{a college gal traveling on a ballin’ budget}

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dena vanlengen

For many of you my age (in your 20s), you’re ballin’ on a budget.

I have a comical story to start this off. A few years ago, likemost 18 year olds, I was determined to get out of my house as soon as I graduated High School. After not winning the argument that I needed an apartment with my father (you were right, pops), I ended up settling with a small, old as dirt, bathroom-sharing (yuck) dorm room for the first semester of my college experience just to have freedom.The next semester, I ended up moving into my sorority house, living with one of my best friends and not going to lie, I had a fun while it lasted. I spent all my money that I earned at my minimum wage retail job, ordered pizza (freshman 15 is real, y’all) whenever I wanted, went wherever I wanted… but guess what? Nothing was as good as home was. I missed my mom, I went home every weekend to “get my mom to do my laundry,” I missed my king size bed (uhhh who would ever leave that) and surprise, I decided to move it on back home.

Moving home was one of the best things that ever happened to me. Some may think I missed out a little on the college experience, but I think that’s totally wrong. I’ll be the first to say I lived that college experience up, trust me. I just traded it in for other experiences. For any of you getting ready to go off to college locally like I did, I would sit back and think about it. (I’m a homebody, but we can talk about that in another blog post hehe.)

Moving home came with benefits. Moving back and seeing my mom everyday was the greatest thing ever, but so was finding something I am totally passionate about now, the chance to save my money for something other than pizza…. TRAVELING. (Spain is on my list, Lauren!)

I never would’ve imagined at this point in my life, I would be traveling. I had always wanted to, but I thought it wasn’t possible. The opportunity first came to me when I started dating my boyfriend a year ago. Growing up, we lived in the same neighborhood. I linked back up with him on Facebook, he sent me a message, we went on a date, I really liked him and he told me he was moving to Europe… haha. But, there it was – my door to experience the world through him!

We can save that story for another blog post as well, so back to ballin’ on a budget. When he went off to Europe I was sitting in my room like, “HOW AM I BUYING A 1,000 DOLLAR PLANE TICKET! What kind of joke was God playing on me!? I meet the guy for me and he goes 5,000 miles from me!” (Hahaha sometimes I can’t blame him, if you’re reading this, I appreciate you babe.)

But now, as I sit here writing this post, it wasn’t a joke at all. I’ve had to teach myself this, and I’m not going to lie, I forgot about it for a while… But God has a plan for you, whether you may or may not see it at the time, just wait it out. With this move across the world on behalf of someone that I knew was right for me the first time I looked at him, my opportunity to experience life-changing cultures came with it. It’s actually very much so a win-win.

Recently, I’ve been to England and Germany and I had the best time of my life. It opened my eyes and gave me experiences that are far more valuable than any dollar amount exchanged for them. I’m anxiously waiting for my trip back to London in the beginning of June, and planning more for 2017.

So, how do you do it? How do you do it when you’re struggling to make ends meet in college? Living paycheck to pay check is rough, I know. Luckily, I have the world’s most supportive parents so they help me here and there, but not with everything, so here is what I do.

1. You have to work (work work work work).
Picking up more shifts at your minimum wage job might make you want to drop dead, but will you feel that way when you’re standing in front of a castle in Germany? I sure didn’t. I worked my behind off to afford these trips, and I don’t regret one single hour doing so.

2. Don’t buy every cute thing you see. It’s hard, I know.
I have an insane calling for anything that sparkles and any thing cute I think I might need to wear with my Nike running shorts. I cut back on my spending habits on things that I didn’t actually need, and wow…. The amount of money left over.

3. Stay in on the weekends. What?
I like to watch Netflix with my dog on the weekends, but that’s not how I always was. I traded in going out to eat on weekends for hangin’ out at home. Instead of buying dinner and spending money on an activity, I spent it on a day skiing the Bavarian Alps.

Those three things are all it took for me to buy two round trips to Europe in the last 6 months. Imagine what you can do! Trust me, it’s not that bad not being at every event and having every t-shirt your sorority is selling… Especially when you’re stepping off that plane in another country.

I’m encouraging any of you reading this to pick a spot on a map that you want to go and start a savings jar. Save your money and add to that awesome life of yours. Let the travel bug bite you.

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine


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  • Yvie
    May 16, 2016 at 3:24 PM

    Thanks for the tips of wisdom Dena!
    There really isn’t anything better than that King size Bed.. LOL
    I think we all think the grass is greener on the other side… until we make it there and get a wake up call. Your post was definitely insightful and I do appreciate the savings tip.. and the idea of pointing out a place on the map to save for.. <3