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.

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.

More
True
AICPA + Ad Council

There are reasonable arguments to be had on all sides of America's debates about guns.

Then there are NRA lobbyists.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, Florida National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer spoke to state economists last week to explain why a proposed assault weapons ban would devastate gun manufacturers in the state. The proposed amendment, which is being led by the aunt of a student killed in the Parkland school shooting, would ban the future sale of assault rifles in Florida and mandate that current owners either register their guns with the state or give them up.

The back and forth between those proposing and opposing the amendment appears to be a pretty typical gun legislation debate. Only this time, the NRA lobbyist pulled out one of the most bizarre arguments I've seen yet.

Keep Reading Show less
Democracy

Graphic helps identify what triggers you emotionally in relationships

Knowing your triggers helps you manage your emotions.

via Blessing Manifesting / Instagram

Learning your emotional triggers on your own is one thing but figuring out your triggers in a relationship adds another layer of intensity. Maybe you're afraid of being abandoned or want to feel the need to push the other person away but you don't know why.

If this sounds familiar, you're not alone. It's why artist and mental health advocate Dominee Wyrick created a graphic to help you identify what triggers you in relationships.

Keep Reading Show less
Well Being
via PixaBay

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang has brought a lot of attention to the idea of implementing a universal basic income on America. His "freedom dividend" would pay every American $1,000 a month to spend as they choose.

In addition to helping Americans deal with a future in which the labor market will be upended by automation, this basic income could allow Americans to rethink what we see as work and nurture what Yang calls a "human-centered" economy.

Keep Reading Show less
Family
Capital One

Brian Olesen never imagined he would end up homeless.

The former U.S. Air Force medic had led a full and active life, complete with a long career in the medical field, a 20-year marriage, and a love of anything aquatic. But after hip surgery and chronic back pain left him disabled in 2013, he lost his ability to work. Due to changes in eligibility requirements, he couldn't qualify for federal veteran housing programs. His back issues were difficult to prove medically, so he didn't qualify for disability. Though he'd worked his whole life, having no income for five years took its toll. He got evicted from a couple of apartments and found himself living on the streets.

But in 2018, two things completely turned Olesen's life around. He was able to both qualify for disability and to move into an affordable housing community in Miami's Goulds neighborhood called Karis Village.

When people think of affordable housing, they don't usually picture a place like Karis Village. The 88-unit development is brand new, and built with an attention to design that is not always expected for developments that serve as home to people on limited incomes. The apartments have tile floors, marble countertops, and all new appliances and furniture, and the grounds are beautiful and well-kept, with a playground and common areas for residents to gather.

Brian Olesen in his kitchen at Karis VillageCapital One

Karis Village isn't just a housing development; it's a home and a community. Half of the units are set aside for veterans who have experienced homelessness, like Olesen. The other half are largely occupied by single-parent families.

"To me, this building was just a gift," says Olesen. "All of the different parties that got together to put this building together… making half the building available to veterans. We've got no place to go."

Addressing veteran homelessness was one of the goals of Karis Village, which was built through a partnership that included Carrfour Supportive Housing — a mission-driven, not-for-profit affordable housing organization in southern Florida — and Capital One's Community Finance team. More than just an affordable place to live, the community has full-time staff on hand to help coordinate services—from addiction recovery programs to transportation options to job search and placement. Also included are peer counselors who provide emotional and psychological support for residents.

Karis Village, an affordable housing community in Miami, Florida.Capital One

Carrfour President and CEO Stephanie Berman says the core function of the services team on site is to build a supportive community.

"Often when you think of folks leaving homelessness and coming into housing, you think of shelters or some kind of traditional housing," she says. "You don't really think about a community, and that's really what we build and what we operate. What we're really striving to create is community. We find that our families thrive when you create a sense of community."

The intention to create a supportive community at Karis Village was a priority from the get go. Fabian Ramirez, a Capital Officer on Capital One's Community Finance team, says the bank did a listening tour in southern Florida to explore community development and affordable housing options in the area and to hear what was most needed. After deciding to partner with Carrfour, the bank provided not only an $8 million construction loan and a $25 million low income housing tax credit (LIHTC) investment to help build Karis Village, but it also kicked in a $250,000 social purpose grant to help fund the social support services that would be put in place for residents.

"It's not just all about providing the brick and mortar," says Ramirez. "It's about being able to contribute to the sustainability of the development and of the lives of the people who move into the building."


Capital One

Olesen says he and his fellow residents benefit greatly from the network of support services offered in the building. He says a counselor comes to meet with him once a month, sometimes right in his apartment. He also gets help maintaining a connection with the Veteran Affairs office. Other services include social workers and counselors for drug addiction and alcoholism.

Olesen loves being around other veterans, and he says hearing the sound of children playing keeps the community lively. He says anywhere else he could afford to live on disability wouldn't be nearly as nice and would likely involve shared kitchens and bathrooms and neighborhoods you wouldn't want to go out in at night.

If it weren't for Karis Village, Olesen says he doesn't know where he would be today: "I had nowhere to go and this is a safe, beautiful place to spend my retirement."

"I don't think they could have done a much better job of putting this place together and supplying us with what we need," he says. "I have so much appreciation for the ability to have a place to live. And then you add to that that it's beautiful and completely furnished and you didn't need to bring anything—I don't know what more you could ask for."

Karis Village and another development for veterans built the same year enabled the neighborhood of Goulds to meet the requirements set forth by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to declare an end to veteran homelessness in the area.

Ending veteran homelessness altogether is a complex task, but communities like Karis Village show how it can be done—and done well. When government agencies, non-profit organizations, and corporate funding programs come together to solve big problems, big solutions can be built and maintained.

Future Edge
True
Capital One