How did I afford to travel in 2019 while paying for a master’s degree?

Travel expenses are my biggest cost for the sixth year running, as in 2019 I travelled every month from March to December 2019 – sometimes multiple trips. I did this whilst paying towards a master’s degree. The purpose of this article isn’t too boast, but rather provide some insight into how a young professional managed her travel expenses.

Money doesn’t tend to get talked about enough, and I’m not ashamed of my earnings or my expenditure so here comes a true and honest account. You may or may not agree with some of my choices and that’s fine, I completely understand that I’m in an incredibly fortunate position. But the purpose of this post is to provide total transparency.

How Travel Can Boost Your Career at Any Stage and Travel expenses

Travel expenses

My Background

At the time of writing this, I’m a 28-year-old Marketing and Communications Manager, who is currently completing (and paying for) a part-time Masters degree at UWE Bristol. In 2019, I paid a total of £4750 by direct debit through my own wages – I’ll touch more on this later.

I worked full-time in Gloucester during the week – until October when I started working two days a week in Staffordshire – and flit between staying at home with my parents and living in Bristol with my boyfriend. I don’t own a house, nor is it my desire to acquire one at this time in my life. But I do contribute rent, albeit not a huge amount.

In April 2019, I faced a huge change in my employment position. As a result of a company takeover, I took a £3K pay increase to a £30k pa wage, and due to a change in holiday year accrued additional holiday.

I’d just like to point out that this also came with increased pressures – it meant working away from home 180 miles away two to three days a week. It meant additional fuel costs and car maintenance until the mileage claims were approved. And let me tell you, hotel living isn’t ideal for keeping fit or writing assignments, and it can oftentimes be a bit lonely.

What does an average month’s expenditure look like?

When I started the degree in September 2018, I took home just shy of £1700 a month, following the promotion this then increased to just over £1800 a month from April 2019. The direct debit payment schedule for UWE runs from November to April, so if we just consider 2019, from January to April I was paying £500 a month.

In November and December, the UWE direct debit increased to £875 a month to be paid every month until April 2020 – this was a shock… that’s almost double!!!

On top of that I have my usual bills – mobile phone, gym memberships, Spotify, Netflix etc. I also contribute rent, pay towards reducing my pesky student overdraft that I never made it out of, and made my usual payment to my 0% credit card (more on that later).

But here’s my secret to maintaining travel expenses – during the months I’m not paying towards the degree, I’ll put away between £500 and £700 into my savings account for future travel expenses and other unexpected costs. And yes, you don’t have to tell me, I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to do that and I am grateful for my successes – but I worked hard for it.

So how do you pay for your travel expenses?

Well, I save, I budget and I spread the cost of my travel expenses.

I use both my savings and my credit card to cover the cost of travel expenses. I plan the trips I’m going to take that year and when, and I budget around paying for flights and accommodation throughout the year – spreading the cost.

Note: Not all of my savings are spent on travel, I do like to have savings just in case life throws a curveball my way.

Well, what about the Credit Card?

Ahh the dreaded ‘C’ word! While yes debt is a serious issue and we should all move with caution when borrowing money, a credit card has its benefits when used to the correct advantage. I don’t claim to be an expert on the matter – I’m not Martin Lewis – but I do know how it’s been beneficial to me.

A 0% interest credit card not only allows you to spread the cost, but it also affords added protection for flights and it boosts your credit history. I use a balances and purchases credit card on a 0% interest agreement, for as long a period as is available.

My credit score is at such a point that I have a significant period of 0% (about 24 months?) and a high limit availability, and when that 0% agreement ends any remaining balance is transferred to a new 0% agreement – and so on, and so forth. (This is a completely normal process)

I pay around £100 to £200 a month off my credit card, which is higher than the minimum amount, affordable within my expenditure. So long as the minimum payments are made there won’t be any interest added, and I can pay back travel expenses and other larger bills such as car maintenance etc at my own pace.

Final Word

I know there’s going to be some of you out there who believe I should be saving towards a house or whatever rather than travel expenses, but I believe in living my life to the full and within my limitations.

I recently learned that the average time it takes us young’uns to save for a house deposit is 10 years and 3 months, and is that how I want to spend the next ten years of my life? No, thank you. Maybe when I can afford to do both. I am in complete awe of those who have managed to get on the property ladder in this day and age, and this is in no way discrediting those people who made that choice.

So there you have it, that’s my reality.

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