Thursday, 14 March 2013

Modern Day Gypsy Guide: 7 Tips on How to Make Your Money Last

While in Belize with a group of MBA students, I met Vienda, self-proclaimed ‘Modern Day Gypsy’. Her life is the true essence of frugal fun. In the spirit of spring break, we invited her to share a posting on the topic of travel, fun and frugality.

Modern Day Gypsy Guide: 7 Tips on How to Make Your Money Last

I've been travelling around our pretty globe for 10 years now covering over 30 countries, with a couple of pit stops along the way; 18 months in London and 2 1/2 years in Sydney. People whom I meet along the way often ask me how I do it. I work, naturally, and have several different income streams but that's a post for another day. 

How much money you have is generally less important than what you do with that money. Travels can last much longer if you use your money in thoughtful and clever ways, and think outside of the box. Here are seven of the most poignant tips on how to make your money last.

1. Be Flexible.
Being flexible is probably the No. 1 tip I can give anyone who wants to become a traveler. That means be flexible with your plans, with where you want to go, with whom you will meet and what you will do. Leave it up to the travel gods. They will always guide you to have the best experience possible! For example, late last year I had to make a decision. I had been in the UK for a month, doing some work, and had to decide whether to stay for the winter or move on. London is an expensive city if you don't have a conventional lifestyle, and though I could have stayed and worked, my heart was yearning to go somewhere warmer. Both India and Mexico were calling my name. So I started researching flights and my decision was made for me. I found a $250 flight from London to Cancun as opposed to the cheapest flight to Mumbai in India which was $800. I saved $550 simply because I was flexible, and have been having the most incredible time in Central America ever since. This is true for so very many different scenarios. It's so important to remain open and flexible at all times when you're a modern day gypsy, as you never know when and what kind of opportunities will appear.

2. Don't Make Solid Plans.
This may seem counterintuitive for many people who haven't had a lot of experience travelling, but actually making solid, fixed plans such as hotel bookings, trips and tours may be your demise because you often can't change them if something better shows up. In many parts of the less-developed world, you won't get the best deals and experiences by booking them online. You get them by talking to the local people, making friends and connecting in "real" life. Only a couple of weeks ago I was working at the ‘Envision’ music festival in Uvita, Costa Rica. They had camping sites available for staff but I wanted more comfort (I may be a modern day gypsy but I definitely enjoy and indulge in simple creature comforts!). So a friend and I went to a local cafe and started speaking with the waiter, the owner and some other locals. Luckily my Spanish is fluent enough to make these kinds of conversations and within minutes the news was out that we were looking for a place for two people with kitchen facilities. The next day we were taken to a beautiful row of local tourist apartments, each complete with a private kitchen and bathroom, a fabulous swimming pool, hammocks, a lovely outdoor area and a five-minute ride to the festival site. We wouldn't have found this if we hadn't gotten in with the locals, and we praised and felt gratitude for our lovely temporary home every day.

3. Always Barter the Price.
This is really important. Always, always, always - ask for a better price. You won't always get it but more than often than not, you will. I do this everywhere I go because I know that my buy is valuable to the seller and that if you don't ask, you don't get. Not only did we find a beautiful place to stay in, but we also got a really good price because we asked for it. When we initially spoke to the locals about finding an apartment to rent during our stay in Uvita, we told them that we were planning to stay for 15 nights and that our budget was $20 per night for the two of us, so $10 each. We knew that the prices in the area were mostly above and beyond this unless we wanted to stay in some dodgy backpackers but we both know from experience that you generally always get what you put out to the universe. It's just how modern day gypsies roll! Because we were staying for more than two weeks, and it meant that the owner of the Cabinas had a definite income for that entire time, and we paid in cash, he was happy to fulfill our needs. The apartment we received was normally priced at $60 per night so we actually saved $600, which is HUGE in the grand scheme of things.

4. Be Generous.
This tip is based on the law of attraction. What you give out you get back, and when you're on the road there's nothing more beautiful and fulfilling than giving something to someone who is in need. Not only does it feel great, but it also has the added benefit of your generosity being reciprocated in the most unexpected ways. This may not happen directly from the people you have been generous with, but you simply never know. The amount of times that wonderful things have happened to me is countless: complete strangers offering me a place to stay, free taxi rides to airports when I ran out of local currency, a shared meal with people living below the poverty line, generous gifts of books or other things that I've needed along the road. Being generous is a wonderful attribute to take with you wherever you go, and although this act should come from a pure place without any expectation, you will find that when it is reciprocated, it will often save you money in the most unusual ways.

5. No Bills.
One of the wonderful benefits of being a modern day gypsy is that I have no bills. I don't own property, I don't have any ties, I don't have telephone, electric or gas bills. I pay for the things that I need as I go. Certainly this makes the way I care for and spend my money quite different. I'm very aware of what my expenditures are and deal with money on a day-to-day basis.

6. Stay With Friends.
After having travelled for such a long time, and having made lots of friends wherever I go, I have the wonderful opportunity to stay with friends in many places along the way. I am always so incredibly grateful for every single individual who is kind enough to open their doors to me and share their home. I always make an effort to reciprocate their kindness and hospitality by putting my homemaking talents to work and making some beautiful meals and leaving some kind of light, love and inspiration behind wherever I go. This obviously also means that I get to save on accommodation expenses which is definitely one of the biggest costs when travelling.

7. Travel Slow.
I like to take my time wherever I go. I'm not a tourist or a backpacker, I'm a modern day gypsy which means that I want to immerse myself in the place and culture that I am visiting. This means that I like to stay in one place for longer periods of time rather than move around quickly. And this can really help make your money last longer. When you live like a local, you pay local prices and you get to know the people. You can rent a place for longer periods of time at the fragment of the price of a hotel or other tourist accommodations. You learn to shop where the locals shop, prepare your own meals and live and love a more simple life. Taking your time when you travel is not only good for your pockets, but also much more fulfilling for your soul, as you get to really experience the place that you are visiting rather than just pass through it.

Life as a modern day gypsy has so many adventures, twists and turns, and how you use your money is definitely one of the important aspects that you face on a daily basis. What tips do you have to make your money last longer when travelling?

Bio: Vienda Maria is a writer, life coach and modern day gypsy. She is the creator of The Empowerment Project + the Build Your Own Business Blog guide. You can immerse yourself in her musings over at Vienda Maria, tweet her your love and joys on Twitter, as well as  join her on Facebook.


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