After travelling on and off, visiting over 30 countries (within the last 4 years), once you’ve been asked ‘Where was your favourite place?‘ the question on everyone’s minds is always about the money…
How do you afford to travel all the time?
Where did you get your money from?
How do you save up to travel?
I can honestly say there have been no benefactors and no lottery wins, it’s been quite a straight forward money saving process, so I thought I’d write it out once and for all and hopefully my advice on saving up will help someone else plan their once in a lifetime trip.
6 proven ways to save money to travel (without help):
ONE: Recognise the things you’re spending (and potentially wasting) money on
Take Away coffees? Take away food? New clothes every week/month? A few drinks after work? Eating out too often?
One day I reviewed 3 months of my bank accounts and realised if I stopped buying the above, even cutting it by half and making small changes to my spending, I could save between £500-1000 a month.
For me in 2014 it was clothes, I bought clothes every time I got paid and then it became a habit, something that made me feel good when I was stressed. Then in 2017 when planning for my next trip, I realised it was take away coffees (every day before work) so I switched to buying Nescafe Intenso and made my coffee each morning at work. Again I saved around £60 a month.
Regularly I would buy these ‘things’ because I’d worked hard and saw it as a treat for the hard work. When I added up how much these items added up to, it could have meant a month or two not working in Asia. So I changed my mind set.
When you start to add up the little things you spend money on in relation to the cost of a flight or a few months off work to travel, you’ll start saving!
TWO: Have a separate savings account and get STRICT with your earnings and outgoings.
Yes, you will need a job… that’s the first fundamental rule but the next steps are key.
STEP 1: When you get paid, look at how much you make.
STEP 2: Look at your regular necessary monthly outgoings e.g Rent, gym membership, travel card/ how much you spent on petrol and food.
STEP 3: Look at this list and think, is there a cheaper way? A cheaper gym? Could you bike to work? Do you really need to shop at a higher priced supermarket?
STEP 4: Once you’ve deducted these necessities, look at the amount you’d have left after you remove rent, food, travel and an ICE (in case of emergency 50quid fund).
STEP 5: Then when you get paid, move as much of that extra money straight into your savings/ISA account and do not touch it – I’m serious, do not touch that money.
Try to see the funds you’ve moved as a tax or a bill (so money you can’t spend)- maybe even set up transferring money to this account as a standing order (self imposed direct debit) so as soon as you are paid, it’s gone. I put half of my wages every month into my savings and slowly, over time this builds up. For example, save 500 a month for a year, you’ve got 6 grand. Save a grand a month for a year, that’s 12 grand (and a year of travelling without working!!!)
What I found is that if the money isn’t in your account to spend, you can’t spend more than what’s within your means.
THREE: Move somewhere cheaper to live or move back home.
This is similar to the last tip, but it’s important to mention because it’s a big change and it made a big money saving difference to me in 2014.
When I started to think about travelling, I was renting a house with my partner, however every month I saw £600 a month come out of my bank account. However we only lived a 10 minute drive from his parents house.
To save money, and because we really didn’t need to have our own place, we moved into his parents house and paid less. It changed everything.
What we would have saved in a year, we saved in 6 months. We still contributed to rent, bills and food but the cost was much less.
FOUR: Make your lunches at home
Making lunches at home and then bringing them into work saved me £3-8 a day (£60-160 a month). Buying lunch out costs money rather than buying a heap of ingredients and making a few lunches out of it.
FIVE: Don’t be afraid to say NO to social events.
As soon as people know you’re saving to go travelling, the majority get it. If I was invited to go to things I didn’t have the money to go to I would just say ‘sorry I can’t make it’ and it was no big deal.
So if you can’t afford to go to a swanky restaurant with your friends, suggest a cheaper one. If you can’t afford a acquaintances hen/stag do in Ibiza, don’t go and offer to make them dinner then they’re back. Some people hate missing out on things, and I don’t suggest this for everything e.g close friends birthday, close friends weddings. But if you really don’t know the person, or if it’s going to really put a dent in your finances, just apologise and say no. Trust me!
SIX: Alcohol – Cut out the bars. Pre-drinking or buying booze from your local supermarket is cheaper.
The title says it all really. Personally, I cut out alcohol completely unless my boss was buying the office Friday drinks.
A Bonus tip…
SEVEN: Are you really working in the best place to make enough money?
If you read tips 1-6 and thought, I don’t earn enough to save money!
Then I’ve added this one in because it’s come up a few times with a few friends and I’ve had to have this sometimes uncomfortable but realistic conversation.
On one hand, I have a few friends who LOVE their job, love their colleagues but they’ve not had a pay increase in years and have enough to cover bills, rent and social life with nothing left every month. They don’t leave their job because they’re confortable and have a good social life. On the other hand, I have a few friends who HATE their job, don’t get paid well but are too afraid to leave because ‘what if I can’t find something else’ or ‘I’ve heard the job market isn’t great right now’ or ‘I’ll look to leave soon (and that was 2 years ago).
If these kind of people come to me and ask me about saving to go travelling, then I feel like they really need to look at their money flow first and make a change or else they become the people who say they want to travel, but then don’t.
For me personally, I found that changing jobs in the past gave me the most significant pay rises, and if the pay offered wasn’t good enough, I politely asked for more if I felt I was being reasonable and if I’d done my research (why not!? Worth a try right?).
SO if you feel you don’t earn enough to follow rules 1-6, then you really need to look at taking your skills elsewhere or a finding second job… it might be the best thing you ever do!
Being a bit smarter with your money, tighter with your wallet and more forward thinking is the best way to save to go travelling. Even when I am travelling, I follow rules 1-6 and it means I can travel longer.