So, you’ve booked that dream trip, or it’s about time you do. There’s only one thing standing in your way – money. And you’re asking yourself “how on earth do people save money for travel without *gasp* living at home or giving up avo toast?”
I believe that if your goal is something you really really care about, you will become obsessive about making it happen.
I’m typically not a very good saver. The funny thing is, the only thing I’ve ever been able to consistently save for is travel. For the last four years I’ve thrown my ‘must urgently save money for travel’ hat on at least twice a year, and have managed to have some pretty awesome experiences because of it. You won’t hear me calling myself a personal finance expert anytime soon, but I’ve been in your lovely shoes many times and have a few tried and tested tips to help you save money for travel.
1. Cut down your food and drink expenses
Other than rent, this is where most of the money in my household goes to. Mostly due to laziness, if I’m honest.
Whenever we’ve been trying to save money for travel, focusing on just this one area has helped us save truckloads of cash (well, almost..).
- Start meal prepping. You can still be lazy on most days, and you won’t have to pay for lunch at work. Win, win.
- Consider making your coffee at home, rather than buying one when you get to work. (I stand buy coffee machines as a great investment).
- Have a week where you eat everything from your pantry and freezer. You might end up eating a few whacky meals, but you’ll save a whole lot of dough. Kinda fun!
- Write a grocery list, and stick to it. Maybe consider ordering online if you have a problem with this (I know I do).
- If you’re going out for dinner, only order the same amount that you’d eat at home. If you want to drink, find somewhere that does BYO.
- Never buy bottled water. Not only is it hard on your wallet, it’s hard on the environment too. Take a bottle with you when you head out for the day.
- Do dry July.. or September.. or October…
2. Review your subscriptions
The easiest money you’ll ever save? Cancelling subscriptions you forgot you had, or don’t really use. I’m looking at you, January-gym-memberships!
Download your bank statement for the past couple months, highlight your direct debits and answer the following questions:
- Do I use it?
- Would I miss it?
- Can I downgrade the plan, and still enjoy it as much?
It’s easy to avoid doing this, because really – $15 a month isn’t a huge amount of money. But most of us have a few of these that we’ve completely forgotten about. Every bit adds up (and c’mon, it’s easy money!).
3. Stop paying bank fees
What are you really getting for that $5 account fee you’re paying each month?
A few years ago I changed to ING – they don’t charge an account fee if you deposit a certain amount per month and have recently introduced some pretty wicked savings tools.
Banks are the worst offenders, but think about what else you’re paying fees on too. More money for nothing, that’s what we like!
4. Embrace minimalist principles (aka stop buying crap, get rid of your existing crap)
I once watched a Netflix series on minimalism. I was obsessed.
Buuutt, as much as I like the thought, I just couldn’t do it.
There are a few lessons however, that have stuck with me – saving money by simplifying your life is a great feeling.
- Only buy what you really need and love. Do you really need to upgrade your iPhone, again?
- Buy things that last a lifetime, not a few years. (Yes, I know they’ll cost more initially.)
- Edit your possessions. Sell the things you don’t love or use. I just got rid of our iPads that have been sitting in a cupboard for about 2 years..
- Be mindful with your choices – spend your time and money doing things bring you happiness.
5. Be frugal with your utilities
I’m not saying you should turn the TV and sit in your cold, dark living room – but being mindful of how much electricity and water you’re using can go a long way. To cut your bills down, consider:
- Turning the lights off during the day.
- Putting on a scarf, or opening the windows.
- Taking shorter showers (or walk to work, and shower there).
- Only doing your washing when you have full loads (lets be honest, this one is easy!). Wash on cold where possible.
- Not using your dryer – air drying is better for your clothes, the environment and your pocket. Win, win, win!
6. Give more thoughtful gifts (and ask for them)
Even if you’re trying to be thrifty, gift giving is expensive.
Instead of buying someone something they may not love, write them a thoughtful card and give them a handmade gift. Use your talents – I’m a shameful giver of cookies, cakes and other baked goods. I haven’t received a complaint yet!
Likewise, if your birthday or Christmas is coming up, ask Aunty June for cash or something you need for your trip (not cool gadgets). You’ll save money when it comes time to head off, and she’ll feel good that she’s contributed to your trip.
7. Find cheaper ways to fill your time
I love the term ‘flâneur’ – this old, old french word is used to describe someone who wanders around observing life.
You clearly love travel (otherwise, what are you doing here!?), so why not travel in your own city while you’re on a mission to save money? Explore the streets and walking tracks. Check out free art galleries, museums and festivals (you can find out what’s on in your city by looking at their tourism site).
Is your trip to a foreign speaking country? Learn a language on Duolingo.
Finding free or low cost things to do on the weekend will stop you from sitting at home feeling sad and sorry for yourself (or dropping a fortune on a night out with your gal pals).
8. Ditch the car
I am seriously thinking of doing this right now – I just need to get the boyfriend onboard. Rego, insurance, tolls, petrol, services… it adds up pretty quickly, and it’s bills I do not feel happy about paying. Especially when my car sits in the garage for most of the week!
It’s hard to give up a car after having one for so long – but run the sums and compare this to your local public transport options, a car share scheme and the occasional Uber – and this could be a really good option for you.
9. Pay less rent (doing a runner is not an option)
For most people, myself included, rent is the biggest regular expense you have. Decreasing your rent is probably one of the hardest ways to save money for travel – but there’s a few things you can do (aside from the old ‘moving home’ trick):
- Consider living with your partner. If you’re planning on travelling together, it’s good practice!
- If your lease is about to end, consider moving somewhere slightly cheaper.
- List your place on AirBnb for the period you’re away (check if you’re allowed to first, of course).
- Get a flatmate. If I’m honest, this would probably be my last resort saving effort. I’ve been living with my partner for 4 years, and I’m a bit of a homebody. But, if you’re out a lot and like company, this could be a good option for you.
10. Focus on shrinking your debt
Paying interest is nasty. Do what you can to pay extra money off your debt. It’s not a short term fix, but you’ll be happy you started doing this in the long run. Don’t trust me? Ask my new best mate, the Barefoot Investor.
11. Make more money
The maths isn’t hard. To save money, you have to spend less or make more. Whilst technically this isn’t a money saving tip, I’m sneaking in…
- Sell the stuff you don’t use. Not only will you have less clutter, you’d be surprised how much people will pay for stuff you think of as crap.
- Start a side hustle. Make it something you love, and you won’t think of it as work.
- Get a second job on the weekend/at nights, do Deliveroo one night a week or find some freelance work.
Don’t start by doing everything at once.
My boyfriend, Brad, has a special talent for throwing himself head first into new ‘regimes’, whether they be fitness or financial. He needs to be reminded (frequently) that the tortoise wins the race.
If, like me, you have limited self control, start small. Cut out things you won’t really miss, or find cheaper alternatives to things you will.
Will power is a muscle that needs to be flexed, and in time when you get better at it you can start saving money on other things. You might even realise it won’t hurt as much you thought it would.
But if you jump in head first and move into a tiny box 35km’s from the city, eat 2 minute noodles every day and never leave home – you’ll probably be miserable, and I guarantee you won’t stick with it.
(Just like that New Years resolution to go to the gym 5 days a week…..)
Remember what you’re working for
Lastly, never lose sight of your goal. It’s not easy to save money for travel, but it is rewarding.
Through this whole process, keep dreaming of that awesome trip you’re about to take – and suddenly a rockin’ night of Netflix and leftovers at home doesn’t seem too bad.