Probably the most frequently asked question I receive from friends, family, and readers is “How Do You Afford To Travel?” And it’s a legitimate question. Before the age of 24, I had self-funded my education while living away from home with absolutely no financial help from my parents or anyone else, managed to secure a rewarding career, and somehow had still traveled within 12 different countries and spent countless weekends away in the mountains here in Alberta – all while keeping that career intact. It seems lofty, but I have learned that it absolutely can be accomplished – as anything can – if you want it badly enough.
I was very lucky growing up. I had two parents who worked in tourism (Mom worked for an airline, Dad worked in the Hotel industry) so we did manage to travel quite a bit, and for very little money. Being so fortunate definitely planted the seed of passion for travel in my heart, but once I moved out at 20 years old, everything changed. I became a full-time student, racked up a ton of student debt, was “on my own” in every way possible financially, and my airline travel benefits were cut off the day I turned 21 as per company policy. Needless to say, this left me without any real means of traveling inexpensively anymore. I was now a commoner.
Below, I have included a few of my favourite practices for socking money away for Travel and Adventure. Hopefully you find even just one of them practical and can implement them into your own lives so you can be booking that plane ticket of your dreams sooner than later!
1. Start an “Adventure Fund”
This is something that my boyfriend, Sean, and I both decided to do before we were even dating. I will never forget it. We were on our first romantic weekend-getaway trip together in Banff, and we had planned to take a trip to the top of Sulphur Mountain on the Gondola. This is a popular tourist attraction in Banff that we have both done before, years ago, and when we realized that it was going to cost a ridiculous $60.00 for both of us to ride the Gondola up the mountain, we decided right then and there to put that $60.00 into an “Adventure Fund.”
To start an “Adventure Fund”, go into your bank and ask to have a savings account set up that is linked to your current account, but that you can’t access with your bank card. (I personally struggle with this – out of sight, out of mind.) Now you have a separate account that you can access and manage online, but you can’t impulse-buy those cute shoes with the money you’ve been working so hard to save up for your travels. Depending on what trips I have coming up, I always decide on a set amount to transfer into my “Adventure Fund” every pay check, and then I stick with it. Resist the temptation to transfer the funds out to cover silly expenses down the road.
2. Pack a Lunch
I know you guys have probably read this tip a million times, but there is a reason why people keep using it as a way to save money. I work at a hair salon in a busy mall, and when I first started, I would often find myself purchasing lunch more often than not from the Food Court. $10/day, 5 days/week, adds up incredibly quickly. (That’s $2,600.00 a year, just FYI. More than enough for a two week vacation.) Packing a lunch can cost as little as $2/day if you plan it properly. Websites like Pinterest are fantastic for finding cheap, healthy lunch ideas. Follow me on Pinterest!
3. Cut Back on Everyday Expenses – And Stick With It!
This one is often tricky for those of us (myself included!) who enjoy our comfortable lives. Maybe the thought of selling your car and taking public transit for a year seems unthinkable and extreme, especially if you live in a far-away suburb in a big city with a very poor transit system like I do. (However, if this is an option, definitely DO IT as it will save you thousands per year.)
There are other ways to cut back on expenses without creating massive inconveniences for yourself. Could you be running outside or doing yoga in your living room instead of spending $80/month for a gym membership? That would save you $960.00/year. Do you really need to buy a Starbucks every morning on your way to work, or could you bring a coffee from home? You just pocketed another $1,040.00/year. Do you really need premium cable when you watch your favourite shows online most of the time anyway? Could you find that book at the library or at a thrift shop instead of purchasing it from the bookstore? Is that movie one that you absolutely need to see in theatres, or could you wait until you can rent it for a fraction of the price?
I’m not telling you to stop living your life and restrict yourself from ever having any fun, but sometimes taking a realistic look at your expenses can be a huge eye-opener when it comes to saving money for something that you really want (like visiting the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai.)
4. Stay In on the Weekends
I know, I know. The horror! The insanity! But just think about it. Whether you spend your weekends bar-hopping, dancing at night clubs, sipping cocktails with friends at swanky restaurants or eating at classy brunch cafes on Sunday mornings, there is a good chance that you could be saving some major cash by choosing to stay in on the weekends.
I know that I have personally blown a couple hundred dollars mindlessly during a night out on the town, only to wake up the next day with a pounding head, an empty wallet, a phone full of horrible selfies and a mind full of regret. You get the picture. Again, I’m not saying that you need to stay in watching re-runs of The Golden Girls every Saturday night for the rest of your life. Absolutely go out and live your life every now and then. I’ve been known to treat myself to a night out or a fancy dinner at my favourite restaurant every couple of months, because it’s fun and it’s good for your soul. But even if you can plan to stay in every second weekend, you’ll be saving yourself a lot of money, and a lot of wasted Sundays spent nursing your hangover. Plan fun, inexpensive things to do at home on the weekends, like trying a new recipe, binge-watching a season of your favourite TV show, or a takeout and games night with a few of your friends. I promise it’s not as boring as it probably sounds. I treasure my games nights. And, if you’re craving adventure, check out these tips for Living an Adventurous Life when you Can’t Travel.
5. Keep a Change Jar
I started doing this back when I was a waitress, mostly because it was annoying to carry around copious amounts of coinage in my purse. I got a big glass jar and started tossing all of my loose change into it without even thinking. I wouldn’t count it, I wouldn’t think about it, I wouldn’t even look inside the jar. In fact, I kept the jar in a drawer – again, out of sight, out of mind. It didn’t even exist to me. That is, until I needed some emergency cash to pay for some school supplies, and I discovered that there was a whopping $270.00 in change that had accumulated over the past several months…what a fantastic and painless way to save money!
6. Think Before You Buy
This one seems pretty obvious, but just hear me out. When I started planning our upcoming trip to Asia, I did a lot of research on what things cost over there. I made mental notes to myself on how much a beer, a night in a private bungalow, and a flight from Bangkok to Krabi would cost me, and then I constantly reminded myself as I went to purchase unnecessary things. Did I really want that fancy pistachio macaron from the bakery, or would I rather save my $5 for a couple of beers on the beaches of Koh Lanta? The $30 I almost spent on another black tank top instead went to paying for an epic sunrise hike up Mount Batur in Bali. And that $250 I would have thrown out the window partying with my friends last weekend is going to cover my entire stay in a Private Treehouse on Koh Phi Phi.
Life is all about perspective and priorities, so before you drop $200 on that gorgeous new handbag, ask yourself if there’s something you’d rather be doing with that money.
You can’t deprive yourself of every ounce of pleasure while you’re saving for the trip of your dreams, but there definitely are a few practical ways to cut back that really aren’t as painful as they sound.
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What are some of the ways that you save money for travel?
What’s your Dream Vacation?
Do you have a guilty spending pleasure?