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We Paid Cash: How we saved enough cash to start travelling the world

We paid cash!
A testimony by Erica from Super Steals

I used to have a credit card habit–-a bad one. Before I got married, if I needed something that I didn’t have the cash for, it went on the card.

Needless to say, that habit eventually racked up a significant amount of debt. The first project that my husband and I took on when we got married was working on getting rid of that debt, or at least lowering it. Little by little, we paid off most of our cards and whittled it down to student loans. (I wish that was still true, but now we have a mortgage!)

While we were in the process of paying things down, we also decided that we wanted to save up for some exotic vacations. So, we sat down, made a list. It looked something like this: Egypt, Greece, Italy, baby.

Our plan was to go on three big trips and then start a family. My Mom is a travel agent, so finding out how much a trip to Egypt would cost was easy. Saving that amount, however, was not as easy! She said we needed about $6,000 to make it happen.

I remember feeling overwhelmed by that number. How were we going to come up with $6,000?

I turned to coupons.

In just one year, we cut our spending on groceries, dining out, and shopping so dramatically that we were able to save the $6,000 needed for the trip and about $1,500 in spending money to take with us.

Long story short: we paid cash. Yes, cash. Imagine that! No credit cards–just straight out of our bank account.

We flew to Cairo in June 2010 with a couple of friends, visited the Pyramids of Giza and Sphinx, sailed down the Nile on a cruise and spent a few days at a beach resort on the Red Sea. We even visited Mount Sinai and saw what is believed to be the burning bush. It truly was an incredible experience.

Six months later, when the holidays rolled around, we decided to use some more of our coupon savings and fly to Paris for a few days. What a beautiful city and the perfect place to spend Christmas and New Year’s with the love of my life!

We also saved another $6,000 this year and went to Greece in May. We spent 17 days touring the mainland and the Greek islands. On some days, I felt like I was living the movie Mama Mia. Greece is so rich in history and culture–and it just has this magical feel to it. I honestly did not want to leave!

We also spent a weekend in Madrid, Spain, where we celebrated my 28th birthday. That part of the trip meant a lot to me, because my great grandparents were from Spain.

Now, we’re saving for our next adventure–Italy. We plan to spend time in Rome, Florence, Venice, and Sorrento. I am so excited. We now have our couponing and saving down to a science, and it has gotten much easier than it was at first.

Yes, sometimes it’s a lot of work. Yes, sometimes I feel like giving up and just spending money on whatever I want. But I saw a quote on Facebook the other day that made a lot of sense. It said something along the lines of: “Don’t sacrifice what you really want for what you want right now.”

That quote hit home for me, because saving for these vacations–and saving in general–is sometimes a challenge. Couponing and being frugal sometimes feels like a second job. But, when it comes down to it, traveling with my husband is what I really want, and couponing made it happen.

Erica Rodriguez is a full-time PhD student at the University of Florida and part-time TV news reporter. She lives in Ocala, Florida, with husband Steven Kight and their two rescue dogs Mili and Max. She blogs at Super Steals.

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  1. Diana says

    Someone after my own heart! Traveling is a huge reason that we started this journey and so far enjoyed a wonderful trip to France. Italy is our next travel goal as well.

  2. Heather says

    So much fun! And it’s great to do some of this together as a couple before you have kids. My husband I also decided to travel to a few places before we had kids – We did Austria, Germany, France, Switzerland, Hawaii, Disney (which we have done many times since the kids too!), and London. And we have always paid cash for any vacation. Like you learned, it is a matter of choices and of course we did have two full time salaries coming in before I had kids!

  3. says

    My husband and I both went a few places overseas (well, my husband saw a lot more than I did!) before we knew each other.

    We’ve never taken a family vacation, but our dream is to take our children WITH US to see many of the things we each saw, and many that we didn’t. We both have the same ideas of our dream vacations.

    We hope one day to make it happen, but right now, we’re busy hanging tight to keep a roof over our heads. Instead of taking our family on vacations, we are busy teaching our children skills (such as sewing and cooking) and having fun with them at home.

    I would love to one day go to Europe ONE day with my husband. It sounds like you’re having a wonderful time. Good for you!

    • Heather says

      And it is fun to teach your kids how to help save for a future vacation (along with all the great skills you are already teaching them) Our kids have learned to make choices such as generic vs store brand so we can save money to apply to vacation fund. Or wait for a movie they really want to see to come out on Netflix so we don’t have to pay for the expensive movie tickets. They have even contributed some of their hard earned money. Choices I would want them to learn to make anyway but it helps them when they see a goal. I have kept a save down to vacation sheet so they could see how the saved money added up. We also have done this to save money to donate to church or missionary projects. The boys always get really excited as we near the goal little by little.

  4. Janice says

    And don’t let having kids stop you from the big trips. We took our young son (12 months) to Europe with us. It was great! We got a lightweight stroller, packed light and had a blast! I am so glad that we worked in a few more trips after he was born. A year after our last big European vacation, we had twins! So needless to say, we will hold off on that kind of travel for a while. Or at least until everyone can tote their own luggage :)

    • chelsea says

      We’ve found that traveling with really young kids (under 2) is truly the easiest thing in the world! And many times its cheaper than when they’re older, because you don’t pay as much airfare and they don’t eat the same amount as an adult. You can sleep them in a pack n play in the corner of your room too (or in a sleeping bag) so they don’t even require a separate bed. We’ve traveled overseas with our three children several times in the past few years, but my husband’s family all lives in Europe, so that is a great excuse :)

      • dolly says

        oh really…… We travelled to las vegas n LA this summer with my 2 month old…..it was much easier than i imagined…. he was sleeping all the time….i guess it wud b little difficult to travel as they grow…. Had a great trip….

      • Diane says

        My 2 yr old travels very well! She sleeps with us in the bed and we have a wrap (sling) so we can wear her whenever we walk somewhere. She is a little champ in the car seat for 10 or 11 hrs, too but I understand not all kids would tolerate it the same way. She is just very content to read books and color.

        • Heather says

          Yeah, that’s lucky. My two year goes bonkers (taking us all with him) on any trip over an hour. My three older children weren’t much better. Don’t get me started on getting them to sleep in strange places . . . .

          • guest says

            I’m glad to hear it isn’t just me! I’ve found it to be a nightmare to travel with our small kiddos. Anything over 2 hours in the car or a plane is just painful and the sleeping (or lack thereof)…just gives me hives. We’ll wait a few more years. :-)

    • Anna says

      I am glad you were able to travel well with your kids but I don’t believe that is that case for most kids. I fly regularly for my job plus I work in the health field. I have seen more miserable babies and children on flights that anywhere else. The pressure changes as the plane descends and ascends can cause pressure changes in their ears thus causing an earache. Heaven forbid the child has a cold or earache then the pressure changes can really cause the child’s ear to hurt. My impression in general is that young children do not like the changes in pressure.

      I took my 2 older kids with me when I traveled when they were young. My first flight was with my 6 week old, I got stuck in Alanta for 10 hours. No one cared that I was alone or did not have enough supplies for my newborn. Luckily I was breast feeding so I had enough nutrition. I have lots more bad travel experience with kids to share. It was not worth putting my kids through that so I leave them at home now.

      I am wary of young parents who think it is no big deal to travel with young babies and young children. Whether you are traveling by air plane or car, traveling is stressful for most people but particularly young children. I would not say don’t do it but be sure that the trip is well planned and that is a pleasure for the kids as well. I personally do not think flying for 10 hours to Europe as pleasurable if my ears hurt all the way there and all the way home either for the child, parents or other passengers. If a child cries all the way on a flight that passengers find disturbing that is the parents responsibility to keep the child quiet. How can you if the pressure changes are causing the ears to hurt in the baby or child?

      I have taken my kids to Alaska and Hawaii and the older kids have very fond memories of those trips. I planned months and months in advance to make it pleasurable. These were business trips and I took my children on a once in the life time opportunity to travel.

      I think you can take kids traveling but children who are very young they won’t really care or won’t remember Europe. So when traveling with very young babies and children try to remember that parents are doing the traveling for themselves not the kids. Later on when kids are older, they may actually enjoy traveling to Europe and remember the trip.

      I am not saying to not travel with young babies and kids but be realistic and sensitive to the little ones. Some little ones travel well and some do not but traveling is always stressful to a certain degree.

      I applaud Erica for wanting to travel before the kids arrive. I think that is wise and sensitive to your future children’s needs.

  5. Fanny says

    We have enough saved to take a big trip (or 5), but my husband is completely ANTI travel right now. When I bring it up, he insists we need to continue saving more, he can’t get time off work, our kids are too little, etc. We haven’t taken a vacation in over 4 years (despite my best pleas), and I even budget for a vacation every year. It’s hard to not be burned out when your spouse disagrees with how to spend (or not spend) your money.

    • Guest says

      Has your husband shared why he doesn’t want to travel? We had talked about a weekend trip away but my husband nixed it because it was so stressful trying to work out a schedule here we would have grandparents to watch our kiddos. I used to fly all the time but have (unfortunately) a dread of flying since I’ve had kids. My only point in bringing it up is that if there is a specific reason, maybe the two of you could come up with a good compromise.

      • Fanny says

        Yes. Sigh. It always ends up as a big argument, so I rarely bring it up anymore. I understand he’s worried about his job in the economy (they’ve had to make a lot of cuts at work). He’s former Army, so he’s more concerned about his duty than anything else. Season of life, I hope.

  6. Laura R says

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I had toyed with the idea of checking a few things off my “life list” before kids & you’ve inspired me to actually do it.

  7. Jenn Mc says

    I can totally relate. Couponing allowed my family of 3 to travel to Ireland earlier this month. No credit cards needed or used.

  8. says

    Thanks guys! Whenever I need a reminder that couponing and saving money is all worth the effort, I think about our travel goals and that keeps me going. :) I consider it practice for when I do have kids and get to spend it on them.

  9. says

    Wow, that’s awesome!! I wish my hubby and I could save that much that fast. He’s a part-time grad student and working retail part-time and I’m a 1st grade teacher. We make enough to live decently, but living near a major city with a high cost of living means a teacher salary doesn’t stretch all that far! We are saving, though, for a “pre-kids” trip to the UK. Our goal is about $7500 for a 2 week trip and have almost half so far! We’ve been married a little over 2 years and hope to have the rest saved in time for our 5th anniversary. I love traveling, so I’m praying this trip comes to fruition like yours!

  10. says

    Wow! How inspiring! We want to go to Wales (mil’s family is from there originally). We need about $3600 to fly 5 of us there plus $$ for lodging & food. We also need to pay off our credit cards (which should happen in Feb!!). I need to be more diligent with my coupon use! Our goal is to go in 2013. Reading this is the inspiration I need to keep on saving and remembering the big picture!

  11. says

    What a great story! I was quite the pre-marital traveler, and it’s the thing I most miss about my single days. Thankfully, as we’ve gotten more control over our finances, saving for travel as a family has been a priority. The single-me had NO concept whatsoever of the cost of traveling with a family!

  12. sarah says

    Really neat that you’ve been able to make those trips happen. My husband and I have always had different views on travel, so we didn’t do any pre-baby trips. His version of “Don’t sacrifice what you really want for what you want right now,” means don’t sacrifice saving for a home, retirement, kids college savings, and so on for a vacation. So we have a dull but stable life together!

  13. Andrea says

    So awesome. I miss traveling so much – I traveled quite a bit when I was single and my hubby and I took a trip with my parents to Italy for our 1st anniversary (their 35th and they paid!). Doing something big again seems impossible for us. Saving a big amount (that doesn’t need to stay in savings) isn’t possible for this life stage (sigh). We have no debt (other than the mortgage) no cable, don’t eat out much, pack our lunches, and I use coupons. We pray this is a season…and one day we can do fun things again. Enjoy the traveling for me!

  14. Heather says

    Love it! Travelling is one of my major goals. I took two European trips when I was single on a teacher’s salary in a high-cost area. I remember making the decision to switch from carton “good” OJ to frozen concentrate as part of my saving plan. Every little bit helps.
    Now my husband and I have travel as a major goal in the future. We would rather live in our modest home forever and travel than have a fancy house. However, we put the 4 kiddos first on the “list”, so we are having to wait a while to take our dream trip (husband refuses to get on a plane with all of them!). One day . . .

  15. says

    Love that Facebook quote. So true, and one I’ll have to remember! I would love to be able to save enough from sale-shopping and couponing to travel the world, but I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon for us :) I would love to visit Greece and Israel someday, though!

  16. says

    You’re my hero! My husband and I are battling debt (with my student loans being 2nd highest next to our mortgage) and we desperately want to travel before children come into the picture. Thanks for your story!

  17. Pamela says

    Awesome! I am not a world traveler, but we also had BIG goals (school-wise) before we started a family. Enjoy your time alone together! We had almost 10 years before kids, and it was a blessing. Now we have other blessings — 2 beautiful daughters, and hopefully more to come!

    Thanks for sharing your story. May God bless you and your husband.

  18. says

    Hi, Erica. You sound a lot like me. What are you studying for at the university? I studied philosophy prior to moving overseas. I am planning on touring around Europe next year. I really want to go to Egypt some day, too.

    • says

      Hi Mariana,

      I’m studying Broadcast Journalism. I used to be a newspaper reporter and later worked as a TV news reporter. Now, I take classes, teach an investigative journalism class and work part-time at a local TV station in Gainesville, Florida. :)

  19. says

    Sooo fun! I wonder how much we have to save up to travel the world with 4 kids?

    (Some of the above comments remind me of a Rick Steves quote I read ages ago re: traveling with small children: “If I’m going to be changing diapers, I might as well do it in Paris as in my hometown!”) I don’t recall him giving tips on paying for it, though :)

  20. Susan says

    Wonderful post Erica. Good for you for finding ways to realize your dreams while you are still so young.

    I’d echo other commenters in encouraging you to not let travelling and having a baby be mutually exclusive. Yes, it’s one of those “it depends” type of situation as to how resiliant children can be when travelling — some kids do better than others — but children certainly can be wonderful travellers. And as with everything else in life, they learn with practice. The more exposure they have to travelling, the more comfortable they will become with it.

    It’s just me and my 10-yo daughter in our little family, and she’s been on many trips. We go somewhere at least 2 or 3 times each year. I enjoyed travelling pre-motherhood, and didn’t see any reason to stop after she came along. We haven’t made it to Europe yet (it’s on the list!) but we have been to Asia and 26 of the 50 states.

    I’m not wealthy by any means, but living frugally allows us to afford vacations. It’s all a matter of priority for me. I could afford a bigger home in a nicer neighborhood, but choose to stay put because I prefer a modest home with a smaller mortgage in order to have money for other things.

    It’s also certainly possible to travel as a couple after you have a child. You may not want to leave an infant for a week or two, but infancy is a very brief period of time. There’s nothing wrong with leaving children in the care of relatives or close friends while you take some time away with just your spouse.

  21. Lauren says

    Traveling is our favorite! We’re decent at the saving part, but I need you to write an article about how to get that kind of time to travel! :) We’re taking a 3 week trip this year to S America, but we know it might be once in a lifetime because it’s such a big deal to get off of work for so long…the USA needs to take a hint from all the other countries who have so much time off!

  22. Anna says

    I love to travel. I traveled extensively before my kids. I traveled with kids but that was not so pleasurable so I waited until they were older to take the older ones with me on business trips.

    Now we take short 1 day trip and occasional overnighters but that is all that fits in my budget for costs of traveling. I probably will not be able to travel extensively ever again until kids are grown and gone. I do miss it but I love my kids more and so I am content with what I have :).

  23. Lee says

    I’m a gville local and thought Erica looked vaguely familiar. Saw her this morning on our local station giving coupon tips. Way to go, and way to save for something cool

  24. says

    Oh, we got married at the Hilton Sorrento Palace in 2005 then spent some time in Rome, Florence and Paris on our 3 week honeymoon. What fun. Roma was my favorite place to eat out of all the places we’ve been and the gelato is oh, so yummy!

    I love that quote and it’s so very true. Keep on couponing because Italy is a fantastic place to visit!

  25. Jessica says

    I love Sorrento and hope to someday have a vacation home close to that area! Even my husband is getting on this bandwagon.

    Hope you have a wonderful time!

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