Betsy and Warren Talbot sold everything to travel the world, and have been for five years. The following story is an excerpt from their book, "Dream, Save, Do: An Action Plan for Dreamers," where they explain one of the key strategies used to save for their trip around the globe.
With a $75,000 goal in mind and 25 months to reach it, we knew we had some pretty serious cuts to make in our spending. The more we thought about that number, the “numb”er we felt.
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How do you wrap your head around a number that big when you’re thinking about your daily expenses? Is my $20 savings at the grocery store really going to impact a number that big? It doesn’t seem likely. And because of that disconnect it was hard to see how our daily activities impacted our long-term dream. It wasn't until we made the connection about comparing what we wanted to do on a day in our dream life to what we were currently spending that it finally clicked.
We were walking in our neighborhood when I spotted a gorgeous necklace in a shop window. I'm not much of a fine jewelry kinda gal, but I go weak in the knees at an original creation by an artist I can meet, someone who makes funky art you can wear. This gorgeous piece of personality and bold statement was $100, and I wanted it. As I pressed my face to the glass like a little kid at a toy store, Warren said the words that would lead our saving efforts from that day forward.
"Is that more important to you than a day on the road? Because it costs the same."
How We Used Our Phrase to Save
What a brilliant concept in such a simple statement. By focusing our saving efforts on a small but easily visualized segment of our overall figure, I could easily admire that necklace from the street and leave it in the store for someone else.
We estimated our dream life would cost $100/day, and instead of saving the full amount – $75,000–we focused on $100 goals. We were finally able to see how our daily saving and spending connected with our overall goal. This concept became known as our Phrase to Save, and we used it every single day until we reached our goal.
“Hey, that’s 1.5 days on the road!” or “We just purchased ourselves a full afternoon on a trip around the world!”
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Each payday we would celebrate our "days on the road" number going into savings instead of comparing how far away we were from the end goal. Imagining our 'number of days on the road' made the process more encouraging than it ever would have been just slogging our way to the final number.
Even now, well into our travels, we can't help but think about how many days of travel we're giving up to make any purchase outside our daily living expenses. Obviously we do sometimes, but we love it that this mantra still helps us stay on track and remember why we saved all this money in the first place.
Create Your Own Phrase to Save
Remember, the Phrase to Save isn’t there to keep you from spending money; it’s there to remind you why you chose to save in the first place and whether this option in front of you fits in with that dream.
To set up your own Phrase to Save, you need only think about a component of your dream, something you can easily visualize. It can be a ‘day in the life’ figure like ours, or it can be something concrete you need to purchase for your dream (building material for your new house, wheels for your new car, hours of learning for your education, or pages written for your new novel). Think back to when you priced your dream and how you did your research. The key is to break the number down into small, bite-sized chunks you can use every day to compare spending and keep you on track.
Our Phrase to Save: “Do I want this more than I want a day on the road?
Get creative, keeping in mind the visual has to be something easy to see and something you really want. For us, the idea of buying $100 worth of clothes—clothes we wouldn’t even wear on our travels—was ridiculous in comparison to a day of exploring the world. It was fast, easy, and powerful, and that’s what you should aim for in your Phrase to Save.
Create a Phrase to Save
Use the following questions to develop your own Phrase to Save.
What are the smaller components to your dream?
- Monetary units
- Progress units like pages in a book or hours in a degree (that can be calculated monetarily)
- Distance for journeys or athletic endeavors (that can be calculated monetarily)
Can you visualize reaching any of these milestones?
- What does it look like?
- Does it make you smile?
- Can you imagine these units stacking up in your Vault?
Is it something someone else can easily see?
- Could someone else visualize it without a lengthy explanation?
- Would you feel comfortable repeating it in front of others?
- Would you feel comfortable having your savings partner recite this to you when you’re weak?
Use your answers from the above questions to generate your own Phrase to Save. Below are some ideas to help you.
- Blatantly copy our idea and set up a ‘days to X’ for your goal
- Visualize the physical components of your dream. For a house or a business, focus on the building blocks. “This week we bought 2 doors!” or “My new business can now afford to buy me an office chair.” You don't actually buy those things right now, of course, but visualizing that you can will help you continue saving until you do.
- Set up your dream in stages. If you want to write a book and your dream is to save enough money to stop working while you do, map out how long it will take you to write a chapter or a page and the equivalent living money you need to do so. You'll be really jazzed as your novel takes shape over time (“I've saved enough to write 57 pages; the plot thickens!”)
If you have trouble coming up with your Phrase to Save, recruit your friends and family to help. The important thing is to find a visual image and smaller number that you can easily reference in your daily life. Without it, you’re climbing up a very big hill with no handholds along the way. You’re going to get tired.
So, what is your Phrase to Save?
Authors Warren and Betsy Talbot help people turn their life dreams into reality. After 20 years of playing by the rules, they charted their own path to achieve their dream of traveling the world. Their books include "Dream Save Do: An Action Plan for Dreamers." Visit www.marriedwithluggage.com for more information.