Dear Steff Metal
Your Plunder for Metal Chicks post this weekend got me thinking about my money problems. I want to have adventures and travel, and save for big things like a house or a car. But I can’t. I don’t have any debt or anything, but I work at a fast-food place, so I don’t make much, and what I do make gets spent on food and booze and concert tickets and clothes, and then there’s nothing left.
How do you and your husband save money for such big trips and moving overseas?
First of all, not having any debt is a great, great thing. I brought my first ever item on interest-free HP this year, and I hate it. I hate owing someone else money. I’ve used a credit card before too, and although I paid it off before the interest rolled over, I hate it. HATE.
I am not the best person to give financial advice, because I am a money NAZI. I won’t buy ANYTHING unless I’m absolutly IN LOVE with it (not mildly like, not really like, but it haunts my dreams kind of love).
I look at money as a finite resource – I only have so much of it, so if I want something, I can’t have something else. If I want a new top now, that’s one less Wacken shirt I can buy later. I’m really good at holding onto thoughts of the future like that.
The way I see it, you have one of two options: Make More Money or Spend Less Money. As well as experimenting with both of those options, you should also consider Saving Your Money and Making Financial Goals.
Make more money
If you’re not making enough money at your current job, and you really, really want to have adventures and do wonderful things that require money, the simple fact of that matter is you probably need either a promotion, a new job or a second job. CDH and I both earn below the average wage in NZ. A large percentage of our European trip and our future move to Germany are funded by my writing and CDH’s two second jobs: doing casual work as the “drum guy” at the local music shop, and helping his dad clean a chicken factory (yeah, it’s about as fun as it sounds). We work these second jobs because we love them (well, the writing and the drum shop) and we can use the extra money to boost our savings.
Do you enjoy your job? Why not look for a new one? Don’t quit unless you find one but start looking around for something else. Yes, I know there’s a recession, but the world hasn’t stopped. People are still moving, still imigrating and emigrating, still having babies and taking time off, still getting sick and retiring, and there are still jobs to be filled. You have just as much chance as anyone else – which is none, if you don’t apply. Remember, the worst that can happen is the company decides you’re not right for them. That’s not so bad at all, really.
In my first year into the job market, I applied for many many jobs, some of them well above my skill level. I only apply for jobs that make me feel excited, like I’d be proud to say “I’m a … whatever”. I got many interviews – and in many instances they chose someone with more experience than me, but eventually, someone said, “Yeah, we like her” and I got my current job, which I LOVE. I got the job over someone with more experience (as in, I had NO experience). I am the youngest in my office by oh, 20 years. I am very blessed. So apply, even for jobs you don’t think you could possibly get. You just never know.
If you really enjoy your job and don’t want to quit, but you’d still like more money, you need to think about making your own money or taking on a second job. Perhaps a family member or friend needs some help at their work – this is how CDH got both his second jobs. Or perhaps you could brainstorm a list of other ways you could make money. Make use of your talents. Can you:
- Perform standup comedy
- Busk on the street
- Audition for a covers band
- Give music lessons
- Tutor high-school kids in a subject
- Write articles for magazines
- Offer yourself for clinical trials (just check the associated health risks first)
- Sell artwork at craft shows.
You can probably come up with lots of ideas. Use your imagination – yeah, it’s not exactly easy to make money as a stand-up comedian, but you never know – you might be a natural. You never know till you try, right?
Don’t choose any kind of job requiring huge amounts of start-up capital, unless your dream is to run your own business. Don’t decide you’re going to invest in the stock market unless you know exactly what you’re doing. In short, don’t be a fucktard, as CDH would say.
Create Less Expenses
The second way to create wealth for yourself is to make better use of the money you already have. Almost everybody can find areas of their life they could cut back, spend a little less and live a little better.
We – as a human race – buy a lot of crap. Crap food, crap toys, crap appliances – stuff we use once and throw away. Stuff we sit on a shelf in our house and hardly look at. How many times have you brought a DVD and only watched it once? How many books are sitting on your shelf unread? How much money have you spent on takeout this week? None of that stuff gets you any closer to your goals.
I say this, and I LOVE books, and watching movies, and eating junk food. But I realize these things are about the experience, not the owning of the thing, so we rent movies instead of buying them, borrow books from the library, and I make most of our junk food at home, because it’s cheaper, tastes better, and you get to lick the bowl.
I have our household budget sharpened to a razor-edge. It leaves a large portion of our income – nearly 40% – for savings.
- We shopped around for power companies and found this place called Powershop – our monthly power bill has gone down $20-40, even over winter.
- We decided not to have a landline. Instead, we use our cellphones and Skype to contact people. We haven’t missed the landline and this saves us $40 a month.
- We try very very very hard (though we don’t always succeed) not to eat out. We allow ourselves ONE meal out per week, which we save for going out with friends in the weekend. Sometimes that is a nice meal, sometimes it is takeaways.
- We make our lunches at home.
- I shop online and have the shopping delivered to our home every fortnight, and once a week I go to the farmers market and pick up fresh veges. This saves us money beause it uts down on impulse buying at the supermarket and buying groceries we don’t need.
Here are some more ideas for cutting expenses:
- Downsize. Sell unwanted furniture. I took all our clothes into a designer second-hand shop and got a tidy profit just from a bag of old stuff. Do the same with unwanted CDs, DVDs and other stuff. If you have less stuff, you don’t need as much living space.
- Rent a smaller, cheaper place if you can. Or get in a flatmate.
- Cycle or walk to work, even if it’s only during the summer. Both are free methods of transportation, and help keep you fit.
- Join the library. Borrow books for free. You can even rent CDs and DVDs for cheap as chips.
Save the money you make
If you haven’t already, open a savings account.
Sometimes it can be really useful if you can label your account with a goal – we have a savings account called “Germany”.
From the budget you worked out before, set up an automatic payment to go from your cheque into your savings account each pay, before you even have time to notice the change.
The day before you get paid again, transfer any unused money into your savings as well.
Get Excited about Your Goal
So you want to travel? Where do you want to travel? How long? What do you want to see?
Half the reason people fail to save towards a long-term goal is the goal seems so far away and out of reach they just find other uses for the money. I spend a lot of time daydreaming and planning and reading books and mapping sites of interest and writing budgets. When my mind has plenty to be excited about, I have no problem saying “no, we’ll save this money for Germany”.
Read books about the place you want to travel, and start planning your itinerary. Yes, you can start doing this even if your trip is a couple of years away.
Contact people (like other metalheads) in the cities you want to visit, and see if you can make a friend before you go.
Talk to friends and family members who been traveling. Look at the way their faces light up when they talk about their adventures. Does your face light up when you talk about all the beer you drank last weekend? If so, cool, if not, maybe it’s time you thought about your priorities.
Start learning another language.
I won’t lie, saving money for long-term goals can be bloody hard work, and requires a ton of discipline and a heaped dash of “do I want this now or that later?” But we did it, and we are far from millionaires, so I bet you can too.
Readers, I bet you have some more great advice for our virginal-traveller? Dispense!
Yours, wherever I may Roam