4 Ways to Save Money Now So You Can Travel Later

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So you’ve been drooling over cheap flight websites or daydreaming about Greek island cruises, and you go to your bank account and BAM!, back to reality. You’re not going anywhere, because you’ve got no cash. Never fear, this is not the huge problem you think it is.

I’ve already decided that the “I don’t have enough money” is one of the four most common excuses people give for not traveling. In other words, it’s just an excuse, and you can do something about it. I might be naturally pretty good with money (the bank manager father had a big influence there), but I think anyone can handle their money better when the motivation is a trip you’re dying to take. In fact there are plenty of ways to combat the “I can’t travel” blues and get together the money you need to hit the road, and here are some of them:

Girl Reading (B&W)
© Foxtongue

Skip the Cinema and Read a Guidebook Instead

There are quite a few entertainment expenses you can cut down out without cutting down on your quality of life too much. Think how much one movie ticket costs, and how long the joy lasts — a maximum of two hours, and the film might not even be any good — and compare that to the hours of pleasure devouring a guidebook can give you. If you’re like me, you might even borrow a guidebook or three from your local public library to get a taste for your destination, and only later buy the newest edition of one you especially want to take with you (or not!). And of course, there is a ton of information you can read online while you’re researching your trip as well, and a lot of it will be more up-to-date and practical than what you read in a guidebook.

Give Up One Special Treat in Exchange for Another

Say you especially like Mars Bars. Every time you go to buy a Mars Bar, stop, put the money aside in a safe place, and tell yourself that when you’re traveling, you can spend that money on exciting new treats instead. If I was planning a trip to Switzerland or Belgium I could very easily stop myself from buying that Mars Bar, knowing that I could soon be able to chow down on some of the most delicious chocolate in the world.

Even if you’re not a chocaholic, this system still works. You could stop at one or two beers at the pub instead of having three or four, and put the extra money away for a real German beer at Oktoberfest in Munich or a scarily strong vodka in Eastern Europe. Whatever your habit, stop and think about how you could spend that money on your trip instead and put the cash back in your wallet (or better still, into a bank account that you can’t touch). The added bonus is that if you’re giving up a few Mars Bars or beers, you’ll be doing your health a favor too (because chocolate and beer while you’re traveling is much better for you, right?!).

Cancel Subscriptions and Send the Dollars to a Savings Account

Take a look at your recurring expenses and see if there’s something you can cut back on. For example, if you have a bunch of magazine subscriptions but don’t always get to read the whole magazine, then cancel your order and immediately set up a direct transfer so that the money you used to spend on the subscription is automatically saved in another account, ready to spend on your big trip. This is a great way to save because you know you’ve been able to get away with spending that money every month, so you won’t miss it when it diverts into your savings account instead.

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Other recurring expenses you might want to reconsider are cable TV subscriptions, scaling down your cell phone plan or internet service or ditching the gym membership and exercising in the great outdoors instead. All of these recurring expenses are stuff you’ll want to cancel if you go traveling for any length of time anyhow, so why not get in early?

Solo Woman Traveler

Sacrifice a Bit of Comfort and Prepare for Your Trip

If you’re contemplating any medium to long-term travel, you probably already know you’re going to have to give up many of your daily comforts in exchange for the wonder of being on the road. For example, you may not have a great shower or bed every night, you won’t be able to eat all your favorite foods and you’ll miss out on your regular TV shows. All of that, once you’re traveling, seems like a very, very small price to pay for all the amazing new experiences you’re having.

So if you need to save some serious dollars to get started on your dream trip, try cutting down on the comforts a bit sooner. For example, you could move into a smaller apartment and put away the savings you’re making in rent towards your trip. Take public transport more often instead of the luxury of driving your car and save the gas costs and car maintenance expenses towards your trip — you might even find it’s possible to sell your car completely and be without wheels for a few months or a year while you’re saving up for your trip. I can assure you it’ll be worthwhile.

It’ll All Be Worth It When You’re on the Road

If you’ve cringed at any of my suggestions so far, you’re probably quite normal. But I promise you, as someone who’s spent a lot of time away from home traveling, you won’t regret giving up a few things now in order to have the trip (or trips) of a lifetime. I never once regret missing out on a few movies at the cinema in the months leading up to one of my trips; I don’t even really remember that I missed anything. But I spend a lot of time reminiscing over my trip across Russia on the Trans-Siberian or about my backpacking trip around Tunisia. Compared to moments like those, spending money on everyday stuff at home suddenly seems pretty trivial.

Have you got any other ways you save money for your trips? Please share them in the comments so we can all get back on the road sooner!

16 Responses

  1. ten links for today | Travel On The Dollar

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  2. Ava Pierce

    Great post! I’m always willing to make a sacrifice for travel; no amount of movies or candy bars could ever make up for taking a trip. Before I had a little bit of disposable income, I would even give myself a manicure and pedicure at home. I’ve come to realize that many of life’s apparent necessities are actually luxuries in disguise.

    Reply
  3. Sharon

    Great tips. I agree that it’s worth a temporary sacrifice to get the most from your trip.

    Reply
  4. Madeline

    So true!!

    Since you asked, I do have a few more tips:

    It seems I always spend money on clothing, shoes, and bags just before I leave for a trip (I don’t have the right day pack, wicking clothing or whatever). So I’ve started keeping lists and asking for those items for my birthday and Christmas. I am going to India this November and I already have several items I’m going to be asking for from REI for my birthday!

    Another thing: when calculating the cost of a trip, people often forget that there are savings from not being at home. My Dad calculated that with the money he doesn’t spend just on groceries and heating bills at home in Edmonton Canada, he can easily travel in South America. That doesn’t include the flight. And of course he can only turn the heat down, not off, but over all, it actually cost him less to be down there.

    Another tip: we buy EVERYthing on credit cards for which we get airline points.

    Reply
  5. Byteful Traveller

    I find that the prospect of travel seems to expose the limiting beliefs at work in a person very quickly, whether they be financial blockages, acceptance blockages, or something else.

    You are so right. A small sacrifice of something now, something that has a price, will be repaid by gaining unique experiences during travel that expose you to the truth and beauty of this world, and that is priceless.

    Reply
  6. Derek @ Live Uncomfortably

    The best strategy I’ve found is something a lot of financial experts talk about: pay yourself first.

    Have have a set percentage of your paycheck go directly into a high yield savings account.

    That way you wont be tempted to spend it.

    Reply
  7. Craig

    People who are living the ratrace have to spend large amounts of cash to “make” themselves happy. Plasma screens and sports cars are just distractions to allow people to forget how boring the other 99% of their life is. When you’re living on the road, experiencing new and amazing things you don’t need to spend money on fake happiness – you already have it. Happiness doesn’t come from your circumstances, it comes from taking action. No matter what circumstances your actions lead you to, if you stop and get complacent they count for nothing.

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  8. Luke

    Agree with most, but not necessarily with substituting guidebooks for movies. Maybe it’s just because I’m a film major, but I find many films (especially ones that take place in exotic locales) can be much more informative, pleasurable, and motivating than a guidebook. And the impact movies have on you (especially “road” movies) can last a lot longer than the amount of time a guidebook keeps your interest, especially since, in my opinion, the best guidebooks can be found for free, online, written by people like you. Thanks for the article!

    Reply
  9. Luke

    substituting movies for guidebooks* is what i meant

    Reply
  10. Christian Haugen

    The more money you have when you go travelling the more experiences you can afford. A lot of people do although seem to think that travelling is expensive, it’s really not! If you’re not used to 5 star hotels and pampering travelling can be done in cheap and still comfortable enough ways. I spent 4 months working around the clock to save up money for my trip, and it’s so worth it…

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  11. Liz

    Yea, this summer before college, I’m going to work everyday, all day, and at night to relax, I’ll just read. I’ll hang out with my friends at church and whenever I don’t get enough hours. Whatever money doesn’t go to rent and groceries will go to saving for travel.

    Today I started a “ban” list of extra snacks I’m no longer allowing myself to buy (cookies, chips, drinks), and I’ll just have to settle for eating the canned soup at home. I’ll save money and be healthier all at the same time!

    Reply
  12. Tom

    Little tip. Canned soup is cheap but most of it isn’t healthy. There’s a lot of em that are rammed with sugar and MSG.

    Reply
  13. eurotriptips

    I think the hardest part of saving and cutting back on expenses is not the thinking part of it, it’s the doing, or rather, not doing part of it. It’s hard to let go of our habits!

    Great tips though, very realistic. It’s important to set realistic goals in order to achieve them.

    Reply
  14. Patty

    Agreed. This is definitely my most used excuse as well. I planned to change that this year, thanks for the encouraging blog!

    Reply

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