I Saved 80K Traveling Europe While Working Remotely
Thinking outside the box saved us thousands of dollars, and you can do it too.
I hate to break it you Americans, but the USA is a costly place to live. Our taxes might not be as high as Europeans, but we pay the price in other ways. I’ll explain later. My husband and I love to travel. In 2018 we decided to forego upgrading to a bigger house and instead rented our home and put our things in storage.
We were a new family and welcomed our son in 2016. Instead of settling down, we decided to travel throughout Europe — and save 80K while we were at it. We didn’t intentionally set out to save 80K, we were a couple who wanted to travel, and the USA wasn’t inspiring us.
I’ll preface this by saying this article is not meant to brag. The information I’m about to give you can be used by many to do the same. This article is intended to inspire you and show you that if you love to travel, you can save too. It’s a story on how thinking outside the box saved us tens of thousands of dollars. It also gave us unforgettable memories we will cherish forever.
Many well-meaning family and friends were surprised by our decision. Didn’t you just have a baby? Shouldn’t you be saving? Shouldn’t you this, and shouldn’t you that — what a buzz kill.
If we had listened to outside opinions, we would have missed out on an incredible two years of travel. We also would have saved a lot less money. If saving was our primary goal (which it wasn’t), traveling was our best choice.
1. We Had Remote Jobs
We love hearing stories of families quitting their jobs to travel the world. We also didn’t have to stomach for it. The idea of quitting our jobs while trying to raise a child was terrifying. To save while traveling, you either have to have a business or a work from home job.
Finding remote work is easier now than ever. When we first started looking for remote work, it was tough to find. At the moment, we are experiencing exponential growth in that department. If anything, this could be the thin silver lining of 2020.
Facebook just announced half of its employees could be working remotely for 5 to 10 years. Twitter and Shopify will allow its employees to work remote forever. If you would like to save and travel when the pandemic is over, start looking for remote jobs now.
If you already have a job and perform well remotely, use it when negotiating with your boss. It’s also important to let them know you want to travel to other countries. Ask them to give you a trial run so you can prove yourself. Once you have a remote job — you’re halfway there to massive savings.
2. Living in Airbnbs Was Cheaper Than a Mortgage
One common misconception is that room and board while traveling is expensive. It’s not. We rented our home in the USA and made a profit out of it. This contributed to our savings. In Europe, we stayed in mostly very nice apartments close to the city center.
We stayed in the most expensive neighborhood in Valencia, Spain, and in a penthouse in Zadar, Croatia. In most of our Airbnb stays, we paid less than we pay for a mortgage in the USA. Pro tip: for long-stays, negotiate your price. Sometimes we got 50% off regular Airbnb fees.
Our utilities are always included in Airbnb stays, and this contributed to our savings. Living in Airbnbs and renting our home allowed us to save more than we would have in the USA. As a bonus, we visited amazing places like Hungary, the Czech Republic, Italy, Poland, Switzerland, and Croatia. We toured Germany, the UK, and drove through Bosnia. We lived in Spain and vacationed in the Amalfi Coast.
How’s that for a weekend getaway?
Ok, this definitely sounds like bragging, let’s move on.
3. Health Insurance Was More Affordable
Health insurance was an unexpected win. In the USA, health insurance is expensive, even if your employer provides it. If you want to pay out of pocket — forget about it. We found that European health insurance was very affordable.
When living in Spain, we bought health insurance from the best company in Spain. The man selling us insurance started negotiating a $50 plan versus a $46 plan. One had a co-pay, and the other didn’t. My husband and I looked at him with amusement.
Our family of three got the best health insurance with zero co-pay for just $150 a month. I can attest the quality of healthcare was excellent. We had all sorts of tests done and were happy with the service in Spain. I can’t say the same about the other countries we visited around Europe, but that’s a story for another time.
4. We Used a U.S Tax Benefit for “Ex-Pats”
Many people don’t know that if you live outside the USA for 330 days in any 12 month period, you don’t have to pay taxes for up to 107,600 of your income (as of 2020). It’s called the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, and it’s not automatic. You have to be aware of it and proactively apply for it.
I’m not an expert in tax law, so please consult with a licensed accountant for more information. If you feel unpatriotic not paying taxes, don’t forget the billion-dollar companies who pay zero in taxes every year. Ahem, I’m looking at you, Amazon (circa 2018).
You still have to file taxes; there’s no going around that one. You also have to pay taxes for the country you reside in. Fortunately, we never lived long enough in any one country to be locked in for taxes. This wasn’t even done on purpose. We wanted to experience many different countries in our two years of travel, so it worked out.
5. Childcare Was More Affordable
Childcare in the United States is almost equivalent to a mortgage. It’s a barrier of entry many women face when deciding whether to go back to work. While traveling, we decided to put our son in a daycare in Spain. We found one that we loved. It was superb quality and had a Montessori style of teaching. The price of the childcare was almost a third of the price in the United States. The price doesn’t take into account government vouchers.
Many women in Spain pay nothing for quality childcare. The quality was equal to if not better than the United States. I toured many daycares in Miami, FL, and without a doubt, I would choose the daycare in Spain. We saved by having more affordable childcare in Europe.
6. We Used Public Transportation
In the United States, you often have to have two cars and insurance. This expense can quickly add up. It’s also easy to get swept up in the rat-race. The newer car, better model, or bigger car can be a perpetual drain of the wallet. In Europe, we never needed a car. We lived in the center and used public transportation. We also used trains to go to different cities and rented a car when we wanted to go on a road trip. This aspect of Europe really helped us save more money.
Two years of travel and we returned to the USA with epic travel memories and an additional 80K of savings. The USA provided us with employment that allowed us this flexibility. We are grateful for this opportunity. However, living in the USA would have cost us a premium.
A survey by GoBankingRates estimated that only 42% of Americans had saved 10K for retirement, and 14% have no money saved. By leveraging our United States’ salaries, we were able to live out our travel dreams without feeling like we were draining our savings. On the contrary, our savings have never been better.
Above all, it taught us that we could do anything when we think outside the box.
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