Back in 2006, I made a promise to myself that I would travel at least once every year to a country I’ve never been before. That was eight years ago and I’ve managed to keep this promise to myself despite a lingering student debt that I’ve been chipping away at.
So how does a girl who blogs about a frugal lifestyle spend so freely on one of the most costly and leisurely expenditures?
Well, two reasons:
Some girls can’t live without shoes. I can’t live without travel. It’s super important to me so I find a way to make it possible. This usually means I spend less on other life luxuries (getting my hair done, dining out at restaurants, etc.) to save up for my annual vacation.
I have student debt but it’s my only debt. As one of my role models, Gail Vaz-Oxlade, would say: Student debt is a normal debt to have. I know some people in their forties with outstanding student loans (Barak Obama didn’t pay off his until he was 43…maybe “know” is a loose term).
Yep, I could give my wanderlust the cold-shoulder and put every penny towards my debt to pay it off as fast as possible. But is being debt-free my top priority? Nope!
It also doesn’t mean I ignore it either. I manage my money so that I can live the way I want to live AND contribute regular monthly payments towards paying my debt off. It’s a balance between my responsibilities and the things I enjoy in life.
“Okay, but I have other non-student-related debts. Can I still travel?”
That depends, Dorothy. Are we talking good debt or bad debt?
Good debt: student loans, taking out a mortgage, car loans. It’s an investment that will increase in value or generate more income in the future.
Bad debt: credit cards or cash advances. They are usually used to purchase items that lose their value over time or generates no future income. These kind of debts also carry higher interest.
You shouldn’t travel if you have bad debt. This should be a flashing warning sign to you that you’re likely spending more money than you’re making. So travelling is a no-no until you conquer all bad debt first. If you can’t afford to pay for everyday purchases, how do you expect to afford a trip?
“F@%# bad debt! I need to travel while I’m still young!”
I kinda disagree with this. I get that travelling becomes more difficult with kids, a mortgage, and a middle/upper-management career but it’s not impossible. Your life doesn’t stop just because you have more responsibilities. With all that going on anyway, you’ll probably need a vacation more than you do in your twenties!
I don’t see my wanderlust slowing down even after I have a few rugrats kicking around. Travel is my passion and it would be an amazing opportunity to share this with my (future) kids one day and see the world with them. I also figure at that point I’ll have more vacation days to take and hopefully more disposable income. Goodbye hostels and dinners at the grocery store!
Any travel experiences you go through in life, whether you’re 20, 40, or 60, will be amazing. Trust me.
There’s no imaginary age that you have to complete all your travels by or else it’s all over. Don’t get yourself into serious bad debt while you’re in your twenties by travelling on little to no funds and then reaching your prime thirties in the hole. This is an excellent way to get yourself on the bad credit list and can ruin your opportunities in the future.
Some people will disagree with my approach and say that paying off your debts is priority and travelling should only happen after you’re completely debt-free. During my travels, I’ve met travellers who had no debt, had only good debt, or some who were so far in the red that only a miracle could help them pay it off. Each approach means different sacrifices so it really comes down to what kind of financial sacrifices you want to make and how your life will be affected by it.
Can you still travel while paying off debt? Do you think it’s a good idea to prioritize your wants before your debts?