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How to Save Money For Travel

Piggy Bank and Money - How to Save money for Travel

You know how your paycheck doesn’t seem to stretch to the end of the month?  How your friends are planning to go on holiday but you just don’t seem to have the cash to spend without sticking it on your credit card?  You are not alone!  However, there are lots of ways to save money for a big trip, and some are easier than others!  Today I’m sharing all my tips on how to save money for travel.

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How Much Money Do You Need to Travel?

Not much!  Of course, this depends on a great many factors, such as where you decide to go or what your preferred type of accommodation is, but if you plan to go backpacking on a budget as I did, the great news is that you don’t need a lot of money to travel. 

I will be sharing lots of ways to enjoy a budget travel adventure and cut down on your costs while travelling, but you do need some money to start off with.  For this post, I’ll delve into lots of different ways you can save money for travel even without a high-paying job.  I got tired of seeing all those posts about how people saved $50,000 in a month so I’ll get real about what you need to do to save money – and it will involve some sacrifices!

Passport on table with different coins and money notesHow to Save money For Travel
How Much Money do you Need to Travel? Not as Much as you Think!

How to Save Money for Travel Fast

Saving money comes down to one basic thing – are you earning more money than you are spending?  If so, you will save money. 

Unfortunately, unless you have a very extravagant lifestyle, saving money can take a long time.  Planning a trip in advance will give you time to figure out how to save money and even how to earn more money.

I’ve split this post into four parts: first steps towards saving money for travel, tips for managing your money, tips for saving money and suggestions for making more money.  Some of these tips involve long-term lifestyle changes, and others are quick wins, but they will all help you to save money!  And what does money mean?  A trip of a lifetime! 

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First Steps Towards Saving Money for Travel

Decide on Your Priorities

The real trick to saving money is realising the difference between what you NEED and what you WANT. 

When I went travelling, so many people said how they wished they could afford to travel.  However, most of them had an iPhone, a huge TV, a new car and a nice house.  None of those things are important to me, so I was able to prioritise saving money for travel over buying any of these things. 

You NEED to pay rent, but you don’t NEED a fancy apartment, even if you want it. 

You priorities will be different to everyone else’s and that’s ok – you just need to decide what is important to you, and work towards your own goals.  

Pink high-heeled shoes Oh so pretty but not really essential!
Oh so pretty but not really essential!

Be Prepared to Make Sacrifices

I didn’t say saving money for travel was going to be easy.  You will have to make sacrifices, but once you decide to make travel a priority, it will be easier to sacrifice things that don’t help you achieve your travel goals.

Make it Official

If you want to save money for travel, you need to make a conscious decision to do it.  Saving money isn’t easy but telling yourself and your friends and family that you are saving makes it real.  It helps to focus your mind on saving money, and stop them from tempting you to spend unnecessary cash!

Write down your dream travel adventure, and stick it on the fridge.  Make a mood-board or print off a photo of your dream destination and have it somewhere visible so you will see it all the time and be reminded of your goal. 

Managing your Money

Do Your Sums

The next thing to do is to figure out your monthly income and outgoings.  Not only will this show you what you are able to save, but it will also highlight exactly what you spend your money on so you can cut out the non-essential items. 

I used an Excel spreadsheet to help me keep track of my spending money, so the sums are done for me, but if you don’t have access to excel a piece of paper and a calculator will do!

Go through your bank account and credit card statements for the last few months to find out the fixed monthly outgoings and regular payments and take a look at your other spending money.  You can usually download statements in a csv file which is easy to import into Excel and add to your budget spreadsheet.

Calculator and money - Work out your Income and Outgoings - How to Save Money for Travel
Work out your Income and Outgoings – How to Save Money for Travel

Work out a Budget and Stick to It

I will hold my hands up for this one and admit that I have always been terrible at sticking to a budget.  However, some people find setting a budget a useful method to keep their spending in check. 

Sit down and work out what fixed costs you have going out of your account like rent, bills, etc, and what money you have coming in from your wages.  Allocate an amount for food, entertainment and anything else that you just can’t live without and see how much you have left for your savings at the end of the month. 

To help stick to a budget, you could set a daily expenditure and never go over it, then anything left each day could go into your travel savings.  Other people prefer to take their budget for the week out of the ATM in cash, which they can keep track of much easier than card payments.  Others might find it easier to be really tough with their budget during the week, so they have some money to spend at the weekend as a treat.

Work out the best method for you and stick to it!  To me, saving money is kind of like going on a diet.  You have good days and bad days, but if at the end of the week you’re still saving money you’re doing well!  Try to also allocate some money for treats too, it is nice to reward your hard work with a little treat like a glass of wine with a friend after work. 

READ MORE: Tried & Tested Tips for Backpacking on a Budget

Sort out Your Bills

Once you know what your monthly outgoings are, look at ways you can reduce them.  Your rent or mortgage might be a fixed payment, but chances are your electricity, gas or phone bill could be switched to a cheaper tariff.  There are various comparison sites which show you how to get a better deal, such as U-Switch in the UK which finds the cheapest option for you. 

Look for a New Credit Card

If you have several debts, look at consolidating them into one account with a better rate of interest if you can.  New credit cards often offer an interest-free balance transfer to help you reduce the amount you have to pay each month. 

Lots of credit cards, especially in the USA offer points on everything you spend which you could then put towards hotel stays, flights and other perks when you book your trip.  However, if you plan to travel on a budget, getting extra points to spend at a hotel won’t help you if you will be booking hostels. 

One thing I will say though is try to resist the temptation to pay for your travels on a credit card.  I found it much easier to save up in advance when I had the trip to look forward to than paying off debts when I was back home. 

Wallet full of Credit Cards - Keep on top of your finances to save money for travel
Keep on top of your finances to save money for travel

Start a Savings Account

Separating your travel money fund from your day to day spending money helps to protect your fund and means you are not tempted to dip into it if you run over budget.  There are some cool money-saving apps out there now which allow you to save the change on every purchase you make – for example, if you spend £29 on something, you can round it up and save the £1 in your travel fund.  You can set how much you save, whether it is pennies or pounds, and remember that every little helps!

Even having a piggy bank or a change jar helps, all of that spare change adds up! 

How to Cut Expenses

Big Lifestyle Changes to Save Money

One of the ways to save money for a trip fast is to make big lifestyle changes.  For example, if you have your own place, renting out a room to a lodger can save you a ton of money on rent.  Alternatively, moving to a cheaper apartment or moving in with a friend also has the same effect. 

Do you need a car?  Work out how much you spend on your car insurance, parking fees, upkeep and petrol, and decide whether taking public transport and the occasional taxi will save you money.  Saying goodbye to your car might be tough but it can also save you a ton of money – and get you a lump sum when you sell it!

Cut Back on Non-Essentials

Are you the kind of person who buys a coffee on your way to work?  A sandwich for lunch every day?  That ‘must-have’ new phone or outfit?  Cutting back on all non-essentials can really add up to a lot of money, depending on your usual spending habits.

Other common non-essentials include gym membership, Netflix subscriptions, shopping sprees….. anything that you don’t NEED to buy.  Keeping active is important but you don’t NEED to pay for gym membership if you can exercise at home using YouTube videos.

If you can’t bring yourself to cut out these things completely, cutting back can still save cash. 

Learn to Cook

Eating out is a huge expense, but it can be hard to give up – especially if you love food like I do!  However, you don’t have to stop eating curry or pizza takeaways if you learn to make your own.  There are thousands of recipes out there to help you rustle up delicious meals for a fraction of the price of a meal out or a takeaway.

Homemade pizza - Cooking at home saves money and is just as tasty
Cooking at home saves money and is just as tasty

Go Meat-Free

Meat is much more expensive than vegetables, so even cutting back on meat for a couple of meals can save a big chunk on grocery bills.  If you need to eat beans and lentils once a week to be able to travel then so be it!  Don’t starve yourself though, a well-balanced diet keeps you healthy and strong and means you can enjoy your travels when you do get to go!

Switch to Budget Brands

Cutting back your spending doesn’t mean you have to cut out all of your favourite things.  However, replacing them with cheaper alternatives is a no-brainer if you want to save money for a holiday!  

Switching to budget brand tinned food, toilet paper and other items can save you money on your weekly shop.  Think about where you shop too; some supermarkets are more expensive than others, so choose wisely and save cash!  Local markets often have really cheap fruit and veg that are cheaper than supermarkets and aren’t wrapped in plastic, so its a win for you and the environment!

Quit Smoking & Drinking

Smoking and drinking are two of the most expensive habits we have.  If you are a smoker, having the thought of an amazing trip planned might be the push you need to help you kick the habit.  At the very least, cut down the amount you smoke and you will be amazed how much money you save! 

Similarly, if you are the kind of person who loves to go for a drink with friends, cut it down to once a week, once a month, or one pint and you will save lots of cash which you can spend on a cocktail on a beautiful beach somewhere!

Ashtray full of cigarette butts - Quit smoking or at least cut down to save money
Quit smoking or at least cut down to save money for travel

Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference

I love going out with friends for a meal or for a drink.  Instead of splashing out on a three-course meal at a fancy place, I stuck to just a main course.  Or I shared my travel dreams with my friends and agreed on a cheaper place to eat. 

We took turns to host dinner in our own homes, so the guest just bought a bottle of wine from the shop, and we all saved money.  We learned to enjoy each other’s company over a glass of wine instead of a bottle. 

Get a Reusable Water Bottle

Bottled water is a completely pointless expense, and if you find yourself buying bottled water at home or at work, getting a reusable water bottle will save you a bunch of cash – and you can take it travelling with you to save even more money and plastic

To help you save even more money, I have partnered with Water-to-Go to offer all Tales of a Backpacker readers a 15% discount on the purchase of a Water-to-Go bottle!  If you are based in the US or Canada, click here to order your bottle now, or if you are in Europe or Australia, click here.  Simply choose the water bottle you want to buy, and put in the code BYORB for a 15% discount on your purchase.

A reusable water bottle - How to Save Money for Travel
A reusable water bottle – How to Save Money for Travel

Get Creative

Christmas and birthdays can be an expensive time if you are trying to save money.  However, making gifts can save you money and give you the chance to create a personalised and thoughtful gift.  Knitting, sewing, cooking, baking, painting – even making a mixtape style playlist shows that you took the time to choose the best songs for your recipient.  They will appreciate it!

How to Earn More Money for Travel

Sell Some Stuff

There is no better way to save money for travel than getting rid of stuff you don’t need anymore.  Sorting through your wardrobe, cupboards, loft, garage and even through your CD collection is a great way to earn some money before going travelling. 

Ebay, Music Magpie, Gumtree, local sites. 

If you plan on travelling for a long period and putting stuff into storage – the less stuff you have to store, the less money you have to spend on storing it!   

Shelves full of CDs - Selling your CD collection can generate some serious money for travel
Selling your CD collection can generate some serious money for travel

Ask for a Pay Rise

If you have a steady job and you are good at it, there is no reason why you can’t ask for a pay rise at work, provided you can show you are worth the extra money.  Have you got a great absence record?  Have you taken on extra responsibility?  Prepare the reasons why you think you should have a pay rise and present them to your boss.

If you can’t get a pay raise for your current work hours, is there any paid overtime that you could do?  Can you take on an extra shift a week?    

HOWEVER, if you plan to quit your job for travel DO NOT mention this to your boss!  If they know you will be leaving soon, they have absolutely no reason to help you out, so keep that one quiet for the moment! 

Get a Second Job

Depending on the skills you have, this may be easier said than done, but a second job could give you much-needed funds to put towards your travel fund.  Before I quit my main job to go travelling, I took a second job as a food tour guide in Barcelona.  It was just a couple of nights a week, but it made me another couple of hundred euros a month to help pay for my travels.

Man mowing the lawn - Oddjobs like mowing the brass for a neighbour could earn you money to travel
Oddjobs like mowing the brass for a neighbour could earn you money to travel

Help Others and Help Yourself

Do you have any skills that you can sell?  Can you offer to mow lawns, paint fences or do a neighbour’s shopping?  Can you teach a foreign language, piano lessons or computer skills?  Lots of people in your community may need help with all of these things and are willing to pay cash for them.   Finding something you are good at and that you can earn money from is a win-win for everyone.

Set up an Airbnb Experience

If you are an expert in something people visiting your town would be interested, look at setting up an Airbnb Experience so people will pay to take part in your tour, cooking class, jewellery making class etc.  Take a look at what is available in your town already and think about what you could do.

Working Online

There are lots of ways to make some extra cash online, provided that the time and effort you put in will be worth it.  I won’t go into all of the options here – that will be another article – but a few suggestions could be teaching English online, filling in online questionnaires, website design, social media management, becoming a virtual assistant etc.  Think about what skills you have and how you could use them online.     

Do you have any other tips for earning more money or saving money for travel?  Please let me know in the comments, I will update this post with any more ideas you have!

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How to Save Money to Travel

Just to let you know, this post may contain paid or affiliate links, which help to maintain Tales of a Backpacker and give me the chance to keep travelling, and to keep creating awesome content for you!

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Last updated: April 11, 2020


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