICK I ended up averaging $15.85 per day spending a grand total of $2,231.38 (including airfare).
$15.85 per day = 47.55 THY (Turkish lira)
15.25 CHF (Swiss Franc)
14.09 EUR (Euro)
I’m tooting my own horn a bit because I’m awesomely proud of this accomplishment. I saw a ton, experienced a lot and had mega adventures on this literal shoe-string budget! And this calculation DOES NOT include the money I made while I was traveling abroad. If I would subtracted that from my overall cost, my money spent would have been even less!
(((Woohoo for Pipes!)))
Kicking Expectations To The Curb is a good rule of to live by anytime, but I think its especially important when traveling and even critical when using MAGICK. Setting myself up for what I would “expect” to happen would nearly always result in my own disappointment, so then who is to blame? All the hard working humans out there or me? It would be ME. So kick those expectations to the curb and be amazed by all the wonderful unknown experiences and people you might encounter.
I met a man who would not leave the hostel. He said that he doesn’t leave because he knows what to expect inside, nothing. “Out there, anything can happen” and I said “Exactly!”
“As soon as I saw you, I knew an adventure was going to happen.” – Winnie The Pooh
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