Leveling Up my Finances for Travel
In travel books I'm reading of nomads who have gone before me, the first part of the book is dedicated to doing smart things a year in advance of actually taking off for the nomad adventure - like saving money and being smart about finances (just give up that Starbucks!) and researching the best travel insurance (or knowing that you need a travel insurance!).
Although I've always wanted to live this type of lifestyle, I didn't actually plan it. I figured I would do it one day. Well, one day came, and I decided to do it without taking any time to get all my ducks in a row.
However, I have lived in a way to make sure I could leave at any time. I didn't have much stuff (and living in a 277 sq ft apartment in San Francisco meant I couldn't even have stuff is I wanted to!). I didn't have a mortgage, I already sold my car, and I honestly had no complicated commitments that held me back. That's the life I have already built for myself - the one where I can pack and go at any time I wanted. So when the time came unexpectedly, I was able to make it happen in a matter of less than two months.
That means I didn't have months to do my research or plan - even the two months I spent moving were focused more on traveling for business, finishing my old job, starting a new job, speaking at several conferences, and just making it all happen at the same time!
Well, now that things have calmed down, I'm basically catching up on the things I was supposed to do on the road! I started reading travel books, which were interesting and ok. But I finally got to that travel book I needed!!! I cannot recommend How to Travel the World on $50 a Day enough!!! Thanks @nomadicmatt!
It is seriously the best travel book ever!!! @nomadicmatt saved me months of research and money - actually, even with the research, I probably wouldn't have been able to do the right things. He shares knowledge that only someone who's done this before (and made many mistakes) would know.
I'm still reading it, but the section on finances (to be completed before travel ) was just what I needed. I've been avoiding doing too much financial stuff because it's hard to know what to do - even with exhausting research, it's confusing. With this book, it became dead simple. So here is what I did last week:
This was on my to do list already, but I've definitely been avoiding it. Researching travel insurance sounds awful. Thankfully @nomadicmatt already did the research and explained the ins-and-outs of what to look for and named the best travel insurance companies. All I had to do after reading that chapter was sign up. I signed up for @WorldNomads. Definitely a big stress relief!
The Schwab Bank Checking Account account has no ATM fees worldwide. Also, $0 monthly service fees. $0 account minimum. Sold! Once I get my debit card, switching to this as my primary bank.
I already have two bank accounts, but one of them has $0 balance and I never use. @nomadicmatt had great advice in his book to have at least 2 ATM cards - in case one gets lost or stolen. Makes obvious sense - being stranded in a city like Berlin (cash-only) without any access to cash sounds like a nightmare. Of course, until I read that, I did not really think much about it. Now, I'm going to make sure I have at least some emergency funds in my other bank account.
I opened an AllyBank Online Savings Account account. 1% APY interest with no fees or minimums is a no-brainer for making a bit more money on the money I do have saved. @nomadicmatt mentioned a website - bankrate.com that includes a dead-simple list of terms for different savings account. AllyBank has the best one.
I did get the Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card before I left on my travels because a few friends have mentioned it as the best travel credit card. However, besides getting it because I heard it's good, I didn't know much about the card to begin with. @nomadicmatt clarified what it's good for and how to use it - apparently I'm supposed to make my travel bookings through the cards website through points!
Definitely wish I've been using this card the year or more before my trip (would have made so much money!!!), but it's never late than never.
Another thing @nomadicmatt pointed out is that Credit Cards are the best to use for foreign currency exchange rates. Sometimes on checkout, the vendor asks whether I'd like to pay in USD vs the local currency, and not knowing better, I sometimes did choose the USD option. Oops! Apparently the exchange rate in USD is much higher than way vs what the credit card would use to make the currency conversion.
Points and Loyalty Programs
I'll be honest, I'm horrible at points and loyalty programs. The only airline I've been loyal to is Virgin America, with United being my backup. I like their service! And I hate being tied to a specific hotel chain when another boutique hotel would be way nicer to stay in.
I admire the people who do travel hacking, but I honestly don't have the time and it sounds super stressful. Still, @nomadicmatt explained the programs in such a simple way, I feel like I at least have a basic starting point to be ok at it.
Turns out there are two major airline alliances - Star Alliance and (another alliance). So even though I'm flying from New Zealand on an Air NewZealand, I get United points. I almost missed adding that frequent flyer program to my plane ticket! I'll be sticking to Star Alliance, with the other one as my backup.
Usually I avoid credit card offers, but @nomadicmatt did have some great points on how great these are and how to manage them. So as I was checking my flight on United.com, I noticed an offer for a United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card, with the offer of 50,000 miles and $50 in statement credit! I was looking for a new business card (I've been using a debit card up to this point), so this was a perfect way to get a huge points boost for purchasing more flights as I need them for FREE!
I'll also make sure to get into a Starwood loyalty program, although I stay in AirBNBs a lot more than hotels. Wish AirBNB had a loyalty program...
I know I need to be better at this now that my expenses are super variable and it's easy to buy something b/c "I'm here only once". For that, I'm actually already working with a Financial Advisor to help me. But @nomadicmatt lays out some great tips to get started.
The main point is to live like a local. Locals don't spend much, so eat where locals eat! He has many other great tips all throughout the book and separated by different regions of the world!
I cannot thank @nomadicmatt enough for his book. Seriously, every chapter brings new gems. It's going to save me so much time and money. I'm starting off with the basics at the moment, but I'll have to come back to it and level up as I learn on the road and get the basics right.
Ultimately, it's great if you can have a year to figure your life out and leave with everything figured out with a bow on it (and some people do have to do that, since their situations are more complicated than mine), but I'm glad I just went for it. I know I'll figure it out on the road anyway and it's going to be a long journey.