For years, I’ve wanted to experience all the famous historical sites in London I had only read about in books: see Shakespeare’s plays at the Globe Theater, marvel at the grandeur of the Tower of London, visit the Sherlock Holmes Museum, and go shopping at Harrods and Selfridges.
I’m fortunate enough to have a job where location isn’t a factor — I can work from anywhere as a freelance writer. But the thought of traveling for a month feels too indulgent when I know my future financial goals need my attention. I want to save up for a house, pay off my car, and eliminate my student debt. So, year after year, my quest to be responsible caused my desire for adventure to take a back seat. And there was another thing holding me back, too. Fear.
Most of my fear of traveling came from inexperience and lack of research. How could I possibly afford to pay for my life back in the U.S. and still travel abroad for an extended period of time? How could I fulfill this desire to be in London (and create all the experiences I’ve been dreaming about since I was a kid), while still accomplishing my obligations back at home?
A few months ago, I realized I needed to start living my life to the fullest. Personally, I feel the older I get the more difficult it’s going to be to travel. Someday, I may be married and have kids, and I’ll have even more responsibilities than I do now. There is no better time than the present.
I finally decided to take the plunge. Once the decision was made, I wanted to leave nothing to chance. I wanted something that could help organize my finances with the touch of a button. Instead of having so many numbers floating around in my head, I knew I needed to make a solid plan for saving, where I could see, dollar for dollar, where all my money was going.
To help with my planning process, I found a product that worked with me. The savings tools — especially the buckets tool — in Ally Bank’s Online Savings Account have a nostalgic appeal. As a kid, I used to separate the money I earned into labeled envelopes — now, I can easily label the digital buckets in my online savings account to suit my London trip needs.
Once I could access the tools, I started organizing my London budget. First, I figured out exactly how much I needed to spend on the daily essentials for my trip. Next, I created separate buckets for groceries, dining out, transportation, extras (like museum or theater tickets), airfare, and lodging. After determining these costs and separating them out, I began to realize my dreams of traveling abroad for a month weren’t as intimidating as I thought.
Every time I receive a payment for a writing assignment, I make a deposit into each of my savings goals’ coordinating buckets. When I can see my money, it’s so much easier to visualize my end goal.
I’m headed to London, and the adventure will be bigger and better than anything I have ever done. With the savings tools, it’s easier for me to accomplish my goals and stay organized. My anxiety about having enough money for each aspect of the trip is alleviated, and I have the confidence to fulfill my dream of an extended European adventure — all while still tracking my responsibilities back home.
Shannon Quinn is a freelance writer based in the Greater Philadelphia area. She specializes in personal finance, lifestyle, and home décor. To find more of her work, check out her portfolio at ShannQuinn.com.