Yesterday, I shared with you how I saved money for our gap year abroad (you can check out the full posts here: http://wp.me/p5BYuE-sV).
But, saving money is just one part of the equation; the other is making that money last as long as possible, through as many adventures as possible. Because the last thing you want, after working so hard to save all that money, is to blow it all in a week’s time.
Throughout our six months in Spain, I’ve picked up a few habits here and there that have helped me extend the life of my savings and my funemployment.
Making my savings last started long before we even left Canada. It’s an ongoing thing, and something I think about often – probably too much if you ask some people, but like to be on top of things.
No Foreign Transaction Fees
One of the first and best things I did was researching our banking options while abroad. I hate bank fees and try to avoid them at all costs—why should I just throw money away?–so, avoiding foreign transaction fees was one of my goals for our time abroad. By doing a bit of research, I learned that Scotiabank was a member of the Global ATM Alliance, meaning that if I were to sign up for an account with them, I could use my debit card at certain banks and avoid additional and unwanted fees. The various banks are located throughout the world—Canada, Spain, Thailand, Mexico, to name a few—so this seemed like a good move for both our current plan, but also for future travel plans.
We signed up for accounts and have been using the Deutsche Bank machine located oh so close to our house to take out money. Although we’re still subject to the horribly awful exchange rate (oh Canadian dollar, please stop dropping!) we’re at least saving a few dollars on transaction fees.
Finding the right flight
As part of Dave’s visa requirements, we needed to have our flight booked before we could apply, so we started shopping for prices well in advance of our anticipated departure date. We took the time to research our options and ended up booking one-way flights to Portugal with SATA Air (by using Kayak.com) for approx. $350CDN. By being flexible with our departure date and booking a couple of months out, we saved hundreds of dollars on our tickets.
Taking the time to research is the single biggest way to save money: from Spanish classes to travel opportunities, taking the time to look up and compare prices is so worth it. Maybe not the most fun use of times, but trust me, WORTH IT!
I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m a bit addicted to Skyscanner. I love to browse and see what the flight options are–it’s good to stay informed. Whenever we learn that Dave has a long weekend, or a few days off, we immediately pull up Skyscanner and see where the best deals are. By letting our plans be determined by flight prices we’ve been able to visit some amazing cities for relatively little.
Once our flights are booked, we start looking into hotels. Because of their pretty great rewards system, we try to book our accommodations through Hotels.com to earn ourselves free hotel nights. Often times, we compare the options with AirBnb, to see what’s a better value.
With just a little bit of research, it’s been pretty easy to find some great deals that allow us to stick to our budget—and on occasion come in under it.
Consumables are considerably cheaper in Spain than they were in Canada. We’re saving approximately 25% off our grocery bill by just living in Spain! Those savings aside, we still try to get as much for as little as we can. We try to plan our meals out as often as possible, and we do our best to eat every last morsel of food we buy.
Dave and I didn’t eat out much back in Canada, and other than our first month in Spain where we didn’t have a kitchen, we haven’t eaten out all that much here. We try to save going out for special occasions, like birthdays or when we have out of town guests.
On regular days, breakfasts, lunches (Dave takes leftovers) and dinners are made at home. We’re definitely eating better and getting the most out of what we buy by sticking to this routine.
Because I was a contract employee before we moved to Spain, I opted to pay more tax on each pay cheque to ensure I would have a very decent tax return come April. It was my little insurance plan, and one of the smartest things I’ve ever done. Present-Kate is so happy past-Kate had this forethought!
When tax season reared its head, I was actually excited to file as I knew my refund would buy me a couple more months of funemployment. The refund was split into a couple of accounts so some of it could be used now, with the rest accumulating interest until it came time to use it.
And still, we’re saving coins. Because if it ain’t broke…
We don’t have a pig and we don’t go to the coin counter (this magical machines don’t exists in Spain), but we’re still collecting all of our coins and saving them for a rainy day—or a day when we need metro fare, whichever comes first. Eventually we’ll have to go to the bank to cash it in, and I doubt our collection of moneda will buy us anything more than a romantic fast food meal for two, but as I’ve said so many times before, every penny counts.
Those are just a few of the ways I’m stretching my money and making it last throughout this adventure. Tell me, what do you do to make your hard-earned savings last?
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