I’ve travelled a lot, and aside from an amazing job opportunity presented to me at 21 years old, all of my previous and later travel has been completely self funded. I’ve been to 30 countries in 23 years and have loved every single second of saving all of my money to go around the world.
Well… that may not be entirely true. Whilst it is indeed the truth that every single second of travel, no matter how hard or frustrating it may sometimes be, has been thoroughly enjoyed, the getting there is actually not quite as enjoyable. Saving for anything is a pain. Having to act like you don’t have the money when, really, you have a fair few digits in your savings account isn’t fun. And if you’re saving over a long period of time, then it becomes even less fun, with every time you spend money you focusing on what this could INSTEAD be used for, or what percentage of your travel budget that purchase would be.
I find myself in that position at the moment. I’m attempting to save enough money to go have an amazing time in Ecuador and Peru next year. My problem is that I’ve relocated to another country, and my financial situation – whilst it has never been tremendous due to pouring everything I earn into more travel – has only just become really stable. That means that now, just as money is okay again, I have to start putting away large chunks of it so that I can go and sort out these itchy feet.
When I was at university, saving seemed easy. Everything is cheap as a student, and all it took for me to save was to get a part time job throughout term time, and work my bum off during holidays. Sure, I sacrificed a few nights out here and there, and I would have liked to have been better dressed throughout my uni experience (and now, come to think of it…) but it’s a small sacrifice to make for such an incredible experience. So here are my five tips to help you save money for travel.
1) eBay the shit out of everything you own
This doesn’t just count for eBay… but other sites like Craigslist, Markplaatz, Gumtree… all of these things. Chances are you own a million and one things that you would never even notice if they went missing. Clothes, shoes, books, games, electronics, hell, my boyfriend has three guitars hanging up in his bedroom in his parents house. In England. And we live in Amsterdam. All of these things are not only a great way to clear out all of your old stuff, but generates a bit of extra cash easily that you can put straight in your travel fund. No matter how little it goes for, does it matter? If you’re not using it, then let someone else make the most of it whilst contributing to your travel plans.
Seems like a blatantly obvious one… and it is. But this is the point where I’m at right now. I work, of course, but to be able to get that extra cash that I need, I’m going to have to try and get another job. A bar, a restaurant, a cafe… something crappy and part time, but something that will end up bringing an extra €100 every week to my bank account. Obviously I would prefer to have my weekends completely free, but it all comes back to that key point: it’s a small price to pay for a few months to enjoy any period of total freedom and adventure! Bite the bullet, brace yourself and do all the work you can.
3) Stop spending so much
Another obvious one, but if you don’t change your spending habits, then you’re not going to see a turnaround in your travel savings. You see lists of these ‘daily changers’ all the time… stop buying a coffee all the time (damn you, Starbucks…), bring your own lunch to work instead of buying, or switch to the cheaper brand of food/drink/clothes for a while. They may sound lame (I mean, who really wants to sacrifice their daily coffee fix?) but they’re all going to make a difference. Think about it. Ditching a Starbucks 5 times a week will save you at least £15. 6 months to go until you jet away into the sunset? That’s almost an extra £400, just like that. Small changes = big progress.
4) Make a budget
Go one step further than merely stopping yourself spending so much, and actually make a budget. Sit down and figure out what’s coming in, what’s going out, and where you can afford to cut back. If your projections look pretty futile (as mine often do when I sit down and do this!) don’t be afraid that it’s going to stop you from going. Just figure something out. Get another job, switch the products you are buying, sell all of your crap. It’s never a lost cause, and if you REALLY want to get yourself somewhere, go and bloody do it!
5) Make a plan
This is probably the most essential stage of saving for travel. Make a plan of where you are going, what you really, really want to do, what you would kind of like to do, and how long you are going for. Yeah, forward planning isn’t the spontaneous and romantic vision of throwing a backpack on and setting off around the world, but it’s practical (yawn). Practical may be boring, but if that’s going to make sure you go and do everything you set out to do and more and avoid being stranded on the other side of the world without a penny to your name, then do it! Look into different methods of travelling, too. Volunteering programmes are great, and although you can pay a lot for them, your accommodation, food and day to day life is normally sorted before you get there.
I think a lot of people think of travel as something they would love to do one day, but will never have enough money or time. And that is a HUGE misconception. Of course people have different circumstances, but if it’s something you feel passionately about, get out there and do it. It takes a bit of sacrifice for most of us, and hard work and perseverance for everyone. Once you’re out there… making friends with tigers in Thailand, drinking beers on the beach in Brazil or as pictured below, enjoying a Cider after a day of skiing in the French Alps, it’ll be totally worth every stressed out, scrimping, saving second.