“If you don’t mind me asking… how are you affording your travels?”
This is a common message that often slides into my DMs. I’m glad people ask. It is a great question! How does one finance frolicking around waterfalls and beaches in a foreign country for 8 months and counting?
Note: In Australia, there is something called a working holiday Visa for tourists under 30 that allows you to work while traveling. I applied and paid for the Visa, hopped on a flight as soon as my travel exemption was approved hoping the work visa would be approved soon after, and later found out the visa can’t be processed and approved whilst in the country. Which means I’m on a Subclass 600 tourist visa. Which means I’m not allowed to work for an Australian company.
Even though getting a job Down Under is off the table for now, I still have been able to keep my spreadsheets in the green. Here’s how!
Part One: An Online Job With a US Based Company
What is the job?
I write SEO friendly blog headlines and meta descriptions.
What in the heck does that mean?
Through the provided software, I find keywords and phrases that have a high search volume but low competition. Meaning a lot of people are googling that phrase, but not a lot of websites have posts about it. Then I come up with a topic I think you, the googler, will click on along with a quick meta description to match.
Sometimes the client gives very specific topics, sometimes it takes a bit of research and intuition to create a topic that fits the brand and mission.
Each topic is one and done, and I get paid per individual task. If I’m laser focused, I can pump out the tasks quickly and efficiently. If my brain is minding it’s business off in distant thought, the process can be a bit painful.
The beauty of a gig like this is that I work as much or as little as I like with total flexibility and the ability to do it anywhere in the world.
The downside is that each topic is gone as soon as I click submit. There’s no upward climb towards a meaningful end goal. As someone who craves progress, the job can feel mundane and purposeless. Also, I can only stare at a computer for so long without going totally bonkers.
I can practically hear your thoughts…. “How much do you get paid?”
It all depends on how focused I am and how challenging/easy the topic is. Usually I make anywhere from $20-$30/hr.
How did I get the job?
When COVID hit, I spent hours searching “best online jobs.” I tried out taking surveys, writing product reviews, and watching commercials, all which paid in peanuts. I’d be better off spending time looking for loose change on the sidewalk. I tried to become a “mystery caller” for a quality control company. I looked into online tutoring. The “cool” writing job I landed ended up being a gig writing research papers and essays for Chinese college students… NOPE!
There were tons of dead ends and plenty of “Thanks, but we’ve decided to go in another direction.”
Then I got this job.
The hard work and persistence paid off.
Part Two: Smart Money Management
It’s not about how much money you make. It’s about how much money you spend.
This blog is called The Frugal Foodies for a reason.
I’m very careful about my budget and I simply don’t spend above my means. If the money isn’t in my bank account, I’m not swiping my credit card.
As a dancer and gig worker, the future of my employment and paychecks has always been unknown. I could get another ship contract for 7 months, or I might not. I could find freelance gigs around NYC for the following week, or I might not.
Saving is essential for everyone, but it’s especially important when there’s no guarantee of future income.
No extra guac. No specialty Starbucks holiday beverages. Saying no to dinners and drinks with friends. Sticking to the sales rack.
Nickel and diming every single purchase and choosing one item over another for the sake of $2 saved can seem silly. But every dollar counts. Actively making decisions to save, let’s say $10 a day, adds up to $3,650 a year. Life is meant to be lived, Katie. But the things that make me happy and add the most value to my life can’t be relieved via Amazon Prime.
$10 a day, $3,650 a year.…That’s approximately how much my flights, quarantine, and visa expenses cost on my journey to Australia. Something that has added far more value to my life than extra guac or a new jacket.
Saving is an uphill battle.
The quick swipe of a credit card is absurdly simple and easy, and those snazzy new boots certainly give a nice dopamine rush. Credit card companies and mass marketing campaigns are designed to psychologically manipulate us into loving the cha-ching of a new purchase. Not to mention, social media is constantly flooding our feed with “things” we “need.” The result? Running to the mall and online stores as soon as that paycheck is deposited.
Here are a few fast facts on money and saving habits in America:
- 69% of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings according to THIS website,
- In 2019, the median bank account average was $5,300, according to THIS source.
- THIS survey by Bankrate found that 21% of respondents didn’t save a single dime of their paycheck in 2019.
- A report from the Federal Reserve found that 39% of respondents wouldn’t be able to cover a $400 emergency expense with a cash or cash equivalent.
Note: there’s are hundreds of surveys with varying statistics on net worth, debt owed, cash availability, etc. Not to mention, COVID has had a huge impact on money and saving. The over all trend, however, is the same: Most of Americans don’t have comfortable cash cushions and aren’t great at saving.
Capitalism is to thank for incredible innovation, exciting progress, and astounding advancements that humans couldn’t have even dreamed of just 50 years ago. Capitalism is also one of the devious culprits we can blame for materialism, buckets of debt, and the idea that a person’s value is in what she wears, owns, and has.
It’s a double-edged sword. But in this instance, I rather be armed than defenseless.
Having a way to earn money online and making smart budget choices has allowed me to stay in Australia with my savings account intact.
But there’s one more piece to the puzzle…
My balance sheets are fine today, but what about in the future? That’s where investing comes into the picture.
During quarantine, I bought books and downloaded podcasts to start learning about the markets and different types of financial tools. Retirement seems like a lifetime away, but with no 401K or job stability, thinking about it now is essential. I deemed $15K as an acceptable cash cushion (built that up via loads of hard work and all my nickel and diming despite earning very low yearly incomes!), and every single dollar earned over that goes into my investment accounts. Each stimulus check hardly had time to get comfy in my checking account before being shuttled over to Vanguard.
The tax incentives of an individual retirement account (IRA) is like FREE MONEY! I don’t know about you, but I like free.
Now, I’m building real wealth that will provide me financial stability many years down the line.
There you have it!
Landing my online job took loads of time, hundreds of emails, and plenty of rejection.
Staying in the green has taken plenty of sacrifice and strict budgeting.
Setting the foundations for long term wealth has taken countless hours of education and the guts to take the first leaps.
There’s no secret to affording travel and experiences. It’s a matter of hard work, discipline, and self-control.