Redefining travel: 7 tips to help you travel when you have a mortgage and a job

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So here’s the situation: you’ve bought a house and now you have a mortgage. You’ve probably decided that life is now pretty much over and you’ll never get to fulfill your dreams of being a traveller.

So not true.

Since purchasing my house in September 2013, I’ve managed to do a fair bit of travelling. I’ve been to Sydney 3 times and Melbourne once. I went back to New Zealand for a 10 day trip in 2014. I upped the ante and spent an entire month travelling around Europe last year. This year it’s been all about Asia, having spent time in Thailand, Singapore and Bali. I’ve also had friends travel to Europe, Asia and New Zealand shortly after buying their own houses.

Closer to home in Western Australia, I’ve done visits to the South-West region, primarily Margaret River and Bunbury; Karratha in the North-West (for work) and I have done a fair bit of exploring in Perth Hills, visiting towns such as Kalamunda and Mundaring and hiking along the Bibbulmun Track. I’ve even done a fair bit of exploring my own neighbourhood in the City of Armadale and discovering some really cool bush walks.

So how does one “have it all” and incorporate more travel into their life without having to quit their job or sell their house?

I have explored many places near and far - Champion Lake, Shoalwater Bay, Cinque Terre, Sydney, Wolf Lane in Perth CBD and Ngaruawahia in New Zealand
My love for exploring has taken me to many places near and far. From top-left: Champion Lake (WA), Shoalwater Bay (WA), Cinque Terre (Italy), Sydney (NSW), Wolf Lane (Perth CBD, WA), Ngaruawahia (Waikato, New Zealand).

(1) Explore your own backyard

You don’t have to travel 15,000 km to the other side of the world to “travel”. You don’t need to quit your job and put all of your worldly possessions in a backpack for a year.

If the definition of travel is “to go from one place to another, as on a trip; journey” then pretty much anything is travel.

Going to another suburb is travel. Exploring your own suburb is travel. Going to another town for a day or a weekend is travel.

Have a destination in mind, pack a backpack with a few snacks and a camera, fill up the car and get driving. Or make the most of your city’s public transport. Here in Perth, despite a few minor flaws (i.e. all railway lines lead to the CBD only), we are fortunate to have a really good, reliable railway system that takes you to some fantastic towns such as Fremantle, Mandurah, Joondalup, Guildford and further out of the metro area to places such as Northam, Serpentine and Bunbury.

I am a huge fan of local travel and developing an intimate knowledge of wherever I call home. So often we get so fixated on doing huge trips to other states or countries, without realising just how much there is to do in our own area. Plus I love being the go-to person for ideas of things to do and places to visit locally.

If you want to explore your own suburb, I highly recommend visiting Weekendnotes – particularly if you’re based in Australia, although the number of articles for cities in the UK are slowly growing. After trawling through this site, you’ll be astounded by just how much there is to do in your town or city. (Shameless plug: I’ve actually written a few articles on Weekendnotes myself, which you can check out here).

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Discovering beauty in my own backyard: Exploring Champion Lake in the Armadale region, WA.

(2) Prioritise travel

If you want more travel in your life then you need to make it a priority – both time-wise and money-wise.

Time-wise, if you want to make the most of your weekends and time off work then you may need to accept that your house might not be as clean as you’d like it to be. Or you may need to spend time before or after work during the week keeping up with the housework so your weekends are free.

If you own a house that’s seen better days, you may need to be content with just getting the necessary repairs done and accept your out-dated 70s style kitchen for a few more years.For example, it took me 3 years just to get a fan installed and the ceiling painted in the main bathroom (admittedly that may have been to do with me procrastinating somewhat).

You may also need to accept that the house might take 12 years to pay off instead of 7 years. Again, it’s all about priorities. If you are really desperate to do a few big trips, then accept that it might take longer to pay off the mortgage and you might pay more in interest. If you are more desperate to pay the house off ASAP then you may need to be content with local weekend and day trips for now.

Lake Bled, Slovenia - looks like a fairytale setting
Lake Bled, Slovenia – one of those places that looks like something out of a fairytale.

Prioritising is also important when it comes to how you spend your money in general. If travel is your goal, then something like socialising should come lower on the list of priorities. In saying that, this doesn’t mean becoming a complete hermit.

As an example: say you go out every Friday night for a few drinks. Let’s say you have 3x drinks and a dinner and then catch a taxi home:

3x drinks = $30.00
1x dinner = $20.00
1x taxi =      $20.00
Total =      $70.00

If you cut down to 1x drink, dinner and a taxi:

1x drink =   $10.00
1x dinner = $20.00
1x taxi =      $20.00
Total =      $50.00

Saving yourself $20 a week, within 1 year you’d have saved $1040. That’s enough for 10 days in Bali for 2 people!

Sure people will think you’re boring being a money saver, but who will have the last laugh when they see your Instagram pictures of you sipping cocktails by the beach while they’re at home in the same old pub on a Friday night?

(3) When it comes to savings, start small and get some quick wins on the board

Some examples:

  • Buy lunch 3x times a week instead of 5x – based on an average cost of $10 p/lunch, you’ll save yourself $20 p/week or $1040 p/year.
  • Buy 3x coffees a week instead of 5x – based on an average cost of $4 p/coffee, you’ll save yourself $8 p/week or $416 p/year.
  • Change your mobile plan from a $45 monthly plan to a $40 monthly plan. You’ll save yourself $5 p/month or $60 p/year.

Look for small ways to save money – perhaps stop buying chocolate from the vending machine at work or prepare all your meals at home instead of buying take out. Find opportunities to consolidate your different insurance policies (something I need to do – I have 4x different insurance policies with 4x different companies). Take public transport or walk/cycle instead of driving.

Perhaps organise picnic lunches or potlucks with friends instead of going out for dinners. Or go for share platters instead of each person buying their own individual meal.

Your bank will thank you for it and your health might too!

Seminyak Beach, Bali
At Seminyak Beach, Bali.

(4) Make your mortgage work for you

Most mortgages offer offset and redraw facilities – be sure to check with your bank or mortgage broker to see if this is the case for you.

Offset Account: An offset account is an account attached to a home loan. The balance of a 100% offset account is taken away from the principal remaining on the loan for interest calculation. Visit this page, for more information about how offset accounts work.

Redraw Facilities: Redraw is usually available with home loans with a variable interest rate. This facility is made available to you if you make additional repayments on top of your minimum loan repayments. For example, if your minimum loan repayment is $1800 per month but you pay $2000 per month (i.e. an extra $200 per month), then after 6 months, you’ll have $1200 available which you can access without being penalised. But if you decide to keep this on your loan, then you’ll shorten the time taken to pay off the loan, and therefore reduce the amount of interest you have to pay in the end. You can read more about redraw facilities here.

Because I have redraw facilities available, I use my mortgage as a savings account. In addition to my minimum monthly repayment, I’ve set up an automatic payment so each month I have a certain amount of my salary going on my mortgage as savings. This way I’m not having to pay tax on any credit interest I would have earned had I used a normal savings account. At the same time I’m also reducing the amount of interest I need to pay on the mortgage. When I decide to make a redraw, my balance will go back up but I would have still saved myself from paying out for all that interest.

First time home owner at the age of 23
A home owner at the age of 23!

(5) Add your own travel on to a work trip

Where possible, add your own travel on to a work trip. For example, I spent about 4 days working in Sydney earlier this year and decided to stay for the weekend so I could go out to the Blue Mountains. I had to pay my own accommodation for the last 2 nights of my stay in Sydney, at least flights and most of my food and accommodation was pretty much covered.

I’ve got another work trip coming up in February next year – I will be attending the Microsoft Ignite Conference taking place on the Gold Coast. While only an hour away from Brisbane, it’ll still be a great opportunity to travel to and explore a new place.

(6) Be on the lookout for good deals and rewards

When it comes to looking for good flight deals, I generally go with Skyscanner – it’s very easy to use, the filtering functionality makes it easier to find flights that suit your requirements and I’ve always managed to get a better price through this site than going directly to the airline.

Another website, I’ve recently started looking at is Secret Flying, which is pretty much a collation of every flight deal you can get your hands on. For example, at the time of writing this post, there is currently a sale for flights from London to Auckland for only £507 return (i.e. $853 AUD – this is significantly cheaper than flying from Perth to Auckland). Be warned though – they do from time to time promote error fares which airlines may not necessarily honour so book at your own risk.

I’m also a big fan of frequent flyer schemes – I have memberships with Qantas, Virgin and Air New Zealand. Because I also have a Virgin mobile plan, my monthly bill payments generally go towards building up Velocity points.

If you live in Australia and have a Fly Buys membership, you can now redeem Fly Buys points for Velocity points! As someone who does a crap load of shopping at Coles and Target, I am pretty excited about this. 2000 points will get you 870 Velocity Points, so I’d look into this if you’re not already a Fly Buys and Velocity member.

(7) Take the plunge and JUST BOOK IT

If your finances are in a pretty good place and you have the money available then just do it! Book the flight, book the annual leave and you’re all good to go! Once you’ve made that booking, it will be a brilliant feeling.

Booking a trip well in advance is good because it also gives you time to save up more money. So you could have enough saved for the flight and accommodation then use the remaining time over the next few months to save up for spending money or tours.

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Hopefully these tips will help incorporate more travel into your life without thinking that you need to give up your house or quit your job. At the end of the day, travel is a mindset, not a destination. Yes, sacrifices are required, but not to the level you probably assumed before.

Do you have your own tips for those with commitments but still want to go travelling? Feel free to leave a comment and share your ideas!

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  2 comments for “Redefining travel: 7 tips to help you travel when you have a mortgage and a job

  1. Angie
    November 21, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    Also you can make the most of your annual leave by booking trips that incorporate a public holiday. For example if you have a monday public holiday you can book a flight that leaves friday night and gets you back the following sunday night, you get 9 days in your destination but only use 4 days (or 20%) of your annual leave entitlement for the year. The downside os flights around these dates may cost a little more but booking early keeps prices in check.
    Some 9 day destinations from Perth: all australian cities, new zealand, south east asia, japan, korea and the south pacific (Samoa, Vanuatu and even hawaii) have affordable flights that aren’t too long. Teaching yourself to sleep on planes buys you even more time. Ear plugs and an eyemask and good mediation techniques are a must!!!

    • November 21, 2016 at 4:39 pm

      These are really awesome tips Angie! Love the suggestions for 9 day destinations from Perth!

      Being able to sleep on flights would be a huge help and it’s something I personally struggle with. I spend most of my flight just sitting there waiting to get off the plane and as a result, I usually end up exhausted. I think I’ll definitely start working on trying to get more rest during flights! 🙂

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