Truth-telling time: I’m in debt. It’s not a great place to be, but it’s also not the end of the world (even though others try and make me feel that way). And all of my debt in my name is caused by poor decisions that I have made.

I know that, and I don’t blame anyone else for it. 

To keep a record of this, today’s date is the 18th of September 2022. Let’s see how this will work out…

But whether your debt is credit card debt, student loans, or other personal loans, it all has to be paid back. And when you’re drowning in debt, the last thing most people think about is how they can travel.

I’ve reached a point in my life where I just cannot sit around anymore. I am getting itchy feet and I want to explore.

And you know when you’re dreaming about your travel plans, it’s time to do something about it! 

First Step of Planning with Debt in the Back of Your Mind

I am going to tell you what I am doing, and how this is going to work for me. 

Know how much debt you have

Take stock of your debt. Putting your head in the sand is not the way to work things out, and these people won’t go away. 

Below I have laid out my current debt (I’ve decided not to disclose who the debtors are), the payment arrangements, and each time I pay off a debt, I will link through to how I did it so you might find an idea for yourself. 

I’ve also decided to list them from the smallest debt to the largest one (other people recommend going from the highest interest to the lowest), and in addition, I’ve rounded them to the nearest 10 for ease of numbers).

These amounts are in South African Rands.

Debt 1 – an old gym contract: R 895.00 *paid – this account can be closed!
Debt 2 – chiropractor: R 1 , 200.00
Debt 3 – high school fees: R 1, 770.00
Debt 4 – family loan: R 3, 000.00
Debt 5 – accountant: R 3, 800.00
Debt 6 – clothing account: R 4, 100.00
Debt 7 – bank overdraft: R 4, 200.00
Debt 8 – bank account fees: R 5, 000.00
Debt 9 – store account: R 5, 500.00
Debt 10 – old sports contract: R 6, 600.00
Debt 11 – fiber contract: R 6, 800.00
Debt 12 – family loan: R 6, 600.00
Debt 13 – university payment for my son: R 7, 000.00 *paid R1,000 24/08/2022
Debt 14 – overdue school fees #1: R 7, 000.00
Debt 15 – family loan: R 10, 000.00
Debt 16 – credit card: R 37, 000.00
Debt 17 – personal loan: R 55, 000.00
Debt 18 – revolving credit: R 70, 000.00
Debt 19 – family loan: R 45, 000.00
Debt 20 – overdue school fees #2: R 48, 000.00
Debt 21 – personal loan: R 51, 000.00
Debt 22 – a year’s rental: R 90, 000.00
Debt 23 – personal loan: R 96, 000.00
Debt 24 – family loan: R 100, 000.00

My total outstanding debt is R 665, 465.00
Or, $ 37, 624.00
Today’s rate of exchange is US$1.00 = ZAR 17.69

That is a hell of a lot. I could buy a studio apartment or even a brand-new car.

And I know that right now, some people will be asking, why am I putting this out there for the world to see?

Well, for two main reasons: 

  1. To show others that they are not alone, and it’s probably not as bad as mine
  2. To make myself accountable 

In addition, let’s take stock that I cannot get a home loan or anything else at this stage. I can’t even get a rental home.

Make a plan

Right, now that I know how much debt I have, I can make a plan to make my debt payments. 

If you have other bills, you’ll need to take that into account as well. Consider items such as credit card bills, mortgage payments, car loans, and then the normal utilities, electricity, food, toiletries, and so on.

I am going to contact each debtor, find out what the minimum payments are, and chat with them to see if I can make a payment arrangement. 

Sometimes if you are willing and able to pay off loans, you will see there are some great deals available to you, and some of them will let you pay the reduced amount over two or three months. 

You just need to ask. Doing this can save you a ton of money.

What will your plan entail? 

Will you take one loan to pay off everything? That might not be possible if your credit score has been affected. Will you ask for an increase at work? Will you start a side hustle? What weird way will you make additional money to pay off your debts? 

Whatever it is you are planning to do, always look for the best deals and the best option for you.

Taking Charge of Your Repayments

Once I make my payment arrangements, I am going to have one bank account that will purely be for these repayments. 

For example, debt 8, is bank account fees.

It’s a bank account that I have, that I did forget about, and it’s been accumulating bank fees for quite some time now. 

By using this account, the bank will see that the amount I owe them is paid (ie. that debt will be paid off), and then I will know that all money in that account is purely for paying off my debt.

Monthly payments will be transferred into this account, and debit orders set up to make these payments. 

Any extra money I have, I will plow into the next smaller amount that needs to get paid so that I can clear it off my name.

Will I use the snowball effect? I’m not sure yet.

The Balance Between Living, Saving to Travel and Paying Off Debt

I’ve discussed the ‘paying off debt’ section.

So, that’s quite a lot of money, how do I live? 

Well, I’m not in the best financial situation as you can see, but I’m in it now so it’s sink or swim. Do or die, as they say.

Four huge benefits that I do have right now are the following:

  1. I do earn a salary – and not a bad one by South African standards, but not a great one by US standards
  2. I earn US Dollars through freelance writing jobs that I do as a side hustle, which converts amazingly into South African Rands (thank you guys!) 
  3. My car is paid off (although, I am definitely going to need a new one soon)
  4. I am house-sitting for approximately a year so I don’t need to pay for rent or pay a mortgage which is a MASSIVE saving


Working Out How Much I Need to Live 

Before I start talking about saving money to travel, I need to see how much I am earning, and how much disposable income I have available.

With the average cost of food continuously rising, I need to become savvier and find ways to save money when I’m shopping for groceries.

Most of my income is going to go into debt. But I am a firm believer in having side hustles and finding out ways to make money in addition to your salary. 

I mean, these women made money during lockdown, so if they can do it when the world has come to a literal standstill, can you and I!

My long-term goal is to have my site make a full-time income so right now I’m trying to figure out how to get more traffic.

In addition, I want to set up other passive income streams. 

I don’t want to be so busy with freelance work that I don’t have time to enjoy a fancy hotel room, or a dip in Blue Lagoon, because I have to work. 

When we do decide to splurge, I don’t want to keep living my life worrying if there’s enough money. 

Saving to Travel

I’m going to work out how much my monthly repayments need to be. 

Plus how much I need to live, bearing in mind I also pay for my daughters’ schooling requirements.

Again, I make all my own money. I don’t rely on maintenance as right now in my life, the stress of that conversation isn’t worth my health quite frankly.

Regarding travel, I need money for the following:

  • Plane tickets
  • Travel Insurance
  • Passports
  • Visas
  • Transport
  • Food
  • Sightseeing
  • Accommodation – maybe

I am going to look for ways to save money with travel. 

I am going to join Trusted Housesitters and look for people’s houses and pets to care for. Why? Because this is free accommodation. 

The best thing is that it is a GREAT way to save a ton of money as you don’t pay for accommodation. Some sits are for a few days, some are for a few months. And, it’s all over the world!

Travel Savings Account

In spite of the debt, I’ve got to work out a travel budget, do some research on the costs of things, and get practical. I don’t have airline miles and will look for free things to do, or discounted tickets.

In addition, being in South Africa means that when I create ways to make money online, I will target an international audience so that I can make US Dollars, which is one of the best advantages that I have, living in South Africa.

create a budget for your travel This week I’ll start looking for a cheap flight and then set financial goals for this trip. Maybe there is a system out there to get travel points, maybe it’s too late for this trip as I’m going to try and save a lot of money before we go.

 I’m going to have a look at the very popular Dave Ramsey method of cash envelopes and allocate envelopes for various travel-related expenses. At this point, I think these will be used for sightseeing.

Our Next Vacation

Our next vacation is going to be international travel and it will be during peak season. Not the best way to save money but it’s do-able. 

And I’m quite excited because the last time I went overseas was to Finland in 2008, and more recently to Zimbabwe and Zambia in 2017.

The goal now is December 2022 – that is in three months!

In December, South Africans enjoy a warm summer vacation but my kids and I want a white Christmas and so off to the northern hemisphere we’re planning to go!England on a map - you can travel while in debt

We might be traveling on a tight budget, but by being savvy we’ll keep travel expenses down. 

Part of the vacation will include road trips, and I need to find out about earning points and freebies for the plane ticket and include this in our vacation budget. 

I am not going to get into travel debt by doing this, I will not be taking out a high-interest loan (or any loan for that matter), we will look for the best places to visit, exciting tourist attractions, relevant hotel accommodations (I hope!), and search online for travel tips through any traveler’s travel site – as there is some really solid advice out there. 

Vacation spending my hard-earned money is going to be worth it! I am bored with my life, my kids are still young, and we can homeschool around the world. 

Working in the travel industry doesn’t get me discounts like you would think, but searching for travel rewards might be worth it.

Anyway, this post was just about taking stock of my debt and showing you’re not alone.

People seem to think that student loan debt is more acceptable than personal loan debt, but debt is debt and it is crap.

So do I think it’s possible to travel when you’re in debt? 

Yes, I do think it’s possible. 

I don’t think it’s a good idea to take out travel loans to explore, I think you should get creative and find ways to add more money to your bank account.

Just don’t cause more debt and don’t let these things stop you from living your life. Life can be so much fun – enjoy it!