How can we afford to travel Australia for 18 months? (And no, we didn’t win lotto!)

We’ve only been on our Australia-wide road trip for a month but already we’ve bumped into a lot of other families saying they wish they could do the same. And yet it’s the money factor holding them back – any they always have the same question – “how can we afford to travel long-term?”

But if we can do it – you can too! We didn’t earn six figure salaries before this trip, in fact our incomes were very average; we just saved like crazy. So how can we afford to travel?

Other travelling families we’ve come across have often sold their houses and used those savings to go on their adventure, but we didn’t have that to fall back on. We didn’t win the lotto either. (Although I do have fantasies about that, probably more often then I should!)

Jayco caravan and Land Rover Double-barrelled travel

Our $45,000 setup

So how can we afford to travel? How much money do we have?

Okay, let’s be crass and talk money. Although I don’t know why it has to be some big dirty secret – if it helps others to budget then I can’t see the harm in it.

We saved close to $85,000 for this trip. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when we started, because our last trip (pre-Ruby) we saved more than $30,000 during our travels through our business, cash which we returned to Perth with when I was six months pregnant.

So I guess over the last two years we saved $55,000. Which equates to about $2,300 a month. We simply lived off Dave’s salary and saved everything I earned, which was as a freelancer working through our business Red Platypus. I only worked part time, because of having Ruby, and some of this money was maternity leave, which was minimum wage.

Of the $85,000, more than half of it ($45k) was spent on purchasing our 4WD and caravan, with $40,000 left over for the trip. And if we travel for 18 months, that gives us $2,222 a month to play with. Considering we spent double that in this past month, we need to rein in the spending.

Pork belly Salt Dish Geraldton Double-barrelled travel

One of the reasons we were over budget? This delicious $30 pork belly dish. No regrets though!

Working while we travel

We are really grateful we have built careers which allow us to travel while we work. At the moment I’m writing the content for the University of Western Australia’s new website, which has been taking up most of my working hours. Dave has been freelancing for a few publications too.

The idea is to earn money each month – at least $800 – although in reality it will probably be more. I am a bit of a workaholic and can’t simply travel without a project on the back burner. I’m not very good at doing nothing, although slowing down is something I have been working on. Reading a book or painting (two of my favourite things!), without feeling like I should be doing something else, is a win for me.

Dave has been frantically working on his novel which was short listed for the Vogel prize last year. It has had interest from a publisher so he really wants to get it done and dusted with the hope of getting his book into stores. We will be popping the best bottle of champagne we can lay my hands on when this day comes.

Tips for saving up the dough

Growing up, I was always a bargain hunter. I never bought anything that wasn’t on sale and I always thought friends who paid more than $80 for a pair of jeans were mental. However, this doesn’t mean I didn’t buy things. Quite the contrary. My wardrobe was always bursting at the seams and I was obsessed with the latest fashions.

Over time I’ve come to realise how bad fast fashion is for the environment, and this has really changed my shopping habits. These days, it’s rare I buy clothing that’s not from an op shop, and everything I do buy I think hard about whether I actually need it.

Same goes for Dave and Ruby. I limited Ruby’s toys, and most of her toys I bought second hand off Gumtree. Books were the exception and even in the caravan we probably travel with way too many books but we can’t seem to give up the reading habit.

Child play in water Double-barrelled travel

Ruby doesn’t need toys… just muddy puddles

Minimalism is the life for us

I must say, travelling the world for four years with just two backpacks really showed us how little we need in life. When we returned to Perth when I was pregnant, I tried to bring the minimalist mentality into our home.

But as a nesting new mum it was SO hard to stay minimal. I found it really challenging being bombarded with marketing for all the things you are told you need when you have a baby. A cot, bassinet, car seat, pram, change table, bottles, toys, night lights, baby bath, monitor… the list goes on and on.

I couldn’t believe some people paid more than $2,000 for a pram. And the lady at the store told me some people even bought new cars because their new pram wouldn’t fit in their existing car. What the hell?! I felt the world was going mad.

I ended up buying everything for Ruby’s nursery second hand. Myself and my family made all the art for the walls (handy having artists in the family!) and our parents were extremely generous and gifted us a pram, car seat and baby monitor.

I had to kick myself when I found I was feeling guilty for not spending $10,000 on an Instagram-worthy nursery, and remind myself my newborn baby would NOT care what her room looked like. Newborn babies can’t even see in colour for the first few weeks anyway, so she certainly wouldn’t appreciate the matching colour scheme.

Babychino in Geraldton Double-barrelled travel

No nursery but babycinnos on tap!

Decking out our home

All up, it cost us just over $5,000 to furnish our four-bedroom rental. Our couches and bed were hand-me-downs and everything else was bought off Gumtree. Although I did buy an arm chair in the ‘seconds’ section of Ikea.

All the art we’d collected over the past four years of travel we had framed and hung it in every room and made the space homely. In fact, we ran out of wall space for it all!

Our home might not have graced the pages of Real Living magazine but it was distinctly ‘us’ and we loved it.

When we packed up our lives into our caravan, we sold everything we didn’t want to keep and made a $500 profit.

Geraldton sunset Double-barrelled travel

The view from our home on wheels these days

Embracing sustainability

When I was pregnant, I started researching cloth nappies. I was gifted some before Ruby was born and they were shoved aside for six months as I was overwhelmed with becoming a new mum.

After Ruby started solids, I decided to give them a go and found they were way easier to use than I thought they would be. Other mums often comment on how hard it must be, especially doing it on the road, but all I can say is try it out and you’ll be surprised. An extra two loads of washing a week is all the extra effort I have to put in.

Bike riding in Geraldton Double-barrelled travel

The more environmentally-friendly way we get around!

Living the life on little

 Reading this post, you might think we are the cheapest cheapskates who ever graced the planet. But we do like our flat whites, gourmet cheese, wine and eating out. Yes, we might never get an Uber, and instead one of us will have a night off the booze, but we still go to the party.

I know our way of living isn’t for anyone. And I’m sure if some of you could see how I track every cent we spend you’d probably freak out.

But I’ve found that for us, what we value is experiences over stuff, which is why we cut back on the clutter to spend more on the adventure.

We are open to receiving more tips on how we can save money, so please share your best advice below!

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About the author

Carmen has been nomadic since May 2013 and the co-founder of Double-Barrelled Travel. She loves experiencing new cultures and learning new languages. She is having the most fun when skiing down a mountain, scuba diving in the Caribbean or curled up with a good book.

2 comments on “How can we afford to travel Australia for 18 months? (And no, we didn’t win lotto!)”

  1. Stuart Hawke Reply

    Great too have met you all and wish you all the best. Hope to catch up with you again some time.

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