I wrote this post to help you save money in order to travel more frequently, or just pursue your passions in general, whatever they may be.
I used to think that travel was expensive and out of reach, but since researching my trip to Mexico in May, I have discovered that travel can be as expensive or cheap as you want it to be, depending upon what type of traveler you are and what kind of expectations you have about traveling. If you want to stay in all inclusive resorts, you can expect to pay a lot of money for such a package. If you are okay with staying in cheap hostels and eating street food, you can travel for very cheap. As a minimalist and frugal individual, my goal for this next trip is to adhere to a tight budget (but I will allow myself to splurge where necessary, such as on unique cultural experiences and on food) and to live like the locals in Mexico. I plan to eat at restaurants/street food stands where the locals go, shop at local markets and use local public transportation. If travel is a priority for you, then you will find a way to make it happen through tight budgeting, saving extra money, picking up an extra income, selling your excess and unnecessary stuff, tracking your expenses and more. Don’t make excuses to not follow your dreams and pursue what you love doing! If you want to travel, then you have to make a choice to do that. Make plans, do your research, and save money to do so. Don’t just say that you will do something “someday,” as that “someday” will never come. There will never be a perfect time to travel, which means that you just have to book a flight and do it. It takes a conscious choice.
I have come up with a list of ideas to help you save money for whatever style of travel that you are interested in.
- Learn that you do not need more “stuff.” You have more than enough stuff in order to live. So many things that we spend our money on are unnecessary and just end up sitting around, unused. Learn to identify what is important and useful to you and what is not. Whenever you are contemplating the purchase of something, ask yourself some questions: Will this item add value to my life? Is this item necessary? Do I need this? Do I have physical space for this item in my room/house? How much time/freedom am I exchanging for this item (ie: how many hours of work will it take to pay for this item)? Is this item reflective of my values and passions? Will this item cost me extra time or money repairing, maintaining, cleaning, organizing or researching it? Spend your money on experiences that create memories, not more stuff.
- Create a budget, track your spending and then cut your expenses. Know what every dollar you spend is going towards. I have been tracking my expenses using an iPhone app called “Spending” for about 8 months now, and I tell you from experience that you will definitely become more conscious about where you are spending your money and what categories you are spending too much money on. When tracking your expenses, separate your budget into categories such as fuel, groceries, bills, travel fund/account, loans, entertainment, clothing, miscellaneous (hair, massage, etc.), rent, car insurance, eating out, etc. Once you track your expenses for a couple of months, figure out which categories you need to cut back on your spending. That extra money you save can go towards your travel fund. In terms of trip planning, calculate how much time you have before your departure date and then calculate how much you can realistically save per month.
- Sell your unneeded or unused belongings. Refer to point number one. We all have more stuff than we truly need to live. Go through your home and seriously declutter (read the book “How to Unstuff your Life” firstly as it offers an amazing guide on how to do this) and minimalize. Go through your kitchen, closets, drawers, basement, etc. Sell your excess stuff on websites like Kijiji, Facebook, or eBay or have a garage sale. Anything you can’t sell, donate to people and charities in need. Use this extra money earned to fund your travels.
- Change your values and learn to live frugally and simply. Stop wasting money by buying crap you don’t need or won’t use. Spending less money on every day expenses means you have more money for travel or other passions you wish to pursue. I have learned over the past year, how much contentment, joy and freedom minimalism brings to your life. I am happier than I have ever been, I have more money, I have more time to focus on my priorities, interests and passions, and I have more space (physically and mentally). You have everything to gain.
- Get a second job for extra income. There are many jobs you can do on the side of your regular full time job. Search through Job Bank or Kijiji. You could tutor children, teach your native language, become a pet sitter, do odd jobs for other people in need like lawn mowing or home maintenance, house clean, babysitting, casual respite work, etc. etc. etc. You can also take on a part time job in the evenings or weekends at a retail store or restaurant, etc. There are so many opportunities out there! Use the extra money you earn for travel.
- Create a travel fund (separate from your savings account) at your bank and set up an automatic deposit from your savings into this account. This is the best thing I have done! I created a secondary online savings account with my bank RBC and every pay check (every two weeks), I transfer $200 from from my primary savings account into my travel account. It adds up quickly and you don’t even miss the money, or realize that it’s gone into a different account.
- Eat out less. Buy a cookbook or search online for recipes and learn to cook more meals at home. Bring a lunch to work or go home for lunch instead of eating out. Or just eat out less often than you normally do.
- Cut the cable TV. Ever since January, I challenged myself to cut out television watching (with the exception of Netflix) in order to reduce my exposure to advertising and the influence of advertising and the news. I haven’t missed watching TV and haven’t watched it since January (with the exception of Walking Dead, which is my all-time favourite show). It is possible and you can do it too! Cancel the cable and save huge amounts of money every month. You will find other, more productive ways to spend your extra time.
- Save money on groceries, by shopping at farmer’s markets and buying less (or no) processed and packaged junk food. Buy lots of veggies and make healthy dishes for yourself!
- Keep your habits in check. If you want to save money, stop drinking alcohol and coffee, stop smoking, stop eating processed and packaged food devoid of nutritional value, stop relying on caffeine.
- Commit to an amount that you need to save. Once you have drafted your budget for your future trip, taking into account transportation, accommodation, activities, food and shopping expenses, figure out how much money you need to save in order to turn travel from a dream to a reality. Be realistic about how much you need to save and add a bit. Write this goal down and refer to it often. It is better to add a cushion amount in case it is more expensive than anticipated.
- Reduce or eliminate your car usage. Walk, bike, take the bus or carpool instead and save money on fuel and maintenance costs.
- Stop (or reduce) going out for entertainment. Make staying in fun and invite friends over, rent movies instead of going to the theatre, stop going to bars and clubs, or have games nights at someone’s house.
- Sign up for rewards credit cards. There are cards, like American Express and the West Jet credit card that offer rewards points that can be used on flights. There are also cash back credit cards. There are so many options, depending on what kind of card you are looking for.
You do not need to be rich to travel, but you do need to be committed. I hope these tips were helpful and let me know what you think! Anything else you can add to the list? How do you save money for travel?