People have since asked me how I was able to afford my trips knowing that I only work a regular job in the BPO and I have no known business or sponsors at all.
I must say it is not easy. Local traveling is more affordable, but doesn’t always mean it’s not expensive. First, expensive is subjective. What one says is inexpensive doesn’t mean it’s the same for everyone. Hence, my story.
I started as a really budget traveler – I bring along cup noodles, cupcakes, bread, so that I can afford a decent accommodation (I’ve never shared a space in the room with strangers yet – something that’s worth trying but has not occurred to me) and at least comfortable enough local tours.
Why, even when I had the chance to go to Balesin in October 2013, my friends and I have agreed to bring bread and other snacks because we couldn’t afford a thousand pesos a meal for the entire weekend, knowing that we already spent for the chartered plane.
Through time, especially with Mary along, my perspective in planning a trip has changed. Food cannot be compromised. It depresses her to have to go to a far place (any place actually) and find below average food, or to know that she went the 6-hour trip and eat cup noodles for dinner.
So, if my money goes to the trips and food-trips, how do I save up for it? For one, I am not a rich kid born with a silver spoon. I do not have a 6-digit paying job, and I do not own businesses (yet). But here are some hacks to score those trips without running bankrupt.
1 – DISCOUNT
In the months leading to our China and Japan trips, I shop for anything discounted. Discounted shirt, on-sale neck tie, buy one get one trousers. Who would know they were on sale? And more importantly, who would care?
When we were in Japan, I was able to buy an iPhone 4s 16Gb pre-loved for only PhP 4000. Score the same at any Book Off branch just like the one below.
2 – COUPONS
There are tons of websites that offer coupons and vouchers. I am a fan of deal grocer. They sell vouchers of restaurants and hotels that are normally not available in metrodeal and ensogo.
But what I like about Metrodeal and Ensogo is that, you’re almost certain you’d find anything you need there. From household items, to food coupons, to gadgets.
I bought vouchers to the Bengal Brews cat cafe from Metrodeal to try the place out, and it wasn’t a bad deal.
All you need is to create an account, pay with your credit / debit card or over the counter at hundreds of 711, Robinsons, or Bayad Centers near you.
Utilize AirBNB when booking for accommodation, or in our Beijing trip, Mary and I only spent less than PhP 7000 ($150) for 3 nights at a Days Inn Hotel, just 5 minutes’ walk away from the Forbidden City, thanks to agoda.com. We paid it using a prepaid debit card that I bought only for that purpose.
3 – AIRLINE LOW FARES
Believe it or not, I scored a RT ticket to Hong Kong for only less than PhP 3,000 ($65) in 2014. The key is, to buy while it’s on sale, which is usually months from the actual flight. In my case, it was about 7-9 months from the flight date. My first Japan RT ticket only cost me less than PhP 7500 ($163) and the second one is even less at a little more than PhP 6000 ($130).
Our RT ticket to Beijing only cost us PhP 4300 ($94). Again the key is book ahead, and make sure that you’re always updated on the seat sale dates of our local airlines.
Set up an account with Cebupacific and Air Asia (both have known seat sales) and make sure you have cash ready when the time comes, or if you have a card, make sure it can accommodate the amount. Don’t worry though if you don’t have a card, just like what I do, I put the tickets on hold by buying them online and promising to pay within 24 hours at their partner payment centers.
4 – PRIORITIES
It is one of my ultimate goals to see the Les Miserables here in the Philippines and when they finally had a schedule sometime in March this year, was the same time Mary and I were flying to Beijing. The tickets were sold in January and we were already on “budget” mode then. So yes, we had to choose one of them and it’s obvious which one we chose. We could have afforded it, but then we wanted to stick with our budget plan.
5 – IMPULSE vs LOGICAL BUYING
The last time I bought myself a pair of shoes was for my birthday in 2014. A pair of gray Lacoste sneakers which had a 20% mark down. Even when I bought a luggage full of footwear when we were in the US last year, I never got a pair for myself (I did technically, but I gave the pair away because I wasn’t comfortable wearing it).
The last time I bought a watch was again for my birthday in 2015 in Tokyo. I felt it was only appropriate to buy me a G-Shock since we were in Japan. The list goes on. My iPhone is 2 years old and has ended its contract but I didn’t go for re-contracting (yet) even as the iPhone SE just came out. My 5s still works fine and that’s enough reason not to upgrade.
My Gopro Hero 3 is also old, it’s almost 3 years old. No need to upgrade too. Maybe a few accessories here and there but that’s about it.
6 – SACRIFICE
You can’t have everything. There were things that have taken the backseat because of my traveling. My father has asked me on end where my money goes and what I get out of traveling, I just smile every time I hand him my pasalubong. Fathers will always advise. Children will always pretend to know better. =)
7 – SUPPORTIVE BOSS / FAMILY
Admit it or not, even if you have leave credits, or can afford the trips, if your boss does not understand why you travel, then it’s not going to always work.
Being a trainer for a BPO means you will not always know if the dates you booked 7 months ago would fall on slack or peak periods of hiring. The key is, to let your boss know ahead of time, and then keep reminding her when the dates draw near. Of course, while you have no trips, the rule is, make them “owe” you your vacation because you work so hard when you’re at work. While my first love is traveling, I wouldn’t even be able to take those trips if I don’t earn enough from this job.
I hope this article helped you get an idea how to start planning your trip. The goal was to debunk myths about travelers being rich and sponsored. So the next time a friend or relative goes on that trip, please don’t be assumptive and demand a pair of shoes when they get home.
For all we know, they saved up their money for months to be able to afford the trip. Instead, ask them if they can buy a pair for you and then give them the money to buy you your shoes. Free shipping, because they’re carrying it for you. That works, right?
Thank you for reading!