Money Saving Tips for Your Next Trip

Colorful Botswana Pula

18 Ways to Stash Your Cash

Our colorful collection of Botsawana Pula.  Saving money can be as simple as putting it in a jar.
Colorful Botswana Pula

Saving money can be a real challenge. Student loans, credit card debt, health insurance, plus all your basic needs covered including shelter, water, and food, sometimes it can feel like a scramble just to get those things covered. Saving money for travel can feel can feel overwhelming and nearly impossible. Simple changes can make a huge impact in your savings and these small steps can reap great rewards. These have been my most successful money saving tips.

When I first came up with the idea to backpack the world, I was living in a one bedroom apartment and solely paid for every expense. However, I was extremely fortunate to have never incurred credit card debt. I had seen the crippling effects on loved ones and never bought into it. I also had a student loan with a reasonable interest rate that I was able to defer payments on while I traveled.

Within a 1.5 years my philosophy of money changed, I was motivated to reach my financial goals and was ready to set out and explore. When I left I had $22,000 and zero debt and the expectation of being gone for 1 year.  Over 2.5 years later I returned with $187 in my bank account, $10,000 in credit card debt, and zero regrets.  I hustled when I got back to the U.S. paid off the debt, and left again 8 months later. And while I worked very hard in a short period of time my philosophy is: 

Work when you’re old and you have done the things you could only do when you were young. 

My motivation map.  I traced out my travel plans, including visas, friends who wanted to join me, and most importantly a timed reminder of why I was working so hard and what I was saving for.
My motivation map

1. Set a relevant timeline. 

Getting ready to jet off is exciting, but saving to do it can be really hard. Say yes to a concert or dinner out, don’t shut down your social life to save money. Be conscientious and have your end goal in sight. I planned for a year and half-way though postponed my anticipated departure date by 6 months so I could have a little more financial freedom while still at home.

2. Write down your $$$ goal. 

When it’s in your face you are far more accountable for your choices. If you have debt to pay off post it on the wall and cross of the balance each time you pay into it. It will also help you feel accomplished when it’s all said a done. I was not budget savvy before I decided to travel, this is how I got started.

3. Downsize. 

Moving in with roommates will drop the cost of living as water, electric, internet and rent are all split. This also goes for clothes, books, decor it is amazing what little you need when the world is your playground.

The massive pile of clothing, I had accumulated over the years.  This is where my money went.   It is so easy to see something you love and want, but when priortizing travel you can save a lot by wearing last years clothes.
Overwhelmed by the amount of clothes I returned to after 2 years. None of them fit anymore.

4. Sell your shit. 

I sold my car, clothes, furniture, books.  Don’t sell everything, you still want some comforts to look forward to when you come back, for me that was my bike and my surfboard.

A surboard is an investment, but the waves are free.  Activities that are fun to do and save money.

5. Hustle, Hustle, Hustle. 

I worked as a cook in a restaurant, asked for the raise I deserved, picked up shifts and racked in overtime. I picked up side gigs like dog or house-sitting, working trade shows I found on Craigslist, listed my rented flat on AirBnB. Returning to the U.S. 2 1/2 years later my work schedule was far more hectic. I was determined to pay off debts, pull together a wedding, and stash some money into savings all before leaving again. The TEFL certification paid for itself in a few weeks teaching English online. Remember not to sacrifice your life and freedom too much, that you are not enjoying the present.

This was may schedule 5 days a week and on the weekends I still picked up that morning money:

04:00 - 09:00 teaching English online
10:30 - 13:30 office organization and interior design projects
14:00 - 22:00 cook in a restaurant

6. Carpool or local transport. 

When you aren’t paying for the gas every day to go to work it adds up.  I have learned to cherish my time while travelling with buses, trains, and mini-taxis.  Use the time to make a new friend, read a book, learn a language, listen to music or whatever your pastime is. 

7. Cash is King.

Yes, cards are convenient, but when you’re forking over your hard-earned currency you feel what you are spending. There is plenty of people that say they pay for their travel lifestyle with credit card points, but this is also a great way to accumulate debt before you even set off. If you have struggled with debt before talk to a financial advisor about your goals and make a plan.

8. Phone service.

The US is extremely overpriced when it comes to phone and internet service. It offers poor service that locks you into an expensive contract. When I returned home I had a phone from India. Sprint wanted me to buy a new phone, go into a new contract. I opted to get a prepaid SIM card and paid $30 per month, bonus your phone will be unlocked so getting a SIM in other countries will be far easier.

9. Grocery shopping.

Go veg – if not all the time then most of the time plus there is the argument that ethically and environmentally it is better.  I am not one to preach about choices, we are talking about money.  Fruit and veg are generally not taxed and many countries have started charging additional sugar taxes on sweet drinks and junk food.  When you are eating dried beans, lentils, oats, rice, pasta, and fresh produce you’ll save plenty at the grocery.  Ditch the pre-packaged, pre-cut, pre-cleaned triple plastic wrap that costs far more in the end.  Once your pantry is stocked with the basics it is super easy to make healthy, delicious meals for far less than what you would pay to go to a café or getting the quick take-away. 

10. Eating out 1 of 2. 

Picnic style with a decent bottle of wine or a homemade cocktail.

11. Eating out 2 of 2.  

Go out and split an entrée and hopefully a dessert, leaving with no leftovers.  If you are still hungry, you can always order more.  This habit works well when travelling as you usually don’t have a place to keep the remnants anyways and you get more variety.  If street food is an option I generally lean towards that.  I love it. 

12. Ditch the gym memberships. 

Go outside, the fresh air is better for your psyche.  If keeping indoors there are so many options available.  A 30 minute HIIT workout fits in perfectly with a Netflix episode. Here are 31 ways to get fit that don’t involve hiting the gym.

And there is no better way to get fit and save money then getting outside and going for a run.

14. SAVE Water.  

Good for the environment, good for you. Get a water filter, stop buying plastic bottles!!!!  There are plenty of places where the water is unsafe to drink.  When I first moved to Cape Town, South Africa it was during the water crises, each person was allotted 50 liters per day for everything.  Keep a 5 gallon bucket in the shower and catch the water.  Use that grey water to flush the toilet or water the garden.  This will add up.

How to save money and water published by the South Africa government.

14. Medication 

Generics, same chemical components – way less expensive.  Ask your doctor or pharmacist for options and alternatives.

15. Quit Smoking.

My sister told me if you’re broke you will always find a way to afford your ciggies.  If going cold turkey isn’t in the cards, a bag of filters, papers, and loose tobacco is way more cost effective. Here are some really helpful apps that are great ways to keep you on track.

16. Caffeine Fix.

Coffee tastes bitter to me, so I have never understood the culture. But if saving money is your priority then you know what you need to do. Nix the Starbucks and to go where they grow the beans (Costa Rica, Kenya….you get the idea).

17. Hit up happy hour. 

I love to drink, why not start the night when the booze is half-price and the sun is still up, your night can go one of two ways: the party goes longer or you can have an early night.  Choice is yours.

A great way to save money: Cheap happy hour beers on my favorite deck on Bowens Island, South Carolina
Bownen’s Island, Folly Beach- one of my fav sundowner spots

18. Letting go of the need to buy.

This is a big one in consumer culture. There are libraries for books, free podcasts, swaps and exchanges. It can be very easy to justify purchases “I need this, that or the other.” When setting a financial goal to travel here is a great way to put it in perspective:

How far does $10 get you?

USAa small lunch with non-alcoholic beverage
Vietnama scooter rental with a full tank of petrol
Botswana115 Magunjas – fat cakes (2 will feed you)
Rwandaclean hostel dorm with free breakfast and street food for lunch
Zanzibara boat ride and snorkel adventure
Europea Flixbus to your next destination

If you think of it in those terms it is easy to care for your cash. What’s your savings tips? I’d love to hear them!

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