The Art of Saving Twenty Thousand Dollars in 90 days
Before we get into how I saved $20,000 in 3 months at a dead end job that a high school drop could get so that I had enough money to travel for a year. Let’s back up a little bit. The other day I got an email from one of you that triggered a few alarm bells about my longterm RV living travel blog. Claiming that I wasn’t sharing my expertise by telling you to do this or that, but lacking any real detail of how to.
This struck me as odd and bugged me for over a week. Until I realized she wasn’t attacking me or my travel blog. She was just frustrated at not being able to find the answers to her questions, and lashing out at the next website owner that failed to do so. She truly just wanted to learn something in an atmosphere like an apprentice sitting side by side picking their brain. A relationship that is difficult for the internet to master, but not only do I strive to go above and beyond I promise to go into microscopic detail of how I saved $20,000 in less than 3 months. But please keep in mind this is a longterm RV living travel blog with a focus on budget travel and cheap RV living. Helping others avoid common RV mistakes.
Why did I need to save $20,000?
How come I needed to save $20,000 in 3 months? The simple answer? To gain financial freedom because I hated my life and my job at that particular time. But a better answer is I’ve been exploring the backcountry of America for the last 10 years. Jumping from one adventure job to the next to support my life of travel. Which can best be summed up more as a working vacation. By traveling from one tourist town to the next absorbing the atmosphere and culture of the most iconic destinations our country has to offer. All the while working at some job that had no possibility of being anything but a short term temporary gig. And throughout my travels I’ve uncovered one constant variable in the equation of longterm travelers. Almost all of the globetrotters I have met have saved between $15,000 & $25,000 before embarking on their big trip of traveling for a year. And those that started a blog have never punched a time card again. So it’s my turn to take a shot at financial freedom, and exploring all that longterm RV living has to offer.
Reasons for wanting to save $20,000
I saved $20,000 in 83 days because I want to travel the world, but the ways I saved money can be used by anyone. To get out of debt, create a nest egg or simply purchase a big ticket item like a house or a car. The mental drive I had to save $20,000 was because for the last two years I’ve been doing nothing but simply existing to survive on a 30 day treadmill that was killing my soul.
How did I save $20,000 in 3 months?
The easiest way for me to answer how I saved twenty thousand dollars in three months is hibernation and overtime. That doesn’t help you figure out how to save $20,000 in 3 months though does it? So let’s break it down. Step by step. With full transparency on how I personally saved $20,000 in 83 days working a temp agency job in Plymouth Minnesota.
How Can You Save $20,000 In A Year?
First, most people won’t be able to do what I did because of the compromises and concessions you will have to make to reach the $20,000 goal in 90 days. Depending on your situation it might be more realistic to aim for saving $20,000 in a year. Whatever time frame you choose to pick the variables in the equation are the same.
Setting Yourself Up For Big Savings
The first thing you need to do is put yourself in a position to succeed. For me this meant I needed to find a job that paid a livable wage with unlimited overtime. Not an easy thing to do with the rising cost of living in America, but temp agencies have an unlimited list of borderline candidates that fit this bill.
Most of them will be some form of brainless assembly line type of work. Where the only requirement to collect a paycheck is simply log the soul draining time sucking hours to reach your $20,000 goal. Trust me I’m not being melodramatic here. It probably didn’t help that when I visited the temp agency I told them, “I wanted a brainless job with no customers, no uniform, no coworkers and unlimited overtime with a base wage of $3,000 a month.”
Within a matter of minutes I had my list of possible new employers. My top two candidates to reach my goal of saving $20,000 was between a CNC milling job and a warehouse food picker job. Neither of those two prospects had any appeal for a lifelong career, nor had I even dreamt of that’s what I wanted to be when I grew up.
In the spirit of full transparency I have never worked any type of factory, warehouse or manufacturer job. The only reason I am aware of the possibilities of temp agency jobs is because I have a friend who makes $80,000 a year driving around a forklift picking food orders for restaurants. Which is why I shortlisted the warehouse food picker job. I ended up choosing the CNC milling job because I didn’t want to spend 12 plus hours a day in a walk in cooler picking food orders. I was already signing up for a number of compromises. I didn’t want to add freezing my ass off for 12 hours a day to the list.
Taking the first steps to saving $20,000
I didn’t need to do a formal interview before my first day of work, or provide any proof of experience. No background checks or reference verifications. That’s not how temp agencies work. Their only requirement is pretty much verifying you have a pulse, and all I had to do was pass a drug test. Simple enough. The next thing I had to do was make sure I kept my eye on the prize. Which was save $20,000 in three months.
When it came to filling out “new employee paperwork” I pulled a money trick out of my “desperate broke traveler’s toolbox,” but before I tell you what that is I need to warn you first. What I am about to disclose will most likely have some form of punishment come tax season here in the United States. While I’m ok with the consequences I will be facing in February with the IRS you may not be. The only reason I am ok with it right now is because I have $20,000 in my pocket as a result of how I filled out a form.
How Taxes Play A Role in Saving Twenty Thousand Dollars
What the heck am I talking about? Every tax season I get a refund. Usually north of $3,000. If I claim what I am supposed to claim on my I-9 form I usually loose about 25% of my paycheck to taxes. Before I go off on a tirade of all the unnecessary government programs warranting 25% of my hard earned paycheck. And don’t even get me started on the fact that it jumps to 40% for every overtime hour worked above 12 OT hours. Here’s what I did.
To reach my goal of saving $20,000 in 3 months I needed to claim exempt from all federal and state taxes. If I hadn’t I would either need a higher paying job, work more overtime or push my goal back 30 days. I still had social security and Medicare taken out of my check because while my contributions may not be much the countries reliance of these two programs is based on day to day support. Which I am happy to oblige.
Now I’m taking a giant leap of faith here that my tax obligations in February will only be 10% of my income this year. Forcing me to hand over $2,000 in owed taxes while having the remaining $3,000 in my pocket now, but I also have some experience to fall back on. Way back in 2008 I forgot to file a W-2 when submitting my taxes. This resulted in me owing the IRS $3,000 for that mistake, and all I did was ignore it until the following tax season. When my refund was garnished to pay for it.
There may have been some tax loophole or technicality I could have explored, but at the end of the day I didn’t have to do anything to make it go away. Yes, it would have been much more appealing to fund some travel related adventure, but they got their money and I got let off the hook. So just be aware claiming exempt from payroll taxes may not be the most ideal choice depending on your situation.
However, I do know multiple people that claim a higher number of dependents on their I-9’s and then lower that number halfway through the year. For example, a good friend of mine claims 10 on his I-9 in January, and then in August request’s human resources to switch it to 1. For seven months out of the year he has less taxes taken out of his paycheck, and the last four months of the year he allows the standard 25% to be withheld. And every March he gets a direct deposit refund from the IRS. So you don’t have to go full blown exempt if you’re worried about the repercussions. I chose to do exempt because it was only 3 months, and I’m curious to see what tax season uncovers from this method. It’s either going to burn me, or give me another “broke desperate traveler money making method.” Time will tell.
What Else Do You Need To Save $20,000 in 3 months?
The second to last piece of the puzzle you need to save $20,000 in a short period of time is a free place to live. Easier said than done, but I’m not joking. You need to move back in with your parents, a friend, boyfriend/girlfriend, brother/sister, long lost acquaintance, a herd of turtles or whatever you have available to you.
How To Use Couchsurfing To Save Money Fast
If none of these are an option you can always explore websites like Couchsurfing. Where you can sleep at a strangers house for short periods of time for FREE. I met a traveler in Thailand that didn’t have a free place to stay so he would use Couchsurfing to find free short term accommodations. While he worked towards his goal of $25,000. It took him 5 months, 12 jobs and the last two months he just slept in his car with a gym membership. Were there’s a will there’s a way. Longterm travelers tend to think a bit more unconventionally though than most.
Free Housing Alternative
Couchsurfing is an amazing resource to meet some really cool people. Plus it also allows you to take “travel life” for a test drive. Before you go out and buy one way plane tickets and find yourself in a foreign country all alone. Maybe you’re not ready to rely on strangers, or that seems a bit more riskier than you’re comfortable with.
Another wonderful free housing option that gives you more control with less vulnerability is an RV! These tiny mobile homes will allow you to call home anywhere you can find a parking spot. Better known as urban boondocking. Allowing you to delete numerous monthly financial obligations while still providing the comforts of home. Better yet you can purchase a reliable RV for less than one month’s salary, and when you’re done with it sell it for what you purchased it for. A great return on your investment. Especially if you’re planning on saving $20,000 for a gap year or an international backpacking trip.
The Benefits of Cheap RV Living & RV Life
But Adam I’m trying to save money not spend money, and I’ve never owned an RV. Let alone buy an RV! Don’t worry at the top of this page is the most comprehensive RV buying guide on the internet today, or follow anyone of the links in this section to take you there. Remember when I told you this is a longterm RV living travel blog with a focus on budget travel and cheap RV living? I meant it and an RV allows you to put yourself in a position to save $20,000 fast! Anywhere in America.
If you don’t have the time to read my RV buying guide that’s ok. Here’s a quick hit list of reasons why you should buy an RV to obtain your $20,000 savings goal.
- No Rent
- No Utilities
- No Commute
- Resale value allows you to recoup your investment
- Pet Friendly
- Storage for your gear and other belongings
- Equipped with
- Living room
- Heat, A/C, Electricity & All the appliances of your current home
Why You Will Hate Vanlife
You don’t need a big fancy rig either. Check out my first RV experience, or all the RV mistakes I made along the way. The smaller the better, and I wouldn’t recommend anything to do with vanlife. If you need to know why. Vanlife is awful because it’s expensive, cramped and is nothing more than a mobile bed. To get a vanlife rig that you can stand up in with a bathroom will cost you more than $20,000, and you will have a 3 foot by 6 foot living space. If you think living in a walk-in closet that includes a bed, bathroom, kitchen and all your stuff with a 20 inch wide walkway by all means go get a van.
Instead of an overpriced no amenity having van go get yourself a $2500-$4000 RV that is under 25 feet long. You will thank me later I promise. If you really want to build something like vanlife go get yourself a 16-20 passenger shuttle bus. It’s a bigger footprint to build on. Larger payload, higher towing capacity and much more powerful engines built to last 500,000 miles, and you can find em all over craigslist for under $5,000. They are a dime a dozen.
Boondocking Is The Secret Weapon
Where do you park? To eliminate as many variables that could go wrong you should try and land a gig that is weekend overnights. Because generally manufacturer’s and warehouse employers are surrounded by other businesses that operate the Monday through Friday 9 to 5 routine. Which provides endless options to urban boondock at with nobody around to inquire what you’re doing. So the smaller the rig you have the better. I was using my 30 foot travel trailer with a 12 foot slide and 3400 watt generator that requires a minimum of a 60 x 16 foot parking spot to chase down my $20,000 in three months. Absolutely ridiculous, I know, but it’s what I already I owned.
The only incident I had was at a church that I had stayed at 6 days in a row. Lesson learned. The bigger the business the bigger the parking lot and easier to blend in, but don’t over stay your welcome. I stayed at parking lots for restaurants, movie theaters, health clubs, big box retailers and countless M-F closed on weekends, style type of businesses.
There was even a day use only recreational park nearby that worked out perfect. Work during the night. Sleep during the day and the police or local residents couldn’t tell me I couldn’t use the free public parking lot during park hours. Same with the park and rideshare lot down the road. Hotels, hospitals and strip malls during the week were also fair game. It wasn’t the ideal setup, but it was only 83 days. The first 30 days is fumbling around in the dark trying to figure it all out. Once you get into a routine than its really only 4 to 5 weeks of annoyance because once you see the finish line time flies.
How To Reach Your Goal of $20,000
The final step in saving $20,000 in 3 months is logging hours. Its mind numbingly boring. Exhausting and unbearable at times. Over the course of 11 ½ weeks I logged ten 72+ hour work weeks and one 100+ hour work week. I did nothing but work, eat and fall asleep to movies. I ignored my friends, family, blog and even my health.
I was turning into a raging alcoholic because the only way I could get enough sleep in between shifts was to drink until I passed out. I’ve deleted that sentence more times than you’ll ever know, but I promised full transparency. All this while battling a rash I got from the chemicals I was exposed too at a company that makes two commas a day, but barely pays their employees one comma a month. Unless you do what I did for 83 straight days of hell.
The Pay Scale At The Slave Fields of Protolabs
At 1.4 million dollars every 24 hours Protolabs made $116,200,000.00 in the same time it took me to save $20,000. That’s so disproportionate in today’s era it should be CRIMINAL! My base pay was $15.40/ hour, but because I was working the weekend overnight shift I got a $3.50 hourly wage differential. Making my actual wage $18.90/hr. Giving me an overtime wage of $28.35/hr. Making $208 a day during normal pay and $340 a day during overtime pay is a decent wage, but not as good as $1,400,000.00 a day!
The sad truth about it all was my coworkers were only bringing home $543.10 in exchange for a 42 hour work week. $2,172.40 a month compared to my $1,663.20 a week or $6,652.80 a month. If you added those numbers up my total comes to $19,958.40 in 3 months. That’s not $20,000 is it? And you might be asking yourself what about food and various other expenses?
Frugal People Save More Money
Your right its not $20,000, but I also worked a couple normal work weeks before I put my nose to the grindstone. Which allowed me to save more than $20,000 in 3 months. I also didn’t spend money on anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary. I paid my cell phone bill once in that 3 month stretch, and only bought gas on Mondays. Since that seemed to always be the cheaper gas day. I also only ate sandwiches, soup or $1 menu items at fast food joints. Anything I needed for the RV was bought at the Dollar Store or Goodwill. I was going to save $20,000 in 90 days no matter what it took. I was not working that job past the month of June!
Longterm RV Living
RV life embraces everything good about longterm travel, and none of the negatives of international backpacking travel. I love longterm RV living because it allows me the freedom to roam, and call any place home for as long or as short as I want. I don’t have to be selective in the gear I pack or the destinations I want to go.
I simply just turn a key and go. Figure it out when I get there. If I am short on money every town has a restaurant, and they pay cash daily. If I just want a paycheck with no accountability I just found out temp agencies are compatible with a life of travel as well.
Longterm RV Living provides an endless amount of travel options, locations, ways to make money and the ability to embark on the pursuit of happiness at your own pace through your own desires.
The Freedom You’ll find after YOU Save $20,000
It doesn’t matter your background, finances or location. We all have one thing in common, and that is to obtain financial freedom so that we can travel more. Make today the day you pursue your goals with a burning passion. Take it one step at a time, but at least take the step towards the future you’ve been dreaming about for far too long. Remember, tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone, make today the day. If you want something you have never had before you need to do something you have never done before.
My Favorite Travel Booking Resources: Most Affordable & Efficient Travel Booking Tools I Use Everyday
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. These are my two favorite “flight” search engines because they search through websites and airlines around the globe and offer a calendar view to find even cheaper flights for flexible travelers. Check out these UNIQUE destination deals or my favorite All Inclusive Booking Travel Tool!
Rent An RV
Find cheap RV rentals for your next adventure by using Outdoorsy or RVshare. These are my two favorite “RV” search engines because they allow you to rent from private RV owners, and offer a wide variety of chooses at affordable rates. Want to start making money by renting out your RV? List it with Outdoorsy or RVshare.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay elsewhere, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. Get a $40 credit for booking with AirBnb. Need to book a private campsite use my favorite RV booking site Hipcamp!
Looking For A Travel Community
Join the Escapees travel club to meet fellow travelers and talk about all things related to RVing and overland travel.
Travel Packages & Tours
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong and will cover things like transport security, crisis response and medical transports such as Life Flight. Why go on any trip without a safety net that costs less than a case of beer? I’ve been using SafetyWings for years without any issues.
My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- SafetyWings (ONLY $35 & Covers USA Travelers)
- World Nomads (for everyone below 70)
- Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
- Medjet (for additional travel insurance coverage like medical transport, travel security & crisis response)
Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and I think will help you too!
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