How I Saved $7K in 7 Weeks to Move Across the World

On my 26th birthday, it hit me that not only had I managed to stay ten years in a city I’d only planned on staying in for two years, but that I would also soon be aging out of some of the Working Holiday Visas that are available to me. For some reason, being even one step on the other side of 25 felt very much closer to 30.

So, like any other privileged young Canadian would, I decided to run away to Australia. There was just one problem — I had been living rather extravagantly in my one bedroom apartment in downtown Vancouver, and had about $100 to my name after all the bills were paid. I was more than a little shy of the $5000 the Australian government requires you to have in savings before they’ll let you into the country on a Working Holiday Visa, plus the $500 it costs just to apply for the visa. Thankfully, with a lot of determination, and nearly no social life, it’s possible to save up more than one needs to fund a move like this.

Take Stock

If you don’t already, tracking your money is the first step to saving it. I was already using the app Mint to track all of my expenses so it was a quick next step to set my $5500 goal with a pretty picture of the little houses on Brighton Beach to keep me motivated.

Clear Out and Shack Up

It only took a mean side-eye glance at my account to see my biggest expenditure was easily my beloved apartment. After putting it out to the universe (and my more networked friends), I organized a room to sublet, 13 blocks north of where I was living in East Vancouver. While it helped that the roommate I’d be living with was a good friend and awesome person, subletting the room also meant changing my monthly rent from $1200 to $675. It was very hard to argue with passively saving $525 per month, so I started the process of selling all of my furniture and appliances.

After a full KonMari condo cleanse, I took several bags of clothes to my favourite consignment shop, sold all my skis and tennis rackets and was left with a carload of belongings that was later cut down again. Combined with the return of my $600 damage deposit, selling all of my replaceable world possessions netted me an extra $1000. My total savings from moving out and shacking up were $3300 over the course of the fall, meaning this alone saved me a whopping $4300.

Cut Commuting Costs

I’ve been lucky to live in a city like Vancouver, which has a pretty decent transit system with the Skytrain lines. At $2.10 per trip though, my commute was adding up to $21.00 per week. So I literally dusted off my bicycle and started biking to work. It’s also worth noting that I got to work faster than I ever did taking public transit, and this saved me $147 over 7 weeks while making sure I got a twice daily workout in the mix.

Get an Extra Job… or Three

I admittedly went a little overboard with this one. I already had a great job that paid me decently, but I decided to double down and get a few more. In addition to my 9–5 office gig, I started working a few evenings at a retail store near my office, and picked up a weekly shift moderating a recreational soccer league.

Adding a bit more freelance work meant very little time for a social life, but guaranteed supplemental income. Social lives cost money anyway, and with no time for drinks with friends, I spent nearly no money going out on the town.

As it got closer to the winter, the retail store I was in went into holiday hours, which meant I jumped from an extra 8 hours of work per week to an extra 30 some weeks — meaning I was temporarily working 80 hour weeks. I was tired, but I was making money. When you know there’s an end date, you’d be surprised how much you can work without hitting the exhaustion wall.

Meal Planning to Save my Life

With a schedule this busy, I was having a hard time eating and drinking enough to keep me standing at the end of the day. Eating out downtown in Vancouver means you’re spending at least $12 on a meal, so Sunday evenings became reserved for meal planning. I was only eating out once or twice a week, but at $30 per week, cutting down on dining out meant saving $210 in those 7 weeks.

Each week, I would make five protein smoothies and granola yogurt breakfast cups to refrigerate, along with two meals to alternate for lunch and dinner. Freezable chilli, enchiladas, burritos, and soups became my best friends. Though truth be told, I don’t know if I’ll ever be inclined to eat chilli ever again. This and making a giant batch of coffee at home every morning saved me precious time during the week, and kept me fed while saving me money.

Say (a Temporary) Farewell to Fun

It’s a sad truth, but if you want to save any money, you’ve got to be exceedingly cautious about your recreational spending. My weak spots have always been wine, eating out, and weekend surf trips. Camp sites, gas, lift tickets, bottles of Malbec… it all adds up to not travelling further than Vancouver Island. So unless it was in the neighbourhood of home-cooked meals, I learned to say no to all of the fun, and it paid off in a very big way.

The Pay Off

Departing YVR January 2017, destination: Australia.

Six weeks into my saving extravaganza — and one week earlier than I’d anticipated — I sat in front of my computer and filled out a form for Immigration Australia confirming I’d committed no war crimes, and watched in relief and joy as my visa application status refreshed from ‘submitted’ to ‘granted.’

At seven weeks, my savings account had $7000 in it, $2000 more than I had needed to enter the country. Even better was knowing that I had additional 3 months to save before I left, so all of my additional expenses like flights, travel insurance, and rent until I left weren’t going to break the bank and leave me high and dry before my departure.

Whether you’re required to save for a visa, or just trepidatious about moving abroad without a bit of padding on the bank account, it really comes down to priorities. The more it means to you, the more quickly you’ll hit your goal numbers. For me, the pay off is a beautiful life in the land down under, where I’m glad of every sacrifice and hour worked it took me to get here.