No matter which way you look at it, travel requires money.
One of the most common questions I get asked when I speak to people about my lifestyle is “How can you afford to travel so much?” And to be honest, I’d never really thought about it. I just work a lot when I’m not on the road and spend as little as possible when I am travelling.
But that’s not the step by step answer people want, so today we are going to take a deep dive into how to save money for travel.
Listed below are, in my opinion, the 10 best tips for growing your travel budget. Sure there will be some sacrifices to make but if you really want to travel for more than a few weeks here and there, you need to make saving for travel a priority. The more hard work you put in now, the better the rewards will be!
How to Save Money for Travel – 10 Tips!
1. Cut out unnecessary bills
Do you need that new phone contract or Netflix subscription? Is Spotify really necessary? Every month your average person spends a good chunk of change on small subscription services. Whilst individually these subscriptions go almost unnoticed, they add up over time.
Before I went on my first backpacking trip in 2015, I cancelled my Netflix account, binned off Spotify, downgraded my phone contract and even got rid of my BTSport subscription. Over six months, these small changes meant I had an extra $500USD in my pocket!
Let’s be clear for a second, I didn’t go without films, music and sport completely (find me a self-respecting millennial who has)! Instead, I did what I’m best at… convincing my family and friends to let me sponge off them and use their accounts!
Sure, this is against the terms of service for many major companies but in the grand scheme of things, these giant businesses really don’t care about the odd backpacker breaking the rules. Even if they did, it’s nice to stick a finger up to the man occasionally.
2. Watch What You Eat
As well as being sage advice to live by, this is a great way to save money. Going out for a meal once a week might not feel like a big expense but with restaurant prices rising all the time, it really adds up. Cutting out that weekly dinner, or even just that daily takeaway coffee, can be a great way to save at least $150USD per month.
The same goes for eating at home. Is it imperative that you buy premium Lincolnshire Sausages and Bavarian Smoked Cheese or would a pack of Tesco’s own “it could be pork but we make no guarantees” sausages and mild cheddar do the job? No one is going to convince you that the cheap options are just as tasty (and if they try, they’re lying) but if your dream is to travel for longer than a few weeks, these sacrifices are well worth making.
3. Watch What You Drink
Going out “for a couple” was until very recently, my downfall. We all know the feeling, the sun is shining and all your mates are off work, what better way to enjoy it than drinking some delicious craft beers in a pub garden?
Drinking out is expensive and that quick couple of drinks soon become a day spent at the bar and before you know it, you’ve sunk $50 in booze. Not only will you wake up with a banging headache but you’ll also know that $50 would have gone a hell of a lot further in Cambodia.
4. Going Out With Friends
Before we dive into this one, let me be clear on something, just because you are saving for travel, it doesn’t mean you have to be a hermit. Even when working 70+ hours a week and saving for my next adventure, I still make time to see friends and probably value their company more because I know when I go away, I won’t be seeing them for months or even years at a time. I just don’t go out to see them.
Instead of going for a meal then pub-crawling our way home, I tend to host BBQs and invite people round. You get way more bang for your buck this way and you can even ask your mates to each bring a dish of their own to add to the banquet.
5. Consider Your Living Situation
The largest expense in most peoples lives is rent. When saving for travel, try to cut back on your expenses. Downsize your place, or even better move in with friends or parents. I know it sucks to go crawling back to mummy and daddy but suck it up. If by giving up your own place you can save upwards of $500 a month, you’ll soon be laughing your way to Bangkok!
I’m not ashamed to admit that my travel lifestyle has left me without a place of my own for over five years. When I’m back in the UK, I tend to stay at my girlfriend’s mum’s place, with my girlfriend obviously, it would be weird to be there alone.
Living with parents, or in my case, someone else’s parent, has some obvious downsides, there is less privacy than I would like (amazingly, a 60-year-old woman doesn’t want me wandering around the house naked) and it’s further from work than is ideal but it makes saving money way easier!
If moving in with friends and family isn’t a possibility, consider joining the tiny house or #vanlife movements. Both these give you a much cheaper place to live that is still your own. Plus you get to customise your home to be exactly how you want it and maybe even become an Instagram legend in the process!
6. Get Another Job
I know it sucks as no backpacker really wants to be tied down to one job, let alone two or three! It just goes against our natural free-spirited nature. But it really is the best way to boost your bank balance. If your first job is already covering all your bills and giving you a little spending money, then 100% of the income from your second job can go towards your travel fund. By just working one extra shift per week, you’ll see your savings soar.
Before my first backpacking trip, I was working close to 100 hours a week between a fish and chip shop, a warehouse and a cleaning job. I’ll be honest, it sucked, but damn I was glad I’d done it when I was getting a massage on a beach in Koh Phangan! These days my total hours worked each week have dropped but I still juggle two jobs to keep the travel dream alive.
If working in a shop, bar or warehouse just isn’t for you, then you might prefer a remote job that you can do from your laptop. Plenty of these travel jobs can be started right from your own home and then taken on the road with you! Earning money as you travel is surely the dream – right?
7. Plan Your Trip For Off-Peak Times
Unless you’re a teacher, travelling during school holidays is a stupid waste of time and money. Everything is more expensive because the market is against you. Likewise, travelling during national holidays and around the Christmas and New Year period will set you back a fair chunk.
Wait until the inevitable slump in tourists that comes with the rainy season in Southeast Asia and take advantage of the cheap deals laid out by airlines and hotels. Not only will it be cheaper, but fewer tourists means a more rewarding travel experience for you!
8. Travel Gear
Cheap, throwaway items in your backpack not only cost you money in the long run but they also cost the planet. You are far better off spending a little more money initially and knowing you have some solid, reliable gear that won’t need to be replaced on the road.
It can be painful when you see the initial outlay but dropping $150 on a backpack really is worth it! Especially if you get something like the Osprey Farpoint, which comes with a lifetime guarantee against manufacturing defects, meaning you won’t have to pay to replace it if that dodgy zip breaks while you are travelling. The guarantee used to be better, covering all damage, including wear and tear. Sadly, this is no longer the case but the current version of their All Mighty Guarantee is still one of the best warranties you’ll find!
Likewise, buying a filtered water bottle for $50+ might seem like a silly thing to do initially, but if it means you don’t have to buy bottled water every day when you’re travelling, you’ll save a packet in the long-run, as well as keeping your single-use plastic consumption down to a minimum!
The same goes for clothes. In fact, you probably don’t actually need to buy any clothes. Most of us have more outfits than we know what to do with so rather than running out to buy that ultra-cool, sweat-wicking synthetic t-shirt you’ve had your eye on, just grab the first thing your hand touches in the wardrobe. Realistically whatever you wear on your travels will be ruined by the end of the trip anyway.
9. Sell Your Old Stuff
Have you ever rooted through your cupboards and wondered how you managed to acquire so much junk? It happens to me all the time. Instead of throwing it away, I jump on eBay, Gumtree, Craigslist or even Facebook to flog as much of it as possible.
- That giant foam hand from a Green Day gig in 2005? – $15
- Your old pocket watch collection? – $55
- Those Doc Martens that you only wore once? – $75
- An N64 with 6 games? – $60
As you can see, selling your old stuff that never sees the light of day is a great way to quickly increase your travel fund!
Anything you can’t sell, donate. At least it will get a second lease of life and hopefully earn your chosen charity a few pennies!
10. Don’t Buy New Stuff
You’ve sold your old junk but now you’ve spotted a nice new coat.
Resist the temptation to buy and ask yourself – do you really need it? If the answer is yes, skip out on buying that brand new one and head down to your local charity shop or goodwill store. Not only will your money go further in an actual store, rather than buying on eBay but you’ll be supporting your charity of choice too!
Now you’re set with how to save for travel, check out our budget travel tips guide for the best advice on how to make your money last while travelling!
Got some great money-saving ideas we haven’t included? Let us know in our Facebook community!
Join Over 20,000 Happy Backpackers in Our Facebook Group!
Find travel buddies. Get advice. Have all your questions answered by travellers on the ground in Southeast Asia right now.