How We Really Afford To Travel So Much

One of the things I get asked by curious readers is how my husband and I afford to travel so much and I get why people want to know. If I wasn’t me I’d want to know the secret too!

But the truth is there is no big secret – I’m not scooping out super deals, earning mega bucks or part of some secret club – I’m just a travel addict who dedicates a fixed proportion of her income to travel and tries hard to travel on a budget. As my husband shares my same passion for travel and, in all honesty, we don’t do much else, it means we get to travel much more than the average couple.

I get that seeing the regular social updates about where we’re jetting off to next can seem a little excessive so I thought I’d share some insight on how we make it happen. This is by no means a blueprint for couples who want to travel more, just the truth about how we happen to do it.

  1. Let’s start with the obvious – My husband and I earn good money.

You can read all the advice in the world about saving for travel and working out your priorities but at the end of the day the advice means jack sh*t if your income barely covers your living expenses. I have friends and family who work in childcare, teaching, nursing and hairdressing, for example, and they do not get paid enough, if you ask me.

I am well aware, therefore, that Justin and I are in the extremely privileged positions of loving what we do and earning a comfortable living.

How to live a life of travel and not give up your day job

  1. We are able to earn more money.

By that, I mean that in my role as a self-employed writer/blogger/slashie person I can take on more projects, pitch for more work and say yes to more opportunities if I have a certain financial goal I want to reach. Not all jobs come with this flexibility.

  1. We allocate approx. 15% of our monthly income to travel.

Justin and I weren’t always as good with money as we are now but since discovering The Barefoot Investor and his spending buckets we are able to prioritise travel and still live within our means.

Following the Barefoot advice, we divide our monthly income into 4 accounts. The exact % of income you put into each is down to the individual/couple and their priorities but for us we’ve found the following a good division.

Personally, we need approx. 60% of total income for Daily Expenses – this is your rent, food, bills, trains, dentists and general living costs. We have another bucket for long-term savings and emergencies which accounts for 20% of total income, then we have a Smile fund (approx. 10%) for short term savings and individual Splurge accounts (another 10%) for things such as clothes, hair, nails etc. (For me anyway – Justin seems to spend his on gadgets!)

Most months the entirety of the Smile fund and some of our individual Splurges are dedicated to travel.

As my income fluctuates, anything I earn over and above what we’ve budgeted also goes into this Smile bucket – therefore boosting our travel budget.

Since adopting this system we’ve ditched credit cards (which can be awkward when checking into hotels who want to place a hold on one!) and for the last 1.5 years we’ve been 100% debt-free. This system works, people.

(Note: I’ve massively simplified Scott Pape’s advice but totally recommend you read The Barefoot Investor: The Only Money Guide You’ll Ever Need if you’re intrigued by this system. Justin bought the book when it first came out and we’re massive converts.)

How we afford to travel every month

  1. Travel is our number 1 priority.

Most of our Smile money each month goes towards travel because, to be honest, we don’t have many other hobbies.

Justin has a gym membership (I do online tutorials for free) and apart from the odd comedy show, a lot of brunching and nights out with mates we don’t do much when we’re not travelling. We chill with friends, watch (too much) reality TV/Netflix and read.

Sounds boring but it’s what we need to balance out the jet-setting.

  1. We both travel for work.

Because of what I do for work about 40 to 50% of the travels written about here were fully or partially hosted and in some cases I’m also paid for the project.

Lately though I have been turning down a lot of sponsored trips as I prefer to travel with friends and family in a way that suits me. (Press/blogger trips can be hectic.)

Instead, I’ll do things like plan self-funded domestic trips with blogger friends or pitch for projects that Justin and I can do independently. (Like that time I reviewed The Ghan and both Justin and I ticked an incredible experience off our bucket lists!)

Every now and then I get the opportunity to join Justin on a work trip, which is what I’ll be doing next week. As I’ve been struggling with morning sickness and barely left the house for the last 2 months we had some money sitting unspent in the Smile fund which we used to nab me some flights to join him in Vegas. I’ve been smiling ever since!

  1. We don’t own a house.

Justin and I choose to rent as it suits our lifestyle – even if our places in London, Sydney and Melbourne sure weren’t cheap! We’re not quite sure where in the world we want to settle but if we ever do decide we’ll probably have to rework our buckets to prioritise/accelerate saving a deposit.

  1. We don’t own a car.

About 2 years ago we sold our car and have not missed it one bit. We live near trams, buses, trains and Uber drivers and have bikes for places that are too far to walk.

We have our groceries delivered and belong to car share scheme called GoGet, which has 5 vehicles within a 5-min radius of our house.

We calculated that even if we rented a GoGet for almost every weekend of the year it would still costs us less than buying a car and getting it insured and road-worthy. It also means there is one less thing sitting at home not getting used when we’re travelling.

  1. We don’t have kids (yet!).

I’ve heard they can be expensive to raise and travel with :p Our buckets will need to be reworked in 2019!

  1. We don’t own many ‘things’.

Admittedly our number of personal items have grown since arriving in Oz when we came with just a few boxes but I’m trying to keep our ‘stuff’ as streamlined as possible – not only to save money but because the more we own the more we have to pack when we inevitably move.

  1. I’m really selective about buying clothes.

I owned way more outfits in my teens than in my thirties!

I used to be jealous of friends with walk-in-wardrobes but these days it just makes me stress. (See point above.) Instead, I’m an advocate of a capsule wardrobe and buy a few items every season, but only if they mix and match with everything I already have in the wardrobe.

It makes packing so much easier as I essentially wear the same things in different combinations.

I also operate a 1 in 1 out policy so for every new item I buy one goes to charity.

  1. We’re budding points hacks.

Admittedly this is more Justin’s thing than mine but because we travel a lot we build up quite a bank of frequent flyer miles and try to be savvy about how we use them.

In the last couple of years we flew in the Singapore Suites for our Thai wedding, Virgin Business to Perth and Qantas Business to Singapore and only paid the taxes for each journey.

How to earn frequent flyer points without flying

So that’s it. No big secret – just a mix of working hard, prioritising trips and a tiny bit of frugality. How do you afford to travel? Do you think you could do more with this Barefoot bucket system?

Featured image thanks to rawpixel on Unsplash

About the author

I’m Jayne, a travel blogger, content creator and mum to a 4-year-old son. I’ve been blogging since 2010, travelled to 65 countries and share travel guides and tips to help you plan stylish, stress-free trips.

10 thoughts on “How We Really Afford To Travel So Much”

  1. I appreciate your decision not to have credit cards. However, used properly, they are a great way to pick up airmiles and other freebies. They are still my primary source of airmiles and a very useful tool to allow me to travel.

    We actually have three credit cards: Amex for the airmiles. MasterCard (with points) for when Amex isn’t accepted, and another travel MasterCard. The travel MasterCard doesn’t earn any points, but it has zero FX charges and minimal fees on foreign currency withdrawals, so we use that abroad; it’s cheaper than converting cash beforehand.

    Caveat: with any credit card you MUST pay it off in full each month.

    Having said all that, I appreciate your decision to not worry about paying on time and wonder if you’ve got enough cash to do so.

    • Hi Chadwick, we used to do exactly this – the best redemption being first class flights for 2 from London to Sydney thanks to the AMEX companion voucher. However, since moving to Australia we found the points/earn bonuses on cards are not as attractive here and as new residents we had to build up our credit rating before applying. By the time we were eligible we’d discovered the Barefoot Investor and decided to stay credit free. As you state the key is to pay them off in full and I admit I’ve struggled to do so in the past. As a freelancer if a client pays late this can leave you in a precarious position – I’ve been better off learning to live on cash/savings alone!

    • Absolutely agree, Jayne!
      In addition, the value of points is utterly laughable Le these days. Good luck, Chadwick. I truly hope they treat you well.

  2. We just made the switch to the Barefoot strategy and so far I’m excited to see the impact it can have – although to be honest it was scary to have to reveal just how much my spending goes towards books, and blogging, and stationary, and brunch! But absolutely love the security it gives and opened up a bunch of ‘big life goal’ conversations for us. Suddenly saving for travel wasn’t a burden, but just another element of our planning, so we find the right balance between travel dreams and buying a bookshelf (for all those books I keep accidently splurging on!). Thanks for sharing its great to see this is possible with freelancing and blogging income 🙂

    • Yay I’m so interested to see how you get on. We did struggle at the start to get our ‘buckets’ set up as my income was fluctuating so much. These days I have more consistent income but it was worthwhile doing the spreadsheets/sums as we learned to live on what would be my minimum income and then anything over and above that goes straight in the Smile. I also love the concept of the Splurge fund as I’d always feel guilty about personal purchases and not be quite sure what’s reasonable to spend from the joint account. These days I can buy all the books I can afford or save the Splurge for something bigger. Scott’s advice is so common sense but makes a huge difference!

  3. This is a great post! I always love to know how bloggers afford travel! We’ve both travelled so much in the last year and it’s been because we aren’t spending much in other areas of our lives. It always annoys me when friends lament they don’t have the money to travel as much as we do, but then I see them buy Beyonce tickets one month, and go on a £200 shopping spree another month. Like I went to Poland for 3 days for £180 total. It’s goes with the choices and priorities we make in our lives!

    • Exactly! It’s so easy to spend small amounts on things you might not remember in years to come. Now that we track our spending a bit more it makes it easier to decide what we really need/want and what we can put towards our next trip instead!

  4. interesting to conversation these money strategies the bucket gives me insight on how to organize money accounts. The conversation also gave me an awareness on how small spending like Beyoncé tickets can effect your ability to do the bigger things you might enjoy. So I have to understand better on how blogging can earn income. I love to travel and would like to do it for a living.


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