The big question many long-term wanderers often get asked by friends and family back home, how do you afford it? Some assume it comes from elsewhere. Rich relatives that I’ve never met or a bank account that is continously full, but those who know me, know with a little hard work and a few saving techniques, I can grow my holiday funds quite quickly.
Here are a few ideas that can help you save for your trip of a lifetime.
1. Set a Realistic Savings Goal. How long do you plan or hope to travel for? 6months, a year? And where to? My usual goal is to spend $1,000/month. This is flexible depending on where I am. This goal is easy to do in most Southeast Asian countries, India, Central America, and South America. One of my best friends and her husband are planning their trip around the world, setting a goal of $20K (10K each) to travel for at least six months. Figure out what’s doable for you? $200/week? $1000/month? Once you set a plan, use the following tips to make it happen.
2. After the bills are paid, where is your money going? Eating out, drinks on the weekends, parties, shopping, bad habits? Cut out cigarettes, it’s 2017. Give up those $7 mocha frappa lattes and home-brew your coffee. Spend weekends at home, enjoy staycations. Be a tourist in your own city and challenge yourself to find all free events or exhibits. Pre-drink like the college days, before meeting friends out and limit your spending money. Once you spend ‘x’ amount of $s, it’s time to head home. Or throw cheap at-home dinner parties, and dance until 3am in your own living room. Go to the salon less (the balayage look is great for the frugal traveler), and choose public transport over uber when possible. Challenge yourself to saving money knowing the more you do, the extra days add up on tropical beaches, or hanging in Patagonian mountains.
3. Introduce a new mindset when purchasing. Ask yourself, “Is it a necessity I could use on the trip?” “Will it fit it in my backpack?” “Can I live without it?” Shopping. My old vice that drove me to obsession over sample-sale websites and filled my closet (ok two closets full) of items I wanted instead of needed. I cut myself off from online shopping by unsubscribing from all shop-related emails. If I ended up in a store with items in my hand, I’d ask myself, “is this something I need for my trip?” and almost every time I’d walk out of the store empty-handed. The truth is, local markets abroad are cheaper and full of local artesian crafts. Save the shopping for then. And remember to to leave space in your pack for the souvenirs you pick up along the way.
4. Side jobs. Do you have time for a part-time job? Maybe a few babysitting gigs on the weekend, or dog-walking? Reach out to friends and family about house-sitting. Bartend or serve. Take up a side contracting job, or offer painting houses. If you play an instrument, give lessons. Or language lessons, any type of tutoring. Mow lawns, clean houses. Ask for extra hours at your current job. There are always ways to bring in extra income.
5. Although it might not be heaps of money, it’s still better to make more and spend less. Take a look in your closet. Sell what you can to re-sale shops. Auction off items on eBay, Etsy, Craigslist, TradeMe, etc. Try minimalism. Get rid of the unnecessary [it’ll also help with stress]. Donate what you don’t need, or offer it to friends. Each time I leave for a big trip, I open my closet to friends to grab whatever they like. Sometimes I let them “borrow” an item, I can’t part with, to hold on for a bit. Sell books, video games, DVDs. Things you won’t miss or think about when you’re abroad.
6. Move in with Mom. Do you have family nearby? Can you save a few months’ rent and get out your lease? I will admit it. I move home to save money and I’m not ashamed. You’ll spend some quality family time before you take off and it can save you a chunk of your monthly bills.
And this is my view from bed. This is my favorite bed in the whole of my travels. It’s going to be pretty hard to beat being surrounded by volcanos, perched up in a tree, in an avocado farm, and looking down at Antigua. Please don’t make me leave. #guatemala #travel #treehouse #elhato #earthlodge #instastory #beststayever #nofilter #mykindofheaven @passionpassort @tinyatlasquarterly
7. Cook at home. Make meal plans for the week. Bring lunch to work. When you do want to go out, find cheap deals. Insert amazing Trader Joe’s dinners. $2 taco nights, 2 for 1s, etc. This will save you money quicker than you think.
8. Dying for a mini vacation? Take a road trip. Go camping. Keep it simple, keep it cheap.
The #DisastrousDuoDoPatagonia Day 5: It was time to say g’bye to our perfect little campsite with the outrageous views, pack up one last time and finish the final leg of the #WCircuitTrek. #TorresDelPaine #Patagonia #Chile #SouthAmerica @travelsouthamerica #visitsouthamerica #travel #campingofficial
9. Open separate savings account that part of your paycheck goes to each week or month. Don’t allow yourself to touch the account until the big trip.
10. It’s a small one, but skip spending money on gifts. Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, be creative and make something. That’s what Pinterest’s for. Or bake a cake, or spend the day/night doing something as a present. Homemade gifts and experiences beat out any other present.
11. Unsubscribe. Have cable tv? Get out of the contract. Gym membership you barely use? Cancel it. Run outside or work out at home. Netflix? Magazines? Anything you won’t be using in the middle of the rainforest in Brasil. Grab a library card and borrow books, dvds, even vinyls for free.
12. Learn to say “no” – On nights out, brunches, shopping trips, concerts, if it’s not something you’re dying to do, then skip it. In Chicago with live music every night of the week, I find myself spending heaps on concerts, and cut back by choosing one or two for the month. But please have a life, don’t miss out on something you love just to save a few bucks.
13. Throw a going-away party for yourself! Leaving for a while? Why not throw one last bash at a friend’s or a bar to celebrate your Bon Voyage. Family members love sending you off with a bit extra cash, plus it’s a great way to say goodbye in one night. I’ve left too many times to count, but I will always hate the goodbyes. This way you don’t have to spend your last nights running around to everyone for one last hug. But you will come back. Most likely with souvenirs and you’ll pick right back up with your best friends and family as if you never left.
It may be hard at first, but once you watch the money build up in your account, you’ll picture yourself on that flight sooner.
At the end of the day, life experiences will always win over materials. Who cares about big screen VR tvs, and the latest designer bags when you can be playing soccer with local kids on a muddy field in the middle of the Himalayan mountains. Or yachting in the Thai islands. Zip-lining through jungles or exploring ancient temples. The memories will stay with you for the rest of your life. A trip that will fill your walls with incredible adventures.
Life will always continue with you there or without. It’ll never be the perfect time to go, but if it’s your heart’s desire. Make it happen. Book the one-way flight, plan the trip, and get ready to see through a new set of eyes.
x, Viktoria Wanders