Erica Boles remembers when she first fell in love with travel: "I was in college and went to Los Angeles [from West Virginia]. It was the first time I really had an adventure on my own," she says. Fast forward seven years and Boles is an accomplished professional in Raleigh, NC, who has created a spending plan that serves her passion for globe-trotting. Beyond her travel expenses, Boles also puts 5 percent of income toward retirement and another 10 percent in a savings account. In short, Boles pays for what is important to her and chooses to save on things that are not. In the parlance of personal finance, her habit is known as conscious spending.
Making your money serve your happiness
While some might see expenses for travel as a splurge, conscious spenders like Boles take a different tack. "It's my outlet for stress relief," she says. "In the high-paced, on-the-go atmosphere I am presented with at work, travel provides me the outlet I need to decompress, set work aside and focus on my own well-being." Boles fuels her fire for travel through a series of financial trade-offs. When traveling, she says, "I am likely to spend more on an excursion than I am on lodging. Many times I will stay in a hostel so I have the means to go to an attraction." Although budget lodging can help keep costs low, Boles can travel once per month because she cuts costs in other areas. While Boles funnels 25 percent of her income toward travel costs, she also forgoes home cable and Internet, brown-bags her lunch and shares housing costs with roommates. (The latter alone shaves 38 percent off her annual rent cost.) "While I see the benefits in living alone, I see greater benefit in my ability to [use] that money in other ways," Boles says. Mindy Crary, a financial coach and certified financial planner practitioner in Seattle, WA, endorses this approach. "When you're really conscious about where your money goes, you're spending to make yourself happier," she says. "It transcends the idea of financial management and becomes more about quality of life management."