How to Save Money for Travel 101
People ask me all the time how I come up with the money to travel. My go to answer is usually, I save up. But what does that even mean? Doesn't everyone save money? Even to my own ears the answer is absurd. The real reason I deflect from answering with the truth of how I manage to finance my travels is that I want to avoid the impending discussion following it. But since I'm tired of sidestepping the obvious and glaring answer to it, here is the truth, being presented in the most covert and non-confrontational way. a.k.a let me passively blog about it, instead of God forbid, say it to someone's face.
The reason I'm able to save up money for travelling, while a lot of people I know can't, is due to the difference in our priorities. I place travelling above any other expenditure or experience (including a wedding btw), due to which I'm able to consciously and sometimes even automatically make choices which support my finances. Does that mean I'm suggesting my priorities are better than the next person's? Absolutely not. But they are different.
I can give you all of my tips and tricks of penny pinching, and I will trust me, they are all listed below, but before you skip this important part, beware that none of them will actually work unless you actively make travelling a priority.
When you make travelling a priority here are some common sense and some extremely creative methods of thrift which become easy to adopt. The advice below is fairly realistic and definitely doesn't ask you to sell everything, even the clothes on your back, and have no home to come to. So keep an open mind.
1. Love homemade coffee/tea.
Don't stop at Starbucks and you'll avoid spending 2-4 bucks everyday. You'd be surprised how much you save.
2. Become a chef.
Or don't, but learn to cook for yourself and stop eating out. Buy healthy groceries, make healthy meals and start preparing that body for the hardship of travelling itself.
3. Walk more, bus less.
In a regular month, I'll walk any distance less than 45 mins one way on foot. On a saving-month that distance likely goes up to 1 hour each direction. If you want to become a traveller, you'll have to become a pedestrian first.
4. Sell your car.
If you live in the first world, and you have access to public transport, why would you pay money for parking, gas and insurance, on top of the cost of buying a car in the first place?! Why would you add to the carbon footprint?!
5. Sell More.
Textbooks, furniture, clothing, accessories - anything which is taking up space in your life, but serves no purpose, needs to go. Preferably in exchange for money. But it's gotta go regardless. Travellers own fewer things than the layman, and utilize them efficiently.
6. Don't buy more clothes.
Go online and find new ways to wear your old ones, and it won't even make you shed a tear because you are a traveller first, and everything else, including fashionista, second.
7. Quit. Wasting. Money. On. Gyms.
Go find a gym outdoors! Take up yoga, and practise it near a lake, or the mountains, or even the neighbourhood park. Go hiking, running, swimming or walking. If you're a Real traveller, you will never let yourself be caged inside a concrete gym. You will instead always chase the Great Outdoors.
8. Stop paying for movies.
I'm not going to tell you what to do here. You already know. I know you already know.
9. Don't pay for data.
If you really want to save money, you won't even allow yourself this luxury. Does a real traveller have the luxury of 24h internet access? In a new city? A new country? No. Not for most people. If you're planning to go anywhere that's actually interesting, chances are you won't have data. You'd be lucky if you have a working phone number. I use wifi outside the house if I can help it.
The only way data becomes necessary is when I'm looking at a map route. Or that's what I thought till a fellow traveller set me on the straight path by introducing me to maps.me - an app so useful, that you should download the map to your local city right now. Which is what I've done. Because it's not only an interactive map, but also an offline GPS!
10. Don't buy books.
I have no shame I think. I can't tell you how many books I've finished or how many lonely planets I've browsed for inspiration at Chapters. In my defence though I'm a very loyal Chapters customer and I do spend quite a bit when I'm not being so spend-thrifty. It's my favourite store in Canada, and not for their lack of objections about my frequent visits. I love you Chapters!
Don't do what I do though, join the public library. Most libraries offer OneDrive subscriptions which means you can get your hands on the latest releases as well. Then there's that other way of getting your hands on books. But I'm not recommending that you should do that or anything.
11. Work more hours.
This one is rather obvious, but is it really? If you're in school full time, with volunteering and research projects, or you're at a full-time job, how many more hours can you possibly commit to making money? As many as possible is the answer. For the better part of 2016, I juggled school, research, volunteering, and a full-time graveyard shift job. I'm not going to lie and tell you it was easy - In fact it was the opposite. It was a good set-up for 6 months or so, and the money I made from my job financed about five Incredibly worth-the-pain getaways, and even paid a small portion off my student loans.
12. Find money-unrelated activities to do with friends.
Saying no to an invite isn't awkward or a rejection if you follow it up with an interesting suggestion of your own. May be say no to the dinner at the restaurant, and suggest a morning hike on another day? No to the concert, but yes to the free music festival. No to yet another dinner invite, but yes to checking out the christmas markets - You can alter the yes activities to suit your tastes. Get creative.
Budgeting is a science, and you'll have to learn to love science if you want to save money. I'm sorry, but it's the only way. The how-tos of budgeting deserves a blog post on its own, so I won't say too much about it here, except that starting now, categorize all your purchases into needs or wants. Do you need that new pair of shoes? Or do you just want them? I tend to forego a lot of my wants based on this simple, yet incredibly infuriating, line of questioning.
14. Buy your own water bottle.
I almost overlooked mentioning this one because it's so common sense to me that water should be free! Always - Actually this has nothing to do with saving money, I just feel cheated to my core anytime I have to pay for a water bottle. It's water. I need it. Like air ya know. I have to pay for it? What? But apparently I do. And you will too, if you don't buy your own bottle, and refill it at home.
That's it for now! It's not an easy journey, saving up for anything, travelling, a home, wedding, car (don't buy a car), but if I can do it...I can at least try to convince you that you can as well. Thing is, I hate having to count my money, and I love pretty things. But I'm willing to overcome those two obstacles if it means I can run away somewhere new. If you really want to travel, then you'll be able to do the same as well.