How she visited 7 countries in Europe for just $2,800

I started pursuing FIRE – an acronym for “financial independence, early retirement” – when I was 22.

It was 2016 and I was making $15 an hour as a marketing associate. I knew it would take me many more years to reach my goal of having a net worth of $1 million in my 30s, but I was ready to fall back.

I embraced frugality and shopped at thrift stores. I was a waitress on weekends. I increased my income by changing jobs. I invested my money wisely.

It all paid off tremendously. I’m on track to reach my goal by 2029 when I turn 35. In August of this year, I reached a net worth of $282,000 (through my investment accounts, including my 401(k), Roth IRA, and HSA, plus money in my checking accounts and saving).

But one of the biggest unexpected benefits of my FIRE plan happened this summer: I was able to afford a month-long trip to Europe.

I visited seven countries – Iceland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Denmark, Norway and Sweden – and spent less than $2,800 for the entire trip. Here’s how I did it:

1. I have developed the confidence to negotiate.

Like so many companies, my employer made a big effort to bring people back to the office.

So naturally, I was nervous about negotiating with my bosses for this trip. I worried that they would question my loyalty or that I might miss work opportunities by taking time off.

But ultimately, I knew that if I lost my job, I would still have a financial cushion. Through my savings efforts, I had enough savings to cover living expenses for at least eight years.

I wrote a complete request for two weeks of paid vacation and 12 days of work abroad. I came prepared with details and points on why my bosses wouldn’t have to worry and the value I brought to the company.

2. I prioritized what really mattered to me.

Knowing what you want to live the most – and spending your money on it – is a key part of financial independence.

During my trip to Europe, I realized that it was important for me to fill my emotional reservoir with things that I love, such as art and architecture.

So I budgeted accordingly and bought tickets in advance for castle and museum tours, and a chairlift ride over the scenic mountains.

A view of Stortorget Square in Stockholm.

Photo: Darcy of We Want Guac

My trip was all the more enjoyable because I had a clear and precise itinerary that I had planned in advance. I didn’t have to fight crowds of other tourists or stand in line or get distracted in fancy stores and spend money on things that didn’t matter to me. me.

3. I learned how to find great deals from the FIRE community.

The most valuable thing I learned from members of the FIRE community (via blogs, online forums, and YouTube videos) was how to maximize my credit card points.

I booked over $1400 worth of flights and hotels with the points I earned from my Chase Sapphire Preferred card. I pre-booked low-cost Airbnbs and only brought carry-on luggage, which saved me hundreds of dollars in baggage fees.

Oslo, Norway

Photo: Darcy of We Want Guac

Getting flights through credit card points meant I had money left over to visit more places, like Aarhus, Denmark and Bergen, Norway.

4. I adapted quickly to last minute changes.

Throughout my trip, I found myself having to deal with several unexpected changes, such as a cancellation of a tour in Iceland. I also only had a few days to find a new place to stay in Oslo when my Airbnb fell through.

In the past, my default would have been to panic. But instead, I took a breath and looked at my options.

My first thought was no longer “How am I going to be able to afford anything else at the last minute?” Now I’m just wondering, “What’s the best last-minute alternative I can do?”

In Norway, I booked several different stays, and although it involved a lot of moving luggage, I ended up seeing more than I had expected. In Iceland, I started exploring Reykjavik even more, including seeing the city from their waterfall church, visiting the opera house, and trying some fermented shark.

Darcy is the founder of the personal finance website We want guac. She won a Plutus Award for Best Generational Financial Literacy Content and has been featured in several publications and podcasts including MarketWatch and ChooseFI. Am here Twitter and instagram.

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