It had been a year and a half since I had graduated from college and I was working my second busy season, when I was suddenly struck with a desire to see my college roommate again. I hadn’t seen her since we graduated. She had moved to South Korea after graduation to teach English to high school students. I sent her an email saying that I would be coming out in May after all the crazy audits and taxes were done and decided I would find a way to save up for the trip by then.
One way that I was able to save money was by not doing any excessive shopping or eating out. This was easy for me since I was working 55-65 hours a week and didn’t have much energy when I did have free time. Buying groceries for meals does take a little more planning but it definitely saves a lot of money. Even if you just shop the pre-made lunches at the grocery store, it’s still cheaper than hitting up a restaurant over your lunch break. And it’s easy to resist buying a cute purse when you can think about how much fun you’re going to have exploring a foreign country with your roommate.
Being an accountant, my firm offered bonuses at the end of tax season for people that really put in the extra time and effort. Knowing that it could help me with my travels, I was sure to be as productive as possible with my job. I only got the lower level bonus but it still helped to pay for part of my plane ticket! I was also lucky that my plan to travel came before I had done my taxes that year. Even though I didn’t own a house and itemized deductions I still received a small refund that paid off the other half of my plane ticket.
I was also sure to tell my parents my exciting news of traveling abroad on my own. Of course they were concerned that I was safe and I spent a great deal of time assuring them that I could handle to 22 hour plane flight on my own. In return I also got some money from my parents and other relatives who were more than happy to help a poor college grad out. It helped that they all knew my roommate from all the holidays she had spent with us during college.
My roommate and I planned the trip in advance. Thankfully, she had an apartment so that would cut out hotel costs for me. And we would be able to shop for food instead of always eating out. Since I had footed the major cost of the trip by flying to visit she was more than happy to treat to a meal or two when I was over there. And when we did take a side trip to Seoul we stayed in a youth hostel, which was perfectly clean and safe. Hostels are definitely much cheaper than hotels, but you do need a passport to stay in one.
Finally, a special bonus of being in a foreign country is a significant drop in expenses back home. While in Korea, I wasn’t putting gas in my car, buying groceries or cranking up the heat in my house. These all led to significant and unexpected savings.