Born out of the idea that it’s possible to live on a very tight budget, I have created a simple challenge for myself. Live for 6 months, in Europe, on $2,500. Or, if you break that down further – $416.67 a month.
I’ve been doing the research, and I know that I can make it happen. It won’t be easy, but anything in life worth having is worth working for.
Instead of sounding abstract, allow me to break down into further detail how I’m preparing myself for this journey, what the rules and guidelines are, and how I’m funding myself.
Part 1) The Saving
There is a skill that I am eternally glad my parents taught me. Money management.
From my mother I learned about credit, paying bills on time, and how to effectively use money. You know the saying, actions speak louder than words? Well that’s the behavior my mother modeled for me. From the time I could speak, till the time I left for college, I watched my mom effectively handle money, and keep an outstanding level of credit, on less than an ideal income.
From my father I learned the power of saving money. My dad lived frugally, and he often talked about it. But the difference between frugal and cheap, is that he was saving to spend later. He lived frugally in order that we could take marvelous vacations and splurge on awesome holidays. Growing up, I came to understand that if you save money, and live below your means, you can buy experiences later on.
Combined, these two skills have allowed me to save 50% of my paycheck since arriving in Russia. This is the origin of the funding for my current journey. This seed money is what’s allowing me to embark on such an adventurous undertaking.
What’s Going to Make this Trip Financially Possible
At this point, I’ll do what poker players don’t do, and I’ll reveal my ace in the hole. I’ll share with you the powerful tool that is going to allow me to pull this trip off on such a small budget.
If you haven’t heard about WorkaWay, which I hadn’t till about a month ago, allow me to fill you in. It’s a website with numerous hosts spread across the world. In exchange for a few hours of work every day, a host provides you with shelter, and possibly food.
These hosts are spread across Europe, in every country I could hope to visit. Furthermore, WorkaWay makes the previously limiting expense of a country work for you. I can afford to live in Ukraine or Thailand for next to nothing. Sweden? Fuh-get-aboutit.
WorkaWay takes the prohibitively expensive aspect of a country and reverses it. Since there are more well-off people in first world countries like Sweden or Germany, there are more people who have extra space to let out to a traveler. If a person is well off financially, they will be happy to lend a room and some food, in exchange for some difficult chores. Planting trees, gardening, painting, boat building, language practice, and what have you.
These are the types of jobs I expect to do in the coming months. None of them serious (the maximum limit is five hours a day, five days a week), none of them paid. Food and shelter, that’s all I expect.
My First WorkAway Experience
That’s how I expect to live on $2,500 for six months. I’m going to stay with different hosts in different countries, never spending a dime for shelter. I’ve already arranged my first trip.
I’m going to a commune in Ukraine to plant trees (oh heavens, my life is so awesome!). After that, I’m going to live with a woman in Kiev. In return for English lessons, the only money I’ll be expected to pay is for my electricity bill.
I won’t get into my plans further at the moment (mostly because they don’t exist!) but I will make one final note. WorkaWay has a nautical equivalent.
When Eastern Europe starts to cool down, I may pursue a nautical life. I dream of crossing the Atlantic, or at least sailing down to New Zealand or Australia. The trip isn’t that important, so much as my desire to learn to sail.
That wraps up this section. Next, I want to clarify exactly what my budget will consist of.
Part 2) An Exact Definition of Spending
I want to be very clear about where I will draw the line in my expenditures. I will start living off of my $2,500 on June 1st, 2015. And I will continue to do so until December 1st, 2015.
However, let’s look at my preparations. Before I enter into my frugal living stage, I’m going to make several purchases.
-A $350 Nikon D3500 Camera, for superior recording
-A $250 Osprey hiker’s backpack, for superior comfort
-A $100 SSD Hard Drive for my laptop, for superior durability
-A $100 down payment on Russian lessons with my amazing Skype tutor Irina
-A $32 dollar plane ticket to Stockholm, from Warsaw, for the fulfillment of my long term dream of visiting Sweden
As you can see, that amounts to $832. Which I think is fair, because if someone from America wanted to replicate my journey, that’s less than they would spend for a round-trip plane ticket to Europe.
From August 12th to August 26th, I will be traveling with my sister. We will meet in Berlin, after nearly a year of being apart. By the time we have finished our travels, we will have taken in Dresden, Berlin, Prague, and Krakow.
This will be the second exception to my journey. During this trip I will be living a lifestyle that is necessarily different than the ultra-frugal one demanded by my budget.
I won’t be splurging, but I expect to spend twice as much a day while on this trip than I would otherwise. I have thus made this an exception period, because I would not otherwise be spending that money. Perhaps time will show that I can pay for this trip, while sticking to my original budget, but I won’t hold myself accountable if I go over.
I will keep meticulous records of this two week trip, and I will factor in additional expenses, writing them off as the result of spending some time with my super fabulous, super amazing sister.
That’s it. Those are my two exceptions. I have several pre-purchases that I will make in order to prepare for my long journey ahead. And I have a two week grace period, while traveling with my sister, that will be excluded from my normal expense column.
Wrapping up this section, I want to take a moment to lay out the reasons I think I will succeed.
1) My proven ability to live according to a strict budget. I am excellent at saving money and not making impulsive purchases.
2) My ability to think outside the box. Where other people see a wall, I see an opportunity. With utmost conviction, I believe that what I am about to do is possible.
3) The support of my family. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have been born into an adventurous family. Both of my parents have traveled extensively and they can empathize my desire to do the same. I appreciate that they understand what I’m doing, and have my back.
The End Product
I’m going to post regular updates on my blog. Everything from stories, to how the budget is working out, to what I’m finding difficult. As long as I have internet, I’ll surely make at least one post a week about this awesome journey.
And finally, provided that I complete this adventure, on budget and alive, I will write a book about the whole trip. It will detail my decisions along the way, some of the awesome stories I’m bound to accrue, and of course a practical section detailing how you can follow in my footsteps. Once I’ve proved that you can live for six months on a scanty $2,500, I hope that other people are inspired to start out on their own adventures!
TL;DR – Going to Travel around Europe for the next six months on $2,500.
Cheers from Russia (and tomorrow Ukraine).