I wrote an article earlier this year about ways to travel cheap. I wanted to inspire people to travel. Make them understand that it’s really not as far-fetched as it seems. So while I named 25 ways to save while traveling, I didn’t mention how to get started. People always ask me how I can afford to travel. The answer is ridiculously simple: save money. Here’s how I’ve been able to travel to 10 different countries in the past 2 years:
1. Have a goal. Have something to save towards. Pick a destination. Plan a trip. Figure out the costs. Then work towards it. When you have a realistic and viable plan, it’s easier to save money. Start with something small: A day trip to the local vineyard to go wine tasting. Figure out all the costs, plan with other people so you’re held accountable (and keep them accountable as well!) and then make it happen! Then, work up to something bigger – a weekend trip or backpacking through Europe!
2. Think of the OPPORTUNITY COST. (Were you forced to take Economics like me?) When you go to purchase something, think of what the alternative could be. Should I get a massage for $90? → No, that’s half a flight to Japan, a night in a relatively nice hotel (or 3/4 nights in a hostel), six massages in Thailand, or food for a week while abroad. For every dollar you don’t spend now, that could be money you’re saving towards the next big adventure. Seriously, think about it with every purchase you make. Don’t get me wrong – always enjoy life and don’t starve yourself to save money, but think about the unnecessary things you can cut out. This mindset will change your life.
3. Don’t blow money on the weekends. It’s so easy (and fun) to do, but you can still have fun on a budget. I’ve preached about pregaming a thousand times and I’m still very much PRO-predrinking, despite the fact that I’ve been out of college for almost 2 years now. One of my favorite parts about “pregames” is the social aspect – get your close friends together to hang out before going out. You save money, spend quality time with your friends without having to scream over the music in a strobe-light flashing club, and drink the alcohol you want. Having fun on the weekends doesn’t always have to equate to spending half your paycheck.
4. Have a piggy bank. Yes, like a porcelain, hollow, (preferably very colorful) adorable little pig you put money into, although a savings account works just as well. I’ve always had one and it’s nice to be able to literally count the money you’ve saved. If you’re a server, this works especially well since you get paid in dolla bills on a daily basis. In addition, have a separate savings account that isn’t attached to your current checking account. Deposit money into this account and shred the card. I sometimes have no self control so this helps suppress my urge to go on drunken shopping sprees. Yes, drunken shopping sprees. That’s completely normal, right?
5. Decide beforehand how much of your paycheck you’re going to save. Don’t just try and “save” what you have left at the end of the month. Put a fraction of it aside right when you’re paid. When I was a server, I decided to save $50 every shift. Sometimes this meant I had $100 extra to play with, sometimes it meant I had $10. When I started making a lot more money, I started keeping only $50 a day and then saving the rest. And twas the story of how I saved $9000 in 6 months before moving to Australia. While teaching abroad now, I immediately transfer half of my paycheck into my savings.
6. DESTROY AND PAY OFF ALL CREDIT CARDS. These things are evil. Sure, they’re sometimes helpful but don’t let them tempt you! It’s good to have one or two credit cards open, solely just to build good credit, but don’t go overboard. I’m guilty of this, which is why any credit card I now have is shredded. If you DO have credit cards, get the ones with good rewards – flight points/miles, hotel nights, discounts, etc like the Southwest Chase card or American Express.
7. Keep a record. Write down (or use an excel spreadsheet, which is what I prefer) how much you’ve saved each day/week/month to keep yourself motivated. Write down the costs of your upcoming trip. Write down how much extra excursions/activities will cost. Write down how much you’ve already spent on flights/hotels, etc. Write down how much you want to save each month and where that money will come from. Seeing it all written down together will help you calculate how much more you need to save, how awesome you’re doing at saving, and how easy it is to save – all while getting you pumped up for your trip! (This is one of my favorite things to do in preparation.)
8. Find all the best deals when you start spending money towards your trip. Which is where 25 Ways to Travel Cheap will come in handy 🙂 (how to save on flights/hotels/activities, how to minimize and sever ties at home before traveling, etc.)
9. And then there are the obvious ways: don’t eat out every day, don’t buy designer clothes and shoes, save on bills by not using so much energy/water/gas, work on DIY projects rather than buying new things, skip the morning Starbucks run, pick up extra shifts at work (or pick up a side job). All of the little things put together make a difference. These little things are also good for the environment, your health and of course, your piggy bank 🙂
10. Lastly, write it down. Whether it be on your blog, in your diary, on Twitter or on Facebook. Hold yourself accountable. Show others (and mostly yourself) that you have a goal that you are working towards. It makes it more real, it makes it more exciting, and it makes you more likely to achieve your goal!