More

One woman worked multiple jobs and downsized her lifestyle to live out her biggest dream.

You've seen stories about people taking off and traveling the world. Here's how one woman saved up and did it.

True
AICPA + Ad Council

In high school, Brooke Schoenman took a trip to Italy with her Latin class. She returned home determined to see more of the world.

“I remember being fascinated with how people like me were living in other parts of the world, speaking different languages,” she wrote in an email.

And that fascination would stay with her, leading her to take the biggest adventure of her life.


At 23, while working full-time as a help desk agent, Brooke made up her mind — she would give herself two years to save enough money to travel the world.

She wasn’t just working toward saving for a vacation or two. No, she wanted to spend a minimum of one full year living abroad, fully immersed in other cultures.

Image via iStock.

So she made a plan: She would cut down on unnecessary expenses. She’d sign up for overtime at work. She’d go out less. She’d take part-time jobs. She’d downsize her lifestyle in every way possible — all with the goal of saving up $30,000 in two years to fund her adventure.

It wouldn’t be easy saving that much money, but Brooke was determined. And she was fortunate enough to be able to devote as much of her time, money, and energy as she could muster to her ambitious plan.

"There was a time that I would work at my day job from 7:30 am to 4 pm," she wrote on Making Sense of Cents, "and then head off to do some evening waitressing ... from 5 to 10 pm."

It's the kind of schedule many people who need to bring in extra cash to cover their financial goals and needs are familiar with.  

Image via iStock.

And it was worth it for her.

“I think having a bigger-than-life goal in mind helped,” Brooke explains. “I was saving for a life-changing experience — something so far from what was normal to me and anyone I knew at the time. It was exciting!”

Along the way, she celebrated even the smallest victories.

“If I took a change jar to the bank and it was twice as much as I thought it would be, I would make a point to celebrate," Brooke writes, "and sometimes I would allow a little splurge.”

The occasional treat was just as important as celebrating the small wins.

Image via iStock.

"I tried to cut out everything in the beginning, but soon learned that the mental toll of less fun and less freedom to eat out or go to the movies was too much,” Brooke writes. “You have to budget in some fun money, even when you're going for a big huge goal.”

By doing this, she didn’t get overwhelmed by the magnitude of her goal. She remained motivated. (Knowing that you're not starving yourself of all life's pleasures is important for any savings goal. It means you can actually stick to your plan instead of burning out too early.)

A year and a half in, Brooke had saved $23,000. She decided that was enough.

Brooke describes herself as “someone who hates to wait." So, she explains, “When I started to get close to my fall-back goal of $25,000 (about $23,000 after plane tickets and gear), I decided that starting my life of travel half a year earlier was an acceptable option."

Image via iStock.

So, she bought her plane tickets and set off to travel the world.

Traveling was more fulfilling than Brooke could have imagined.

From archeological digs in Menorca, Spain, to watching the jungle wake up at sunrise in Tikal, Guatemala, she pushed herself far beyond her comfort zone and experienced things that many only dream of. She even decided to make Sydney, Australia, her new home.

She's continued to lean on the tips and tricks she learned during that year and a half to fund other (shorter) adventures, like a three-and-a-half-month trip to Turkey, China, Mongolia, Russia, and Kyrgyzstan.

Image via iStock.

Today, Brooke's budgeting isn't nearly as extreme as it was for her initial goal, but she remains money conscious.  

And she's helping others save too by sharing advice and travel stories on her website: HerPackingList.com. Though her site's geared toward travelers, her tips are relevant for anyone saving toward a goal. (This calculator is also a big help in figuring out how to reach your savings goals.)

Brooke truly believes that saving up for a big goal is achievable. Though, she adds, saving doesn't come in a one-size-fits-all package.

“Everyone will have different circumstances surrounding their saving process. Maybe the cost of living where they are is higher or maybe they can't forego hanging with friends at bars and restaurants,” Brooke writes. “Once you can pinpoint the real reason the saving isn't working, you can test out alternative strategies and budgets until one works.”

Image via iStock.

Saving is hard. There's no doubt about it.

And $23,000 is a lot of money. For someone doing their best to just get by, such a large amount in such a short time frame may not always be possible.

But Brooke made the sacrifices she needed to save for the future she envisioned. And her experience shows that with perseverance, goals that seem like dreams can be attainable — it just takes patience, planning, and time.

So while your savings goal may not be a trip around the world, securing your financial future is just as exciting. Because while we never know what the future holds, preparing financially helps open some doors. Help make your dreams a reality by setting your financial goals today.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

Freya from Maya Higa's YouTube video.

Ever wonder what an ideal date for a lemur would be? Or a lizard’s favorite Disney princess?

Thanks to one YouTube poster with a passion for animals and an endearing sense of humor, all questions shall be answered. Well, maybe not all questions. But at the very least, you’ll have eight minutes of insanely cute footage.

In a series titled “Tiny Mic Interviews,” Maya Higa approaches little beasties with a microphone so small she has to hold it with just her thumb and forefinger. And yes, 99% of the animals try to eat it.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
True

The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

Cellist Cremaine Booker's performance of Faure's "Pavane" is as impressive as it is beautiful.

Music might be the closest thing the world has to real magic. Music has the ability to transform any atmosphere in seconds, simply with the sounds of a few notes. It can be simple—one instrument playing single notes like raindrops—or a complex symphony of melodies and harmonies, swirling and crashing like waves from dozens of instruments. Certain rhythms can make us spontaneously dance and certain chord progressions can make us cry.

Music is an art, a science, a language and a decidedly human endeavor. People have made music throughout history, in every culture on every continent. Over time, people have perfected the crafting of instruments and passed along the knowledge of how to play them, so every time we see someone playing music, we're seeing the history of humanity culminated in their craft. It's truly an amazing thing.

The pandemic threw a wrench into seeing live musicians for a good chunk of time, and even now, live performances are limited. Thankfully, we have technology that makes it easier for musicians to collaborate and perform with one another virtually—and also makes it easier for people to create "group" performances all by themselves.

Keep Reading Show less

A round-up of delights from around the internet this week.

Hey all!

Welcome to Upworthy's weekly roundup of delights from around the internet. This week's list features a little of everything—gorgeous music, cute kids, adorable animals, hope for the planet and a brand new video message from the late and great Betty White.

That's right, Betty White left us a message of gratitude shortly before her passing. It's brief, but how lovely to see and hear her speak to her millions of fans one last time. Few celebrities are as universally beloved as Betty White was, and though we knew she couldn't live forever, it would have been fun to see her celebrate her 100th birthday. Now, at least, we get to experience her joy and warmth with a few last words.

Keep Reading Show less