One of the first questions that pops up in almost everyone’s head when you want to travel it how to get the finances together. That was a major issue for me and also the reason I started saving a year before I took off. I’ll just come out and say it, I kind of suck at saving money. Even though this is not my best quality, I was still able to save quite a bit of money by applying a few simple rules. So now, without further ado, here are my top tips to save money for travel!
Meals & Drinks
A major part of your budget that can be put towards travel might now be going towards food and drinks. Take-out or going out for dinner with friends is a lot of fun and definitely easy, but it adds up quite fast. These two expenses were cut almost immediately with the exception of one or two dates a month. The rest of the days I was cooking or inviting friends over for dinner (if you don’t know what to cook, here are a few ideas). However, it’s not because you’re saving money that your social life has to suffer. Once your friends know that you are saving up for a big trip, just ask them to chip in for that delicious homemade meal.
Two other tips that will save you some big bucks at the end is cooking in bulk and going to budget stores. As a self-proclaimed food snob, I like my high quality food. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t find good bargains at stores like ALDI. Maybe you won’t find everything that you want, but walking to a different store the next day won’t cost you a cent extra. Cooking in bulk is another good tip as it will always be cheaper per meal plus it will save you from the temptation of ordering take-out.
You’ve probably heard the words “closet detox” a couple of times if you like browsing the internet like me. A closet detox or capsule wardrobe is meant to de-clutter your closet and mind. When your takeoff date is coming closer and you’re trying to get organized to leave, a closet detox is an excellent action to take. This is very similar to deciding which clothing to take with you traveling, only you are doing it to stay at home. Look at your clothes and asses the colors, the function and the shapes. If you want to read more about it, read the amazing content on the subject created by Into Mind.
A good way to start this process it to divide your clothes into different piles. A pile of clothing that you could take traveling, a pile of clothing that you do not want to take but are too precious to get rid of, being either designer clothing and pieces that you love, and a pile of clothing that you no longer wear or do not suit you anymore. Divide this last pile into clothing for the bin or donations and clothing that are in good enough condition to sell. Attack that pile of clothing to sell with everything that you’ve got. Go to as many second-hand markets that you have the time for and sell them online. If you have any designer clothing that has to go, try the website of LabelLov which is a dependable and high quality website for designer wear. For high street clothing you can look towards your local second-hand websites like Tweedehands.be in Belgium or even Facebook pages. In Australia, you have a Buy, Swap And Sell page in almost every community and I know of several similar pages in Belgium. If you’re reading in from a different country, I would love to hear which pages or websites you’re using to sell your second-hand clothing.
Source: Into Mind
Ask yourself some questions
It is not easy to save for a long period of time. When you are planning for travel, the reward for saving is often intangible and quite far away. Therefore, you shouldn’t kick yourself when you’re tempted to buy something. You should simply take a few steps to see whether you really want to buy that item. First, take away the immediate temptation by not allowing yourself to do impulse shopping. After you sleep on it and you still want to buy that certain something, ask yourself a couple of questions:
1. Do I really need it? If yes, go to question 2. If not, leave it
2. Can I use it on my travels? If yes, go to question 3. If not, Leave it. After all, you are saving up to travel, why should you waste money on something that you’ll have to leave behind anyway
3. I often compare the money that I’m about to spend to an activity I love to do or a hotel I would like to visit. I look whether I would like to spend that money on a certain item rather than on a scuba dive in Flores or a night at the Ganesha Hotel in Kampot, Cambodia. Often that experience abroad wins over any material desires I might have at the time.
– My hut at the Ganesha hotel in Kampot, Cambodia-
Write down what you spend
Buying that breakfast at the coffee shop around the corner, a magazine at the supermarket or popping into the bar for one, two, three wines, it all adds up! The deal with small expenses is that you often don’t realize what you are spending and in my case that is usually more than I think. Therefore, it is important to write down exactly what is going out and if possible what is coming in. I’m not saying that you should spend hours and hours on creating a spreadsheet (although that would help you), you can simply download an app or use your beloved Moleskin. I quickly found the app Wally, a personal finance app, that has been with me for two years now.
In Wally, you can divide your spending in different categories, mention whether it was personal or business related, put in a note and even tag the exact location where you spent that money. As the months go by, it is easy to see what you’re spending, in which category and where the biggest part of your budget goes to. The good thing about creating this habit is that it only takes a second to do after your purchase (but keep your eyes onto the street and don’t walk into a tree like I did once) and it gives you an amazing overview. Budgeting is unfortunately not over when you’ve left the country (hey, that’s part of traveling) so while you’re abroad, keep entering your expenses. You will easily get to see whether you should be saving on accommodation or leisure activities when the budget is getting a bit tighter. It is also interesting to see is how much you spend in each country and how they compare. Wally is a good app, but it is not perfect yet, I would love to be able to log in and save the expenditures I have made in the past months or export them into an excel file. Unfortunately when your phone has to reboot, the entire memory of the app is wiped and so is all of your budget information of the past months.
Research, research, research
This is a step that you will want to take when you’re planning your trip. Know that there are different websites for flights with different prices. Go through all of them before you even consider booking a flight. My favorites are, among a couple others, usually ITA Software Matrix, Kayak and Skyscanner. Make sure to always check for flexible dates as well. There is of course much more to say on that subject but that would be for a different article. The same principle however goes for hotel and hostel booking websites or even for transport. Once you are on location, exploit all the resources online for finding prices on things like transport and then walk around to the local travel agents. Especially in developing countries, you will save many a pennies by bargaining and asking around!
-Public transport really is the best way to get around in India-
Lose random expenses you don’t really need
Once you are writing down all your expenses you will probably have a couple of expenses that consume a big portion of your budget. Re-evaluate those expenses and see whether you might be able to get rid of them. Could you give up your apartment and move in with your parents for the last couple of months? Do you really need that expensive phone and internet subscription? Can you live without Netflix? Do you still have a car that is costing you a lot? All those big expenses are attached to your every day life and that you are paying for with your job. This however quickly turns into a working to pay the bills kind of cycle and the quicker you get out of that, the quicker you will be able to set off. This of course only goes for people that are planning for long time travel. If you still need that car for your job when you get back, it might be a good idea to hang onto it.
Use a savings account
A savings account can be a blessing and a pain in the ass. It is a blessing because once you put money on that account it hurts to take it back off and it is a pain in the ass because once you’ve put in on there, it takes extra effort to get it off. But in terms of saving money, that is all good news. Determine a budget on which you can survive for the month and put the rest of the money onto your savings account right after you receive your paycheck. In this manner, you will be a lot less likely to touch that money for impulse purchases or accidentally spend it without noticing.
-Looking at the Mekong River in Luang Prabang, Laos-
That’s it for me. If you have any other great tips you would like to share, I would love to hear about them in the comments below!