Give Me Back My Five Bucks

Spending wisely and experiencing more

Before I decided to quit my job and move to Europe, I had three rules that I knew I was going to follow:

  1. I will not incur any debt because of this trip.
  2. I will not take any money from my Emergency Fund (unless it’s an actual emergency).
  3. I will not sacrifice my savings goals.

And while I know that living in Europe for 7 months is going to be (and has been so far) an amazing experience, I’m surprised at how many comments and e-mails I’ve gotten from people (and even friends in real life) who have suggested I take on debt, or dip into my savings in order to travel and experience more. It seems like some people think because I’m budgeting, and because I’m conscious of every dollar I spend, I’m somehow depriving myself of experiences and enjoyment. And that’s just not true.

In my early 20’s when all of my friends were going backpacking in Europe, I didn’t go because I had too much debt and couldn’t justify going into more debt. I don’t regret it, because I’m now getting the same opportunity they had. The only difference is, I’m debt-free, and I am much more financially stable than I once was. It was the right decision for my life then, and how I’ve decided to tackle this 7-month adventure in Europe is the right decision for me now.

As for taking language lessons, we’re still going to do something to try and learn German. But maybe lessons at a school isn’t the best option. $525-660 (€400-500) total for the both of us is a lot of money, especially just for 10 lessons. The only way to pay for the lessons would be to dip into my Emergency Fund or my savings account for taxes – and I’m just not willing to do that. Language lessons of some sort are definitely a good idea, but if we can’t afford them, then it’s clearly not responsible spending – no matter how important they are. The money has to come from somewhere. So maybe we’ll cut out a weekend trip in order to afford it, or try for a less expensive option.

Somebody commented: “what is the point of this experience if all you do is walk around and look at things?”

What’s wrong with walking around and looking at things? :) The great thing about travel – much like personal finance – is that we all do it differently. Some people will want to spend their money on food, or culture and the arts, extreme adventures, or shopping … there is no right or wrong. When we travel, neither of us has ever said “I wish we had the money to do X.” If we want to do something – like take a day trip to Chamonix, head to Amsterdam just for a concert, ride the ferris wheel in Paris, drink beer all night, or buy too many macarons and chocolates, we’re going to do it.

This might not be your ideal way to see Europe, but it’s how I’ve always envisioned traveling this continent. And I’m glad that Nic is the same kind of traveler as me. We both agree that our goal is to spend wisely in order to see to as many places as possible. Even though we aren’t spending a lot of money, I never feel deprived of anything.

Europe is not a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and being here is not worth sacrificing my financial wellbeing. Especially when I’m also trying to make it as a freelancer. I’ll be back to Europe again – that’s something I know for sure. And while traveling is something that I love and am passionate about, it’s not (and has never been) my number one priority in life.

Author: Krystal Yee

I’m a personal finance blogger and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I’m a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I’m not working, you can usually find me running, climbing, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.


  1. Modest Money says:

    I really like your responsible approach to traveling. If you can manage an awesome vacation like that without going into debt, all the power to you. You’ll be much happier about the experience when not faced with a big chunk of debt to pay off for the months afterwards. You’re right that you can always go back some other time and experience some of the other things that might’ve been out of your budget this time around. Since there’s so much to see and do, there’s not much point in rushing to do it all the first time around.

  2. Laura says:

    Like you said there is no right or wrong way to travel and it seems like you and the BF are having a great time :) In the end this is all an experience and I think you’re doing an amazing job of making the most of it!

  3. Marianne says:

    Great points! Also- the fact that you are not taking on debt to fund your trip means that you will be able to go back when you like whereas if you loaded yourself up with debt for this trip you’d have to spend a huge amount of time back home paying it off and probably lose out on other opportunities.

  4. Frugal Fries says:

    I think you are doing this perfectly. Plus, what the heck is wrong with walking around and “staring at things”? I would be quite content to do just that or even less.

    You are right in that it all boils down to priorities. I get some flack from friends too because of my financial choices, but you just need to keep your eye on the prize. You don’t really seem to be phased easily, so keep up the good work!

    In regards to the language lessons, maybe you could find someone to do a swap with. They’d teach you German in exchange for you helping refine their english. I did this when I lived in Ottawa with French, and it was free! I found it through an online classified forum.

  5. Good for you! Europe, like you said, will always be there. And I didn’t get the impression that you weren’t doing ANYTHING while you are in Europe… did those email folks read anything about your trip recaps?! ;)

  6. Mike Holman says:

    I wouldn’t bother with formal language lessons at this point. By the time you get anywhere with them, it will be time to return to Canada.

    Have you considered just trying to learn a bit from the internet? Maybe youtube has some tutorials on how to say certain common phrases.

  7. Leigh says:

    One of my favorite ways to travel is to just walk around, look at cool things, and hang out in coffee shops :)

  8. DebtnTaxes says:

    If you are having fun on your travels who cares what anyone else thinks. Everybody does stuff differently, if we all traveled the same way I think it could get pretty boring. I personally like walk around and look at things when I travel. Keep on having fun.

  9. Kay says:

    Very true, Every one enjoys travel differently.

    You may want to look into Pimsleur or Rosetta stone language learning audio CDs. You can also check your libraries the local German one for these audio CDs. I know the GTA libraries have online download section where I see a lot of language-learning downloads. You can probably access your Vancouver library’s online download section, even from Germany.

  10. I really enjoy walking around and just soaking up the environment. I hope you plan on taking a few pictures and sharing them with us soon. Have a great time!

  11. I did a semester in England and spent every weekend travelling across Europe. I also did it on the cheap (in terms of staying in hostels), but definitely spent too much in the pubs.. I’ve got a travel budget going now, though, so I’ll be far more responsible next time I’m there.

    Have you considered adding a picture tab to your site, or is that where Pinterest comes in?

  12. Allison says:

    I think you are being smart and responsible. The right thing to do is to stay on budget. So many people today are not paying Ttention to their money and one day they loom around and don’t have any. Plus. You are flipping living in Europe! You are seeing and learning so much!

  13. Squasher55 says:

    Hi Krystal,

    Good for you. I am 40 yrs your senior, and have a reasonable amount of money….but my wife and I travel the same way that you do, and we enjoy our own style. OK.. we do not stay in hostels, but we do enjoy our travels in a frugal way. And when we get home….we can easily start making plans for the next trip. So will you.

  14. Anonymous says:

    As a reader of your blog, I’ve noticed a common trend that pops up every now and then. Stop caring about what other people think of you and what you do with your life. To have a public blog is to embrace that fully. You come off as very defensive and righteous when you try to explain why you do the things you do. That righteousness feels like a turn off – especially how its demonstrated in your language. It comes off like you are better than everyone and that you’re just as judgmental as the commentators who disagree with your view, i.e. “the only difference is, I’m debt free”. It’ll do you wonders if you just do what you do in your own life and don’t worry about naysayers because they will always be around. Accept criticism or additional viewpoints with grace.

    • Krystal Yee says:

      I think the point of having my blog is not to come off as “better than everyone,” but to show a different viewpoint. Most people who read this blog have a grasp on their finances, or are looking to change – but there are those that come here just starting out. I think it’s important to show discussion, because there’s no point in having a blog and allowing people to comment if I just ignore them and don’t reply because their viewpoints differ from mine.

      As for the comment about being debt free, I was referring to myself (then and now), and not comparing myself to the financial situation of any of my friends. We all make different choices with our lives and with our money – there’s no judgement towards my friends who went traveling at a young age. I was just saying how I wasn’t comfortable doing something like that, and how I feel much better now traveling at an older age, knowing that I’m debt-free and don’t have to worry and stress about how I would pay for my trip.

  15. I find it hard to believe that although you live in Europe people still give you a hard time. Does not make sense to me.

  16. Bridget says:

    I just paid $370 for 10 German lessons, so I’m surprised you didn’t spring for the same thing even though you’re living there and I’m probably only going to visit for about 2 weeks!

    But I get you on the travel-around thing. I HATE how everyone tells me I “should have” taken the opportunity to travel about to other countries when I was in France. Nevermind that I didn’t even really want to see any other countries while I was there, but everyone always does that thing where they insist “you might never get another chance!” and “travel is soooo valuable!” blah blah blah. I was too cheap to even take the train to London for a weekend =\

    I’m also with you that I’m so glad I waited until after my undergrad degree was finished to travel. I’m still getting the opportunities to see the world like my friends did 3 years ago, but I feel like my experience is a lot less stressful because finances are no longer a tremendous concern.

    • Krystal Yee says:

      Good for you for taking lessons! We’re still debating about if/when to take lessons. We won’t be around much in April (traveling for 21 days in the month), so we wouldn’t be able to start until May. When are you coming to Germany, and where are you going!?! :)

  17. Never been to Europe, but sounds like an interesting place. I’m not as passionate about traveling as you, but sometimes I wish I was ( ̄ー ̄)

  18. I commend you. Anyone that says otherwise is a sucker.

  19. og says:

    I love walking around when I travel. Maybe you can trade English lessons for German lessons. that would be a great way to meet locals.

Leave a Reply

Buy the Book!

A beginner's guide for Canadians looking to get their financial life in order. Get great info on budgeting and saving, RRSP's and pensions, investing types, insurance, and where to go for additional resources.

Recent Tweets


  • We decided to check out pivanewwest this evening  thehellip
  • Loving this gorgeous Christmas tree at the vanartgallery!
  • We took Zoey to pawspetcentre this morning to get ahellip
  • Fanciest avocado toast Ive ever had! Nice catchup lunch todayhellip
  • What an amazing weekend at the Canadian Personal Finance Conference!hellip
  • Current mood
  • Yep 2017 was a pretty good year! 1 Hiked thehellip
  • Games and pizza just might be the perfect way tohellip

© 2017. Give Me Back My Five Bucks. All rights reserved. Powered by WordPress & Designed by Mike Smith