This post has been created in collaboration with Experian.
I’m currently sat in the airport waiting for my flight to Hamburg. I arrived a bit early to get some work done so, unlike the other passengers around me who are having a quick pint or a glass of wine before we fly, I’m sat here with my laptop out and a strong cup of coffee.
This is quite normal for me.
I’m a travel blogger and I work whenever and wherever I can and the airport is one of my favourite places to work. I also have two little boys at home so anywhere is more peaceful than there!
I generally travel 18-20 times a year, visiting anywhere from Japan to Jersey, Brussels to Bali. I like to go away once per month with my family and once per month with a colleague and I’ll have a couple of press trips in there too.
Between trips I’m busy at home looking after my kids and I have a very normal ‘mum life’. My partner, Sam, works in construction and he works three days per week to enable him to travel with me over long weekends or to simply enjoy a four-day weekend at home together.
I feel a bit uncomfortable writing this post because it feels a bit braggy and I’m British and we’re not very good at bragging or talking about our finances! But this post is a bit braggy because I’m very proud to have achieved something most people don’t know is possible. In fact, I had no idea it was possible until a few years ago.
It was when I went on maternity leave that I realised I was still earning the same amount when I was working 10 hours per week as I did when I was working full time. I was working smarter, not harder and after a year on maternity leave I realised I may never have to go back to the 40-hour work week.
Since then, my income has only risen, I’ve travelled more, I’ve worked less, I’ve bought a house, a new car, a mobile summer home in Wales in a beautiful coastal village and (contrary to popular belief!) I don’t have a sugar daddy funding this lovely lifestyle.
I prioritise family-time over everything else and we prefer to spend our money on experiences rather than ‘things’. We might not have the biggest house or the flashiest car but when the trade-off is working part time AND travelling 2-3 times a month then it’s a compromise I’m pretty cool with. I earn well but Sam and I still only work part time so our family’s annual income is pretty similar to the UK average.
So how does this work? How do I earn money without spending 40 hours per week glued to my laptop? And how do we travel much?
I’ve teamed up with Experian to create this post to tell you more about how I earn money, how I spend money and how I manage to work part-time and have enough money to travel frequently!
Let’s first of all tackle the income shall we…
Let’s start with passive income. Passive income is money you continuously earn without having to do a lot in return.
Now before I begin, you should know that setting up passive income streams is HARD WORK! This doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a long time and a lot of work to get things set up but, once you’re set up, you can almost sit back and watch the money roll in. I say ‘almost’ because it does need a little bit of maintenance.
An example of a passive income source would be buying a house and renting it out. Every month you’d get the rent and day-to-day you don’t need to do a lot to maintain that.
Realistically, most of us don’t have enough cash lying around to buy a house and it’s a big risk because you could have bad tenants or something go wrong with the house but this is just a really simple example of passive income.
My passive income is very different and comes from three sources:
- The adverts you see on this blog
- Commissions on sales of products or services I recommend through this blog (for example, if someone booked a hotel I’d recommended, I’d get a small percentage of that sale)
- An online course I’ve created to help aspiring bloggers
I worked REALLY, REALLY, REALLY hard to set up these three passive income streams and now I spend about 10 hours per week maintaining them. The main thing I have to do is simply make sure people keep reading my blog so it’s a case of writing new posts that people want to read and, most importantly, making sure they can find them!
Passive income brings me enough money each month to pay all of my monthly expenses and put a little bit away for a rainy day. It doesn’t bring me enough money to travel the world or do anything crazy, but knowing I can take a month off or I can turn down work if it’s not something I really want to do is incredibly freeing and liberating.
My passive income gives me the freedom to enjoy my life and the minimal hours I work can be squeezed in where I can fit them.
My work fits around my life rather than my life fitting around my work and this really is a lovely way to live and I feel very fortunate.
Living without a steady paycheck
This might come as a shock but one of my favourite things about working for myself is that I don’t have a regular monthly salary. OK, I have my passive income which remains pretty consistent each month and this is like a basic salary which covers our basic expenses. But like any other freelancer, I still have clients who bring in the extra bonuses that help me do the fun stuff!
But if I have a quiet period, I can easily go for a month or two without any work at all, meaning I don’t get paid anything extra for two whole months!
Now I know this sounds terrifying but it balances out because the following month I might do the equivalent of three or four months of work which will result in one big paycheck. Kerrching.
I’m good with money but even I find it hard to resist splashing out when this big paycheck lands in my bank account. This is how we afford most of our travels or to buy big, expensive items that most people would have to take a loan for.
And yes, we’ll blow a big portion of it and then have to live frugally for a couple of months but that’s OK. It’s much easier to live frugally when you’ve got a holiday to look forward to!
I’m looking forward to my next big bonus as I’m hoping to use it to book flights for my family to go to Canada!
Living within our means
One of the main ways we afford this lifestyle is because our monthly expenses are pretty low in comparison to many families our age.
The average monthly mortgage repayment is almost £700 a month; add to that a car loan, credit card repayments, household items bought on interest free credit, eating out, drinking, new clothes, expensive gym memberships and it’s little wonder most people can’t afford to travel!
All this debt isn’t a way of life I’ve ever felt comfortable with and having a small mortgage and very little debt is definitely something that enables us to live this life.
But for our generation, this is very unusual! So how did we do it?
Basically, we just don’t buy the stuff we can’t afford.
Yea, I know it’s boring but it really is that simple.
When it came to buying our house we saved a large deposit which helped us secure a really good mortgage deal. Our mortgage is amazing and it’s much, much less than we were paying for our flat in London! I highly recommend doing a lot of research before applying for a mortgage. It can be a bit confusing and there are SO many options out there. You can compare mortgages on Experian and you can learn more about the different types of mortgages available to you. It was also a time of low interest rates so that really helped. The house was also a wreck and needed fully renovating so we’ve massively increased the value of our house with the work we’ve done. It also helps that Sam and my dad both work in construction so between them they could do almost everything and we got everything at trade prices.
The house we bought was very affordable for us. We could have bought a bigger house and, yes, sometimes the egotistical side of me does want a bigger house but I know it would purely be to impress other people, not because it would make me happier.
The same applies for my car. I have a nice car but it isn’t the fancy Range Rover I thought I’d be driving by the time I was 30! But that’s OK, my car cost about £15,000 less and we all know you can get a lot of holidays for £15,000!
How I afford to travel so much
I have my passive income and my bonus payments from clients but, at the end of the year, our household income is pretty average for a UK family. We do really well for how little we work but we still work part time so we’re not exactly rolling in it.
So how do we afford to travel so much?
There was a time when a lot of my travels were press trips so I wasn’t paying for them. I was invited by tourism boards or airlines or hotels to visit a destination in return for writing about it. I do still take the odd press trip but now that I have children I don’t do so many.
Press trips are often organised at the last-minute, I can rarely take my kids with me and you’re usually herded around on a whistle-stop tour. You get to see a destination but you don’t get to experience it. You get time to take a pretty picture but I find it very difficult to write about a place when I’ve actually only spend 30 minutes there! So I take the odd press trip but I generally fund my own travels.
There are a couple of ways I manage to afford this:
Travel at off-peak times
Thanks to the flexibility of my work I can travel anytime and will often travel mid-week to a destination most people would visit for a weekend. This means flights and hotels are cheaper and it’s also much quieter and a more enjoyable experience.
Balancing luxury and budget
For me, making holidays affordable is all about compromise and balancing out the expensive experiences with super cheap options. For example, I’m going to Marrakech this month and while I’m there I’ll be staying in the most beautiful riad. It’s incredible and so luxurious and was quite expensive. So we’ve balanced this out with super cheap flights with no luggage. Hello, 6am Ryanair flight for £47 return! Marrakech is a great destination to do this because it’s so affordable. We may have splashed out on our accommodation but we won’t be spending much on transport, food, drink or activities so it all balances out!
I’m going to Romania this week for the same reason, it’s a really cheap destination so you can balance the luxury accommodation with budget activities really well. Check out my last post from Romania about how much it cost for a weekend in Timisoara to see what I mean!
Think about the bigger picture
One of my favourite ways to save for travel and not spend any money unnecessarily is to think about things on a larger scale.
For example, our flights to Marrakech cost £47 which is about the same value as 10 glasses of wine in the pub. I’ll probably have three glasses of wine on a Friday night in the pub so all I need to do is not go to the pub for three Fridays and I’ve paid for my flight to Marrakech.
Prioritising and rethinking about the way you spend money can really help!
Redefining what ‘travelling’ is
When we talk about travelling or holidays, most people think we’re talking about long-haul trips to exotic destinations or escaping our homeland for somewhere hotter and more exciting. But travelling for me is just as often visiting somewhere two hours from home. Holidays don’t always need to be a plane journey away and I’ve had some of my favourite holidays in Wales.
Travelling with children
I’m often asked how we afford to travel with the kids as we now need to pay for four people rather than just two! You can’t get away from the cost of flights but you can cut back on accommodation by using sites like Airbnb. It’s SO much cheaper if you need more than one bedroom and a living space and kitchen. The flights may cost us more but the overall cost of the holiday doesn’t change too much.
How you can do this too
If you like the sound of this lifestyle then I have a few tips to help you do the same, or at least start working towards something similar…
Have a side-hustle
There is no reason why everyone can’t have a side-hustle. Whether you’re 18 and you’re on an apprentice’s wage and you need some extra cash or you’re 88 and you have lots of time on your hands, think about a side-hustle.
My blog started as my side-hustle and turned into this, but your side hustle doesn’t have to be anything huge. A side-hustle could be something that brings in £50 a month for a date night or £500 a year for a weekend away.
I’m not going to go into too much detail about side-hustles because this is already turning into a novel! But think about what you love, what you’re an expert at and what people want to buy and see if there’s a way you can turn that into a mini business.
I recommend reading:
Travel Hack Tip: If you’re anything like me and find business books hard to read then I recommend Audible to listen to the audio version.
This one might sound a bit simplistic but, no matter what industry you work in, there’s always going to be freelance work for people who are really, really good.
I used to work in social media management and had a full time office job. I enjoyed this job but wanted more flexibility and after a couple of years I realised I was actually pretty good at it. I was so good that I quit my job and worked as a freelancer for many different brands, charging a day rate that was twice the amount I was getting with my annual salary.
OK, I didn’t work every single day (partly through choice but partly because I didn’t always have enough clients to work full time) but I was able to work half the time and still earn the same income.
In order to make freelancing work, you have to be really good. If you’re not the best yet, there’s no reason why you can’t be. Start studying, learning, improving, asking questions, researching and doing everything you can to make sure you’re getting better at what you do.
Cut back on your expenses
I can’t tell you how liberating it is to have such low monthly expenses. Living with less could be a post all by itself but if this is a topic that’s new to you then I recommend looking into the whole world of minimalism. I love watching YouTube videos about the Tiny House Movement and seeing bloggers who live with so little.
I’m not suggesting you give up all your worldly possessions but when you see people living with so little, it makes you realise you actually don’t need all this ‘stuff’ to make you happy.
If you can halve your expenses, maybe you can halve how much you work or at least work less and put more time into your side hustle.
Pay yourself quarterly
As I mentioned above, getting paid in big chunks rather than being drip fed a small monthly salary is what allows us to travel so much and splash out on big expenses.
Now if you have a regular job with a salary I know this might not be an option for you. Maybe you could speak to your HR department to see if they could happen but it might be easier to simply do a self-enforced version of this.
You’re going to need to start by saving up a big enough chunk so you can survive for a couple of months without touching your wages. This will be a tough time because you’ll literally have to get by on the bare minimum! Then set up your wages to go into a savings account and don’t touch it for 3-4 months. Yes, a whole 3 months! And at the end of the 3 months you’re allowed to withdraw it all in one go. You’re going to have to be sensible and keep some aside but you’re going to have a decent pot of money to play with here so you might finally be able to book that big trip you’re dreaming of!
The three months of self-enforcing scrimping is really tough but it’s so worth it in the long-term!
Book things monthly
Another way I afford so many trips is to book things slowly. One month I’ll book my flights, the next month I’ll book a hotel, the next I’ll pay for a couple of activities and then I’ll save some for my expenses while I’m away. Sometimes you’ve just got to jump right in and book your flights 6 months in advance and then there’s no turning back and no excuses of, ‘I’ve got no money….’ as you simply have to use the next 5 months to save and book things!
There you have it, how I afford to travel a lot and work part-time. To summarise, the main way I work part-time is because I have passive income streams for my blog which means I get paid without doing much work. The main way I afford to travel is because I work for myself, so rather than having a small monthly salary I get paid per project. This means payments are sporadic but they’re bigger chunks of cash. I cut down on my travel expenses by balancing out the expensive things with budget things. This might mean a luxury hotel but a budget flight or visiting a cheap destination so I can afford a 5* hotel.
That was a bit of a mammoth post and I’m sure you’ll have lots of questions so please feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you!