Trying to save money for travel but don’t know where to start? Don’t worry. I’ve got you.
If you are familiar with my blog you will know that I began my travel adventures well before I started working remotely. For the first few years of my travel life, I would spend 6-8 months of the year saving every penny I could so I could travel farther, longer, more. I would then travel for as long as I could on the money I had and come back home, save up, and do it all again. Now, keep in mind, I was NOT making good money at this time. I pulled in less than $20,000 CAD per year (less than an annual minimum wage) when I was living this work/travel lifestyle in my early 20s. But I still made it happen, because I knew how to prioritize and learned some helpful strategies to save money for travel along the way.
Now that I run my own remote business and can work and travel at the same time, I don’t go through that same frenzied saving pattern. I can afford to be a bit more flexible. But I still have a designated ‘travel fund’ set aside that I contribute to. I’m just smarter now and contribute to other things too like retirement, emergency fund, and different types of savings as well. However, as important as all of these things are, travel will always be a priority for me and something I make sure to save for.
With that in mind, here are a few of my favourite strategies to save money for travel. These are the tips and tricks that allowed me to travel for months at a time and visit some pretty incredible destinations around the world.
Create a Budget
One of the easiest ways to help save for travel is to create a budget. Budgets allow you to see exactly where your money is going and therefore, where you can cut back on. You’d be surprised at how quickly the “little” things add up.
To give you a real-life example: I used to have to leave for work at 5:45am so I would sometimes just skip breakfast at home and stop at a Tim Horton’s on the way for a yogurt and croissant or bagel. It was ‘only’ about $3.50 at the time which seemed like nothing. However, I did it twice a week. Well, guess what? That $3.50 2x a week adds up to $364 a year. Keep in mind, at this point in my life I was planning on backpacking around SE Asia and staying in hostels for $10 a night. So that breakfast money added up to more than a month of accommodation. Guess what I’d prefer to spend the money on?
Creating a budget may seem like a pain but it’s pretty easy today thanks to tons of helpful apps that allow you to track what you spend. Download one, take the time to record your spending (no cheating!) and then evaluate. Try Mint or Pocketguard for a budgeting app.
Ps: Trying to set up a travel budget so you can figure out how much you need to save for your dream trip? Read my article on how to create a travel budget.
Cut, Slash, Eliminate
Once you have a budget put together and can see your spending habits on paper, you’ll no doubt realize that there are several areas that you can cut back or even eliminate in favour of adding to your travel fund.
Now, I’m not saying you need to eliminate everything but the basics. You have a life to live outside of travel and that needs to be enjoyable too. Quite honestly, you are more likely to fail if you try to cut everything out too quickly. So don’t totally eliminate unless you know you can (ie: a gym pass you never actually use) and instead look to cut down on spending in certain areas.
It’s ok to eat out sometimes or Starbucks every now and then. Just do it in moderation.
It’s ok to have Netflix. But maybe you don’t need Netflix and Amazon Prime and Crave and Hulu and cable. You could probably do just fine with one or two streaming services.
Remember, the goal isn’t to cut out the fun out of your life. It’s more about creating a better balance that will allow you to enjoy your time now but also to save money for travel so you can have your dream trip too.
Strategize How to Lower Your Costs
I didn’t (and still don’t) have many bills which I know puts me at an advantage. As someone who is semi-nomadic, I don’t have my own house, I don’t have a car, and I’m lucky enough not to have any student debt (though I would strongly advise against working 2 jobs while going to university. Not fun).
However, there are still other day-to-day costs to worry about including clothing, groceries, and other essentials. But, there are ways to save on those things too. Groceries are pretty straight forward; shop the sales, look for coupons, create an actual list so you only buy what you need and will use rather than ending up with food waste.
For clothing, I don’t need a ‘work wardrobe’ so I try to choose pieces that are multifunctional. Things that are comfortable to wear around my home but also cute enough to grab a meal with friends in. I’m trying to move towards a capsule wardrobe as much as possible (which is ideal for travel). This means I need less clothing but also, since I try to go for more ‘classics’, I don’t have to buy new every season. Do I still treat myself to new things? Of course- I have quite the collection of sundresses. But, I’ve created a wardrobe that works for me long term.
Psst: If you are looking for some ideas and inspiration, check out my post on my favourite clothing brands for curvy travellers (these brands offer straight sizes too).
As for the essentials? That requires a bit of research and getting creative but it can be done. Prior to getting laser eye surgery, I needed glasses and contact lenses which, if you have either, know can cost a fortune. Originally, I was getting both from optometrist offices but after a couple of years, I learned that I could find better deals online. I ordered contacts from clearly contacts (often waiting for coupons) and my glasses I ordered from a discount site as well. I’d try on frames in the store to figure out what I liked, then order from a discount site. I got authentic Tiffany frames with prescription lenses for less than $300 CAD. They would have cost me nearly 3x that in-store (try smartbuyglasses if you are looking!)
I also did things like shop around to see who had the lowest dispensing fee on prescriptions and called my cellphone service provider and negotiated a better deal. Remember, every dollar that you can cut from these types of expenses and put towards saving for travel is another step closer to your vacation. It’s worth taking some time to do some price comparisons and see if you can negotiate better!
At the end of the day, it really is a mind-over-matter. How badly do you want your travel versus what you are considering buying? It’s easy to think “oh it’s just one thing” or “oh it’s only $25” but, remember my Tim Hortons breakfast story; every little amount adds up.
The best thing for me is to compare what I am considering buying versus one aspect of the trip rather than the trip itself. For example: Sure, that $50 dress is really cute. But, I already a closet full of dresses so maybe should I save the money and use it towards a wine tasting tour in Italy instead?
When I put it into that perspective, it changes the value and turns it into something more achievable than a full vacation. Italian wine tasting? Or another dress? Often, I’ll put the item back. However, if I still want the item when I use this comparison then I know it’s a good purchase for me and not just a waste of money.
If your rationalization is ‘it will make me feel better’ then I would challenge you to think harder. How long will it make you feel better for? Will you only feel really good the first time you wear it because it’s new? Or does it make you feel better because it’s a perfect fit for your body, your favourite colour, and will become a regular staple in your wardrobe?
Create pro/con tallies in your head if you have to. Work towards the goal of buying wisely not just spending money for the sake of buying. Trust me, it will come in handy in all aspects of life, not just while saving money for travel.
Final Tips on How to Save Money for Travel
Creating a vacation fund to save money for travel can seem daunting if you already struggle with saving but, it’s not a race. If you can save up for a vacation in 6 months- amazing. If it takes you two years to save for your dream trip- that’s ok too! The key is to continue to save and work towards your goal little by little so you feel like you are making progress. Remember to prioritize and analyze your purchases, but don’t cut out everything. You need to enjoy your life in the meantime too.
The tips above, as I have learned over the past decade, aren’t just healthy for saving for travel, but also just good money habits to have in general. We work hard for our money and we should be paying attention to where it is going to make sure we get the most from it.