Graduating from college and being slammed with bill after bill is the wake-up call every young adult dreads.
We gallivant around our respective campuses, forgetting that in less than four years, we will be bombarded with responsibilities and less energy to do anything other than nap in our free time.
We dream of the day we'll make enough money to do whatever we want, whenever we want. We know deep down we're likely to live paycheck to paycheck when we first graduate. We know a majority of us aren't going to start off our careers making six figures.
Yet, we continue to imagine a life of luxury.
I don't know about anyone else, but my life is a far cry from luxurious. I don't make a ton of money, so each month I have a certain amount that goes toward certain expenses. I use the money that isn't “assigned” for weekend trips and other vacations.
Being financially independent of my parents was a major change. Sure, throughout college I paid for my own alcohol and used my own money while impulsively online shopping, but I still felt like I needed permission to purchase anything.
I didn't, but I felt like I did.
I knew my parents were going to hold me responsible if I got myself into a hole of debt (apart from my student loans), but I never went crazy.
Now that I'm making more, I've decided to use my extra cash on trips. I've made sacrifices to enjoy trips to places like Nashville, Turks and Caicos and Florida.
Here's why I don't regret it:
1. It's forced me to sort out my priorities at a pretty young age.
People have seen my photos from trips and told me they wished they'd traveled this much when they were younger. I've heard plenty of jokes that I must be lying about how much I make.
In reality, anyone can afford to travel: It just depends what your priorities are. If you're the type of person who likes to go out to bars every Friday and Saturday night, you can sacrifice those nights and save enough for a weekend trip to New Orleans.
If you find yourself online shopping when you're bored at work, block those sites from your computer. After some time, you could have enough saved up to stay at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico.
2. The memories are worth far more than a material object.
While buying or receiving gifts, I prefer experiences over material items. Take me to a concert, plan an entire day to spend with me or send me on a trip.
Clothes will go out of style, gadgets will become obsolete and trinkets will create more clutter.
When it comes down to it, the trips I've gone on have given me longer-lasting memories than most material gifts I've received.
3. It provides me with a fun way to learn, especially now that I've finished school.
During my time in school, I've never admitted to liking learning. I'm not even positive I knew I liked to learn at that time.
Now that I've grown up a bit, I recognize I love to learn new things. I like to think I'm more curious than a typical 24-year-old. I'll watch documentaries and read articles to expand my horizons, but it's much more interesting to learn through travel.
Sure, I can read some books and look at pictures of Germany, but I'd learn a whole lot more by being there.
I'm more curious than ever when I travel outside the country. I love exploring the more local areas.
I don't want to see the tourist version: I'm there for the full experience. The more I can immerse myself in another culture, the better.
4. I'm proving if I can make a trip work with my salary now, I'll have no excuses in the future.
Traveling is going to be a huge part of my life until the very end. I will continue to make room for it in my budget, so it gives me something to look forward to at least once a year.
I'm not living lavishly, and I'm not ready yet to live on my own. BUT I'm willing to make sacrifices anywhere I can to book as many trips as possible.
At this point, I hope my salary won't go anywhere but up. If I've gotten the hang of living within my means already, I should have no problems in the future.
I used to be the type to excessively shop, drink and eat out. Now, I've gotten into the habit of buying necessarily, going out for drinks once in a while and eating meals at home.
If you're looking to travel but think you can't afford it, take a look at your expenses and decide where you'll be willing to sacrifice. You might be surprised at what you can save.