Being a travel blogger, one of the first question most people ask me is “How can you afford to do all this?“. Trust me when I say I am not lavishly living off a generous trust fund nor have I won the lottery.
I don’t spend nearly as much on travel as I used to back in my late teens, but the truth is that my life wasn’t always that way; after all, I only decided to become a travel blogger long after I’d started traveling. I really did go on a pan-European trip with little money in my pockets, big dreams and, in hindsight, a much too large backpack.
Obviously the story is a bit different now; because travel has become my job, I partner with a lot of brands in the hope I can create content that will bring you guys value and help you plan your travels – I am your woman on the ground, testing the waters so you don’t have to, always keeping in mind what mindset I was in when I was prepping for my own Eurotrip.
The only key to saving up money for travel is to make travel your absolute priority. There simply isn’t a way around that.
It will take discipline, hard work, craftiness and planning – but changing your daily habits will also take you to awesome places in a near future.
Budget your travels and set up a goal
Whether you’re working full-time and counting down the days until you leave the office for good or whether you’re a student eagerly awaiting the end of the semester, setting up a goal (date or money-wise) is the first important step to take. Research destinations and write down a rough amount of how much your trip will cost, how long you will be without regular income and keep working towards that goal for as long as you need to.
It may be weeks, months or even years – each person has a different goal. This is a marathon, guys, not a sprint; don’t create an objective you will not be able to complete in time. Stay realistic about both your capabilities and your expectations.
And if you need to print out a piece of paper with your expected departure date on it, do it! Anything that will keep you motivated is worth it in my book.
Create that dreaded spreadsheet
Look, nobody enjoys spending an evening buried in Excel formulas and bank account statements. But this is the most important step of your savings plan at this point: you will not succeed in saving up large sums of money without a spreadsheet of some sort. This is where you will keep be able to track of your income, your expenses and your savings and have all the information you need in one glimpse.
Tally up your current expenses, including spontaneous ones, and see how much you really spend in a month. Chances are, that number is much higher than you think it is. Think of all the café en terrasse that will buy you in Paris ;-)
Sell, reduce, downgrade, repeat
Still own CDs? Sell ’em to your local record store. Got plenty of cute clothes in your cramped wardrobe? Visit vintage shops around the city and consign them. Sell your school books to a college/university’s used book program. The possibilities are pretty much endless here – whether it concerns your costly car, your superfluous furniture or your telecoms.
Ditch cable for Netflix, if you’re a tv lover – hell, sell your tv and rely on your laptop for entertainment. Downgrade your expensive mobile phone plan to a basic one without data and rely on Wi-Fi. Cut down on rent by getting a roommate or moving back to your parents’ place if you can – keeping in mind that this is just a temporary situation. Brutal changes like these can be difficult, but think of the finality of these sacrifices.
Market every single one of your skills
Are you good with coding, copywriting, designing stuff? Do you speak a foreign language? Do you have a natural talent for customer service? Subscribe to all freelancing websites out there (like elance.com or guru.com for example), get a job at a fancy restaurant to get good tips, tutor or translate if you’re good at languages or set up an Etsy shop if you’re crafty. Use social media to your advantage by asking everyone you know and their mother for extra work – you will never know what lies behind that door until you open it for yourself.
Diversify your income and spend as much time working as you possibly can without losing your mind. Work hard, play hard, travel longer. That’s my motto.
Change your lifestyle
As much as you appreciate that cigarette, that Starbucks coffee or that after-work drink… your budget, if you’ve done your homework, will clearly show that these non-detrimental expenses add up QUICK. You can cut these down by making simple changes to your routine that will save you heaps of money without making you go insane.
Go to the movies on Tuesdays, or binge-watch House of Cards with your best friend while nomming on homemade cookies. Get after-work drinks on happy hour days only. Cancel your gym membership and take long walks while listening to podcasts instead. Go to restaurants at lunch instead of dinner, or go to restaurants where you can bring your own wine – skip eating out altogether if you’re feeling motivated! Opt for water (it is delicious and vital to your health, you know) instead of soda or alcohol. Go to a more affordable grocery store, and dare to play the coupon game from time to time.
But really, just cut the daily Starbucks. Their coffee is too damn expensive to be justified in any way.
Consolidate your debt
If you have various credit cards, overdraft accounts or students loans, you are most likely losing outrageous sums of money on interest fees. Plan a strategy with your bank’s financial adviser, consolidate your debts into a low-interest account if possible and pay them off as you as you can.
Set up automatic transfers
Now that you’ve managed to spend money only on things that are necessary to your sanity and survival and that you’re effectively monetizing your skills, it’s important to make sure that your money is fluctuating smartly and plentifully. Set up automatic transfers to a savings account that isn’t accessible with your debit card. Make it hard for you to take money out of that savings account, but easy to transfer money in it.
Don’t make excuses or create needs that you don’t have: your need here is so save money to travel the world, not to buy that new Kate Spade handbag even though it’s been screaming your name.
Get a points-based credit card
If you are disciplined enough to pay your balance in full every time you get your statement, your credit card shouldn’t cost you a dime in interest fees. Spend a few hours researching the best travel points credit card for you (whether you want to avoid paying an annual fee, benefit from premium exchange rates or get airport lounge access, for example) – and it will pay off in the long run. Just Google the words travel credit card + your country to get a list of what’s available to you.
Enjoy free activities
Being on an extreme budget doesn’t have to be synonymous with being stuck at home by yourself, quite the contrary! Take advantage of this situation by doing things you’ve always wanted to do but never got around to: be a tourist in your own town, spend quality time with your friends before you jet off on your big trip, learn to cook a couple of dishes that you will recreate in hostel kitchens later on, visit museums on open nights, attend free classes and meet new people. Don’t let your regimental lifestyle keep you from going out and enjoying time in your hometown under any circumstances!
Did you have to save a lot of money before you traveled to Europe?
What are your best tips?