HOW I AFFORD TO TRAVEL + MY TOP 10 TIPS TO SAVE FOR IT
When it comes to travel the most common question I get asked is how I afford it (I know, how cliché travel blogger-sounding of me).
While there’s no one-line answer, or at least not one that would be helpful to anyone, the general principle that’s helped me fund the majority of my travels is simple: I live like I’m broke.
Whether or not that’s actually the case (which trust me it has been, plenty) my best travel years have always followed a period of living a hardcore Top Ramen-lifestyle. But since time is money, and this post is all about saving it, I won’t bore you with the details. Instead, let’s jump right into How I Afford To Travel, Plus My Top 10 Tips To Save For It.
That’s right. I stopped going out to eat, to booze, to watch movies, you name it . . . if it cost even $1 more to do it “out” vs “in” then I stopped doing it. This is how I managed to save the most amount of money to put towards travel, I’m talking thousands and thousands of dollars, folks.
Let me illustrate . . .
Back in the day I would spend an average of $20 on breakfast/lunch/quick dinners out (about five times a week- $100); $40 any time I went out to dinner with friends (about twice a week – $80); $30 for happy hour or similar (about twice a week $60); and $25 for random entertainment like movies or events (about once a week). Add that up, and that’s an average of $1,060 per month!
Do you know where in the world you can get to with $1,060? A lot of places. Hell, I bought my fiancé and me roundtrip tickets to India for less than $500 a piece. Just sayin’.
The point is if you’re itching to travel but feel like you can’t afford it, start by taking a look at your “going out” expenses. There’s a good chance you’re spending an airplane ticket-worth amount of money on overpriced food, booze, and fun.
Don’t be shy about telling your friends/family/co-workers/the person you’re dating/etc. that you’re on a strict budget.
Chances are they’ll be super supportive and make it easier for you by minimizing any peer pressure to go out, especially when you tell them it’s so you can see more of the world.
And if not then no postcard for them when you finally make it to your dream destination.
When was the last time you went through all your accounts’ statements (bank, credit cards, etc.) to see what you’re being auto-billed for?
Now, how many of those things could you, honestly, live without?
Whatever the tally, CANCEL THEM ALL.
While this may not save you thousands or even hundreds of dollars a month, there’s still a good chance there’s a little somethin’ somethin’ you could be redirecting to your travel fund.
Nowadays we are able to take advantage of subscription-based apps, entertainment, etc. with just 1-click on our computers and smartphones — making it super easy to click-and-forget. Even worse are those free trials that turn into paid subscriptions when you forget to cancel them — story of my life.
When I took the time to review my subscriptions I realized I was paying for a handful of things I no longer needed and/or didn’t even remember signing up for. Between satellite radio, two digital news subscriptions, three iPhone apps, and a Lynda.com subscription, I realized I was shelling out more than $60 a month on things I didn’t regularly use. Sure, that 60 bucks isn’t going to get me a seat in first or even business class, but over time it does add up (to $720/year to be specific).
Bottom line, I highly recommend taking the time to review any recurring payments that might be happening in your accounts, because you never know what you might find.
If you’re an iTunes user be sure to double check your account’s subscriptions because, frankly, there might be some shadiness goin’ down.
Okay maybe I’m being extreme, but Apple does make reviewing what you’re being billed for just inconvenient enough that it’s easy to ignore that $1.99/month photo editing app that you’re paying for. For instructions on how to check your iTunes subscriptions click HERE.
I’ve never been much of a shopper (or a fashionista for that matter) so for me, this one was a bit easier than it might be for some of you.
On top of that, when I started learning about fast fashion and how unsustainable the industry is it became even easier for me to turn my back on that cute new outfit.
If you’re not keen on the idea of only workin’ the clothes you currently own, and/or can’t borrow or trade with someone for what you need, then try going the secondhand route. I started doing this a few years ago and haven’t looked back.
Anytime I’ve needed to add to my wardrobe it’s been all about places like Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc. (if you find a good one I promise you’ll become addicted). Of course, there are plenty of other more “fashionable” options like vintage boutiques, high-end consignment stores, etc. to chose from (which can still save you a bit of money).
On occasion, and mainly if I’m looking for something super specific, I’ll look to apps like PoshMark to buy secondhand fashion. While I find the prices on here to be more like those at a vintage shop in LA or New York than prices at my fav Goodwill store, I’ve definitely found some killer deals this way.
When it comes to secondhand apps like PoshMark bear in mind that the cost of shipping can kind of ruin the ‘awesome deal’ aspect of them. In addition, having that cute $5.99 cardigan delivered all the way from across the country is far less sustainable (because it takes more resources to reach you) than if you were to just go down the street and buy it at your local secondhand store.
If you’re one to regularly indulge in things like getting your nails did, hair did, tanning and facials then you know these luxuries can really add up.
So you shouldn’t be surprised when I say that forgoing those regular mani-pedis, salon visits and spa days can mean some serious money to put towards your next adventure.
For me, this wasn’t too hard of an adjustment as I’ve always been kind of a tomboy. But even foregoing the (very) occasional pampering sesh can mean the difference between extending a trip an extra week or having to cut it short.
Try doing as much of this stuff at home. It works out to be a lot cheaper to buy some nail polish (eco-friendly of course, like THIS) and a cheap nail maintenance kit and do your nails yourself versus pay someone do it for you.
Sure, this one’s pretty straightforward. But it’s totally worth mentioning because I’ve found that it’s easy to overlook this travel-money making trick.
When I took the time to inventory all the things I owned that I no longer needed/used I couldn’t believe how much “travel-money” was just lying around. From old cell phones and jewelry to old clothes and home goods, I was basically hoarding enough stuff to cover my next flight.
Nowadays there are tons of convenient ways to unload old goods, so there’s really no excuse to not see what you might be able to get for it all. There are convenient smartphone apps like Poshmark, OfferUp and LetGo, and of course online platforms like Craigslist and eBay. You can also try selling your old stuff to second-hand stores like Buffalo Exchange or your local pond shop.
Then, of course, there’s always the option to have a good ol’ fashioned yard sale (which I found to be the easiest and fastest way to unload a large quantity of stuff at once and net some decent cash).
Consider asking some friends or family members to do a yard sale with you. Not only does it make for a better yard sale when there’s more stuff being sold, but having more sellers will also make the setup and cleanup much easier. 🙂
If you really want to turn it up a notch, make the yard sale fun by treating it as a boozy brunch… I mean, who wouldn’t enjoy throwing back some mimosas while they’re making money?
Have a unique (or even random) skill set that people might be willing to pay for? Try monetizing it.
With social media it’s never been easier to put yourself out there and network. And while the idea of doing this might make some of you uneasy at first (it did for me), I promise that the potential payoff is well worth the awkwardness of self-promotion.
Now, this isn’t to say you need to crazy and create a new business plan and start passing out business cards (not that you shouldn’t if that’s what feels right). I’m more so talking about creating a low-key side hustle.
For example, my side hustle was (and occasionally still is) building WordPress websites for people. It’s extra work that I can take on when I want/need it, and scale back on when I don’t. This makes it a great travel funding tool because I can turn to it anytime I’m itching to take a trip but need a little more cash to pull it off.
Other side hustles I’ve heard about from other travelers include doing things like pet photography, building furniture, home staging and selling acai bowls at the local farmer’s market — just to name a few.
Whatever your side hustle be sure you do a little research to double check any business regulations and/or insurance that might be required in order for you to receive compensation for it. Also, keep in mind that depending on how much you make and where you live you may be responsible to pay taxes on that extra income.
I probably could’ve combined this tip with #6 but for a lot of folks, this might be a totally separate revenue stream (like it was for me).
If you aren’t familiar with the term “moonlighting” here’s Google’s definition: to have a second job, typically secretly and at night, in addition to one’s regular employment.
For me, this was working as a nightclub performer/dancer a few nights a week (and no not THAT kind of dancing, more like go-go dancing). Because this gig was during non-regular business hours it helped me maximize my daily money-making capacity. And if I’m totally honest, it was this moonlighting gig that regularly funded the vast majority of my early travels.
While I get that moonlighting as a go-go dancer isn’t going to be a viable moonlighting option for everyone, there are plenty of other opportunities in which you can make some easy, after-hours revenue. Bartending, waitressing and security are three examples that come to mind in the same industry.
If you’re considering a moonlighting gig to help you fill your travel piggy bank, try to pursue one that’s commonly picked up as ‘side job’ and not a longterm job, as scheduling is usually more flexible (i.e. picking up extra shifts, getting shifts covered, etc.).
That’s right, I moved in with my parents. And I have no shame admitting to it.
As a matter of fact, since I regularly started traveling there’s been more than a couple of times I took my folks up on their generosity and shacked up with them (namely between leases or while I was traveling). While the idea of moving back in with your parents after the age of 18 might make some of you cringe, I simply looked at it as a way to start saving for my next adventure.
Even if it was just for a month or two here and there, moving in with my parents helped me save big chunks of money in relatively short periods of time. It was especially awesome when me ‘moving back home’ just happened to coincide with a trip I had planned (it wouldn’t even feel like I had moved back in with them)! 😉
Now I get that not everyone is lucky enough to have this option. And I also get that it’s one thing to have parents who are happy to have you back under their roof (thanks, mom and dad) and a totally different story when they ain’t havin’ it. But if you do have the opportunity to save on living expenses in between life chapters, trips, etc by shacking up with the parentals (or someone equivalent), don’t be embarrassed to take advantage of it.
I mean, anything for travel right?
If you are one of the lucky ones to be granted this money-saving blessing, do everyone (including yourself) a favor — DO NOT become a freeloader. Otherwise, you may never get the opportunity again.
Offer to do yard work, clean, pay house bills, cook… anything. Basically anything more than just reverting back to your teenage ways.
Once you’ve used up all your Stay for Free cards, or if you never had any to begin with, then I have one word for you: sublet.
I’ve sublet someone else’s place as well as my own, and both options allowed me to take longer, more frequent trips by minimizing my back-home expenses.
When it comes to subletting from people it’s relatively easy to find short-term options often fully-furnished — which is something I’ve found to be super conducive to a traveler’s lifestyle.
Then there’s the alternative — subletting your place while you travel, even if it’s just for a couple weeks.
There might be someone out there looking for exactly what you’re offering, so why not look into covering some of your expenses while you’re away? This option comes with a handful of caveats — especially if you rent versus own — but it’s totally worth looking into, and totally doable if you plan for it.
If you’re still part of the rental market keep the above mentioned in mind next time you sign a new lease, and try to stick with places that allow you to sublet to others. In addition, when looking for someone to temporarily take over your place I recommend starting with people you know and trust, then people they know and trust, and going from there.
DIY, aka Do-It-Yourself, is definitely a lifestyle, and one that can take some getting used to. But once you get into the DIY groove not only is it fun, it can also save you a nice chunk of change over time.
It was a couple of years ago when I first became all about that DIY lifestyle, and I wish I had done it sooner. Nowadays its so easy to find affordable DIY options for just about everything, from beauty products to cleaning products and everything in between. (Pinterest is a bomb.com resource for all things DIY).
At first, making your own products might not seem like it’s helping you fund your travels. But I promise, once you start incorporating a DIY-mentality into your everyday life you’ll be surprised at the purchases you stop making and the money you start saving.
Where I really noticed the money-saving benefit of becoming a DIY-er was when I started buying ingredients in bulk (a lot of my favorite DIY products are made from the same basic ingredients). As long as I have my Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap and my almond, coconut, lavender, and tea tree oils I’m pretty much set.
So there you have it friends, the basics to How I Afford To Travel + My Top 10 Tips To Save For It.
I hope the tips in this post prove to be helpful for your future travels, or have at least sparked some of your own money-saving ideas to help fund your next adventure.