One of the questions I get asked a lot is quite simply “How do you afford to travel so much?” Unfortunately I do not have a crazy easy trick up my sleeve for you. My accomplishments in this department have been the result of a lot of work, will power and budget-crazy madness.
When I first started traveling, I was relatively new to the Monday-Friday, 9-5 workforce and had also just moved out of my parent’s basement. If I wanted to travel, I needed to be extremely money conscious. And I pulled it off. My big secret to pulling together enough money to fund a massive trip is to be budget-crazy. On one hand, this has been a blessing. I am awesome with money now to the point where my friends refer to me as the one who is ridiculously good with money, and have even approached me for financial advice (eep!). On the other hand, it is HARD to stick to a strict budget. You do have to make certain sacrifices if you really want to pull off your dream trip and that is not always easy! With that, here are my top 10 tips for saving for travel!
Before you start any sort of crazy money saving tactics, you need a budget. My budget is my base line and it is how I hold myself accountable financially. This is how I work out my budget. At the beginning of the month I will find a large sheet of paper and write down everything that I spend money on. Rent. Power. Groceries. Cellphone bills. Everything. Here is a snapshot of what my budget sheet normally looks like.
As you can see I’ve got little categories for each of my monthly expenses. On the left side, I have my budgeted amount. On the right side, is the actual amount spent. Major expenses, like groceries are typically broken down by each purchase. At the end of the month, I will work out the difference and write it out below the category. If you’ve got a plus, good for you! Toss that stuff into savings. If you have a negative, well that sucks. I either pull my negatives out of my next month’s budget for that category (if possible) or out of my own personal “allowance”, since I was being naughty and spending too much.
2. Give yourself an “allowance”
Don’t be silly and think you can get away with not spending anything on yourself for months on end. Trust me. I’ve tried this, and while yes it will work for a few months, I eventually lose my mind and blow a ridiculous amount of money on “therapy shopping” in the span of a couple of weeks. This essentially erases all of your efforts over the past few months. Be kind to yourself and give yourself a small allowance every month. This gives you some spare change to treat yourself every now and then and helps you save money in the long run.
3. Cut the excess spending
Those daily Starbucks runs are pretty nice hey? Who doesn’t love having a latte every morning?! But let’s be serious, that daily latte is costing you a small fortune. You should really cut back on that. Now I’m not saying completely abandon your vices, but why not just let them be occasional treats? By cutting your daily Starbucks habit back to a once a week treat, you are effectively saving yourself $27 a week. Which is $108 a month. Which turns into $648 six months from now. Which could pay for half of your flight to Europe. And that is just cutting back on just one of those vices. Don’t even get me started on that booze habit!
4. Don’t rely on credit cards
Okay, repeat after me. Credit cards are not cash! Credit cards are not your friend! Never, ever, EVER rely on your credit card and treat it as cash. That sucker is NOT your money. It is someone else’s and they certainly charge you for using that money in the form of interest, which adds up quickly. If you do not have the cash in your savings account to pay for whatever it is you are about to purchase, do not purchase it (unless it is a legitimate emergency)! Like I said, interest adds up quick and it will cost you a small fortune if you carry over a balance on your credit card on a monthly basis. Not to mention it is very easy to put everything on your credit card without paying attention and then have a surprise $1500 bill at the end of the month. That savings account you had? Yeah, it’s gone now. Just avoid using credit cards if you can okay?
5. Cook at home more and eat out less
This goes hand in hand with point 2 above. You need to cut back on your excess spending, but where can you do that? Eating out on the regular can be pricey. If you are like me and work in an office and think it’s just fine to waltz downstairs and pick up a wrap because you were too lazy to make that lunch last night, well… you aren’t helping your situation out much. By doing one major grocery trip a week, cooking enough leftovers to take as lunches and ensuring you actually make yourself a lunch on a daily basis, you can actually save yourself a ridiculous amount of money. No joke here guys.
6. Be frugal
Okay so the ladies totally want to go out for drinks after work and you absolutely have to go with them. Sweet! That’s totally fine. But you should really cut back these excursions to a couple times a month or become better acquainted with “I’ll have a water with lemon please!” There is absolutely nothing wrong with socializing, and for the love of god do it. But it is expensive, so if you want to save some money this is a good place to be frugal. Besides water is better for you anyways, right?
7. Get a second job
When I have a massive trip on the books, this is almost always my go to fix. Yes, getting a second job sucks. It sucks a lot. But if you spend most of your evenings and weekends lounging in front of the television, and more money would be a pretty awesome thing in your life, then maybe you should look into getting a second job? Try to get something that you enjoy and have fun with. You’ll look forward to it more and might actually have fun with it. Once you start getting paid from your new job, put your entire pay-check into your travel fund account. Once the money starts piling up, you will be so thankful you decided to go down this path.
8. Plan your travels around what you can afford
Yes, it would be so awesome to stay in 5 star hotels for your entire 3 weeks in Europe. But that’s not necessarily realistic now is it? If you wind up having a budget of about $1500 or so to work with for rooms for your vacation, start looking into hostels or flat rentals to lower your accommodation costs. Once you realize that you can get a private room for about $60 a night (with a private bathroom!), the stress of saving a ridiculous amount for your trip starts to melt away. I find that by looking into cheaper accommodations and travel (thank you RyanAir), I can actually travel quite cheap and don’t actually need to save quite as much.
9. Become a deal finder
Start hunting for those sales! Not only on your day-to-day necessities, but also when planning and booking items for your trips. The more sales and deals you can snag, the more money you save either in advance of your trip or on the trip itself. If you are traveling by rail in Europe, keep an eye out on not only seat sales, but when the schedule opens up. You can find ultra cheap fares the first few days that booking is available. Sign up for all of your favorite airlines and keep an eye out for seat sales. Sign up for your local grocery store’s flyer and scoop up some of your groceries on sale. 10% Tuesday? Worth it, even if you have to battle a crowd to save the extra bit of cash.
10. Start saving as far in advance as possible
When I travel, I always aim to have enough savings in my account prior to leaving, thus avoiding having to rely on a credit card while away (see point 4 above – credit cards are evil!). The best way to ensure that you have adequate funds for your travel dreams is to simply start saving far in advance. Once you see that savings start to build up, it becomes easier to cut back and put more into savings, knowing that it is going towards something awesome!
These are simply my tips and tricks to saving money for travel. Not all of these will work for you, nor should they! There are so many people out there in the world who cannot operate with a strict budget, and that is fine. Do what is best for you. But I do hope that some of my tips help you get that trip savings account started!
What about you guys? Do you have any tips or tricks for saving for travels? Please share them in the comments below!