The most common question I get (ironically mostly from real life – not so much from my blogging life) is how I afford to travel so much. I do not travel full-time. However, I have traveled to 54 countries so far, and plan to continue traveling as much as possible. But how have I managed to do this? If you don’t know me then let me introduce myself. Hi I am Tiffany, a professional money saver – and then (a few months later) a professional money spender.
Exactly 3 times in my life I have saved up large sums of money, and then intentionally blown the whole wad on some amazing travel experiences. It’s been a blast, and I would like to share with you how I’ve managed to save money to travel, and more importantly, how you can too!
The first thing I need to point out is it has absolutely nothing to do with how much money you make, and everything to do with how you are managing your money. I don’t care if you are a college student working part time, if you’re making $40,000 a year waiting tables, or if you make $70,000 a year working a 9-5. You can save money to travel in every stage of life. I know this because I have been at all of those stages of life, and never once has my income prevented me from travel. Instead, how I managed my income is what has enabled me to travel.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re planning on traveling for 2 weeks or a year, these tips and concepts will help make your dreams a reality. So, let’s begin! Here’s 50 ways to start saving money for travel right now.
50 Realistic Ways to Save Money for Travel NOW
To be completely honest, a lot of these concepts are far more complex than simply “how to save money for travel”. For them to work effectively, they really need to be a lifestyle change. In order to save money (and not feel like you can never eat out, or never go shopping, or never have any fun ever again) you need to start becoming conscious of how much money goes into your pocket, and how much leaves it every month.
So that’s where we’re going to start. If you want to save money for travel, it’s important to have a travel budget and to set a savings goal.
HAVE A SAVINGS PLAN
1. Create a Travel Budget
Budget, budget, budget. I know it’s no fun but having a travel budget is crucial. I mean, how would you know how much you need to be saving? I know what you’re thinking, finances = ewww and scary. Budget = eww and scary. Don’t worry, creating a budget isn’t nearly as intimidating as it may seem. To help you out, I’ve already written a post all about How to Create a Travel Budget in 4 Easy Steps. So, I first recommend popping over there and taking a look, and then coming back. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. 🙂
Sweet you’re back, okay let’s continue.
2. Create a Savings Plan
If you did the exercise from Tip 1, then you have now created a travel budget. Next, we need to create a savings plan to save enough money to fund that travel budget.
For the best (and easiest) explanation of this, read my post about 8 Simple Steps to Creating a Savings Plan. This post is going to walk you through step-by-step how much you need to be saving per month in order to fund your trip.
3. Track Your Spending
Before we begin on all the different ways you can save money, I would highly recommend tracking all of your spending. It can be scary, but you need to look at your finances square in the face and understand where you are, and where you want to be. If you don’t want to track your spending constantly, I totally understand. But I would say for the next month at least, track every single dime that leaves your wallet.
If tracking your spending is a foreign concept for you, I highly recommend using apps such as Mint to help you out.
Okay, now that you have a goal of how much you want to save each month, let’s get into the actual money saving tips. Keep in mind, I am not a fan of extremes. I do not think they’re healthy. For example, if I am trying to lose weight, I don’t completely cut out sugar. Instead, I limit my intake to once or twice a month. In the same way, I am not a fan of extreme saving. I don’t think it is a healthy, long-term solution. What I want to help you do is become a long-term financial saver and planner. This way you can continue to save, spend your money wisely, travel, and ultimately live the kind of life you’ve always wanted to live.
SAVE ON HOUSING
The first thing we’re going to take a look at is what is likely your greatest expense, your rent or mortgage. If you have a mortgage, then your only real option is to consider finding roommates. However, if you are renting you could either move in with family (ideally rent free) or find cheaper rent.
4. Move in With Family
If you are really trying to save a boat-load of money, of course the best option is if you can move in with family to live cheaper or rent free. This is probably a no-brainer.
Unfortunately, because my parents have never lived close to me, this was never an option. If it’s also not an option for you then don’t worry! You can still save. You just need to be a bit savvy with your housing choices.
5. Find Cheaper Rent
Can you live somewhere more affordable? I have always lived in major cities but have never paid more than $900 a month in rent. It’s hard, but it is possible my friends. 🙂
Although I have tried multiple different housing websites, when it comes to finding the best bang for your buck rent, Craigslist and Padmapper is always the best for me. My suggestion is to hunt around a bit, and then really jump on listings that look good.
Next, you’ll need to really think about what you can live without. Or in some cases, live with. For example, I’m not going to lie, roommates are tough. However, when I was living in San Diego, I could either choose to live by myself for $1500 a month (not including utilities) or suck it up and have a roommate for the very reasonable price of $900 a month. I didn’t particularly want a roommate, but I had to make the best choice for my finances.
What can you compromise on? Here’s a list of things you might want to consider:
- Smaller living space
- Street parking only
- Outdated appliances
- Old carpets
- Laundry not in unit
- Further walk from the metro
- No pool (I never go anyways)
- No gym (Again, I never go anyways)
- No balcony (Not gonna lie, I love having a balcony)
Things I suggest you never compromise on:
- Living in unsafe neighborhoods
- Rodent or insect infestation
- Living with roommates you morally don’t agree with (smoking, drugs, alcohol abuse, etc).
I’m sure there’s more, but we’ll stop there. These are just a few things I look for and consider when searching for housing.
SAVE ON TRANSPORTATION
I have always driven a used car, and thankfully have never had a monthly car payment. You bet this has helped me immensely in saving money. I may have never owned a new car, but I have traveled to 54 countries. Priorities guys, priorities.
There’s a few options for saving on transportation:
6. Use Public Transit
When living in an inner city, I used public transportation to go to and from work.
Pro Tip: Does your work compensate you for public transit? A major perk was my work actually reimbursed me for these types of expenses, so I was essentially commuting for free. If this is an option with your work, I would definitely inquire about it. I would also look into local tax benefits. In certain areas public transit can be claimed on your taxes.
7. Use Car Shares
I have never done this as my primary method of transportation, but I have a friend who does and she swears by it. She says it’s WAY cheaper than a monthly car payment, car insurance, and gas. Two great options to look into are Pogo and ZipCar.
8. Buy a Used Car
When I moved to San Diego, public transit was no longer an option. In 2016 I purchased a very reasonably priced used 2007 Toyota Prius, which I purchased in full. I could have purchased a newer car, but I knew that a 2007 Prius would be reliable and require little maintenance.
9. Sell Your Car
If you are traveling long-term, you might want to consider selling your car. After purchasing my Prius in 2016, I was prepared to turn around and sell it in order to fund my travels. Thankfully, I reached my saving goal without having to sell my car, so I still have my ole reliable Prius. 🙂
10. Use Gas Buddy
Have you heard of Gas Buddy? It’s a free app where you can compare the cheapest gas in your area. Download it and use it. Start saving now!
SAVE USING CASH BACK PROGRAMS
This is a serious game-changer. These cash back programs are amazing money saving resources!
Ibotta is an amazing cash back app that you can use on your smart phone. You can use it for all kinds of products and even popular stores like Walmart and Target.
Ebates is another cash back program that you can also use at popular stores such as Old Navy, Amazon, and even Ebay!
SAVE BY FINANCING SMARTER
13. Open a Separate Bank Account
I highly recommend opening a separate bank account and use it as your travel fund. Trust me, you need to separate your current spending account from your savings account so you’re not tempted to spend it. Each month as you save money, set your travel savings aside and do not touch it.
The easiest way to do this is by banking online. Each month transfer over your monthly savings to your travel savings account and watch it grow!
14. Open a Charles Schwab Bank Account to Save on ATM and Banking Fees
Guys, this tip saved me HUNDREDS when I traveled for 4 months around Southeast Asia. Opening an account is so easy, and there are no downsides. And don’t worry, you don’t have to invest with Charles Schwab in order to set up a bank account.
When you open a bank account with Charles Schwab you won’t be charged any monthly banking fees, there’s no minimum amount to open an account, and best of all no foreign transaction fees, and no ATM fees! You can’t ask for a better bank to travel with, so get an account now!
15. Educate Yourself on the Basics to Travel Hacking
This could really be an entire post all to itself, but I am not going to lie, I am no expert in travel hacking. Maybe I should try a bit harder. However, from what I have done, I am happy with the results.
My biggest and only disclaimer is if you are in debt or are unsure if you can make the payments to reach the signup bonus, this option is not for you.
The basics of travel hacking is that you sign up for one or more credit cards that appeal to you and offers a large signup bonus of somewhere in the range of 30,000 to 50,000 points. With these points you can fly for free or trade them in for hotel stays or something else along those lines. It really just depends on the card.
Trust me when I say that my experience with travel hacking has been very modest. I started looking into credit card travel hacking when I knew I wanted to travel more frequently. I gave myself at least 6 months to apply to some credit cards I liked, made sure I could qualify for them, and most importantly knew that I could pay them off in order to receive the signup bonus. I only signed up for 2 credit cards and I received some free flights in return. It worked great for me and is definitely a viable option. But once again let me repeat, if you cannot pay it off to reach the signup bonus, then don’t do it.
Credit Cards I Like:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card – My personal favorite is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. It has a 50,000-point signup bonus after spending $4,000 in the first three months. They waive foreign transaction fees (ideal for traveling abroad), and you receive 2X points for travel and restaurant purchases. This is still the primary credit card I use on a daily basis, and I love it.
- The Platinum Card from American Express – A second card I like is the Platinum Card from American Express. It has a 60,000-point signup bonus after spending $5,000 in the first three months. They offer a slew of other perks such as 5X points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
My biggest advice is do not try to wing travel hacking, educate yourself. The greatest source of information regarding this topic is The Points Guy, and additionally I would highly recommend purchasing Cracking the Code to Travel Hacking by Keith King for the full ins and outs of how to do it.
SAVE ON TRAVEL
16. Use Airbnb Instead of Staying in Hotels
I honestly can’t think of the last time I stayed in a hotel. If I’m traveling, I’m usually using Airbnb and it has saved me hundreds in accommodation costs.
Besides being budget friendly, they usually have a warm and cozy feel to them, and you can chat with your host and learn something new from them and their culture.
17. Subscribe to Some Crazy Awesome Flight Deals
If you’re already a cheap flights connoisseur, then these websites are probably already on your radar. If you’re the kind of person who’s down for going anywhere as long as you can find a cheap flight, then subscribe baby! These websites are the holy grail of cheap flights, so sign up and get on their email list.
- Scott’s Cheap Flights (if you only want to subscribe to 1, make this one it)
- The Flight Deal (if you want to subscribe to 2, then add this one to the mix)
- Holiday Pirates (their deals are mostly from the UK)
- Secret Flying
SAVE ON LIFESTYLE CHOICES
18. Cancel Cable
I used to have cable, and then quickly nixed it in favor of other entertainment companies such as Netflix or Hulu. I honestly don’t even miss it, the only thing that I am a bit bummed about is not being able to watch the news. But to be completely honest, I didn’t even watch it that much anyway, so…it’s okay.
19. Use Free Streaming Sites
If you don’t even want to spend money for Netflix or Hulu, don’t underestimate the power of streaming sites. Here’s a list of free ones that you can try out.
20. Stop Buying Magazines and Books
I love books so freaking much. If you’re an avid reader, my tip is to check out your local library. You will be shocked by how well stocked libraries are. They have a massive source of books, audiobooks, magazines, and even movies, video games, and shows available to you for free!
21. Cancel Your Gym Membership
I used to have a pricey gym membership of $100 a month. I really loved my gym. They had great spin and yoga classes, but ultimately, they had to be sacrificed.
What I did instead was take up running, which wasn’t too hard, I love to run. I also invested in at home workout programs like the Kayla Itsines BBG. The BBG is a pricey workout program at around $100 USD for a 12 week plan. However, since I wasn’t spending $100 a month anymore, it seemed okay.
22. Give Up Bad Habits
If you are a smoker or excessive drinker, you would be surprised how much this habit is costing you.
23. Paint Your Own Nails
But if you want to keep getting your nails done, use Groupon.
24. Get Your Haircut at a Beauty School
So, I’m going to be completely honest with you, I have never actually done this tip. Buuuut I do plan on trying it and maybe I’ll update this post afterwards and tell you how it went.
Basically, how it works is you go to a beauty school and have a student cut your hair and get a free (or seriously reduced priced) haircut. I know it sounds a bit scary and you’re wondering “what if they mess it up?”. Well, I for one am not too concerned because even professionals with 20+ years’ experience still manage to mess up my hair, so I’m game for trying. But regardless, the students usually have a senior stylist shadowing them who make sure they cut it properly. 🙂
Pro Tip: I have also heard that dental and physiotherapy operates in the same way. I’ve never done it, but it’s definitely worth looking into. I can update this post later my thoughts. 🙂
25. Be Conscious of Electricity and Water Use
Are your utility bills outrageous? Try turning off the water when you’re brushing your teeth. Make more of an effort to turn off lights when you leave the house or are not in the room.
26. Switch to LED Lights
Seriously though, this makes a big difference! These lights last forever, are super bright, and they save on electricity!
27. Plan Date Nights In
If you’re in a relationship, I completely understand the need to keep the spark alive and routinely have a date night. I also think it’s vital in maintaining a healthy relationship. The thing is, you don’t need to go to a fancy restaurant, then watch an IMAX movie sipping $5.00 cokes and $10.00 popcorn (with the $1.00 extra butter on top). By the way, if this is you then I am not picking on you. I used this example because…this is how I like to roll on date nights. 🙂
Can you guys come up with a more creative way to spend a date night that’s also budget friendly? I mean, Netflix and chill is like the phrase of our generation.
Maybe watch a Netflix series together and spice it up by dinner together with stove top popcorn? I know you guys can get imaginative, but basically spending a lot of money is not the only to connect and have a quality date night.
SAVE ON SHOPPING
28. Create a Capsule Wardrobe
Are you guilty of having a closet full of clothes and still complaining you have nothing to wear? You can be honest; my hand was in the air before I even read the whole question.
If this is you, a capsule wardrobe might be a massive game-changer. I’m not even going to go into it, ClassyYetTrendy says it so much better. Read her post on what capsule wardrobes are, and how to create one.
29. Shop Smarter
Don’t worry, I am not going to tell you to stop shopping all together. If you still wanna shop, I suggest shopping smarter. To save money I began frequenting thrift shops and was a regular at Crossroads, Buffalo Exchange, Clothes Mentor, and Plato’s Closet. And you would be shocked at what a gold mine Goodwill can be.
Below are some of my favorite websites for buying second-hand clothing:
- The RealReal
30. Set a Shopping Rule
I’m speaking directly to all the impulse buyers out there. Sometimes you just gotta lay down some sort of rule when it comes to shopping. What worked for me was setting some sort of wait period before buying an item I wanted. I would set aside maybe 1 or 2 days to think about if I really wanted the item. If I did, then I went back and purchased it. But more often than not, I completely forgot about it. Goodbye impulse purchases!
31. Price Check Items on Amazon
I’m not even kidding, this will change your life. More often than not, Amazon sells the exact thing you might want, but cheaper. If I’m considering buying something, I always check Amazon first before purchasing. If you use Amazon often enough, you also might want to consider getting Amazon Prime for free shipping and faster delivery.
Be sure to also check out the Amazon Outlet Store for clearance and markdowns for the best deals!
32. Sell Items You Don’t Want/Need Anymore
I made a TON of money just by selling clothes, furniture, and home décor I no longer wanted. I found Craigslist to be the fastest and most reliable way to sell furniture and home décor.
When it came to clothes, the below websites are great options:
- Ebay (obviously)
- The RealReal
SAVE BY USING FREEBIES
33. Use Free Music Apps
If you purchase a lot of music every month, use free apps like Spotify, Pandora, and even Youtube.
34. Free Activities
Being on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t have fun anymore. Are there some free activities you can start doing?
Here’s a list of ideas that might help you out:
- Picnic in a local park
- Movies in the park
- Nature Hikes
35. Free Museums
It’s common for museums to be free the first week of every month. Check out your local museums and see if they offer any deals!
SAVE ON FOOD & DRINK
I saved food and drink for last and devoting an entire section to it because eating out and going to bars is the fastest way to blow a budget. But here’s the thing, I am not recommending you stop doing all of the things you love. I’m just recommending you dial it back a bit. Let’s look at the common bank breakers.
36. Learn to Cook
Seriously tho, this tip will take you far in life. Learn to freaking cook. You will save money, you will probably lose weight (I did!), you will develop a new skill set, and what I came to find out, you’ll have fun!
If you have no idea where to even start (I didn’t!), turn to Pinterest. There are so many yummy recipes there it would turn even the most resistant female into a domestic goddess.
37. Eat Whole Foods, Not Fast Foods
It has actually been proven that junk foods like burgers, fries, pizza, chips, etc. leave you wanting more and do not satisfy you long term. This includes frozen foods such as pizza, lasagna, hot pockets, toaster strudels, etc.
On the other hand, “whole foods” are simply foods that are processed or refined as little as possible and are free from additives or other artificial substances. If you switch to eating foods like brown rice, whole grain pasta, quinoa, legumes, lean meats, nuts, fruits and vegetables, you will actually feel more satisfied and satiated after a meal. This full and satisfied feeling will actually allow you eat less and…save money! It’s good for your health and for your bank account. 🙂
38. Eat Less Meat
In case you didn’t know, meat is expensive. I was a vegetarian for 10 years and saved a lot of money by utilizing a plant-heavy diet. And if you try out tip #43 and grow your own food, you’ll be saving even more!
39. Meal Plan Each Week
I can’t even tell you how helpful meal planning is. Ever fallen victim to the, “I’m starving and don’t have any food. Wanna order pizza?”. Don’t let this be you.
When I sit down and plan out my meals for the week I feel so much more organized. I also know exactly what I need from the grocery store and am less likely to impulse buy the entire store.
If the idea of meal planning gives you a headache, you might want to consider the $5 Dollar Meal Plan. For just $5 a month you’ll receive a weekly meal plan (shopping list included!). And don’t worry, it’s risk free! You can sign up for a 14 day (two week) trial for FREE by clicking here.
40. Don’t Go to the Grocery Store Hungry
If this seems obvious, just know I am only including this as a tip because impulse buying when you are hungry is a real thing! Eat something before you go! And if certain aisle are dangerous for you (ie candy or chip aisle) then just avoid them all together.
41. Limit Eating Out
Who doesn’t love eating out? It’s not like you have to stop but maybe you could make a rule to eat out only once a week. Or if you’re in a relationship, maybe you can have your once a week night of eating out to coincide with your date night.
I also almost ALWAYS use a Groupon when eating out. There are so many deals on Groupon, why ever pay full price?
42. Bring Your Own Lunch
Okay I know, I know, no one wants to be the guys/girl who comes to work with a smooshed PB&J in a plastic bag. But here’s the thing, by not eating out every day you would be AMAZED by how much money you save.
I bring my lunch every day and a bonus is I have actually ended up losing weight. I mean, with results like that, this is the kind of money savings tip I can get behind.
43. Grow Your Own Food
Okay, this is really a long-term saving tip, but you can always grow your own food! The prices of fresh vegetables are outrageous, and I go through a ton of kale, spinach, and tomatoes each month. If you wanna try your own green thumb, probably the easiest one to start is growing kale.
44. Make Your Own Coffee
In case you didn’t know, I am a raging coffee-aholic. If you are too then your daily grande skim vanilla latte with a caramel drizzle is costing you. I know it’s yummy. Trust me, I know. But once again, I’m not saying stop drinking your coffee. Just maybe try switching to an at home brew with a vanilla creamer and save your coffee shop runs as a special treat once a week. Don’t be sad, travel coffee mugs are cute too, I swear!
Here’s some of my favorites:
45. Stop Buying Bottled Water
The price of bottled water is absurd, stop buying it right now. Buy yourself a nice eco-friendly reusable bottle (or 2) and never leave the house without it again. I personally love the S’well bottles because they are insulated stainless steel bottles that have a condensation-free exterior so they don’t “sweat” on your hands or in your bag. A huge bonus is they stay hot for 12 hours and cold for 24 hours! So if you take them on a hike, the water will still be cold for you!
46. Two Buck Chuck
Oh, have you never heard of two buck chuck? Then let me introduce you: meet Charles Shaw, the famous $3 wine sold at my favorite grocery store, Trader Joe’s. Now don’t get judgy, just because the wine is cheap doesn’t mean it’s bad quality, this wine actually wins awards, read for yourself!
If you don’t live near a Trader Joe’s, you can also find decently priced alcohol that doesn’t break the bank at Target or Walmart.
47. Happy Hour Guys, Happy Hour
If you don’t already utilize the power of happy hour, you need to be. Enough said.
48. Use Groupon For Events
My biggest tip for maintaining a fun nightlife and saving money at the same time is using Groupon. I’m telling you it has everything! Concert tickets, movie tickets, waterparks, heck, even spray tans and oil changes. Seriously, you could be saving hundreds. Use Groupon.
49. Invite Friends Over Instead of Going Out
I know this might sound old school, but what I started to do was just invite friends over instead of going out. Maybe you provide the main course and ask your guest to bring appetizers or wine. I honestly loved it and thought it was a much cozier and fun way to get together and socialize.
By utilizing these tips, I am positive you will be able to save money for travel. Now that you’ve saved all this money for a dream trip, it’s important to spend your money wisely during your trip as well. Let’s start with helping you find the cheapest flight every time. 🙂
50. Stay Focused on the Goal
My last tip is a tip of encouragement. After a while, you might lose focus as to why you’re doing all of this in the first place. You might start to feel like hermit, turning down invites to socialize and trying to spend as little as possible. If you do, it’s important to stay focused! Remember why you’re doing this.
Create a Pinterest travel board of all the places you want to go. Start planning and researching your trip so it feels more and more real to you. I actually hung a map of the world in my cubicle at work and would stare at it constantly dreaming of all the amazing places I wanted to see.
I encourage you to do something similar. Stay motivated and focused on what you want. With some determination and hard work, it will happen and you will be laying on the beaches of Thailand or hiking the Andes mountains in no time. Promise. 🙂
How do you save money for travel? Love to know below!
12 Tips for Scoring the Cheapest Flight Every Time (one of my most popular posts!)
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