Traveling is easy, the hard part is changing your lifestyle so that you can afford to. However, like a lot of things, just because it is hard dose not mean that it is impossible.With a modest salary, determination, self-control, and a bit of luck you can afford to travel. Here are some tried and tested tips on how to cut back on spending and get your-self on track to reaching your travel goals.
Set Yourself Up For Success
Look back on your excess spending: This should be the starting point to your savings regimen, seeing where exactly you are leaking your hard earned cash. Get a highlighter, your bank statements for the past year, and mark down every coffee, boozy night out, snack break, and shopping excursion that you indulged in over a year. This will give you a good picture of your excess costs, and why that (just) $2 a cup coffee is really adding up to something more in the long run.
Start thinking about costs in a different way: One thing that has been huge in helping me to save for travel is that I switched my way of thinking about the cost of things. Before I saw dollar signs, now I see experiences. That cute $20 tee-shirt doesn’t look so cute if you read the tag as “budget flight from London to Paris out the window.”, that $12 martini just doesn’t taste so sweet if you see it as “Plate of Paella in Spain down the drain.”…you get the picture.
I’d rather have one outfit that I wear in 100 places than 100 outfits that I can only wear in one.
Set up a savings account: Obvious right? Savings are a big bad scary word for us paycheck to paycheckers. (cliché ) Word of Advice? Just do it. Really, even if you are putting in $10/week that’s over $500 in savings per year! That’s a lot of hostel stays!I went for a bank that has a no fee savings account, with no minimum balance required. Even if your bank doesn’t have a regular savings account with this option, many offer ‘short-term’ savings accounts which do. When you do open one I suggest giving it a name that makes you think twice about digging into your funds “Sipping out of a coconut on a tropical island.” Would work for me.
Fill up your free-time: You know the saying, idle hands are the devils drain on your bank account. Find replacements for after work activities that are eating away at your savings. Skip the bar and learn a language, a new skill,workout, volunteer, spend time outside. Want to keep your social life alive outside the bars but don’t know where to start? There are many websites dedicated to helping you find people who are interested in the same activities as you. Check out my favorite – www.meetup.com or try looking for facebook groups!
Find a savings buddy: This one won’t derail your savings journey if it can’t happen but it sure will help. Tell your friends and family that you are taking a serious interest in changing the way you spend cash. Ask if anyone wants to try to save with you to keep each other in check with the reward being an incredible friendcation at the end.
Start With The Big Things
Housing Costs: Housing costs are a huge expense, if not your number one. If you have the option, and your ego isn’t too fragile, I would seriously consider a few months with your parents. While it’s not the most glamorous lifestyle you may be able to save big, and get your family fix in before your big trip where it wont ever be as easy to have an early morning coffee chat with mom. If moving back in with the rents is not your cup of tea, there are other money saving alternatives. Consider downsizing to a studio, getting a roommate, or listing your apartment as a short-term rental while away, and even rent out your couch!
Transportation: The fact of the matter is, you can give up your car or limit the usage, we all can. Give up your car completely, if you are a two car household you can consider downsizing to one, or just think about cutting back! The biggest savings come when you ditch four wheels completely. For city dwellers you will save big to the tune of between $10,000-$15,000 a year, and it may even cut down on your transportation time. Suburban citizens, even if you cut down on your car use the savings can rack up to an average of $3,000 a year! Be it biking, walking, or segwaying, consider your options, and the potential benefits to your physical as well as mental health!
Check out this handy Biking vs driving calculator to calculate what you could be saving – http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2011/06/27/biking-vs-driving-calculator/
Phone/Cable: In the age of screens it can be really hard to hear the hard fact that you do not NEED all that data on your unlimited data plan. You also need to get over your love affair with contracts and the big name phone companies. There are plenty of ways to save up to 50% off your yearly phone bill expenses! As for cable? With so many online options you can ditch that high cost cable bill for a more affordable plan cable bill for a year . All in all cutting back (or cutting off) from your phone/cable addictions can help you rack in serious dough yearly!
Water: You can launch a three front attack on your H2O spending. First of all, stop buying bottled water NOW I mean today. Even if you can’t drink your tap water you can invest in a water filter and a reusable water bottle. Buisness Insider recently reported that bottled water costs 2000 times as much as tap and a gallon of water twice as much as a gallon of gas so don’t take my word for it. Too lazy? Put into perspective, the yearly cost of tap, $0.48, the yearly cost of buying bottled water, $1,500…
Ok Americans, we need a serious talking to about our shower habits. We (myself included) love to indulge in long daily shower rituals. Various studies say that the average shower is 8.2 minuets (respectable) however for you big shower lovers out there taking showers anywhere from 15 minuets to over an hour, you are costing yourself $ and wasting a precious resource. I admit that I was a shower hog before heading to France for the first time. I was told that we were to keep our showers to 10 minuets because Americans were notorious for raking up water bills and hogging the bathroom (My first thought…HOW?!), I managed, survived, no one noticed a change in smell, and I kept the habit.
And finally, drink more water overall. A studies showe that 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated (yikes) Drinking more water may make you more productive, help with that diet plan, and even may save you from future medical bills. Need a stepping stone to better water rituals? If you MUST splurge on a dinner out, why not grab a free glass of water with that. You’ll at the very least be saving $2 a glass, and doing nothing but good for your health.
Coffee: That latte may not kill you but it could very well kill your travel plans. The average American drinks 3 cups a day (https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/multimedia-article/facts/) if that’s a fancy latte costing $4-5 that means your sipping away $12/day, $264/month, $3,164/year. These stats don’t make your coffee runs seem so great now do they. You can conquer your coffee addicts rehab in different ways. For you fancy drinkers, think about switching to the normal brew, it will cut your spending in half. Try lowering your cups from three a day – one a day, and for the advanced savers ONLY consume coffee that is free or brought from home. Tired? Maybe down a glass of water, all that coffee is not helping with our dehydration and fatigue anyways.
Food: One of the biggest opportunities to save cash comes in the form of a boxed lunch (adorable bento box anyone). The average cost of eating out five days a week is $2,500 a year and that is not taking into account the interest that could be earned on those savings. While it is easy to see that bringing your food from home will pad your wallet, putting it into practice is a whole other matter. This may well be, for me, the hardest savings technique on this list. I am a big eater, a foodie, a bit lazy, and when I was in the working world…exhausted. These factors made it very hard for me to become motivated to dedicate time to meal prep however after a month of savings I saw fast results.
Want to see how your lunch habits are effecting you? – https://www.cesisolutions.org/calculators/Brown_Bag_Savings_Calculator.html
Another huge way to save on food is by eating in. Instead of getting together with your friends at a local eatery consider hosting dinner parties. You can all split the costs, share recipes, try each others favorite wine, and reap the benefits. When you break it down its simple. When eating out you pay AT LEAST $20 a person on a plate of food add tip and drinks and you’ve got a $30-$40 bill per person. That’s $400 per ten trips to a mid-range restaurant. Is a night off from doing dishes really worth $30-$40?
Cut Vanity Expenses: What are vanity expenses? They are the things we spend money on to groom and shape our body. Now this isn’t really vain, I just named them this way so I don’t splurge on a spa day. Haircuts, mani/pedis, waxing appointments and gym memberships are all costing you big bucks. I’m not saying you should stop taking care of yourself but you can cut back on your spending habits. Cut your hair once every 4 months instead of every 2 , eliminate the gym and exercise outside, buy a nail kit and do at home mani pedis, change your $10 a pop waxing trips and eyebrow appointments for at home alternatives. You don’t have to turn into a slob but you can cut back.
Stop spur of the moment shopping: This is huge. I was guilty of indulging in retail therapy sessions once in a while. If you haven’t already, stop this habit. If you don’t need it don’t spend on it. If you’re shopping and suddenly think an item will change your life for the better, chances are it wont it just is advertised well.
Go second hand: Occasionally you will have to spend. When you do you should spend smart. Think about second hand shopping. I have been complimented countless times on clothing that I’ve gotten off a thrift shop rack. I saved over $3000 by purchasing my University books second hand through websites like amazon, or abe books. Electronics are a bit more risky but doable, when purchasing second hand take a tech savvy friend to check out the goods for you. I just paid ½ price for a external hard drive that was next to new because the owner needed a size upgrade. Capitalize on other peoples consumer habits!
Quit those vices: They are bad for your wallet, and worse for your health. Quitting your vice will never be something that you look back on and regret. The top two big hitters are smoking and drinking habits, here are some facts.
Smoking – Even if we forget the fact that smoking is incredibly detrimental to your health, there is no ignoring the financial burden of this habit. Smoking has always been expensive and is getting even more costly with some states taking measure to deter people from smoking. The average is $5 a pack in the United States with New York taking the cake at over $12. You are spending around $3,500 – $4,700 to smoke…that’s a few round trips to Australia!
Drinking – College students im looking at you! Studies found that Americans spend more on booze than all non-alchohalic drinks combined! Skip the nights out and opt for a good book, or drink in. If you must indulge I suggest setting a nightly limits on your drunk spending. Bring your alcohol allowance in cash so even if your feeling tipsy you aren’t inclined to spend more than you want to. Even better , have a friends night and drink in $4 a bottle of wine vs $10/glass, yes please.
Prematurely updating electronics : If its not broken, why buy another one? Unless your job is tied to having the newest gadgets, there is no reason why you NEED the newest phone/computer/video game consul that’s out there. Even if the new update is awesome, hold back and you can save big time. (research costs of updating electronics) Even a yearly phone upgrade can cost you over $1000 in six years (ouch). Trust me NO ONE comments on my photos with “why are you shooting these amazing pictures with an old arse phone”.
Broken screen? Fix it yourself, I learned how off of youtube and bought a $20 repair kit off amazon. Broken or dying for an upgrade? Sell it first, swappa (https://swappa.com/) or craigslist (the best options). You can even make some green off
Don’t believe me and want to see the to see the numbers? Check out this article by lifehacker – http://lifehacker.com/how-often-should-you-upgrade-your-iphone-an-experiment-1729328617
Get a side job:
Freelancer websites: The internet is a wonderful thing for people looking to make some extra cash. Writing, tech, graphic design, photography,data entry, virtual assistantships, and even voiceover work, you can find part time jobs that you can complete from your home. If you are more of a hands on person you can find more ‘traditional’ part-time work, babysitting, mowing lawns ext. The point is, if you have a skill, you can capitalize on it! Three websites to start searching are UpWork, Freelancer, and Craigslist.
Promoting: You know those annoying people on the road trying to get you to buy something, or the hoards of bodies at events and festivals who are behind the tables, or those girls giving out free samples at bars? They are making more cash than you probably thought. The side job that’s quick, easy and requires no experience with a great payout? – Become a brand ambassador.
English Speaking Programs : These are so simple it hurts. People looking to better their English want to talk with native speakers. You have the basic skill (and chance) to be a native speaker. I use a program called NiceTalk Tutor, but a quick google search will show you that there are a lot of options if your are looking to cash in on English conversations.
A Note About Travel Privilege:
I would like to add a disclaimer to my savings regimen. It always surprises me to read long rants by travelers on how people say “You are so lucky to live that lifestyle.” In fact, search google with the phrase – I am lucky to travel the world, it will turn up more rants than positive articles (EW) I myself have been guilty of the responding to peoples acclaims of my luck with, “It’s not luck it’s hard work.”, or “If I can save for travel you can too.” While that is true, One key ingredient in being able to travel be it for a weekend vacation, or longterm, is privilege. Yes I said it I am privileged to have these opportunities presented to me, lucky to have these doors to open, and chanced to have not had other obstacles thrown at me. Every traveler is in a different boat (pun intended) and we should keep that in mind when starting a savings plan, as well as when enjoying the outcomes. All of us have walked down a different path, arranged our priorities differently, or have been thrown some curve balls from life. Don’t be discouraged if someone you know is able to save in two months what you can in two years, don’t judge others by the speed of their success, and when you reach your goal remember how lucky you really are.
Want a condensed version of this post? Here are my top 10 savings tips! Good luck and happy trails 🙂