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About Me

About Me

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Hi, I’m Elaina and I want to help you live life on your terms, find a career you love, and travel as often as you want. 

 

I’ve lived, worked, and traveled to more than 60 countries, including some pretty off-the-beaten path destinations like Mongolia, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Paraguay. I’ve also lived out of a suitcase as a full-time nomad for the past 4.5 years, ever since leaving my management consulting gig in New York back in 2013 when I landed an international role at a media company that sent me all over the world to work. You can read my full story here

 

What makes my story unique is that I’ve traveled AND built a professional career, working for companies like IBM and Uber over the years. I’ve also spent long stretches of time freelancing and traveling adventurously through South America, Asia, and Africa. I’m currently freelance writing, coaching professionals through career transitions, and working on a few small business ideas while splitting my time between Berlin, the US, and India. 

 

I write about self-development, digital nomadism, charting unconventional life paths, finding REAL jobs overseas, pursuing long-term travel, and living more purposefully in a fast-paced, confusing world. There’s simply no one-size-fits-all model for creating a life you love. I’m not a full-time digital nomad and I’m not a full-time corporate professional: I’ve done things a bit differently and I think it’s feasible for more people to live “off the beaten path” this way. I hope my blog lets you see that it’s both possible and practical.  

 

I started this blog because I want to help you find an exciting career, travel the world, break the norms, and develop yourself both personally and professionally. Read on or get in touch to set up a 1:1 session with me: elaina@lifebefore30.com.

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From the Practical to the Philosophical: My Top 10 Strategies for Saving Money

Posted on July 18th, 2013

As someone who has been financially independent since she was 17, there is one thing I know how to do: manage my money. But I know people think I’m secretly loaded when they see how much I travel. What they don’t realize is I plan, save, and spend meticulously.

 

Call me anal, but in the past year alone I spent over 3 months in Brazil, Italy, Ireland, Spain, Taiwan, and Japan.

 

Trade-offs.

 

In my “Top 10 Tricks for Budget Travelers” article, I revealed how I manage to travel on the cheap. After posting that piece several months ago, I have been receiving a lot of emails about how I save money to travel in the first place.

 

So here it goes. I am about to dispel the myth that I have a Swiss bank account where I pull my travel funds from, and will step-by-step spill my guts on how I manage to do it.

 

In the process, we will examine everything from the power of our social networks to why everyone needs a good shoe repairman.

 

Are you ready?

 

First of all, saving money is fundamentally about a clarification and reorientation of your values and the subsequent prioritization of the elements that make up your lifestyle. If you have a financial goal that you feel strongly about, your lifestyle can be designed to support that.

 

As you read on, you will notice that I prioritize where I live geographically, along with higher quality but altogether fewer material possessions. I eliminate spending on things like wasted cell phone minutes, purposeless shopping, and eating out. Instead, that money goes directly towards my savings goals. For me, that brings me one step closer to the next plane ticket. For others, it’s a new home. Or a car. Or a killer wardrobe.

 

There should be a distinct set of things that you value more than others, and that’s where you will spend your money. The key is to eliminate spending in areas that do not coincide with your key priorities, so that you can focus more time, energy, and money on the things that do matter (to you).

 

Now, before you begin trying to save, you will need to do some math.

 

Cringe.

 

 money

Photo credit: Quizzle

 

First of all, you must set a concrete (and preferably annual) savings goal and break it down into weekly targets. For example, if you want to save $12,000 this year, you need to save $250/week.

 

Then, break down your disposable monthly income into a weekly dollar amount, as well. Let’s say you earn $5,000/month. You spend $800 on rent and $200 on other fixed bills. This leaves you with $4,000 or $1,000/week of “disposable income.” Subtract your $250 savings goal from this amount, and you are left with $750/week spending money.

 

Now you have your bottom-line: Never spend more than $750/week.

 

I actually recommend transferring your monthly goal to your savings account when you receive your paycheck. Most banks allow you to set this up on an automated basis, thereby “forcing you” to live with the remaining amount of your income.

 

Next important step: figure out exactly what you are spending your money on. Understanding your spending habits is the groundwork for better financial decision-making.

 

Personally, I use my credit card wherever humanly possible in order to earn points and be able to view all of my expenses online in one place. However, I never charge more than my defined spending threshold and pay off the full balance each month to avoid interest charges.

 

However, if you know yourself well enough to realize that using a credit card is a recipe for over-spending, my suggestion is to stop using debit/credit cards altogether and stick to withdrawing a set amount of cash each week for spending money. Then track what you spend the cash on using the “Expense Log” iPhone application.

 

Once you know your weekly spending limit AND are actively tracking where that money goes, you can begin to work on reducing costs and further maximizing savings opportunities.

 

My Top 10 Savings Strategies

 

1. Stop eating and drinking out, especially if you live in a big, money-sucking city. (Duh.) This is a black hole for your hard-earned cash. Learning to cook can be fun and pre-gaming with friends before you go out helps you – and everyone else – spend less on drinks at the bar. Treat yourself to one or two meals out per week, and have an idea of how many drinks you are willing/able to buy before you go bar-hopping.

 

TIP: Never bring your debit or credit card with you on a night out. Bring the set amount of cash you are willing to spend on dinner/drinks/cab rides and once it runs out, you are automatically cut off.

 

money1

Photo credit: Toonpool.com

 

2. Look at who you hang out with. If you work at an NGO but hang out with high-rolling investment bankers, you may find yourself suckered into spending more money simply because of your environment. Consider limiting your time with big spenders or at least be conscious of the effect they have on your financial habits.

 

TIP: Let your friends and family know you are saving. ”I’m going to have to pass on that $300 music festival this weekend. I’m actually saving to go to Argentina in August.” You might be surprised at how supportive they will be. Sharing your goals publicly also makes you feel more accountable, and accountability breeds results.

 

3. Consider relocating – or get a cheaper place. If you live in a very expensive city, think about moving. For me, I loved living in New York and decided I would rather skimp on other things than sacrifice my zip code. Therefore, I opted to live with roommates, have a smaller room, and walk 10 minutes to the nearest subway – but I was still living in the city I loved.

 

TIP: I also subletted my room when I went traveling. Big city real estate is a hot commodity, so I was always able to find someone to take my place (via Craigslist, Air B&B, or Facebook), and usually for a higher price point than what I was paying.

 

4. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. Friendly negotiation can help lower rent, monthly bills, banking fees, taxi rides, and even doctor’s bills. For example, my new employer pays by international wire transfer, which costs a whopping $16 per transaction at my bank. Instead of shrugging it off, I called my bank, explained that I am a long-term customer in a new work situation where I will be receiving monthly wire transfers, and kindly requested a fee waiver. In 15 minutes, I managed to save $16/month. I have also done this with my cell phone provider to lower my monthly phone bill. I asked for the data on my usage and customized cheaper plan to fit that usage. Google “how to negotiate my phone bill”…or switch to T-Mobile where you pay $2/day for unlimited everything.

 

5. Only go shopping when there are sales AND you actually need something. In my experience, mindless “I’ll-just-go-in-and-see-what’s-new-this-season” shopping leads to a hefty credit card bill. If I don’t have something in mind when I walk into Zara or Kenneth Cole, I am in trouble. Also, I make it a point to invest in fewer, but higher quality pieces. When I need a pair of winter boots, I go for the more expensive pair in real leather from a good designer. They last longer, look better, and I take care of them because of what I invested. I also may buy in the off-season when prices are lower. I like classic styles, so it doesn’t matter if I don’t buy at the start of the season when all the trendy stuff comes out.

 

TIP: Get a lot of email notifications about sales and tempting new arrivals? Try using The Swizzle to cut these down into a weekly digest. Streamlining your diet of “buy this, buy that” will help cut the craving to spend.

 

TIP: Stop online shopping altogether. People consistently over-spend when they buy online.

 

TIP: The shoe repairmen of New York changed my life. When my $300 boots were basically wrecked, I took them to my repairman in the East Village and for $75 I had brand new boots!

 

 money2

Photo credit: The Guardian UK

 

6. Make your own coffee. Another no-brainer. Buying a $4 latte every day is about $120/month or almost $1500/year! I make coffee at home and treat myself to a good Starbucks on the weekend.

 

7. Sell things you don’t use or don’t need. Amazon, Craigslist, Plato’s Closet, eBay, Facebook, thrift shops, and yard sales are just a few of the ways you can get rid of things taking up space and costing you potential income. I regularly sell old books on Amazon, random household items I don’t use on Craigslist, and my old clothes go to thrift shops. Trust me, as someone who just sold everything that couldn’t fit into two suitcases that now come with me everywhere around the world, it feels GREAT to clear the clutter.

 

TIP: Thrift shops in NYC usually don’t take my old clothes (ouch, I didn’t realize they were that bad…) so I bring them with me when I go home to upstate New York and cash them in there.

 

8. (Girls) Go natural. Here’s some straight-shooting for the ladies: Dying your hair, buying expensive make-up, waxing every inch of your body, getting manicures and pedicures, and wearing 4 tons of jewelry does not actually make you a more beautiful person. After you go backpacking for 3 months in Southeast Asia, you”ll discover how impractical all that stuff is once you’re living out of a 12kg pack in 100 degree weather. For example, I stopped dying my hair 2 years ago and discovered that I LOVE my natural hair color, not to mention I’m saving hundreds of dollars a year. I wear less make-up, but still insist on buying high-quality stuff for what I do use. I skip salon manicures and pedicures and go DIY on those babies (and get compliments all the time). I wear a few pieces of nice jewelry on a regular basis and have gotten rid of the rest. Ladies, I’m not saying do not take care of yourselves, just don’t be disillusioned into spending an inordinate amount of money on “beautification.” Things we can do instead? Exercise more, drink more water, eat well, accept our flaws, and surround ourselves with people who give us confidence.

 

9. Increase your income. If you do all of the above and still find yourself coming up short, the next best thing to do is make. more. money. Negotiate a raise, change jobs, get a part-time gig, or start freelancing. I recently made a career change that pays me to do what I was spending all of my money on anyway (travel) and allows me save twice as much by living in emerging markets where the cost of living is dramatically less. This realignment of my values, work, and income has already made a big difference in the quality of my daily life.

 

TIP: Read the $100 Startup for stories of how real people starting creating income for themselves from simple, practical ideas.

 

TIP: Always negotiate your salary when starting a new job or accepting a promotion. (Or at least negotiate some time off in between!)

 

10. Finally, most important of all…the thing that really has the power to change everything. Think about WHY you buy. Most of the time, we buy for very emotional reasons – reasons we may not even want to admit to ourselves. We buy because we think another new suit will make us more confident at work, because we enjoy the attention of the people working in our favorite store, because we’re bored, because a new electronic toy will give us something to talk about with our friends, because we saw someone we admire wearing something similar…because ultimately we don’t believe we are good enough as we are. Next time you buy something, ask yourself why you bought it, and be brutally honest. Confronting some of these consumer-driven inner demons may help change much more than your financial behavior.

 

 from the practical source becca christensen

 Photo credit: Becca Christensen

 

 

What are your personal tips and tricks that help you save money? Please share in the comments section below.

 

Did you find this post helpful? Share with your friends and family on Facebook or Twitter!

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About Me

About Me

IMG_5937

Hi, I’m Elaina and I want to help you live life on your terms, find a career you love, and travel as often as you want. 

 

I’ve lived, worked, and traveled to more than 60 countries, including some pretty off-the-beaten path destinations like Mongolia, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Paraguay. I’ve also lived out of a suitcase as a full-time nomad for the past 4.5 years, ever since leaving my management consulting gig in New York back in 2013 when I landed an international role at a media company that sent me all over the world to work. You can read my full story here

 

What makes my story unique is that I’ve traveled AND built a professional career, working for companies like IBM and Uber over the years. I’ve also spent long stretches of time freelancing and traveling adventurously through South America, Asia, and Africa. I’m currently freelance writing, coaching professionals through career transitions, and working on a few small business ideas while splitting my time between Berlin, the US, and India. 

 

I write about self-development, digital nomadism, charting unconventional life paths, finding REAL jobs overseas, pursuing long-term travel, and living more purposefully in a fast-paced, confusing world. There’s simply no one-size-fits-all model for creating a life you love. I’m not a full-time digital nomad and I’m not a full-time corporate professional: I’ve done things a bit differently and I think it’s feasible for more people to live “off the beaten path” this way. I hope my blog lets you see that it’s both possible and practical.  

 

I started this blog because I want to help you find an exciting career, travel the world, break the norms, and develop yourself both personally and professionally. Read on or get in touch to set up a 1:1 session with me: elaina@lifebefore30.com.

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Five years ago, I changed my whole life in 30 days. I scored the job of my dreams, quit my job in New York, sold everything I owned, moved to West Africa, and never looked back. Read about it here.

 

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Currently in: Malawi

 

 

Previously in: Berlin

 

img_6015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s Hot

Recent Posts

Coaching

Coaching

Step into my office!

 

Five years ago, I changed my whole life in 30 days. I scored the job of my dreams, quit my job in New York, sold everything I owned, moved to West Africa, and never looked back. Read about it here.

 

Now I use Office Hours to help my clients do the same.

 

Do you want to travel but are scared to quit your job?

Do you want to find a job overseas but don’t know where to start?

Do you wake up in the morning dreading what’s ahead?

Read more

Like Me on Facebook

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Follow me on twitter

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