Despite what many think, you do not have to be in a high-paying career to save money for long-term travel. How can someone earning minimum wage possibly save enough money to travel the world? Especially if you’re living paycheck to paycheck? Believe it or not, saving money for your travels is possible, with any wage, it just takes thought, some planning, commitment, and a little finesse.
Saving money for your travels will be a lot easier if you create a budget and stick with it. Budgets are never set in stone, it is always a good idea to review your budget each month and make adjustments — if you budgeted too much money for gas but not enough for food, switch things around for the following month.
Open a ‘Travel’ Account
Visit your bank and open an account which will be used as your travel fund, and ask that it not be attached to your bank card. Make it difficult to take money from that account — having to visit your branch to make a withdrawal can be annoying, which makes it easy to avoid spending your travel fund before your trip.
Set-Up a GIC
If you’re planning a trip for a year or two from now, sit down with an investment consultant at your bank and discuss opening a GIC (guaranteed investment certificate) for your travel account. The beauty of a GIC account is that you not only earn a higher interest rate on your money, but you can arrange to release a set sum of money each year, which is helpful when you want to stay on budget when on the road.
Review Your Bank Fees
Review your banking habits and fees. Many times we can reduce your banking plan and save a few extra dollars each month. Alternately, if you’re incurring extra bank fees each month due to too many withdrawals, you may be able to change your plan to one that includes that extra withdrawals.
As an example I had a basic plan that was $3.95 a month, but I was making too many withdrawals and paying almost $20 each month in fees. At my bank they offer an unlimited plan for $12.95 a month, so I switched and save $7.05 each month — which works out to $84.60 over a year; the cost of a week at a hostel in Bangkok.
Bank the Rest
Many banks have a ‘bank the rest’ type program which allows you to automatically transfer money into your savings account each time you use your bank card. This is a great way to save a little extra money as you can choose to round-up to the nearest dollar, two dollars, or five dollars.
Only Use Affiliated ATMs
Avoid using ATM machines from other banks when you need to withdraw money, these machines will charge you to use them, and then your bank will charge you as well. One withdraw could cost you almost $5. That adds up fast.
Open a Foreign Currency Account
Some banks offer bank accounts in foreign currency — generally in USD or Euros — which comes in handy as you can often save money on exchange rates. The trick is to move money into those accounts when the exchange rate is favourable.
This is also good for foreign freelancers who are earning USD as they can either deposit into their normal account and make more money, or deposit directly into their USD account and not worry about exchange rates!
Have a Change Jar
It may sound silly, but watching a change jar fill up is kind of satisfying. Every time you spend cash and get change back, drop it into your change jar and when it’s full, take it to the bank and deposit into your travel account. Sometimes it even helps to label the jar ‘Travel fund’ (or something similar).
A change jar acts as a visual reminder of your goal, which helps to keep you on track.
Travel Reward Credit Cards
If you haven’t done so already, switch your credit card to one that offers travel rewards — I suggest an airline card that offers mile rewards — and use it for every purchase. At the end of the month, pay your bill in full.
By doing this you not only establish a good credit rating, but you also accumulate rewards which you can apply to your travels. Free hotel stays or flights are always a good thing! **Using a credit card requires a lot of discipline and I don’t recommend doing this if you have difficulty paying credit card bills.**
Get a Secure Credit Card
One of the advantages to a secure credit card is that your balance equals the amount you’ve prepaid to the credit card company. So if you’ve given them $1,000, your credit limit will be $1,000.
Some banks will offer secured credit cards that are the same as their other credit cards, which means you can get a travel rewards card. The beauty of a secured credit card is that when you cancel the card, you get your money back as long as the bill has been paid in full. I like to think of my card as a long-term savings plan.
Pay in Cash
If you don’t want to use a credit card (not all of us like to use them) pay everything in cash instead of your debit card. When you see your money disappearing from your wallet, it’s easier to make better buying decisions; you also reduce your banking fees, and you add change to your travel fund jar.
Automatic Fund Transfers
If you’re budgeting a part of your paycheck to go into your savings account, make arrangements at your bank to automatically transfer that amount into your travel account each month — preferably on the same day as you get paid. This way you’re not tempted to spend it!
Take Advantage of Cash Back
Many stores will offer a cash back option when you pay with your debit card, if you’re planning to withdraw money later, get cash back instead as you won’t incur a withdrawal charge.
Lower Your Interest Rates
Banks don’t call you when the interest rates are dropping, in fact I’m pretty sure they hope most of us never find out! That means it’s up to you!
Visit or call your bank to ask about interest rates. Is there a way to drop the rates on your credit card? What about your mortgage? If you’re a loyal customer, many banks will offer to lower interest rates to keep your business.
Subscriptions & Memberships
Reduce USD subscriptions
If you’re living in a country where the currency value is dropping, like I am, then you’re already aware that your pennies are being pinched, which means If you have subscriptions that are in US dollars, you’re spending more money now than you were a year ago.
Review your subscriptions and cancel the ones you’re not using on a regular basis — you can always resubscribe later on when the dollar is stronger.
Switch From Monthly to Yearly Memberships
When you’re pinching your pennies it can be hard to justify paying a big lump sum for a yearly membership, especially when they offer monthly payments. If it’s a membership or program you use on a regular basis, pay the yearly fee as it’s generally cheaper; if you’re living abroad this will often save you even more money, as monthly subscriptions are usually different amounts due to fluctuating currency exchange rates.
Hello Netflix, Goodbye Cable
Ditch your cable plan and switch to Netflix or a similar streaming device. Most cable plans these days are roughly $50 a month, but Netflix is less than $10 a month. That means you can pop an extra $40 each month into your travel account which works out to $480 a year in savings. That’s two months rent in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Get a Library Card
It may sound odd, many people don’t visit the library anymore as our phones can hold just about any information we need. That being said, signing a book out of the library is a lot cheaper than buying one; many libraries also offer DVDs which means movie night doesn’t have to cost you money! Of course, if you have Netflix then there will be no need to sign out a DVD from the library unless it’s one that is hard to find.
Grocery Rewards Programs
Some grocery store chains offer a rewards program that gives points for certain purchases; points can then be redeemed for free groceries. It’s a wonderful thing to go to the store and have enough points to pay for your groceries, and then to drive to the bank and deposit the dollar equivalent into your travel account.
Airline Frequent Flyer Programs
Many airline frequent flyer programs have partnerships with stores, which means that each time you shop, you get miles which can be used later on to book hotel rooms or flights.
Some programs also have an e-store. I use Aeroplan as my main frequent flyer program, which has an e-store. Whenever I want to buy something online, I check their e-store first — if I’m already planning to make a purchase from one of their brand partners, I may as well get miles out of it!
Build Food Storage at Home
When stores have $1 day sales, look for items you use on a regular basis and stock up. This helps to reduce your grocery bill in the coming weeks as you’ll need to buy less. It’s also good if there is an emergency.
Cook in Bulk
There is no need to cut a chili recipe in half because you’re cooking for one person, instead make it as is and divide it into several containers, then freeze some. As a single person you can get at least 4-6 meals from a chili recipe. Same goes for other dishes. When I make lasagna I use foil loaf pans as one pan is about two meals, and one recipe will make me about four loaf pans of lasagna — that’s eight meals from one recipe.
Most of us know to shop sales and avoid buying things at regular price, and it’s even more important to do that now as the price of food continues to rise. I usually buy meat only when it’s on sale. My rule is if it’s under $10, buy it. I currently have chicken, ribs, and prime rib steaks in my freezer, all of which I bought for less than $10 each. Great for when I want to treat myself to a yummy dinner. Sales are great for building food storage.
Sales like $1 days or no tax days don’t happen all the time, but most stores accepts coupons on a daily basis. Clip coupons for things you use and take the money you save a put it directly into your travel account. Yes, take the 50 cents (or whatever) from your wallet and put it into your travel fund (whether you deposit or place in your change jar until it’s ready for deposit).
Make a list and stick to it
Before leaving the house, make a shopping list and then stick to it. There is nothing worse for your wallet than going to the store for bread, milk, and eggs, and coming home with bread, rozen pizza and pretzels because you didn’t have a list to remind you of what you actually needed.
Invest in a Slow Cooker
A slow cooker is a gift from the gods: cook in bulk, use one pot, and you don’t even have to be home! Slow cookers are extremely useful for cooking everything from pot roast to soup to chili to sloppy joes to stew to chocolate fondue. I often buy meat when it’s about to go bad as most stores will have it for 50% off, I then go home and use it in a dish that I can make in the slow cooker, divide into containers, and freeze until I’m ready to use it.
Know Who Price Beats
Many stores will price beat another, all they require is a copy of the other store’s flyer. Use this to your advantage when shopping for groceries. If the discount grocery store offers to price beat a more expensive store and they carry the same brands, do it. Shop the flyers at home and make a list, then bring the flyers with you and save money!
Buy Secondhand Items
Why buy new if you can find things you love that are secondhand? Vintage is not always tacky, there are some sweet threads in some of the vintage stores, and they are usually half the price. If you budgeted $200 for new clothing, but your vintage finds only cost $75, put the remaining $125 into your travel account!
Reuse Plastic Containers & Jars
Instead of spending money on plastic containers or ziploc bags, wash jars and food containers so you can reuse them. I have plenty of sour cream containers in my fridge and freezer that contain things like soup or chili.
Do you have old items that needs love? Instead of throwing items out and buying new items to replace them, look for ways to reuse. Maybe you can paint your dresser, use empty cans as door stoppers, or binder clips to create a docking station for your iPhone.
Make Your Own Cleaning Products
Cleaning products can be expensive, but making your own can be a lot cheaper and much better for the environment. Baking soda, vinegar, and coconut oil are all things that have multiple uses and can be used to make various cleaning products.
Buy Produce When It’s in Season
Structure your diet around fruits and vegetables that are in season. This is when the produce is the best quality and the best price.
Need a haircut? Go to a beauty school
Most beauty schools offer free or seriously cheap haircuts to people willing to get their hair cut by a student. While I wouldn’t go in for anything complicated, I have no problem going in for a trim. Alternatively you could cut your own hair, but that may end badly and result in a visit to a proper salon.
Use Skype For Calls
If you have internet, use Skype to make phone calls instead of your cell phone or landline. Calling someone with a Skype account is free, and they have affordable plans for those who wish to call landlines and cell phones. I usually get the Universal plan for when I want complete flexibility, which costs me $14.95 a month.
Make Your Own Lunch
Yes, every list about saving money suggests making your own lunch, and there is a good reason for it, you save money. You may think that spending $10 a day on lunch is not a big deal, but that is $2,600 a year if you work full-time, plus the cost of your groceries. That’s the equivalent of round-the-world airfare.
Instead of taking your car to work everyday, look for someone to carpool with and save money on gas. Of course you aren’t just saving gas, you’re reducing your carbon footprint as well, and you’re learning to live without a vehicle for everything, which will serve you well once you’re traveling.
Take Public Transportation
If you’re planning to sell your car before you travel, do it right away and switch to public transportation. Think of all the money you can save on insurance, gas, and repairs! Not to mention the money you’ll get for your car. You’re also practicing what it will feel like to rely on public transport as you travel too!
Bring a Water Bottle
If your workplace has a water cooler, bring a water bottle and drink up! Not only is water good for you, but it fills the tummy, and may help with the urge to spend money on expensive juices, or buying soda from a machine.
Make Your Own Coffee
Give up Starbucks, make coffee at home and bring it in a thermos, or if your workplace has a kitchen and coffee maker, drink it there. It’s not the same, but you’ll save a lot of money if you can kick the Starbucks addiction.
Get a Second Job
If you’re lucky enough to have a flexible work schedule, consider picking up a second job to help speed up your savings; simply have your second paycheck deposited directly into your travel fund account.
In the USA, especially, it’s possible to earn money by donating sperm, eggs, plasma, and bone marrow. It’s great, help a stranger and make cash to deposit directly into your travel account.
Become a Dog Walker
If you like dogs, offer your services during your down time. A fun way to make some extra money for your travels.
Start Freelancing Before Quitting Your Job
Freelance writing can be a good way to earn some income as you travel, but instead of waiting until you’re on the road, start now. Starting before you go not only adds money to your travel account, but it gives you time to hone your style and make connections that will be useful when you’re traveling.
If you live in a large city with art galleries and museums, plan your visits during one of their free nights. Most major museums and art galleries will have one night each month where admission is free.
In some cities there are companies that offer free walking tours of public buildings or neighbourhoods, which can be quite interesting. Plus, it’s free.
Discount & Local Nights
Enjoy dining out from time to time? Get to know the discount nights for nearby restaurants. If you live in a tourist town some restaurants may have a local’s night or a local’s price; get to know who they are and use them to your advantage. When I lived in Banff I use to love $8 steak sandwich night at one of the pubs — it was filling, delicious, and a great deal for that area.
Many bars offer a ladies night where drinks or coverage are free or discounted until a certain time. If you enjoy going for drinks, wait for ladies night and save a little money.
Have a BYOB Party
This is a genius way to get your drink on and still save money. Invite friends and assign each person to bring either a bottle of something or a snack, then party the night away. A super cheap way to let your hair down, have a drink, and a lot of fun (without spending your travel money).
Attend Local Festivals & Events
Many cities and towns have community festivals and events each year that are either free or cost very little money to attend. Instead of going to a bar with your friends and blowing through $100 (which is not hard these days), go to a festival or event, spend $50, and put the other $50 in your travel account.
Cheap Night at the Theater
Many movie theaters have a discount night once a week when admission is half price, if you’re dying to go to the movies, go on cheap night.
Eat a Big Meal Before Going Out
Going out when you’re hungry can be dangerous for your wallet, this applies to a night out as well as grocery shopping. Eat a filling meal at home before you go out to avoid spending extra money on food.
Use Frequent Flyer Miles for Gift Cards
While I prefer to use my frequent flyer miles for things like hotel rooms and flights, I will sometimes buy gift cards for my favorite restaurants or the movie theatre. Fabulous for a night out without spending money (remember to eat before the movies so you’re not tempted to spend $15 on popcorn and soda).
Switch to No-Name Brands
Most no-name brands are made by well-established brands, the difference between the two is often the quality of the packaging (and in the case of clothing, the quality of the materials used). Switching to no-name canned or boxed foods is not going to kill you, and you are not likely to notice the difference in taste. The price difference between no-name and big brand can be significant — depending on the items, of course.
Many cities have bottle depots where you can take your empties and get cash back. It’s not a lot of money, but every penny adds up over time. Take the money you get back and dump it directly into your travel account.
Sublet Your Apartment
If you have an apartment, consider offering it as a sublet for a few months before you leave and move in with family or sleep on a friend’s couch. You can save hundreds of dollars, and it’s a good way to get use to communal living arrangements.
Get a Roommate
If you have the space, consider finding a roommate — preferably someone who can take over the lease when you leave. This cuts your rent in half, and the money you save on rent can go directly into your travel account.
Move Into a Smaller & Less Expensive Place
If you’re already planning to sell your house or condo, or give up your apartment, consider doing it early and move into something small or with family. Another great way to save hundreds of dollars and rid yourself of the burden of debt.
List Your Apartment on Airbnb
Do you live somewhere touristy and have a decent apartment? Consider listing it on Airbnb and rent it out a few nights every month. By doing this you can almost live rent-free. Cha-ching!
I have done this many times; to cut down on my electricity bill I don’t turn on lights after dark, instead, I light candles (dripless ones are safer). As a result I have killer night vision and my electric bill is quite small.
Unplug Things You Don’t Use
Another useful tip for cutting down your electric bill, unplug things you don’t use: your toaster, laptop cords, lamps, etc. Sure, they don’t pull a lot of electricity, but they pull some and as I’ve mentioned above, every penny saved adds up over time — it also helps to protect your belongings from power surges.
Kijiji & Craigslist are Your Friends
It’s Kijiji in Canada, Craigslist in the USA, Gumtree in Australia and New Zealand; what is it where you live?
The community swap and sale sites operate like an online garage sale. Go through your belongings, if you haven’t used something in the last six (or more) months and you’re not likely to use on your travels, get rid of it! I use Kijiji to sell camera equipment I no longer need/use/want, as well as other electronics. Anything with a higher price tag as I can get more money through these sites.
Have a Garage Sale
For things I don’t need, use, or want, that are lower ticket items, I have a garage or in-home sale. Everything is priced to go and I generally take what I can get. It’s also good to ask family and friends if they have anything they would like to donate to your sale. It is quite easy to make a couple hundred dollars from a garage sale!
Adjust Your Home Phone
Yes, many people still have a home phone, and it’s a very good idea. If you have a home phone and a cell phone, switch to using your cell phone for all calls and adjust your home phone to a basic plan — most companies have a basic plan for under $20 a month.
Do not completely cancel your home phone. If there is a natural disaster or a massive power outage that last longer than your cell phone charge, a landline is one of the only ways to contact emergency services should you need them.
Bundle Utility Services
Many telecom companies offer bundle packages which allow you to have everything on one bill and save money. For instance you many be able to bundle your home phone, cell phone, and internet into one bill and receive a monthly discount.
Subsidize Your Utilities
Some companies will have subsidy programs available which reduces your bill. Talk to your electric and water companies to ask about the programs they offer.
Seal Windows in Winter
Another good way to reduce your electric bill is to seal windows with plastic during winter months. You’ll be amazed by how well your home holds the heat when it’s on.
Turn Down the Heat in Winter
Don’t crank up the heat in winter. Heat the house in the morning, then turning it down until early evening, and turn it down more. Having a good comforter and flannel sheets will keep you warm as you sleep and your heating bill is not crazy high.
Ditch the Air Conditioner
When it’s hot in summer, opt for a fan and cold showers. Most people with air conditioning have massive electric bills in summer. If you’re planning to travel in hot destinations, you may as well get use to being sweaty before you leave.
Plant an Herb Garden
Not everyone can have a garden but everyone can have an herb garden; all it takes is a pot, some soil, seeds, sunshine, and water. Fresh and dried herbs can be expensive, instead of buying them at the store, grow your own! **You can also grow tomatoes from a pot**
Hand Wash Your Clothing
There will be times during your travels when you’ll need to hand wash your clothing. You could start at home and save your laundry money.
Most laundry machines cost $1.50 to $2 per load, which adds up really fast. Alternatively, try to wash clothing twice a month instead of every week; hand wash items you need before you’re next laundry day.
Work-Out at Home, Not the Gym
Gym memberships can be expensive; most gyms are roughly $60 a month, which is $720 a year. That is almost the cost of renting a yacht for a week in Croatia. Opt for working out at home. Use cans of tomatoes for exercising your arms, rope for skipping. Get an exercise ball for home. Do yoga.
Dye Faded Clothing
If your clothing is starting to fade, consider giving it a dye job instead of buying new items.
Are you the same size as some of your friends? Have a clothing swap. Everyone brings in clothing they don’t want anymore, and you spend the night picking out new clothing and drinking a bottle of wine.
Downsize to Basic Necessities
Go through your house, or apartment, and create three piles: travel, storage, discard. Take anything that cannot be sold and donate it to a secondhand shop or an organization that helps the homeless or refugees.
Adopt a No-Buying Rule
Once you’ve downsized, do not buy anything (except food and toiletries). Stick to the clothing and furniture you already have. Don’t buy books, use the library or download free e-books. Anytime you’re tempted to buy something think of how you could be using that money on your travels. Put sticky notes up all over your house to remind you. Anything to keep it fresh in your mind.