Saving for Long-Term Travel, Part Two

Continued from Part One

Goals Schmoals!

I’ve never been a goal-focused person—whenever a teacher or seminar leader or manager inflicts SMART goals on me, a part of my soul dies. Consequently, I did not institute an aggressive or disciplined savings plan. People don’t believe me when I tell them this, but the proof is that in 2011, I took four vacations and had elective eye surgery! Not really things you do when you’re trying to save as much money as you can.

Instead, I would characterize myself as a passive saver, which is another way of saying that I’m not a big spender. Luckily for me, I don’t have expensive tastes or a social circle that earns or spends big. What I am is exceptionally frugal and exceptionally responsible, and except when it comes to delicious food, I have very little trouble with delayed gratification. For example, I absolutely adore my iPhone, but I didn’t buy it until I needed it (it was 12 months from decision to purchase and the purchase itself).

Some people try to tighten up their sieve to save money, by choosing to brown bag it, for example, or by throwing change in a jar, but I’m a big believer in the notion that if I don’t have it, I can’t spend it. And so the most important thing about being a passive saver is to “pay yourself first”—ever since I started working and earning, I’ve put aside portions of my pay cheque as soon as I got it. In the early years, I often had to spend what I put aside almost as soon as I put it there, especially when large expenses came up like cottage weekends, birthdays, Christmas shopping, new clothes, etc. But my basic approach has always been to limit what I have to spend on everyday things.

How to Be a Passive Saver

The key to passive saving is to limit the amount of money you have available to maintain yourself. Determine the amount of money you can afford to save and take it from your pay cheque right away. Then, pay your bills. Whatever is left over is what you get to spend. Then make it last by adopting frugal habits.

Here are some of my frugal habits that made passive saving easier.

  • I don’t take taxis unless absolutely necessary.  (I’m usually on my way home before the subway closes, and most of my life in Toronto was always transit-accessible.)
  • I don’t commute to work. (This is not so much a frugal habit as it is an economy of working from home.)
  • I don’t own a car. (I have borrowed cars on occasion, benefited from a roommate with a car, and belonged to a car sharing system for several years.)
  • I don’t buy lunch. (Even when I worked in an office with a cafeteria, I didn’t buy my lunch on a regular basis.)
  • I don’t do fancy coffee. (I’m one of those unfortunate souls who can’t stand the taste of coffee—I can’t even handle coffee-flavoured ice cream.)
  • I don’t smoke. (I have smoked—it was one of my only adolescent rebellions—but never took a liking to it.)
  • I don’t drink often. (I’ve been told in the past that to claim I don’t drink “very much” is disingenuous—the savings comes from modest frequency, not modest volume.)
  • I don’t spend a lot of money on “girl stuff” like the salon, cosmetics, or clothes. (There are varied reasons for this—I could write a whole blog post—but suffice it to say, not spending money on make up, hair cuts, and the latest fashions isn’t much of a sacrifice for me.)
  • I cook, often from scratch, and I almost always eat my leftovers. (This is one of the reasons I rarely bought lunch when I worked in an office.)
  • I buy food and supplies in bulk and on sale. (I’m not an extreme couponer, but I have belonged to Costco and make use of the cheaper fruit stands and bulk food stores in my neighbourhood.)
  • I don’t have expensive hobbies and interests. (I’m not an early adopter of technology; I don’t buy a lot of movies, music, or books; I don’t have a fancy bike or a fancy camera to maintain and accessorize.)
  • I don’t have a gym membership that I don’t use. (I pay for gym memberships that are convenient and fit my lifestyle–when they stop being so, I cancel the membership. Don’t pay for it if you aren’t using it!)


Continue to Part Three