[My guide for Saving Up For Your Big Trip, published on BackpackerTravel.org. Check em out!]
Arguably the most important of all travel preparations is saving up enough money to actually go. Money can be a touchy subject for many people, but, if travel is your main goal, it must be given considerable thought when getting ready for a trip. Sure it will involve sacrifice, but a sacrifice well-rewarded when you’re able to board that plane and head off into the decided unknown. With a little discipline and a lot of determination, the burden of saving up for travel time, or any time for that matter, will be considerably easier.
Building on discipline and determination, the two most straightforward ways to have more money for travel are spending less and saving more. Again, always keeping the goal of travel in the back of your mind, these two things shouldn’t feel too daunting and, when done properly, will yield a humbling and very worthwhile sense of satisfaction.
In order to even begin saving up, start by analyzing your current situation; this will help increating a budget. Basically, just look at how much you earn and spend per week or month, and then subtract to figure out how much is left over (for travel and other related expenses). By simply knowing that amount, you will have a better understanding of how much money you actually have; and, from there, which unnecessary expenses can be reduced or even eliminated.
If you really wanted to, there are countless things you could probably stop purchasing with little to no consequence. For example, instead of buying a $4-7 latte every morning (plus tips), maybe buy a bag of beans and brew your own. That alone would save at least $30-50 per week. Either by switching up your current purchases to less-expensive alternatives or by getting rid of them altogether, you can enjoy watching the funds pile up and ready yourself for your next great travel adventure.
1. Stop Buying Things
This is the biggest and most obvious one, but if you really want to stop spending more than you need, you’re going to have to stop buying things you don’t need. This can feel hard at first since we typically associate frivolous purchases with everyday accommodations or rewards; but remember that travel is the most important reward you will be giving yourself, and not buying that new dress or nice dinner and a movie are just steps to help you get there quicker. So here is a short list of everyday things to avoid buying if you want more money for travel:
- Coffee, alcohol, cigarettes (basically all the vises)
- Restaurant dinners and take out
- Dates – this includes fancy dinners, gifts, movie tickets, drinks etc.
Especially if your significant other will be accompanying you on your travels, they should understand how spending $50+ on one date may not be in your best interest
- Books – check them out for free at the library instead
- New clothes, spa days, and general pamperings of the sort
- Movies – consult the internet or your friend’s Netflix account for all things movies and television
2. Cancel Unnecessary Subscriptions & Memberships
Depending on the length of your foreseeable travels, you may be able to end a few magazine/newspaper subscriptions, television plans or gym memberships.
Print magazines and newspapers normally feature articles online, the internet has almost completely surpassed television these days (heard of Netflix?), and, let’s be honest, how often do you really go to the gym anyway? These types of costs generally rack up without you even noticing so make an effort to get rid of the ones you don’t need.
- Check out cheaper phone and internet plans
- End cable subscriptions
- End magazine and/or newspaper subscriptions
- Quit the gym
3. Reduce Utility Bills
Everyone hates paying bills, there’s no denying it, but thankfully there are many ways to make them smaller! Electricity, water, and gas can all be saved by following a few simple tips:
- Take crazy short showers (as in turn off the water when you shampoo and/or suds up)
- Use as few lights as possible, and make sure to turn them all off when not in use
- Cover up in sweaters and blankets instead of turning on the heat; open windows or use a fan instead of the air conditioning
- Literally unplug and free up those outlets (they drain power even when your device is not in use)
- Fix dripping faucets and showers
- Modify your toilet to use less water per flush – opt for a low-flush toilet, or DIY and place a full or half gallon of water inside the tank
4. Green-Up Your Transportation
Cars and trucks can be expensive ways to get around; especially if you have to pay for parking once you get to where you’re going. Where possible, opt for taking public transport, ride your bike or even walk to work and you’ll save loads.
Also, depending on the length of your upcoming travels, you may not want to have to worry about a vehicle back home for months on end. In that case, selling it may be a very lucrative option.
5. Prepare Your Own Meals
Unfortunately, cooking homemade meals is somewhat of a lost art in this modern world even though its benefits lead to a healthier lifestyle and a fatter wallet.
Try it out! Buy a $2 bag of rice or box of pasta, $5 of vegetables, $5 worth of fruit, maybe some beans and nuts and see how long it lasts. The number of days you can live off a $20 purchase at the grocery store may surprise you.
- Buy in bulk and cook large amounts of food to eat throughout the week
- Use up the cans and frozen foods that have been around longer than you’d like to admit
- Bring your own lunch to work
- Know that the amount of money spent on one meal from even a mediocre restaurant could literally feed you for days
6. Say ‘NO’ To Coffee & Alcohol
Okay, maybe not all the time, but instead of making that morning Starbucks run or going out for drinks after a long day, consider brewing your own or purchasing a cheap bottle or two to drink in the comforts of your own home.
Buying coffee daily is ridiculous as it is, regardless of the fact that each drink (depending on how fancy or annoying you want to be) can cost anywhere from $3.50-$7+. Alcohol prices are obviously pretty pricey too, especially once you factor in the tip. The only reason people don’t mind paying for drinks once they go out is because they’ve already drank them.
Cloudy judgment = gloomy funds.
Ask yourself this question: Is the next drink really worth a full meal or two abroad?
Remember the budget!
Generally, making more money will render saving up for traveling opportunities much easier. It will also give you slight wiggle room should you choose not to follow the above tips as rigorously (though that is highly not recommended).
As with spending less, the following tips will also require discipline and determination.Always keep your traveling goals in mind, that way, selling all your stuff or starting another mind-numbing job will not seem so bad. If you want to travel badly enough, you’ll find a way to make it work.
1. Sell Your Stuff
It goes without saying that in order to save money we should definitely not be buying new things. That being said, most of us still have far too many possessions than we could ever imagine truly needing. And, considering you may be living out of a backpack whilst abroad, the amount of material we have collected over the years can seem unethically excessive.
If it’s been over a year or two since you’ve worn that sweater or used that old waffle maker, it’s probably time to say goodbye. Remembering that travel is your be all and end all, hop on Craigslist and eBay, head over to the pawn and consignment shops, or even host a garage sale and sell your junk (for lack of a better word) to make a few extra bucks.
Your wallet will thank you, and maybe you’ll have even cleared out enough space to think about downgrading to a smaller and cheaper house/apartment!
2. Get Another Job
It’s as simple as that: jobs make money; so if you want some for travel, you’re going to have to work. While one could argue that no one wants to work or even should work, at least right now it’s the best way to get those little pieces of paper that let you go do things; and travel can take a lot.
Getting a second or even third job for the time being will only allow you to travel longer. Take the opportunity of being in between travels to work hard so you can play harder. Just keep in mind your reason for working and make sure to leave on your own terms so as to not get sucked in and/or postpone your trip.
2. Open A “Travel” Bank Account
Consider this your additional travel piggy bank if you will. While a physical stash would work as well, opening an account at the bank and allocating a slice of your paycheck specifically for your trip may be a better option. Not only will it provide a safe place for your much-needed travel money, but it can actually make you a couple bucks.
Discuss with your bank about setting up an automatic direct deposit so you don’t need to manually move the money yourself.
As with most accounts that accrue interest, money will have to stay in this account for a certain period of time in order for it to earn a worthwhile amount of interest and for you to avoid paying withdrawal fines. The benefit of having a travel-specific account is that you will know exactly when you’ll be taking funds out. In that way, you can set it up to not be touched until you plan on leaving.