Let’s face it! It doesn’t matter where we go or how cheap we travel, traveling will always cost money. Nothing is for free in this world and traveling is sure neither. Having said that, I get a lot of comments from people saying they would love to travel but just can’t afford it. But even with expenses you can’t cut, a lower income or facing an unfavorable exchange rate, you can still save money. It just requires determination, commitment and an adjustment of lifestyle and you will find yourself on your way to adventure quicker than you might have ever imagined. With the help of the ESCapology Facebook Tribe, I compiled some easy and creative ways to cut expenses, make some extra money and build up a travel budget. How to best save for travel – let’s get you traveling!
1| Take control and start budgeting
This should be the starting point and the essence of all of your saving efforts. Without knowing how much money you actually spend and on what, it will be nearly impossible to save and build a travel budget. I personally track my monthly expenses in an Excel spreadsheet but you can also use smartphone apps or budgeting websites. The point is to become aware of your spending habits, and believe me, you will be surprised. Track your set expenses like rent, insurances, cell phone and credit card payments. Then track your variable expenses. These include everything else, from your grocery shopping, drinks, snacks, your daily coffee fix and so on. Be disciplined here; write everything down, even the smallest amounts. At the end of the month have a close look. You will realize that even small amounts, which you might have not even been aware of, will add up. Identify savings potential and make a budget for the next month, stick to it and compare after that month. Becoming aware of where your money goes is the starting point and will save you a lot of money in the long run. Budgeting like that will also be of immense benefit while traveling. Get into that routine now.
2| Save automatically
Saving can be difficult and requiring a lot of discipline. Automation will make it much easier for you. Open a separate online bank account and set up an automatic transfer from your regular checking account. It doesn’t matter how much it is, it is the regularity that will make the difference. You won’t have to think about it. You will just have a little less money to budget with every month.
I opened a dedicated travel account and set up automatic transfers twice a month. I labeled it “Travel Account- Do Not Spend” on my online banking.
Mirro Macatangay – Loyal ESCapology Follower
Some employers also offer having a certain amount of your paycheck deposited into a separate account. That is even easier and can sometimes have tax benefits as well. Check for that possibility or try to negotiate it.
3| The good old Piggy Bank
An old fashioned concept but yet so effective. Buy a simple Piggy Bank or something else that you can collect your money in. Throw all your small change in it, even the bigger coins and don’t touch it before you embark on your next trip. I repeat, don’t touch it; stay disciplined.
There’s no beating the old fashioned piggy bank. We got 2 big piggies, one for daily loose change (coins), and the other for small paper bills. […] Then every end of the year, our piggies belch them out! Vacation trip here we go!!!
Pedro Junior – Loyal ESCapology Follower
You will be surprised how much this can add up to. Even my mom does that and it gives her enough money for a few nice meals or a nice sidetrip. It’s also a nice feeling to get that bit of extra cash before setting off.
4| Reduce your coffee expenses
I love coffee and going to a café and having a nice cup of hot and freshly brewed coffee is one of the few luxuries I truly enjoy. At the same time, coffee is an expense that can be really tough on your budget and often even without you noticing it. Coming at up $5.00 per coffee, this can easily add up to over a hundred Dollars per month or more than a thousand dollars per year. That money can easily get you an all-inclusive month in the Philippines or anywhere else in Southeast Asia. Brew your own coffee, buy an insulated mug and build your travel budget with ease.
5| Be a conscious shopper
There is a lot of savings potential when it comes to grocery shopping. You have to do it regularly and there is no way around it. Taking your time to compare prices, look for discounts and sales can go a long way. Writing a shopping list will prevent you from buying stuff you actually don’t need. Stick to your budget and shopping list, don’t buy things just because they are on sale and don’t let the clever marketing strategists of those retail chains trick you. You are smarter than them.
6| Learn to cook
Eating out is expensive, even at fast food places. Get into the habit of cooking most of your meals yourself. Shop at your local markets for the best prices and fresh produce. It’s not only cheaper but you will also know what is in your food. Cook larger meals so you can use the leftovers for the next day. With a trillion of cooking websites and YouTube tutorials out there, it was never easier to learn how to cook. You can also take a cooking course during your next trip and learn new, exciting recipes. Double the benefit and double the fun.
7| Bring your own lunch to work
Now that you can cook, bring your own boxed lunch to work. Once again, eating out is pricey and often not even that healthy. Take care of yourself and your budget. Cook larger meals, pack them for the next day or even freeze them. A nice routine is to cook it up on Sundays and prepare meals for most of the weekdays. If going out for lunch with your colleagues is sort of social event, than you can still do it on two days of the week. For the remaining three days, you can bring your own.
8| Be smart about credit cards
I personally only use credit cards to book flights and for certain expenses during my trips. At home I never use them. I feel that spending cash money, taking it out of your wallet and handing it over to the cashier, is much more of an overcoming than just punching in 4 numbers on a keypad. On top of that, once you are in debt, you will have to deal with interest rates higher than 10% which is wrong on so many levels. For an American, the benefits or miles you can aggregate on a credit card might be worth it in the long run. For me as a European, and probably for a lot of other nationalities, this is not really a factor. So why bother and risk breaking your travel budget?
9| Ask yourself that one question
This little habit has helped me immensely. It helped for saving for my trips but also for making the most of my travel budget while on the road. Whenever I feel tempted to buy something or spend money, I ask myself if I really need it or just want it. If it is just a want, then I usually decide to not spend that money.
I’m not really into “branded” things (shoes, bags, clothes, accessories, gadgets) so instead of spending large amounts of money on those luxuries, i save it for when an airfare sale comes.
Eyphrille Cuevas – Loyal ESCapology Follower
This simple question made me realize how much money I used to spend on unnecessary things in the past and what a waste that was. Gadgets, brand name clothing and what not. It’s good to treat yourself every once in a while, we all need it. But be conscious about it and don’t just throw your hard earned money out of the window for some short-lived, material things.
10| Cut the booze
I find alcohol being a major cost factor while traveling. In every country, even the cheapest ones, beer and liquor are never cheap. And that is the same at home, especially if you prefer to drink in bars and clubs. Think about it, it’s expensive, it gives you bad hangovers and it’s generally bad for your health. I still enjoy a cold San Miguel here and there but I never drink excessively. Again, be conscious about your spending. Cut the booze and your travel budget will thank you for it.
11| Stay in more often but make it fun
This goes hand in hand with number 10 above. Going out can be super expensive and a killer for your budget. A long night out in clubs and bars can easily add up to $50.00 and more. However, cutting your nights out doesn’t mean you have to become an anti-social loner. Invite your friends into your home, cook together, play games, have big movie nights or do things which are for free. There are heaps of possibilities, just get creative and I am sure your friends will love it as well.
12| Snacks suck
Snacking accounts for one of those expenses that you might not even be aware of but which seriously damage your travel budget. A donut here, some ice-cream there, a pack of cookies or chips – it adds up so quickly. As you eat those snacks, they will eat your hard earned savings. I don’t even want to get into nutritional and health aspects of snacking. Take care of your body and your wallet and stop the snacking. Instead, take fruit and veggies along and snack on those and of course, eat whole and healthy meals.
13| Sell your stuff
It is safe to say that probably the most of us own too much stuff. Old clothes, electronics or gadgets which just catch dust in our closet. Sell it now. This is the chance to boost your budget before your trip. There are numerous ways to monetize your old crap.
I did yard sales! I took up “shop” in front of a sari-sari store in Kalayaan where all the students and construction workers usually pass by. I turned all my old crap into gold.
Mirro Macatangay – Loyal ESCapology Follower
Sell it on websites like ebay, Craigslist or OLX, organize a fun yard sale, go to the pawn broker or second hand shop. Almost everything can be flipped and you will probably be surprised by how much it can add up to. Dont’t forget to put your revenues in your piggy bank or travel account.
14| Get a sidejob
Saving only goes so far. If you have maxed out your savings potential, it is time to generate extra income. This will take a bit of research and effort but there are opportunities out there. A lot of retail jobs, café and hospitality jobs and even white collar jobs can be done part time. If you are flexible and willing to take the odd shifts, this is definitely an option. Another thing to look into is freelancing or remote work. Platforms like Upwork (formerly oDesk) offer a wide range of freelance gigs which can easily be done at home and combined with a regular job. Of course, all of this strongly depends on your skillset and probably even more on the economy you are in. But if you think it might be a possibility, why not try it?
15| Create your own jobs
If you live in an economy where jobs are not easy to come by, you might want to try to create your own jobs. Offer your services to friends, their friends and your entire neighborhood. It could be literally anything: dog sitting, cleaning, lawn mowing, tutoring, fixing things or just running errands. People are willing to pay a little if it makes their lives easier. Take the initiative, get the word out.
Last thoughts …
What it comes down to is that saving for traveling is possible. It might be hard, it might take time, it might take patience and it it might demand substantial sacrifices, but it can be done. Frugal living is the key to achieving it. Let’s refrain from materialism and that superficial quest for more and more. It’s neither healthy nor sustainable. Working towards a goal and finally achieving it, rewarding yourself with an amazing, memorable adventure, can’t be beaten in my opinion. As one of my followers wrote on Facebook, “Invest in experiences and not things”. These will last a lifetime. In the end, life is all about the amount of good stories you can tell when you are old.
These are my best tips, in large inspired by the ESCapology tribe on Facebook. Thank you all for participating and sending in your input. I listed some of your best feedback below. Please feel free to tag yourselves in the respective Facebook post and share it among your friends. Maybe you have even more and better tips. Build that budget, stay focused, stay disciplined and set out for adventure!
Dines Jansen Set aside a small percentage of monthly income..compulsory…live frugally, minimize going and dining out and also buy only things that you need and not want. Go travel during off season then the tickets, fares and accommodations are cheaper.
Pedro Junior There’s no beating the old fashioned piggy bank. We got 2 big piggies, one for daily loose changes we get (coins), and the other for paper bills that range from $1 to $100 depending on how much left-overs we have from our weekly budget or how much extra bucks we get from bonuses from work. Then every end of the year, our piggies belch them out! Vacation trip here we go!!!
April Violet I think in general “Live Within your means” or even better “Live Beneath your means” and also if one is not disciplined to save, automatic withdrawal from one’s paycheck to an account set aside for whatever one is saving for (Travel/trip, Retirement, etc).
Eyphrille Cuevas I’m not really into “branded” things (shoes, bags, clothes, accessories, gadgets) so instead of spending large amount of money from those luxuries, i save it so i have something to spend when an airfare sale comes. …. There’s always a way if you want to save for your travel, it’s a matter of little sacrifice from your lifestyle. “Invest in experiences, not things.”
Grace L Tuppil I decided to save/set aside small amount monthly purposely for travel with or without a plan and I don’t underestimate the amount. It helps me a lot when time comes for the actual date.
Elvira Pintac I don’t buy gadgets, clothes (unless needed) or just the cheap ones known as Ukay2 will do for me (haha). Thinking of spending for the memories than om things motivate me to cut cost grin emoticon
Mirro Macatangay I’ll chip in. I opened a dedicated travel account and set up automatic transfers twice a month. I labeled it “Travel Account- Do Not Spend” on my Online banking. Lol. I also stopped using credit cards (since mileage deals on Philippine credit cards are crap anyway) to force me not to spend money that I do not have. I book my air fares using debit cards! And my favorite travel fund-raising scheme last year: I did yard sales! I took up “shop” in front of a sari-sari store in Kalayaan where all the students and construction workers usually pass by. I turned all my old crap into gold.