Give Me Back My Five Bucks

Currently browsing: budget

France and Morocco: Booked!

Well, in 6 weeks I’ll be headed back to Europe – Lyon, France to be exact – for a week-long trade show with the company I work for. I’m excited to be traveling again, and am also looking forward to the vacation I tacked onto the end of the trip.

This fulfills one of my 2013 goals, which was to do one big trip this year. Originally I thought I’d be going to China, or Peru, or Nepal, or even Thailand… but it makes sense to take advantage of the company-paid flight to Europe and do something more local.

Which means, I’m going to Morocco!

I almost went to Morocco twice while living in Germany last year (once while visiting Malaga, Spain, and another was a tentatively planned trip), but in the end couldn’t justify going for such a short amount of time.

This trip will see me spend a total of 12 days in Morocco – 2 days by myself exploring Fez, and 10 days on a 12-person group tour with Intrepid Travel. I’m not really the tour group kind of person (I did it a few times in Mexico with my family, and wish I had planned it out myself instead), but Morocco is a bit intimidating for three reasons:

  1. I’m a single female traveling solo – it would be nice to travel with others and make some friends;
  2. I don’t feel like I have enough time to plan an amazing itinerary out myself;
  3. After doing some initial research, I don’t think the total cost of planning the trip myself will cost much less than if I just did a packaged tour.

To add on to #1, I’ve had a few female travelers tell me that while it’s safe to travel to Morocco by myself, I’ll likely get harassed a fair amount – even if I don’t stand out, and wear very conservative clothing. I’m okay with this, but it was a big reason why I decided to go with a tour group instead of opting for a solo trip. :)

xmsf_2013_0This trip will start and end in Marrakech. We’ll be exploring the High Atlas Mountains, checking out the Ait Benhaddou kasbah, journeying towards the Sahara Desert (including a camel expedition and camping under the stars – yes, please!), a trip out to the sand dunes, and finally traveling to a seaside town to hang out.

I think it’s the perfect mixture of adventure and relaxation – which will be ideal after a few months of stress at work. :) To start, I’ll head to Fez for 2 days by myself, then go to Marrakech and meet up with my tour group. Depending on flights, I could just end up skipping Fez altogether. But, that’s the plan right now.

All of my accommodation will be paid for with the tour, and some of my meals.

Here’s the estimated cost break-down for the 12-day trip:


$0 – Vancouver-Lyon flight
$0 – 7 nights accommodation in Lyon (# of days will fluctuate)
$60 – Lyon-Fez flight
$60 – 2 nights accommodation in Fez
$25 – Fez to Marrakech train
$1,205 – 10 day Intrepid Tour
$130 – Marrakech-Marseille flight
$0 – Marseille-Vancouver flight


$350 – 3 breakfasts, 11 lunches, 10 dinners (approx $14.50/meal)


$20 – souvenirs
$200 – excursions & extras
$100 – (general) miscellaneous & tips

TOTAL COST = $2,150

Expensive trip for sure. But I think it’s worth it. I’m not exactly sure how long I’ll be gone for in total, but I think it’ll be around 3 weeks. As for the cost, I anticipated whatever “big trip” I took this year to cost about $2500, so I’m coming in slightly under budget.

My hope is to keep this trip under $2,000 once I finalize and pay for everything. So far, all that I’ve booked is the Intrepid Tour, which will be fully paid for by a freelance cheque that I will receive this week. :) And as for the rest of the expenses? I’ll be looking to book them in the next week or so, and maybe (just maybe) I’ll be able to get away with using only freelance income to pay for the entire trip. That’s the goal, at least.

Has anyone been to Lyon, or any of the places I’ll be visiting in Morocco? Any must-sees, or travel tips?

Budgeting for freelancers

I was thinking the other day about a recent post I wrote about how I became a freelancer. I talked about the anxiety I felt not having a steady stream of income, but I didn’t talk about what I did to remedy the situation.

Last year I created monthly budgets like I normally do, but with irregular payments coming in (and no full-time salary to anchor my income), it ended up being a somewhat frustrating experience. I didn’t have enough cash flow to bridge the gap between payments, so sometimes I was caught a little short on cash. :| It would have been relatively easy to dip into my (non-EF) savings account, but with PC Financial, taking money out of a savings account takes one business day. Besides, I had to figure out a better way.

Related: When does a freelancing career take over?

After the first few months, I realized I needed a better system that accounted for income fluctuation. The first step was to project my monthly income, and there are generally two methods to doing that:

  1. Average monthly income. Add up your monthly income from the past year, divide by 12.
  2. Minimum monthly income. Take the lowest earning month you have had in the past year.

When I was working a full-time job and freelancing, I based my budget on my minimum monthly income – which usually ignored any freelance income I earned. That way, I was sure I was satisfying my budget, without having to look at fluctuating secondary streams of income to compensate my spending.

However, as a freelancer, I didn’t have anchor income (or even many anchor clients) that would provide me a steady stream of money I could rely on. So I decided to change my approach and work my budget around my average monthly income instead. Then, I would pay myself a bi-weekly salary, as if I was still working for someone else – instead of just randomly spending/saving the money as it came in. So I went back and added up my freelance income from the past 12 months, and divided by 12 to get my average monthly salary.

That made me feel really good. I knew approximately how much I would bring in each month, and I felt secure that I could meet all of my financial obligations, and still have enough left over for the fun stuff – like travel. :) But my only problem was, if I was already starting short on cash flow, how would I build up a salary base so that I could start giving myself a bi-weekly salary?

It was then I realized why I’m always so overly cautious when it comes to my money – for exact reasons like this. I had about $5,000 set aside in a savings account (my $10,000 Emergency Fund is separate from this). I took out enough to pay me a bi-weekly salary to start, and started to used that savings account as my business account.

Related: Time management for the freelancer

This was a good short-term solution, but if I were going to make freelancing a full-time career, I would have done a lot of things differently:

  • Set up a separate business chequing/savings account. I should have done it before I left, but it just wasn’t a priority (even though it should have been).
  • Stay more on top of admin work. I’m still guilty of this. I have a really hard time replying to e-mails (especially advertisers/sponsors) in a timely manner – because all I want to do is write, write, write! But when I’m my own business, no e-mail can go unanswered.
  • I would have cared more about making money from my blog. Monetization has never been a big thing for me. A lot of bloggers make a killing with sponsors and banner ads and affiliate marketing. Sure, the money would be nice. But it’s just not something I care enough about. I’d rather cultivate personal relationships with companies. That’s why I focused on my partnership with HostelBookers, and a few other smaller companies last year.
  • I would have worked harder. Okay, well maybe. Last year I worked about 25 hours/week and earned about $57k. That’s a pretty decent salary, but if I were going to make freelancing my career, I would have gone at it harder. Pursued more opportunities. Said yes to all media interviews (I said no. Often.) Worked a full 40-50 hour/week. Of course, that was impossible to do while I was traveling so much… and that’s a choice I made.
  • Saved up for a business emergency fund. The only thing that was keeping me calm was my $10,000 personal Emergency Fund. I should have had a savings account set up for my business – so that if I lost a big client (I did while I was away), I could supplement my bi-weekly income until I found a replacement income stream. Thankfully I had additional savings outside of my EF that I could use if needed.

Anyway, that’s how I dealt with money during my year as a freelancer. Like I mentioned in last month’s post, freelancing gave me so much anxiety. But, I think that if I had created a better game plan (aside from: yep, I make enough money to quit my full-time job!), I would have been more successful at being less stressed out about finances last year. :)

Freelancers – do you have any budgeting tips to share?

How do travel bloggers support themselves?

Okay, I get how full-time travellers support themselves. They get sponsorships, volunteer in exchange for accommodation, they teach English, work odd jobs, travel slowly, they sell photography and ebooks, make a bit of money freelancing or from their blog… but for those that have been doing it for years – I’m talking about at least 2 or 3 years, I’m wondering… how are they saving for the future?

Clearly this is me being nosy. But don’t you wish they would talk about their finances? In fact, not only do I wish travel bloggers would talk about money, but I wish full-time travel fashion/style bloggers would as well. Seriously. I just love reading budgets and financial reports – which is why I do monthly goals and weekly spending recaps. :)

I’m sure that some travellers out there are making it work because their careers are location independent. But what about the majority of the full-time travellers? The ones who pick up the odd job working on a farm or serving at a bar – saving enough money to get through the next few months of travel, before they have to get a job again.

Most full-time travel bloggers talk about money in the now – how much it cost them to do something, how to find work while travelling, or how much income they need each year to keep on travelling. But very few (I haven’t found any) full-time travel bloggers talks about money in the future. Especially the ones who have plans to travel the world “forever.” I want to know how sustainable full-time travel really is. Because sure, you can likely scrimp and get by for quite a while, but I don’t consider that “sustainable” because you’re essentially living hand to mouth.

Because, eventually most travellers will have to stop moving, settle down, and resume a somewhat normal life at a certain point, right? I mean, they can’t keep moving and backpacking until they’re 90, can they? How will their children go to school? What about an emergency fund in case they injure themselves, or can’t make enough money to support themselves? How will they fund their forever travelling lifestyle when they can no longer work and are essentially “retired” from the workforce?

This is something I’ve been thinking about over the past few months, and I’m genuinely curious. After spending the last year in Europe, I liked having a “home base” to look forward to coming back to after each getaway. I don’t think I could ever be a full-time traveller. While I think I made a decent living, my priorities lean too far in the other direction. I truly admire those that can make a life out of travelling, and I’m intrigued by the financial aspect behind their everyday lives, as well as their plans for the future. But the PF blogger in me wants to see numbers! Is traveling “forever” actually possible, while also saving for retirement?

Do you ever find yourself wishing travel (or fashion) bloggers would post real budgets/numbers/plans? Or am I the only nosy one around here… :)

Page 5 of 39« First...«34567»102030...Last »

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


  • Yep 2017 was a pretty good year! 1 Hiked thehellip
  • Current mood
  • Gorgeous day for snowshoeing!
  • Foggy day down by the river NewWest
  • Dreaming about warmer days and incredible hikes like this onehellip
  • Not a bad place to spend the last 5 days!hellip
  • OMG a million times yes! xoxo
  • Games and pizza just might be the perfect way tohellip

© 2018. Give Me Back My Five Bucks. All rights reserved. Powered by WordPress & Designed by Mike Smith