These days, travel has become much more accessible than ever before. More flight routes have been added with more affordable options as there is a lot of competition among all the airlines you can choose from. And with the rise of companies like Airbnb and Couchsurfing, you can find cheap (or even free) accommodations almost anywhere in the world.
As someone who is fortunate enough to travel several times a year, I am always asked, “How do you get to travel so much?” or “How do you afford to travel to all these great places?” There are several ways and I am about to share some of them with you.
But, first off, here’s what I do:
I’m a saver…always have been, always will be. I make travel a priority. I am not a shopper who will buy expensive or unnecessary things. Anything I’ve owned for a while and don’t use or want anymore gets donated (which can be used as a tax deduction in the United States) or sold on eBay/Offer Up.
But, most importantly…I LIVE WITHIN MY MEANS!
I have had the same car for over 12 years now, having paid it off over 9 years ago, which has saved me money on interest over the course of several years. I live in an affordable house, which (fortunately) is in a good area. I don’t go out to eat all the time, maybe once or twice a month AT MOST. I make my coffee at home (hey, those trips to your local Starbucks can cost, on average, $5/day – make coffee at home and see how much you can save!).
I also have an airline miles card which I buy everything on, including groceries. The airline miles add up enough to get several free flights a year. Even though I use my credit card, I PAY IT OFF EVERY MONTH! I make sure I always have the money to pay off the entire balance every month because nothing sends you hurtling into a financial black hole like credit card debt.
The above are things that I accomplished myself. Then there were lucky things that happened to me, like my dad paying off my student loans. That was a huge relief! I also hired a financial advisor that helps me save and invest my money wisely. I also have zero debt, which is an accomplishment in itself. (I realize that this is not possible for everyone though).
Obviously, what works and has worked for me may or may not work for you. Just like diets, financial advice is not a “one-size-fits-all” sort of thing. You really need to take a look at your spending, needs and wants and figure out where to make some cuts and save more.
Here is a list of options you may be able to try:
1. Budgeting. What is your monthly income less your expenditures? Do you have any money left over? If yes, then put it aside in a savings account (or if you are comfortable investing, then do that) and you can eventually save up enough to travel somewhere. But take a hard look at what you are spending your money on every month by saving receipts and adding to a spreadsheet, then analyze what you spent. Can you make cuts anywhere? Tracking your spending is an incredibly important step and will shed light on where you can make some necessary cuts.
2. Live within your means. Do not spend any more than you can afford. Only buy necessities, don’t go out to eat or buy coffee every day and opt to cook at home. Don’t buy new clothing for a while.
3. Cut the cable and any magazine/newspaper subscriptions. Do you have cable TV? A less expensive option would be a streaming service for a small monthly fee of about $10 USD per month as opposed to $100 USD per month. As for any news, mostly any information can be found for free online from any news source which has a website.
4. Cut the gym membership. Unless you are a diehard gym rat who goes just about every day, you can find other ways of working out without the gym. How about walking/jogging/hiking outside? Or buying a jump rope? You can also purchase a set of hand weights for a reasonable price, or even resistance bands, which is a great way to work your muscles! Monthly gym membership fees add up, so see if this is something you may be able to sacrifice.
5. Eliminate (or cut down on) smoking and drinking alcohol. Cigarettes and booze expenses can really add up especially if you do it habitually. Try to cut down and, eventually, eliminate these vices and you will be surprised at how much more you can save! (Another side effect may even be better health, thus cutting down on potential trips to the doctor).
6. Do you live in a house with extra space? Think about getting a roommate and renting out an extra room. Or, if it’s allowed in your city, rent your house or a room out on Airbnb. You could even list the entire home for rent when you are away, which would pay for a portion of your travels. Moving to a less expensive part of the town/city you live in could help cut down on housing expenses as well.
7. Get a credit card with travel benefits. There are many credit cards out there with points, so why not get one that gives you airline miles or other travel rewards? Just keep in mind that to get the rewards, there is a minimum spend, usually around $3,000 in the first three months to get the initial sign-on bonus reward of 30,000+ miles, for example. If you don’t have the money to pay off the balance in full each month, however, think twice about getting one of these credit cards.
8. Use public transportation over driving a car. Or, better yet, ride a bike, especially if you live close enough to work! (That would also be great exercise, maybe enough to eliminate a gym membership and save you even more). Using public transit would save on gas/petrol, and therefore save you more money for your travel fund. If you get rid of the vehicle altogether, that would also save you on car insurance.
9. Sell your unwanted items. You probably have something of value that you are no longer using, like a designer handbag, shoes, jewelry or jeans. You can sell on websites like eBay, OfferUp, or ThredUp (there are dozens more to choose from) or take your items to a consignment shop. You will not only get some money for the things you no longer need/want, but a bonus is decluttering!
10. Stay at home more instead of going out. Yes, you may want to socialize with your friends at a bar on the weekend, but the temptation to eat and drink while out is there, and that costs money! Why not get together with friends during the day by heading out for a bike ride or walk or to the beach instead? There are probably plenty of free activities to participate in your town/city, but you will have to do some research. Meetup.com is a great place to find a local group (with similar interests to yours) where you can participate in an activity and possibly make some new friends!
These are just a few of many more ways you can save money to fund your travels. Budgeting and cutting costs are extremely important. And there are ways you can make extra money, too, like getting a second or even third job, starting an online business, selling your creations on Etsy.com, etc.
Yes, you will have to change some of your current lifestyles, but, believe me, it will be worth it when you are on that plane to some foreign country to have the experience of a lifetime!