I may have gotten a little ahead of myself a few weeks ago…
Remember when I wrote about saving towards the tangible goal of traveling overseas, where I made a commitment to taking a trip to Europe in spring 2017 to celebrate my final graduation? And then a couple weeks later when I wrote about being grateful for my student loans, where I talk about delaying gratification to pay off your student loans ASAP?
Does anyone else see where this starts to seem hypocritical of me…?
Here I am talking about becoming debt-free by any means necessary, but I’m not willing to acknowledge that in order to take a huge overseas trip, I’d be ignoring my giant student loan debt balance and maybe even digging myself further into debt to do it. Acting like I “deserve” to take a trip overseas while telling others in debt that they shouldn’t isn’t practicing what I preach.
When it comes to your financial goals and habits, sometimes you just have to know when to say when.
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It’s good to have goals that motivate you to take action.
So yes, this was a nice goal, but the timeline is just not realistic. Going on a trip to Europe after I can fund it 100% by myself without debt is a better goal. I still want to reward myself after my graduate school graduation, though. So with the nice chunk of change I’ve already saved in the first six months of this year, a post-graduation cruise to the Caribbean and/or Mexico is not only possible, but it’s happening.
Given how much of a spender I was (and still am…), I never thought that I could ever have any savings, and certainly not enough to fully fund any kind of trip overseas without going into more debt. I’m somewhat reluctant to spend it after all the hard work to build it in the first place, but here’s what I did to build it in the first place, and what I plan to continue to do to make all my travel plans a reality:
1. Automate your savings:
My long-term goals include travel; my short-term goals, on the other hand, are to spend my money haphazardly for no apparent reason. Automating my savings helps me live my life more according to my long-term goals. A chunk of each paycheck gets direct-deposited into my savings, and all of my Digit automated savings gets transferred into my savings at the end of the month too. This helps me learn to live within my means with a smaller paycheck and less in my checking account, as well as to build my savings a little at a time. And any bonuses like my tax refund or a product rebate goes straight into savings too! Takes the guesswork right out of it.
2. Cash back on every purchase:
Every purchase I make goes on my credit card first, and then I immediately pay it off as soon as the transactions are no longer “pending.” This helps me only spend what I can actually afford, avoid interest charges, and earn cashback. I also use Ebates to earn additional cashback on online shopping purchases. Some experts advise against using credit cards, but if you can rein in your spending and handle paying it off in full every time, you can avoid any fees and really reap some rewards.
3. Taking surveys:
This was the first true side hustle I pursued, and I’m so glad I did. I’ve earned quite a bit of money over the past six months just from giving my opinions on easy topics like TV characters, food companies, and retailers. My favorite survey companies, in order, are Pinecone Research, E-Poll Surveys, and American Consumer Opinion, and I was also just invited to join Amerispeak. This side hustle is simple, consumes very little of your time, and is a great way to passively earn income.
4. Mystery shopping:
This side hustle is a bit more active than taking surveys is, but it helps me 1) get my shopping fix in and 2) get paid to do it. The tasks are pretty simple, and often I get free clothes or groceries out of it. I’ve tried a few companies, but the only company I consistently use is Jancyn. I love that I can do as many or as few shops as I want, so I only work when I want to.
5. Website testing:
Unlike taking surveys or mystery shopping, website testing isn’t something I’d even heard of before when I was researching side hustles. All I have to do is test out a person or company’s website or app and give my feedback on it. They record me giving my thoughts as I try to complete the few tasks they’ve assigned, and most of the tests pay $10 for only about 15-20 minutes max of my time. UserTesting is the only website I consistently use. This is also another one I can do whenever I have the free time, but I don’t even have to leave my house.
These five things might not sound like they are worth much, but in less than six months, it’s helped me build over $1000 in savings.
Knowing that I’ve challenged myself to get creative with non-traditional income streams is really rewarding, and it’s such an amazing feeling to see that amount grow and know that I’m one step closer to taking debt-free, guilt-free trips with it!