I live in rural Costa Rica and spend $1,000 a month on travel. Here's exactly where my money goes in a typical week.
- Elizabeth Aldrich is a freelance writer who lives in Costa Rica when she's not traveling.
- Aldrich saves 50% of her income by controlling her biggest expenses: housing, transportation, and food. She spends the most money on travel, which adds up to over $12,000 a year.
- For Business Insider's "Real Money" series, she tracked her spending for a week as she spent several days in Costa Rica and then traveled back to the US to visit family.
- Want to share a week of your spending? Email email@example.com.
I recently watched a talk from one of the internet's favorite financial gurus, Ramit Sethi, and he kept repeating this one line: Spend extravagantly on the things you love, and cut costs mercilessly on the things you don't. This line is a pretty apt description of my money philosophy and how I make my unconventional lifestyle work.
I'm just going to come out and say it: I spend, on average, more than $1,000 per month on travel. My travel spending adds up to $12,000 per year even though I spend about $36,000 per year in total. Now, let me rewind and explain.Four years ago I lived up to the ultimate millennial expectation: I saved up $5,000 and quit my job to travel. I traveled around Central America and volunteered on a ranch in Costa Rica in exchange for Spanish lessons. I fell in love with the small town I stayed in, and then with a man I met, and decided that I really wanted to stay.
Unfortunately, my bank account disagreed. It was almost empty at this point. I'd learned a lot while traveling about various remote work opportunities and met people who were traveling the world while working online, so I opened up an account on popular freelancer website PeoplePerHour.com.
I picked up low-paying gigs here and there but struggled financially for my first year. Living in a low-cost area was the only way I was able to make it work. I built up a career as a freelance financial writer, also offering content marketing and strategy consulting services. By the second year, I was up to the $40,000 salary I had at my previous job. By the third year, I almost doubled my previous salary.
In 2019, which will be my fourth year living abroad, I expect to make around $85,000 - a salary I never would have dreamt of while working in a traditional full-time job. My goal for 2020 is to breach six figures.
I try to be careful with my money but I also don't like to deprive myself of meaningful experiences ... or delicious food. While travel is the biggest category on my budget, I don't spend anywhere near what most people would assume I do on it given how often I'm traveling. Credit card perks and rewards help a lot in that area, but so does traveling to low-cost areas, staying with family and friends, and knowing how to find fun, low-cost activities and budget eats.
I don't consider myself to be particularly frugal. I live my life to the fullest. But by being strategic with my money - by spending generously on the things that really matter while cutting down extremely on things that don't measurably improve my life - I'm able to live what feels like a very full life while still saving money.