17 simple tips to help you save money so you can travel farther and longer
Money (or the lack thereof) is, without a doubt, one of the top reasons people give for not being able to travel. I can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve heard something like “Oh, Nikki, I’d love to travel, but I just don’t have the money” or “Why do you have so much money… have you won the lottery?” or “Your parents must be paying for your trips, aren’t they?”. More often than not, I’m asked these things by people with a Frappuccino in one hand and the latest iPhone in the other (which is, to be honest, part of the problem).
To help the people who ask me these questions (as well as anyone who’s interested in saving), I’ve created a list of advice that I follow myself to save money to travel. So, you are welcome to use these tips to whatever degree feels comfortable to you.
Note: At Out of Your Comfort Zone, we recognize that traveling is a privilege. Unfortunately, this means that the majority of people around the world will be unable to save up enough money to travel no matter how diligently they follow these tips. However, for those who are in more comfortable position and could potentially travel but just need a reminder on how to save, we hope this article will be useful.
Watch your nightlife habits.
You and I both know that a night out can be expensive… between the taxi, drinks, late-night munchies… you can easily blow $50+ on a single night and not realize it until the next day.
It may not be nearly as exciting, but buying drinks at the grocery store is one of the easiest ways to save and party at the same time.
2. Don’t eat out.
Think about it: even if you only eat out once per week (and spend ≈$10.00 each time)… that equals more than $500 per year!
3. On that note… don’t buy street snacks, either.
Now, while things like street snacks, (think: a $2.00 soft drink here, a $3.00 ice cream there) might seem like petty change, this is yet another thing that can really add up quickly.
As with the alcohol, you’ll save a lot if you buy your treats in bulk from the grocery instead of individually when you’re out and about.
4. Kick that Starbucks habit.
In my experience, this seems to be one of those things that either a) people don’t seem to think about or b) are unwilling to change. If you cannot comprehend a Monday morning (or any day of the week morning) without coffee in hand, just remember that, by purchasing a daily coffee, you could potentially be spending upwards of 700, 800… or even $1,000 per year that could probably be better used elsewhere (even if not for traveling)!!
If you don’t care about the fancy coffees but are merely interested in that caffeine fix, you can save a lot of money by making coffee at home, drinking tea instead, or even getting caffeine pills (I promise they’re not as sketchy as they sound… plus, they’re cheap!).
5. Limit going to the movies, concerts, places with cover charges, etc.
Basically, don’t go to any place that will require you to spend money to get in. Unfortunately, I happen to really like going to the movies but I have to restrain myself to only going to things like the final Hunger Games movie (only 2 more months!!).
6. Avoid taxis like the plague.
Unless you are in a place where taxis are cheap and you have a bunch of people to split the cost, avoid them. Seriously. If you want to see an angry rant about taxis written by Rodrigo, click here.
While taking a taxi might save you a bunch of time (and, for that reason, are sometimes essential if you have a plane to catch or the like), they are almost always several times more expensive than public transportation. Even if you think to yourself, “oh, but the taxi ride is only $3.00”… likely, you are in a country where the cost of a bus or metro ticket is a fraction of this cost.
Remember, every little thing counts.
By the end of the article, this is the mantra that I want you to be repeating over and over in your head.
7. Limit your technology obsession and stop upgrading every few months.
The things listed in the article thus far have been small-time purchases that people tend to forget about… however, here’s one that I think is pretty obvious.
After all, it’s unlikely that you need the fanciest MAC computer plus the latest iPhone and iPad and iPod Touch. They all kind of do the same thing anyways, don’t they? In other words, apple (or basically any of company that produces electronics) probably won’t go broke if you stop upgrading to their latest models every few months.
8. Don’t pay for data.
Data is super expensive… most plans will cost you a bare minimum of $50/month. I don’t think I need to tell you that this adds up to a lot of money over the course of the year.
Instead, opt for a pre-paid phone with data or just quit cold turkey and go data free. If might seem like you won’t survive without data but trust me, it’s possible if you really really want to save money. Besides, you can find free WiFi in most places you need it. Plus, it’ll free up your time to do better things like reading a book, checking out the news, or starting to plan your trip.
9. Cancel your cable subscription.
Who actually watches TV these days, anyways? Between Netflix, Hulu, and uh, other ways of getting movies… you probably don’t need that subscription.
10. If something breaks (computer, bike, etc.) watch a youtube video and learn how to fix it yourself.
This will, of course, take more time but it will almost always be cheaper than bringing it to a place to get fixed (unless, of course, while trying to fix it you end up accidently breaking it even more….*cough, cough*)
If you don’t feel like doing it yourself, hopefully you have smart friends.
11. Shop online and compare prices.
If you do need to make a big purchase (like a bicycle or a computer), make sure you shop around (both online and in-store) so you don’t spend more than you need to…. attention all students: order your textbooks from secondhand shops online!! Personally, I always found the cheapest secondhand books on Amazon.
Remember, every little thing counts.
I’m really not exaggerating here (though I probably am being a bit annoying).
Some tips to help keep you motivated to save
12. Plan a trip… and get that plane / train / bus ticket!!
There’s nothing quite like knowing you’ve got a great trip planned and actually booked in the near future to make you really try to save your money. Of course, I only recommend this is you feel like you can, realistically, actually save a sufficient amount of money before your departure and have enough now to actually buy the ticket.
For example, I have a fairly big trip planned for when I finish my contract here in Korea next March. I had probably been spending a little bit more than I should have recently and, in realizing that the trip was only 6 months away, decided that I needed to be more diligent in my saving. So, actually, writing this article was a good reminder for what I should be doing, as well!
13. Get over FOMO (fear of missing out).
An unfortunate side effect of trying to save money is that yes, indeed, your social life will probably suffer.
After all, once you continue to turn down invitations to all of the things I recommended you avoid (restaurants, bars, the movies, etc) for a long enough period of time… the invitations will stop coming. Hopefully, though, you’ll have friends who either a) decide to cut back their spending with you or b) are respectful of your decision and will join you for the occasional game night.
When you found yourself sitting alone at home when all of your friends are out and about, I recommend envisioning yourself backpacking through Europe or climbing Mount Fuji to feel better. By the time you’re there, your friends will probably wish followed your lead and saved their money, too.
14. Evaluate your priorities and always keep them in mind.
Decide what’s important to you. If your main priority is to travel (and soon), then do everything you can to make it happen. If you want to be able to travel but don’t consider it your #1 priority at the moment, find a balance and accept that you’ll need more time to save up the money.
Wherever you put travel on your priority scale, go back and check it out when you’re trying to justify buying the latest iPhone or an ice-cold coffee each day. Trust me, it’ll cause you to re-think most of your purchases.
15. View every dollar spent in terms of potential travel.
This may seem extreme, but I can guarantee you it’ll help you think before you make every purchase.
That $50 you just spent on month’s data for your phone? A week of accommodation on an island in Thailand.. That $2.00 you just spent on a Gatorade? Two beers in the Czech Republic. That $20 you just spent for dinner and a movie? A 17 hour bus ride between two cities in Colombia with meals and movies (and motion sickness) included.
16. Remember, traveling probably isn’t as expensive as you think it is.
I think it’s safe to say that most people overestimate how much it really costs to travel aside from the flight (although, I’ve found to way to make sure that I usually fly for free, plus 16 tips to save while buying your tickets). Of course, this does depend on your traveling style. If you are into fancy food, elegant accommodation, and elaborate tours… then I’m afraid I can’t help you.
However, if you really want to go full-out cheapskate mode, you can travel (almost) for free with things like couchsurfing, workaway, and hitchhiking. In other words, even if you can’t save up as much money to travel as you like, you don’t need to completely abandon your trip as you can travel quite extensively for very little money.
Or, if you’re travel style is somewhere in the middle of the spectrum where you still want to be able to travel cheaply without going to such extremes, follow the sequence on our The Art of Backpacking (flights, accommodation, travel insurance) page to find out everything you need to know about how to travel cheaply.
17. Accept that trying to save money really can kind of suck.
I have yet to encounter someone who enjoys saving their money more than they enjoy spending it. Just keep imagining yourself on your trip filled with cold hostel showers and getting lost and you’ll be there before you know it! Just keep imagining yourself exploring (or, in my case, getting lost in) one of Europe’s famous castles or Southeast Asia’s stunning beaches and you’ll be there before you know it!
…and finally, remember that every little thing counts.
Do you have that memorized, yet?
How do all of you readers out there save for your trips? Did I miss anything? Do we have any disagreements out there? What sort of trips do you dream about to help keep you motivated to save? Personally, I’m dreaming of Mongolia and another, surprise location that is hopefully in the works and can’t be revealed yet.
*This article was written by the website’s contributing editor and author, Nikki Elliott. Nikki is an American who has several big backpacking trips under her belt and is currently teaching English in South Korea. If you wish to contact her about her article, please comment below.
To learn about my favorite travel companies and resources that let me travel so much for such a low cost, take a look at my special page of “travel resources.”
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