If I had a pound for every ‘How I saved (insert X amount of £/$/€) to travel the world in six months’ I’d read and angrily thought – ‘THAT’S UTTERLY RIDICULOUS!’ I’d probably have enough for a flight abroad. Admittedly to some rubbish no-name airport located in the middle of an industrial zone in Germany after a ballbreaker of 4.17am flight with Ryanair – but still, a flight.
Anyway, my point is that the vast majority of posts I’ve read about squirrelling away money for travel have been utterly unhelpful.
For someone with a fledgling career I don’t want to give up, an inability to move home to save on rental costs, and surviving on a modest entry-level salary for my profession (according to the UK minimum income calculator I live in a city where my wage doesn’t actually allow me to enjoy a basic standard of living – sucks huh?) these blog posts really irritate me. Despite this I’m travelling to New York, Stockholm, Santorini, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and potentially Budapest in 2015.
No, I don’t take out loans, I’ve never dipped into my overdraft, I’ve yet to be comped a trip and I don’t receive handouts from my parents. I simply save extremely hard and make travel a priority. I also disagree with the bare bones mantra of saving. It might be fine and dandy if you’re saving up for one big RTW trip, but if you travel frequently but still hold down a job, living like that long-term is a surefire way to leave you wrecked both physically and mentally. Instead you need to think about making deeper changes to your lifestyle choices.
Saving for travel is like dieting. Crash diets and cutting out carbs, sugar and alcohol may get you quick results, but you’ll pile the pounds back on in the end. Learning to change your eating habits and attitude towards health will stay with you in the long-term.
Frugality can be a difficult habit to master, so I thought I’d share my top tips on how you can save for that trip, be it a weekend in Paris, a fortnight in Thailand or a three-month backpacking trip around South America – without the cliches.
The cliche: Move back home to save on rent
My solution: Move into a houseshare
Unless I want to jack in my career and relocate hundreds of miles to an area where the only jobs available are the McJob or strawberry-picking variety, in order to squish myself into my childhood bedroom and annoy the heck out of my parents, it’s a resounding nope.
Not everyone has the luxury of parents living in an area where jobs are abundant – or have the opportunity to live at home rent-free. My job is over three hours away from my family home, and my hometown has few career opportunities. Unfortunately this means I’m resigned to shelling out nearly half my paycheque on living in a shared house of six in a suburb four miles from the centre of town. It’s not ideal, but with monthly rents for a one-bedroom flat running at £1,000+, and deposits for houses out of most twenty-somethings’ grasp, you can save some serious money by entering a houseshare. It’s not for everyone, but if you land a deal with all-inclusive bills and taxes, you’re likely to save a bundle. It’s also great practice for hosteling!
The cliche: Sell your car
My solution: Try cycling
I don’t own a car. With the annual cost of insurance, petrol, parking, the car itself and maintenance it’s a luxury I can’t afford. So saving money by selling my non-existent car isn’t gonna happen. I’m a bicycle convert who cycles to work, the shops and everywhere inbetween. I’m fortunate to live in a city where cycling is easier, faster and safer than driving. The only costs involved are the initial spend for the bike itself, some lights and a bike lock, not to mention you’ll get fitter and be doing your bit for the environment too.
The cliche: Sell all your belongings
My solution: Cut down your spending on non-essentials
For those of us who can’t just chuck a few belongings into a backpack, post our keys through the letterbox and hit the road for an indefinite period of time, flogging our lives on eBay isn’t an option. So without resorting to selling your worldly possessions how can you make the extra money you need for that plane ticket? I suggest allowing yourself one big treat a month. It can be that gorgeous S/S dress from Zara, a meal at the new Peruvian restaurant you’re dying to try out, a tour of the Harry Potter Studios, ahem, but limit your non-essentials budget to just that one luxury. You won’t feel deprived and you’re less likely to impulse buy afterwards.
Look for discount vouchers, 2-4-1 deals, saver menus at restaurants, free museum visits, cheap nights at the cinema, Netflix trials, happy hours at the bar, nights spent in cooking from scratch rather than ordering a takeaway, walking or cycling rather than catching a bus or taxi, saving on train travel with a 16-24 railcard, downgrading or switching phone contracts and so on. There’s always a way to save on your outgoings, learn to live below your means, and the money will soon add up.
Downgrade your food shop: This one has saved me more money than I like to admit. Switch to a weekly shop, make a meal plan, write a list – and stick to it. Shop at Aldi or Lidl and swap expensive brands for own-label products. Learn to cook from scratch, convenience options are super expensive, and cut back on the crap. Your waistline and wallet will thank you. Since I started doing this I lost nearly a stone in weight and spend on average £15-20 a week on food, which includes fresh fruit, vegetables, a variety of meat, a bottle of wine and flowers. Previously I would spend an extortionate £35 a week! Another tip is to pre-pack lunch for work rather than picking up food on the go – it’s always cheaper and you’re less likely to give in to impulse purchases.
Transfer a portion of your paycheque to a ‘travel account’ the day you get paid: Obvious really, but if you wait until the end of the month that money can easily disappear on spur of the moment purchases. Set up a specific travel savings account and create a direct debit for the first of the month, sit back and then watch those savings pile up. Do bear in mind that interest rates are painfully low in the UK – I get on average 1p a month, thanks HSBC! To make up for this I challenge myself to save £10 more than the month before. These are only small amounts, but can amount to an extra night’s accommodation, an activity or a day’s food abroad. Tip: Halifax and First Direct both offer £100 switching incentives. Simply register to open a current account with them, they’ll close your old bank account, and as long as you deposit over £1,000/month you’ll receive the cash benefit.
Buy a Kindle: After the initial spend, which can be as low as £50 for older models, a Kindle can be a great investment. Hardbacks are notoriously expensive, as are new releases. Amazon deals and lower costs for e-books are great for voracious readers, plus Kindles are much easier to lug around abroad than a bag of books.
Take out your week’s spending money in cash: Stash the credit or debit card away for emergencies. On pay day pay out your core expenses, that means travel, rent and bills. After that withdraw a fixed amount, say £50, and make sure it lasts you the week – for food, socialising, treats – everything.
Create a budget: Record all of your monthly outgoings. And I mean all of them. From your transport to that ASOS sales binge to the Starbucks you grab every morning on your way to work. You’ll almost certainly be haemorrhaging money without realising it. It’s surprising how much those little expenses add up, and you’ll then be able to identify where you can cut down without compromising the quality of your life.
Sign up for travel newsletters and status changes: You’ll receive the latest news on flight sales, deals and changes to flight costs. I recommended signing up to email alerts from Skyscanner to monitor a flight’s price – they can change drastically overnight, letting you swoop in when they plummet to nab a decent deal. Travel Zoo, Hostelworld, STA and airline newsletters such as Monarch, Thomson and Ryanair also offer great deals.
What I haven’t cut back on
Gym membership: At just £10.99 a month my gym membership is an absolute steal. PureGym offer fantastic opening rates, are open 24/7 and boast all-inclusive classes as part of standard membership. The benefits to my health, fitness and sociability far outweigh the cost.
Experiences: While I’m something of a homebody sitting in every night isn’t an option for me. Quitting my expensive glossy magazine habit saved me on average £20 a month, which I then used to enjoy a monthly new experience. In February it was a £10 Jack the Ripper tour in London – much more educational and interesting than reading about Kim K’s latest crime against fashion!
Healthy food: It’s tempting to cut back on relatively expensive products such as fresh fruit and and survive on dirt cheap pasta and cereal for months on end. Not only is this awful for your long-term health, it’ll affect your concentration at work and make you feel and look like shit. I simply cut back on confectionary, drinks-to-go, cocktails and takeaways instead.
It’s not easy, and cutting back can be a big challenge if you’re an impulse buyer, love shopping and like owning the latest things. But think back to last month’s purchases. If you had the choice or keeping the things you bought, or having the equivalent cash value handed to you, which would you prefer? Exactly.