Ready to leave home and become a digital nomad? Or maybe finally go to your dream destination? You don’t have to be an heiress to make this happen, but you will need to get serious about saving money for travel. Here’s how I accomplished the impossible.
Saving money for a dream vacation? There’s no way I can budget for that! ~~ I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there is some popular folklore floating around that travel has to be expensive. It only makes sense that those who travel must be trust fund babies, work high paying jobs, have hit the lottery, or definitely robbed a bank… right?
Average hard-working folks just cant afford the luxury that is travel. Simply put, it’s far too expensive.
Right? … Wrong!
I have always believed that where there is a will, there is a way.
As a woman who had her daughter at the age of 14, I have been in tough situations. There have been many times in my life when I was low on funds. Does that mean I gave up hope? No! It just means I had to get creative.
Most people don’t realize the varying options that are available for budget travelers. Hostels. Cheap hotels. Couchsurfing. Work exchange. All of these are bonafide choices. Maybe you want to take this route, maybe you don’t. My goal is to give you the tools and know- how to make your own decision.
How To Save Money For Travel
A few days ago I made the announcement that my family and I will leave the USA to travel the world for the next 6 years. Since then, I have received countless messages from people wanting to know how I’m able to afford to travel.
After repeating my answers too many times to count, I decided to make a blog post containing useful tips on how to save money for travel. It may be hard, but it can be done.
Let me start by saying a quick bit about myself.
As of 8/11/2017, I am 28 years old. I have three children, aged 13, 7, 3; and I am currently married. I had my first child 4 days before my 15th birthday. Clearly I’ve always been too grown for my own good 😉
I’ve been married… divorced… and married again (hopefully for the last time). I’ve gone from living in a friend’s attic…without heat or air mind you… to owning multiple properties. I believe that if I can accomplish these feats, anyone can. Aside from sheer drive and determination, what did I have that is different from anyone else?
At times in my life, I’ve had to learn to make do with very little. As a result of these struggles, I learned how to pinch my pennies and make money work for me. Because, it’s not how much you make that matters; it’s how much you save. They key is to keep a large gap between your spending habits and savings.
(Just to be clear I am oversimplifying and not including specifics on investing. If you are interested in reading a post on how to invest your income, just let me know in the comments.)
So How Did I Do It?
In 2013 I began working under my own real estate company.
By 2015 I was making over 6 figures a year. Even though my income grew, my expenses were kept relatively low. I purchased a house in a great location at 157k that needed renovation. Far under what we qualified for, thereby saving us $$ on our mortgage.
When I bought my car, it was with cash (because car loans are ridiculous), and my family and I lived off 4k/month while saving the rest. I won’t pretend like living off of 4k/month is equal to minimum wage. It’s not. But as I’ve said before, it isn’t how much you make, it’s how much you save.
It doesn’t matter if you want to travel for 2 weeks, 2 months, or 2 years… the steps remain the same.
Please remember, everyone has a different story. What may work for one, may not work for another. I want this post to serve as inspiration, motivation, and hopefully tools that you will be able to apply to your own journey.
A journey of 1000 miles begins with one step…
1: Decide to make a change
I know, I know… cliché right?!
Before any action is ever taken, there is first a decision made by the person to take said action. We learn it in science class… for every action, there is a reaction.
Well it’s true. I could link to psychology studies, and articles that prove what I’m saying is right, but I won’t. If you’re interested, Google is your friend.
Money management is a learned skill — one that too many of us never properly learn. It takes practice, and effort to learn it.
If you are serious about saving money for traveling, now is the time to make the choice to do better.
A dream without effort is a fantasy.
Remember, you are making a commitment to positive change in your life. It will be hard at times and it will require sacrifice. Due to the changes, you won’t be able to dine out every day, or catch every movie premiere. Some of the changes will be downright difficult!
But if it were that easy, everyone would do it!
Just stick to your guns, and think about the big picture. What is your overall goal? Is it to enjoy a night out at Hooters? Or is it to gain new experiences in a distant land?
The choice is yours to make. No one will be there to hold your hand, or force you to do the right thing.
With that said, it’s likely that you may fall off the wagon a couple times before you get the swing of things. Be sure that you get back on. Don’t give up. Each failure brings you closer to success.
You got this!
READ MORE: 30 Ways To Get Paid While You Travel
2: Track Your Spending
Self-explanatory! How can you keep an effective watch over your money when you don’t know where its going? That’s like a babysitter not knowing where your kid is.
I’ve come across a few articles and books that will tell you to write out every expenditure line by line in order to track where your money has gone…
But who in the F has time for that? I’m a busy wife and mother. Finding 15 minutes to enjoy a shit is a struggle, let alone the hours it takes to properly check all accounts and make a list of the spending.
Which is why I’m going to let you in on a not so little secret.
Use technology to help you
Mint.com- awesome sauce. I would never use anything else except the system doesn’t always work for my needs. It gets confused when viewing my deposits. I often switch money between accounts, and it has a problem properly accounting for it. However, it’s a great tool to help with tracking where your money is going.
Quicken- I like because it helps with preparing taxes at the end of the year. It isn’t free like Mint, but they have more options to explore.
Your bank!- Most banks have a spending tracker available for use. Check and see if yours does too.
What about when I use cash?
If you don’t use your debit card very often, then using a service like Mint.com won’t help you much. In that case, you will have to suck it up, make yourself a pineapple-rum cocktail, and get to writing.
Keep your receipts.
If you’re using cash, the only way to track expenses is by maintaining the receipts. Maybe throw them in a box until the end of the week. If you have the time, do a daily accounting. Otherwise, be sure to make that drink a double. You’ll need it.
By going knowing where your money is being spent, it will make it easier for you to decide how to cut costs.
In order to have a better understanding of how your spend your money, be sure to track it for at least 30 days.
Track your spending like a pro with this free expense tracking app from Mint.
3: Budgets … Budgets Everywhere
I have a confession to make. Once I say it, please don’t shove my head in a toilet…
I love making budgets.
Like I honestly enjoy it. When we take road trips and I’m bored in the car, I will do one of three things—
- Sing and Dance—until my family begs me to stop
- Make budgets
Sometimes I just change the format, maybe change the categories around. Most often I’ll create mock budgets. A sort of “If this, then that” scenario. If I pay off my mortgage early then this is what I’ll do with the savings. When I’m not sure which path I want to take, I’ll create a few different mock budgets. Then I’ll compare them to each other to see which results work best.
Yes… I know I’m weird. If you’re not convinced, see below.
I don’t expect you to start drafting mock budgets, but you will need at least two to get you started. One for your trip, and one for your day-to-day living. In this post we’ll focus on the travel aspect. If you need help with creating a budget (whether it be for regular life, or for travel) send me an email. I’d love to help if I can.
If you want to get real crazy, throw in making a budget for investments, holidays, kids college, and you’ve got yourself hours of a good time.
4. Figure out how much you need to travel
First, you’ll need to determine how much your trip is going to cost you. If you are low on funds, it makes sense to travel to a less expensive country (or go on a cruise). If you’re thrifty and know what you’re doing, your travel budget can be as low as $50 a day.
Of course, it all depends on the location that you want to travel to. Spending less than $50 a day in Thailand is much easier than San Francisco. Not to say that it can’t be done in San Fran, but you’ll have to be a little more creative.
My families budget for long term travel is $1500 per month while in Southeast Asia. That budget includes renting an apartment, bills, food, and sight-seeing.
If your budget is similar to mine, then you’ll need $9000 in your bank account in order to travel the world for 6 months.
In addition to the money you need for traveling, I would set aside enough for a plane ticket back to your home country. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Want to go the budget travel route?
Great! If you follow my advice, your accommodation can cost next to nothing. Your flights can be found inexpensively, and street food will become your new best friend. Just be sure to pack the Imodium. Traveler’s tummy can wreak havoc on your bowels.
When do you want to leave?
You’ve got 13 months before you leave? Great! Your monthly savings goal is 1/13th of that total – and you need to budget successfully to put that amount aside every month, more or less, until you hit your target.
5. Lower your bills
You’ve got two types of costs.
Fixed, and fluctuating.
Your first priority will be to go line by line circling any bills you can cut or lower.
– Guess what?! Your rent could instantly be cut in half! How? By getting a roommate.
“But Kay Marie, I like my privacy!”
That’s great. You’re paying for that luxury. Is it more important for you to have privacy, or split your costs and be that much closer to fulfilling your dreams?
Your rent isn’t the only “fixed” cost that can experience a makeover.
That car payment you’ve got. Get rid of it! You are wasting your money. Sell the car, and buy a beater. Better yet, get rid of the vehicle and ride your bike. You’ll save money on the car loan, maintenance, gas; as well as help the environment. Plus you’ll have killer legs.
Instead of finding reasons as to why something can’t be done, come up with a solution to make it happen.
6. Reduce unnecessary spending.
Similar to the above, but this is strictly for the spending that didn’t need to occur in the first place. Like when you can easily make dinner at home, but you decide to eat at WackArnolds. Trust me… it all adds up.
Going shopping? Decide in advance how much you can afford to spend, and use the calculator on your phone to total everything up as you walk round the aisles. Going out with friends? Withdraw cash, and leave your cards at home so you can’t blow your budget.
Budgeting effectively isn’t scary. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. When you have complete control of your money (and not the other way round), your confidence will soar – and you’ll work even harder towards your goal.
Go grab a piece of paper right now… Don’t worry… I’ll wait.
On this piece of paper I want you to draw a vertical line down the middle. At the top left, write “NEEDS” – and at the top right, write “WANTS”.
Now go through your spending, and place each in it’s proper category.
Be as honest with yourself. Let’s get real… do you REALLY need that monster energy drink everyday before work? Is cable an absolute MUST HAVE? Can you SURVIVE without getting your hair done every two weeks? What about going out for drinks?
Once you’ve completed the list, look at the “WANTS” column – and write down how much they cost, next to each item. Now total them up. That’s how much you can instantly start saving every month if you cut all these out.
Do the same thing to the “NEEDS” column. Now circle each item that you may be able to reduce. Of course you NEED your phone, but do you NEED the expensive data plan? Can you switch to using wifi and save a little more? Yes, you may NEED internet, but can you switch providers, and obtain a promo rate?
The final step is easier said than done. This is where you cut out the WANTS, and focus on the needs.
I find that instead of going cold turkey, it’s best to allow just little spending to keep one sane. Maybe take $10-15 each week as your “me money”. It may not seem like much, but that’s a caramel frappe from WackArnolds for 5 days a week. Or, getting your nails done once a month… Or beer and pizza money.
The goal isn’t to make yourself miserable. You want to have fun while on this journey. Make it a game with yourself and see how creative you can get while saving.
7: Think Of Creative Ways To Save Yourself Some Moolah
Here are a few changes you could make to your daily routine…
- Ride your bike to work
- Live too far? Take a bus. No bus service where you live? Car-pool. Don’t have friends? Hitch-hike. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
- Make your coffee at home. Better yet, drink the free coffee from your office.
- Cook your own food! It sucks when you review your budget and realize you spent more eating out than you did on groceries.
- DIY- youtube can be your best friend… right next to Google. You can instantly become a carpenter, mechanic, or plumber. The world is your oyster… Learn how to do things yourself.
What other daily expenses can you replace with money-saving habits?
8: Sell Your Shit– No… not literally… though there is a website for that …
My husband hasn’t quite mastered this skill yet. We are in the in the middle of a great game called “ Keep, Sell, or Donate”.
If it were up to me, almost everything would be donated, or sold. Alas, it’s not strictly my decision. So we have to take turns playing our game.
So far, I think we’re tied. He’s agree to sell the cars, and I’ve agreed to store the 70” flat screen tv. I don’t know why we would keep it. Six years from now it may be obsolete. But the dance continues.
In addition to the car and truck, I’m also looking to sell my furniture, sound bars, 4 other flat screens, computer monitors, etc.
I will miss my mirrored nightstand… She will have to go in the keep pile. Does anyone want to hold her for me while I’m gone?
9: Other Ways To Save
You’ve gone through the budget and reduced your spending. Instead of paying for a gym, you ride your bike and do pull-ups at the park. Instead of Starbucks, your Keurig has been seeing more use. You cook at home more often and are not only fatter in the pockets, but smaller in the middle.
There are still a few ways you can save even further…
Have a love affair with nature
Did you know that it’s free to go on a hike? Walk around your neighborhood. Head to your local gardens. Picnic near the lake. There is so much beauty to enjoy, you don’t always have to spend money to enjoy it.
Comparison shop. Walmart may not price match anymore, but other stores do. Do a quick search on your phone and make sure you’re buying at the lowest price. I believe Staples still price matches AND gives you a 10% price differential.
Cut Your Landline
Who even has a landline now-a-days?! If you do, get rid of it. You can head to Republic Wireless and get a plan for less than $30 per month.
Ditch Your Cable
Ever heard of a fire stick? You purchase it one time (I bought mine for $39) and you can install an amazing app called Kodi. After that it’s smooth sailing. Enjoy all of the latest shows for free. Now whether you believe in using the app is a different story. For me, I will use it until Amazon shuts it down.
Quit The Gym
No need for a gym membership when you can go running, hiking, or practice bodyweight exercise routines outside while enjoying nature!
Slash Your Shopping
Do you really need the latest smartphone when yours is only 6 months old? Are those new shoes truly a must have? I think you’ve got like 10 pairs just like it back in the closet.
Get real about what’s NEEDED vs WANTED. Don’t let yourself fall prey to consumerism. These companies only want to take your money. It won’t actually increase your overall happiness for more than a few moments.
I have a few gadgets and gizmo’s that I use to help lower my utility bills. My Nest has to be my overall favorite. It learns my schedule and adjusts the heating/air accordingly. It also has an ECO setting, and will tell you how much energy you’ve saved over the month.
10: Make More Money
So you’re firing on all cylinders when it comes to saving money.
Are you ready to do like Emeril and “Kick it up a notch?!” … “BAM” sorry… I couldn’t help myself.
There are always opportunities to earn more even if you have a full time job. Consider finding part-time work on the side. Maybe as a store clerk, bartender,
stripper, server, babysitter, or personal assistant.
Tip: If you go the stripping route, you should be able to quickly reach your savings goal in just a night or two lol. Shake what your mama gave ya!
Notice that these jobs don’t have to be fantastic. You aren’t looking for the job you’ll retire from… No one likes an old stripper. You just need something that will give you a quick infusion of cash. Get on Indeed.com and see what part-time positions match your talents.
Let’s say you’re a single mom/dad and not able to leave your child for that length of time. Then looking for a job that you can do from home will be a better idea. Look into places like Arise, which give you multiple legitimate companies to work for. You can choose from Apple, Carnival, and much more. My step-mom has worked with them for years now and enjoy’s the freedom it gives her.
Also, re-purposing furniture can be a good way to go. I know quite a few people that have made a nice side hustle out of this.
Maybe you don’t like to paint furniture, that’s ok if it’s not your thing. Get on Etsy and sell some soap, candles, finger puppets! I don’t care. Just figure out a way to make it happen.
No excuses. Just Results.
Check out Reddit’s Side Income Wiki for examples of how other people earn extra money.
11: Earn As You Travel
What?! That’s a possibility?
Why yes, yes it is.
From working as an english teacher, to working as a virtual assistant, there are many ways to earn as you go.
For more details and ideas about how to earn money while traveling, make sure to read 30 Ways To Get Paid While You Travel.
Saving Money Won’t Be Easy!
Saving money doesn’t come naturally to most people. If it did, Dave Ramsey would be out of a job! Nearly half of Americans don’t even have a $400 emergency fund.
The formula is simple. Keep your spending lower than your earnings. Save the difference.
Overcoming the urge to fall prey to social construct may be difficult. With practice and focus you can do it.
Think Big Picture. Remember your goals, and why you’re working this hard. If you have a strong enough WHY, it’ll be easier to sacrifice for it.
Budget,Budget,Budget,Budget. — Let your budget be your guiding light!
Resources To Help You Along The Way
To help you start your save money for travel, I’ve included some of my favorite resources below. These are useful tools for learning how to track your spending, budget your life, save money fast, or earn extra income.
Mint – Popular free app for tracking your finances and managing your money.
The Richest Man In Babylon– My favorite book about becoming financially responsible & independent.
Remote Job Directory – Wonderful resource that lists websites for finding a location independent job.
The $100 Startup – Inspiring book that highlights 50 people who built their own businesses with minimum investment.
The 4-Hour Workweek – I haven’t quite mastered the 4 hour work week yet, but I am working on it.
Work Exchange Program– Want free lodging and a few dollars on the side? Look no further than Work Away.
Think and Grow Rich– Inspiring book that shows how the power of thought translates to your wealth and happiness.
Skyscanner– The search the for affordable flights made easy