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Do you want to find out how I managed to save $25,000 a month while working a minimum-wage job, living in a box and raising 15 orphaned piglets all so I could pursue my dream of travelling the world? Do you want to learn how all you need to do is give up every single creature comfort you have and some of your basic human rights to save enough money for a 6-month around the world adventure? Lastly, would you like the secret recipe that’ll teach you how to shit £50 notes out of your bleep-hole every morning?
Every aspiring traveller, wannabe gap yah-er and those just dipping their toes into the “hmm, maybe I want to spend the summer in Europe” pool has read article after article detailing how easy it is to save money to travel the world. We’ve all lost hours of our life scouring the web trying to find that secret ‘Motherlode’ cheat that’ll make $3million magically appear in our bank accounts overnight. We’ve all read how all you have to do is give up takeaway coffee, eat apples instead of avocado and sell everything you own and voila, here’s a one-way ticket to Chiang Mai – enjoy yourself, kid!
We’ve all sat there, drank in every single word, meticulously taken notes and then gone off to implement the useful tips and tricks into our own lives, only to find ourselves scratching our heads in confusion 2 weeks later when we find our pockets emptier than when we’ve started.
And you know why that is?
Because saving money for travel is not easy. And what works for one person won’t always work for others.
We all have different lifestyles, expenditure and income to take into consideration, and a lot of these tips that crop up time and time again are kind of specific. For example, it’s all well and good suggesting that you can save almost £100 a month by giving up that daily takeaway coffee, but what if you don’t drink takeaway coffee in the first place? What if you don’t drink any coffee? Where can you find that bonus £100? Likewise with the whole “sell your car and all your furniture” tip. What if the only thing you own outright is a blender, and you’re so attached to that blender that you fully plan on hauling it around the world with you? Where can you find that £2500 you would have got for selling your second-hand car?
This sounds like I’m hating on How To Save Money To Travel the World articles but I’m really not. I mean, how stupid would that be seeing as I’m writing one right now?! Some of them are bloody fantastic, and I really enjoy that insight into how other people save money to travel the world. But most of the tips there, they’re just not actionable for me, ya know?
All I’m saying is that for me, a vegetarian, tee-total, non-coffee-drinking, non-smoking, anti-gym owner of nothing but a blender who doesn’t even have a driving licence let alone a car, I find myself reading these often incredibly well-written and thought out articles on how to save money to travel and thinking “None of this stuff applies to me“.
Since 2011 I’ve visited 40 countries, lived in 3 of them, spent a combined total of more than 2 years abroad and am about to move across the world again to live in my 4th country. All of this without a sugar daddy, with no trust fund and without a particularly well-paying job.
Let it also be said that I am absolutely shit at saving money. I hate having to restrict myself or to sacrifice something I really, really like, no matter how much I want to spend the night at Giraffe Manor. I mean, if Harry Potter can destroy Voldemort and stay alive, why can’t we travel and go out for dinner/drinks with friends?!
So for those of you who don’t have a car to sell, can’t move back in with your parents, have no bad habits (we’re talking alcohol, smoking etc.) and already spend very little every month, here are 31 tips that anyone can use to save money to travel without having to give up too many creature comforts.
NB: Most of my audience is US-based, but I’m UK-based – please just take into consideration that some of these tips may be slightly more zoned in on UK-based folk. Only because I have no idea what I’m talking about when it comes to US financial stuff!
31 Easy Ways to Save Money to Travel
Money & Shopping
Stick to a grocery shopping routine
Make sure your weekly shop actually does happen weekly, and no more frequent than that! Whatever you do, don’t fall into the habit of doing bi-weekly or tri-weekly shops. Make sure you do your grocery shopping once a week at most, and ensure that you buy everything you need on that one shop, so you don’t have to go back again in the week. Write a list before you go and for goodness sake don’t shop while hungry!
Try swapping branded produce for supermarket’s own
Everybody who knows me knows there’s nothing I love more than Cathedral City extra mature cheddar cheese. And I’m saying that through gritted teeth, with an aggressive sort of passion. There is no love greater than the love that exists between me and my boo Cathedral City. I just did a quick cost comparison on Tesco, and 200g of Cathedral City is £2.75, while Tesco’s own brand (not even Everyday Value, but the step up from there) is £1.55. If you can save more than £1 every time you buy some cheese, imagine how much you can save by subbing your whole shop.
Only buy food that’s on offer
This is a new one to me, but something that I’ve realised over the last few weeks can actually end up saving you £££s over time! Say for example you really want a 6-pack of Walkers salt & vinegar crisps for your work packed lunches, but they’re £2 and the McCoy’s salt & vinegar are £1.50 on offer – which do you go for?! You get exactly the same quantity of food, often of the same or better quality, but for less money.
Buy fresh fruit and vegetables from market stalls
Tempting as it may be to kill a hundred birds with one stone by doing your whole entire load of shopping in the supermarket, when it comes to fruit and veg the best place to buy is from your local farmer’s market, or just the men who stand in the middle of city centre streets shouting “STRAWBERRIES A POUND!” Just a few weeks ago I was in Cardiff city centre with my cousin, and she went to the fruit and veg stall to buy some raspberries and asparagus. That’s all she wanted. She ended up walking away with 5 punnets of raspberries, 2 punnets of blueberries, a little bouquet of asparagus and some bananas all for £5. Not only was it so much cheaper than the supermarket, but the quality of the produce so much better.
Shop in bulk
My major vice in life is fizzy drinks. I can’t live without them, if I’m honest! I’ll often find myself out and about paying £1 a pop for a can of coke, when I could get 8 for £3 if I were to buy them in bulk. If you know you’ll use a lot of one food or drink, buy in bulk and stretch the pennies out as far as they’ll go!
Use credit cards wisely to make the most of your shopping
Whenever I shop at Tesco, I always use my Tesco credit card to pay for my basket instead of cash or my debit card. I then pay it off almost straight away, but this way I’m able to accumulate more Clubcard points which, in turn, can be exchanged for Avios points or whatever they’re called these days. I know there are a few credit cards out there in the UK which allow you to collect Avios, but don’t ask me which as I’m financially inept.
Leave your purse at home
Whenever you’re going out, unless you know you want to use your credit or debit card for a specific purpose (i.e. as above, to collect Avios) then leave your cards at home and go out with cash only. This is by far the best way to have any sense of control over how much you’re spending, as you can’t spend money you don’t have in your pocket, am I right?! So, if you have a night out with the girls planned, think how much you’ll likely need, add a few extra pounds on top in case of emergencies and don’t take any more than that.
Check what special offers are on offer with your bank
I bank with Lloyds Bank, and they have this little add-on thing called Everyday Offers, where all you have to do is opt-in to certain deals and you can get a certain percentage of cashback when you spend in-store.
Use the “1 in, 4 out” rule when buying new clothes
If you really need to buy a new addition to your wardrobe, make sure you give away or sell four items for every one new one you bring in. And if you do have to buy something, check out eBay or local charity stores before buying a full-price item, as you might just find an absolute bargain.
Work, Rent & Travel
Moving back in with parents for a few months before a big trip isn’t an option for everyone, and I’m one of those people. Logistically, and for tax reasons, moving back in with my stepfather would be more of a hindrance than a help at this point, and so I do continue to rent privately.
If, like me, you can’t move home, consider downsizing your current rental. If you’re renting a whole apartment, see about renting a room in a shared accommodation instead. Likewise, if you’re currently in shared accommodation, is there a cheaper room nearby?
For anybody living and working in a city, buying a bicycle could end up saving you hundreds of pounds over the course of the year. Obviously, it depends entirely on your location, but around 15 months ago I was paying £15 a week for my bus ticket, plus some for the occasional train and taxis when I was feeling particularly lazy! I then bought a second (or third) hand bike for £60 and haven’t looked back since! I can’t work out the exact figure, but I’ve probably saved almost £1000, if not more, just from that one purchase.
If public transport is entirely unavoidable for you, check to see if there are any discount cards you would be eligible for and if it would be more cost-effective to buy weekly/monthly passes, or even buy your tickets in bulk. I have a 16-25 Railcard that saves me a third on most rail journeys within the UK.
Pack your own lunch for work. As cheap and convenient as £3.50 meal deals from Co-op can seem, what’s even cheaper and more convenient is to make your own lunch in bulk at the beginning of the week, and take it in every day. For that £3.50 you’d spend on one lunch in Co-op, you could make enough sandwiches for the whole week! Also, carry your own reusable water bottle with you wherever you go – not only will this save you money on having to constantly buy bottled water, but it’ll also help drastically reduce your plastic usage.
Entertainment & Eating Out
Just because you’re trying to save money to travel doesn’t mean you can’t go out and enjoy yourself while you’re still at home. Over the last few months, one of my best friends here at home has been saving to buy a house, while I’ve been saving to move across the world and our other friend has been saving for…something. Despite all of this we’ve still managed to meet up semi-regularly for dinner, by following a few unofficial rules.
Don’t eat out too often, and try to limit yourself to maybe once a fortnight at most. When you do eat out, scout out the restaurants with the best offers and only go where you’re able to save money. We would often use my friend’s student card, our Cineworld cards, or my Tastecard (I signed up for a free 1-month trial and ended up saving more than £80 that month!) to get the best deals. To make sure you get the best deals and offers when eating out, avoid the weekend like the plague and try to dine out from Monday to Thursday – a bonus with this one is you’ll likely avoid the crowds too! Skip on the starter and dessert, and just go straight for the main course, unless there’s a really bloody delicious dessert on offer and then forget the travelling, go for dessert! When you’re dining out ask for tap water instead of bottled, and try to resist the urge to order a drink that actually tastes like something. If you’re struggling with this one, just ask yourself would you rather be sipping a virgin mojito on a beach in Mexico, or a diet coke at a Pizza Express in Cardiff Bay?! If you still really have a hankering for a tasty beverage, stop in a corner shop on the way home and buy yourself the exact same drink but for £2 less than what they would charge at the restaurant!
Are you a movie buff? Can’t imagine living without your regular cinema fix? Check to see if your local cinema has a loyalty program you can join so you only have to pay X amount of money per month. I’ve had a Cineworld Card since 2012, and although some may say that’s £17 a month I’m throwing away, I absolutely love going to the cinema and will often go 3 or 4 times a week so definitely see it as a worthy investment. Sure, I could illegally download the films I’m watching, or wait for them to be released onto Netflix or Amazon, but for me, it’s all about the experience, and that’s something I would miss if I cut it out of my life altogether.
For those bookworms out there who spend half of their monthly income on fresh new books, consider renting from the library instead, or alternatively investing in a Kindle. Although staring at an electronic device is nowhere near as satisfying as flipping through a brand new book, Kindle downloads are so much cheaper than paper copies!
Earning money before you travel
In those last few months before a big trip, you always get that sense of urgency to earn as much money as you can in such a short space of time. You’ve already spent the last year swapping and changing certain things in your day-to-day life to save those extra pennies here and there, but you’re on that last push to the finish line and want nothing more than to go out with a bang.
This is where the whole selling your car and all your furniture tip comes in. And if you have a car then yes, sell it! But if you don’t have a car? And if you don’t really own anything of worth that people would actually buy? Pack as much crap as you can into a box and hotfoot your way to the local car boot sale anyway! I promise you, one man’s crap really is another man’s treasure. Even if you only manage to sell 20 items for 50p each, that’s £10 you didn’t have before, and you’ve been able to declutter a little bit.
If you can’t make it to a car boot sale, consider listing your junk on eBay. Although there are some small fees you have to pay, there are also a bunch of people on there who really will buy anything. Over the past week alone I’ve sold 3 empty boxes (Tiffany & Co and Apple) for a total of £32.
As a last-ditch attempt to earn some extra moolah before taking off on that big old tin bird in the sky, try and get an extra part-time job, or offer to do odd jobs around the house and garden for friends and family. Honestly, you’d be surprised what some people will pay you to do!
There are obviously so many different ways you can save money to travel, but these are the ones I do that help me save money to travel without even noticing. Their simple to implement into your everyday life, and most, if not all of them, can be applied to all lifestyles and personal living situations. And the best part? You don’t even have to give anything up!
What do you do to save money to travel?