By Shannon O’Brien
I took a unique role working as a chapter consultant for my sorority right after college. A month after graduation, I began supporting collegiate women with recruitment and leadership development, visiting over 40 college campuses in more than 15 states for two years. There were plenty of unique challenges along the way in addition to immense professional growth, but I’ll always be grateful for how the role set me up for a strong financial future.
I gave up [almost] all living expenses.
Costs covered by your employer will vary, but because I traveled full time, even on weekends, I was able to give up my apartment and many of my worldly belongings to live out of a suitcase for two years. I’m fortunate that I still have my childhood home to store some valuables, but even a small storage locker is much cheaper than paying rent for an apartment you never sleep in. Because I took this job, I didn’t pay rent or utilities and food and travel were already covered. Money spent went towards the basics like shampoo, toothpaste, and replacing my quickly-wearing suitcase wardrobe. Eliminating big expenses like this gave me a lot of extra income to use for other priorities.
I prioritized student loans and savings equally.
Most people want their looming student loan debt GONE. I’m right there with them, but having a smaller loan balance doesn’t help when emergencies show up. Whether your paycheck is late, you need a last-minute flight home, or a loved one needs unexpected financial support, only cash can fix the problem. I dedicated about 35 percent of my monthly paycheck to savings (which is the same amount that I gave to student loans) to build a savings account that was well over $10,000. I added an extra $4,000 to my savings for moving expenses to pay for my transition so I would be prepared when my travel lifestyle ended. The money I put toward student loans surpassed the monthly minimum payment and the extra went straight towards paying down the principal. I paid off one-third of my student loan debt over the two years.
I traded short-lived luxuries for memorable experiences.
Remember when I mentioned that I traveled on the weekends? That was no joke. I missed birthday parties, family gatherings, music festivals, happy hours, and the fun moments that make up life outside of work. This was an incredibly hard transition, and I spent money in places I didn’t really care about, like airport beers, pedicures in January, and more expensive hair and makeup products. I soon learned that if I saved the few hundred dollars I gave myself every month, I could do some pretty incredible things. I made trips to Miami for a beach day, Washington D.C to see my cousin, and a big trip to Scandinavia for 30 days of sights and backpacking. Taking care of my soul and spending money on experiences I could look forward to helped me push through days of doubt about my work and lifestyle.
Time spent on the road for work can be a sacrifice, but with the right planning and priorities, you can maximize the experience to pay you back in so many ways. Next time you’re on Indeed and see a job requiring any amount of travel, I urge you to consider how this commitment can set you up for financial stability. Your bank account won’t be the only thing that benefits from the adventure.