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Friday, May 22, 2015

Travel Plans: What to Do When Plan "A" Doesn't Work

So, Plan “A” didn’t work out. What now? Freak out? Cancel everything? Seek refuge from your bed and cry into your pillow until you fall asleep? Ok, that may be my way of dealing with things, but I can’t be the only one, right?

Recently, while casually looking at my calendar, I suddenly realized that I only have about 8 more weeks until I leave….that’s only 2 months! Panic mode ensued and the following couple of days were predetermined to be ruined. Now, normally, I’m a strange mix between fun, spunky Pinkie Pie and inappropriate, kickass Pam Poovy, but during panic mode, I was like, totally a Droopy Dog and Panicky Smurf combo. Not fun.

This is how I feel when people say something negative
about what I'm doing.

Yayyyyy for Dick Holsters!!!

I had an emotional breakdown and started worrying about all the things that could go wrong, how ill prepared I was, and of course, my sad little savings account which I check everyday just in case any magical money appears over night. Still hoping.

At this point, getting a third job would help a ton, but I’m struggling with the type of job I could get since scheduling is a problem with my other necessary jobs. I’ve even looked into temp agencies, which are still in the works. Another issue is the amount of time I would keep the job. I would need to find something in the service industry for 1) the tips and 2) the high turnover rate so I won’t feel bad when I leave. I’m not entirely selfish!

My initial Plan “A” was great back in February when I applied to be a substitute teacher and had full time availability. Unfortunately, the company had other plans and took forever with my hiring paperwork, costing me over a month of time without working yet. Looking back, I probably should have looked for something else right away to fill the unknown amount of time before I would start teaching, but hindsight is always 20/20.

Now, at my 2 month mark (have I mentioned I only have 2 months left?), I’m doing the math and it’s not looking good. To overcome my Panic Smurf freak out, I began thinking of my options for jobs and other things. After searching all over Indeed for American companies with offices in Italy, remote jobs for American companies, and thinking of other ways to make money working from my laptop abroad, I realized as I was doing all of this, I was sitting in the one place I spend most of my time. The coffee shop. Not only do I know most of the employees, and how things are done, the manager also knows me and my boyfriend by name and starts our drinks the minute we walk in. In other words, we’re regulars. Why did I never see this before? I spend my entire morning there anyway, so why not get paid for it? They started hiring recently and haven’t had much luck with the people they’ve been training. LA is full of unreliable people, actors especially. Ugh, actors. So, I had a nice little conversation with the manager, told her that I can work for 2 months, and she's going to put in a good word for me with the owners.  Extra income and free coffee for me, and a competent, reliable employee for a couple months for them. Winning!

Being adaptable is an important characteristic for a traveler to have. If Plan “A” doesn’t work out, you need to be able to think quickly, and stick and move. I’ll be honest, forethought isn’t a strong point of mine, especially if I have painstakingly strong faith in my existing plan, so there is always a disconnect between where I am and where I see myself. Obviously, this isn’t something I’m proud of, but at least I’m honest with myself. I am, however, resourceful and when I take the time to look around, I can come up with new ideas pretty quickly. If you’re stuck in a bind, try to think outside the box. Super cliche, I know, but sometimes the answer is right in front of you, or in my case, you’re so close to it (maybe even inside of it), that you don’t see it. In addition to this idea, I also plan on heading down to the main street of my neighborhood and pass out my resume to every bar and restaurant like a frat party flyer being distributed in the dorms! BOOM! That, my friend, is called hustling.

Now, for my new outlook and daily mantra, "I am so happy I have $5,000 in my savings account before August!" Put it out into the universe and let it happen!

Also check out my post 8 Ways to Save For Your Next Adventure for more ideas!

What do you do if Plan "A" doesn't work out? Tell us in the comments below.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

8 Ways To Save For Your Next Adventure

1. Cancel any unnecessary subscriptions and memberships.

Exercising is a great stress reliever, but you don't need a gym to work out. There's no reason you can't do squats or push ups at home, climb some stairs or go for a walk on your break at work. Sometimes gym memberships are the most difficult thing to cancel or freeze, but it is definitely a good call if you’re trying to save money. For me, that was the first thing that went. I was not going every day to begin with, and the weather was starting to warm up, so I could run at the park. Ah, the fresh LA air. Another subscription you probably don’t need is Spotify. Why would you pay for something that you can get for free? So what if you have to listen to a few quick commercials every 20 songs—I would rather save the 10 bucks and suck it up. Anything you pay for on a monthly basis that automatically gets taken out of your account is bad news. Most of the time people are too lazy to cancel whatever it is, whether they use it or not, than to pick up the phone and keep their money. If you think it’s no big deal, do the math. It adds up quick. I cancelled my cable/satellite service a long time ago simply because I didn’t have time to watch TV, plus I had Netflix. So, I saved myself over $75 a month and decided I didn’t need the fastest Internet connection possible, either. Keep that Netflix subscription though. I’m sure it will come in handy later on your laptop during a 10-hour layover. You’re welcome.

2. Set up automatic saving transfers with your bank.

Most banks nowadays give you the option to schedule automatic payments from checking into savings at a set amount. It is so much easier to save money when $50 goes straight into your piggy bank on the 15th of every month. Out of sight, out of mind, which means you won't be tempted to spend it since you don't even realize it's missing. Seriously, it’s the easiest way to make sure you don't blow your whole paycheck on fast food and alcohol. While you're at it, you might as well set up a Keep The Change setting so you can save on every transaction. It rounds up the change to the nearest dollar and automatically puts it in your savings account, sort of like a digital piggy bank.

3. Make coffee at home.

I don't know about you, but I am addicted to my morning latte. I'm not a big Keurig fan since I don't really like regular brewed coffee, and I despise Starbucks (it tastes like over sweetened sewer water—sorry I’m not sorry), so this tip took some time for even me to realize. Maybe it's the cozy ambiance of my favorite coffee shop around the corner, or maybe it's just out of pure habit that it's my first stop of the day, but I've found that if I wake up and make coffee during my morning routine, I don't feel like I need to go anywhere to do work. I worked as a barista once upon a time, so luckily I am an expert at making lattes. If you don’t know how, no worries, just look up a tutorial on Youtube and you’re good to go. It might take some practice, though. Once I put the effort into make my own latte while I'm getting ready, the next thing I knew, I was at the table scrolling through emails and starting my work at home. I have saved tons by buying the espresso served at the coffee shop and having them grind it for me. I can almost guarantee that your neighborhood coffee shop sells their espresso beans by the pound and will grind it for you, too. I bought a Moka, the brand of stovetop Italian espresso maker that I love, a manual frother for milk, and vanilla flavored syrup all on Amazon for what I would have spent on croissants and lattes everyday for a week (remember, I'm talking LA prices). It was crazy how quickly I saved $100, all because I broke up with my coffee shop...but you can say we’re still friends with benefits. The point is, make your own lattes, save more money.

4. Use coupons!

This is an obvious one. There are tons of grocery apps that you can download digital coupons for that work with your local grocery store. They are put on your membership card automatically, so when you're in the check out line and you put in your phone number or scan your rewards card, all of those deals are instantly applied. Unfortunately, not all stores are compatible with the apps, but nowadays you can go on the grocery store's website, login with your membership and download instant coupons from there. If you're a frequent shopper anywhere else, always ask to be put on their mailing list and get emails with great exclusive deals right to your inbox. Buyer beware, however, that if you keep seeing coupons for your favorite clothing store, don't be tempted to online shop because you saw a subject line that said "50% off!" I only subscribe to the email list for things like groceries, car washes, and pet supplies since those are the things I tend to spend money on a lot. Why pay full price when you can get the same thing for less? Which brings me to my next piece of advice...

5. Say goodbye to Bloomingdales and hellooooo to TJ Maxx.

Personally, I've never been one to spend more than $30 on a top, and that's only if it's a really cute one that I absolutely can't live without. I'm not one of those girls who max out their credit cards at the mall (that's just plain irresponsible). When I do feel like a little innocent retail therapy or I actually need something, my go-to stores are TJ Maxx, Target, Marshalls or Nordstrom Rack (it’s the last on my list unless I'm looking for something specific--they have great shoes). I have found time and time again that whatever I saw at the mall will end up being at one of these places for a fraction of the price. If I'm going to spend $50, I would rather come home with 4 or 5 items than one. What makes it even better is that I always feel a sense of accomplishment after I beat the system by finding the same top I saw elsewhere for $40, but buying at one of these stores for $18. You just can't beat that. Another thing I recently discovered, at least in LA, are recycled clothing stores. It's like Salvation Army and Macy's had a very stylish, but fairly priced baby. You can buy and sell gently used, brand name clothes that are in season and probably spend less than half of what you would have in a department store. No lie, I saw a pair of Gucci heels, barely worn, for $100! Being on a budget and having a practical mindset, I'm not in the market for a pair of Gucci heels, but you get what I'm saying. Look around before paying full price for anything.

6. Take advantage of Taco Tuesdays.

Last week, my friends invited me to Taco Tuesday, which meant super cheap all-you-can-eat street tacos and huge $5 margaritas all night long. Cha-ching. That's my kinda place. When I asked why we had never done this before, one of the guys said, "Well, since you're now the official Poor Friend and can't come out with us on the weekends, we figured you couldn't turn down cheap food and alcohol while also getting to hang out with us." Well, they were right. My friends are awesome. I haven't been very social lately since whenever we get together it's usually out on the town somewhere on a Friday night, which does not get along with my budget. So, they've been really great about finding cheaper things to do so I can tag along, too. I haven't been able to go out nearly as much, but it is nice that they're thinking of me and respecting my cause to save money. Don't be fooled, though. They give me so much shit for being a charity case if they buy me a drink here or there, but hey, that's what friends are for, right?

7. Drive safely.

Nothing sucks worse than getting a ticket! Seeing those red and blue lights flashing in your rearview mirror sends your heart to the pit of your stomach and you know you’re not going to get out of it. I don’t know about other states, but in California a speeding ticket can cost upwards of $400! What a waste of money that would be, all because you were being careless. Drive (and park) safely to avoid getting any citations. Recently I acquired 2 ridiculous parking tickets, the kind that LA is infamous for. $68 each, one for parking “too far” from the curb, which, by the way is 18”, for future reference, and the other I got at 6:02pm on a street where permit parking is enforced starting at 6:00pm. I was lucky it was the second Wednesday of the month during a full moon or else I could have been towed!

8. Last, but not least, earn a second income.
This may or may not be possible for everyone, but you'd be surprised how easy it could be thanks to el internet. Fiverr, Task Rabbit and Guru are just a few websites where you can find side work to complete in your free time. If you have some extra hours in the day, Take Lessons is another great resource if you have a teaching or coaching service to offer. Earning extra income doesn’t necessarily have to mean getting a part time job at a restaurant (although that is a good choice since you can come home with cash in your pocket every night). Get creative with what you can do; you might even surprise yourself.

These are just a few things I've noticed about the change in my spending habits in order to save money. Planning for a trip, whether around the world or just across the country, is hard. You need to make sure you surround yourself with people who understand your goals and are supportive of your means to getting there. Don’t get discouraged if things aren’t happening the way you thought they would, because, trust me, life doesn’t always go as planned. Sometimes you have to improvise. Be flexible, think positive thoughts and thank the universe for all the money you’ve saved (even if it’s not true yet—it’s all about gratitude).

How did you save for your last trip? Leave a comment below to share your tips!