People always ask me this: How do you afford to travel so much?
Travel can seem like an unattainable goal for many. Expensive and out of reach.
I used to think that too. I would spend all my money on clothes, shoes and nights out so I didn’t have much left for travel. It was something that I yearned to do but I didn’t know how to reign in my spending to save for it.
When I moved to the UK in 2005 and actually started travelling I very quickly fell head over heels in love with my new travel heavy lifestyle. Now that I knew first-hand how amazing it felt to travel, it gave me the push I needed to start seriously saving.
Over the years I have become better at it and have learnt a few tricks to save even more money.
And I am going to share them with you lucky people!
Food and drink:
I tend not to buy expensive drinks when I am eating out – why pay $4 for a coke when I can get water for free. If I am really craving that coke I will buy it after my meal at a convenience store at half the price.
Don’t buy water
I also don’t buy bottled water. I live in a country where the water is safe to drink so I fill up my water bottle and keep it in the fridge. The obsession with bottled water has created dire environmental impacts and a lot of bottled water is just tap water with the chemicals taken out anyway (or so I have read). I would rather just get it straight from the source. Helping the environment and my wallet.
Cut down on the lattes
Although I love my Vanilla lattes, I restrict myself to only having 1 – 2 per week. That way it is a treat and I really enjoy it when I do have one. I drink plunger coffee the rest of the time.
Cut down on drinking
I don’t drink too much these days and when I do go out for drinks, usually once or twice a week, I stick to the cheaper options such as beer, cider, house wine or single shot spirits. As much as I would love to go crazy on the cocktails, I really don’t want to be drinking my money away.
Use vouchers for dinners out
I buy a lot of deals off Groupon, mainly for dinners out at drastically reduced prices. I paid $14.50 for a 3 course dinner at a Thai Restaurant on Friday night – how good is that!
Socialise at home
Sometimes, instead of going out for dinner we have friends over for dinner instead. If the weather is nice we have a BBQ with people bringing their own meat and booze. It makes for a cheap and fun night.
Take my lunch to work
I take my lunch to work almost every day. Leftovers, canned soup, homemade salads – it might not be the most exciting lunch options but it saves me about $75 per week and that money adds up quickly ($3900 per year – yikes!)
Catch ups over coffee
Coffee or brunch dates with friends are a lot better on the wallet than drinks and dinner and you won’t be hung over the next day! Cafes are generally a lot quieter than bars so you can actually hear what your friend is saving too – win win!
Eat more vegetarian meals
Meat can be expensive so I eat Vegetarian meals about half the time. This definitely saves me money on my food shop. You don’t need to eat meat every day for a well-balanced and healthy diet – in fact, a lot of research has found that you shouldn’t.
Choose a cheaper supermarket
At the moment this is hard as we aren’t living near ANY supermarkets, but when we move in a couple of weeks I am going to start shopping at Australia’s cheapest supermarket, Aldi, again. It definitely makes a difference choosing a budget supermarket and I noticed that I used to spend about $35 per week on my food shop in comparison to the $55 I am spending currently.
Buy food on special
I always look out for deals when I’m supermarket shopping and buy expensive meat such chicken breasts when they are cheaper because they are nearing their expiry date. Buying in bulk and freezing is a great way to take advantage of these deals.
I buy a lot of my stuff second-hand these days. I buy books at Charity Shops and Second hand bookshops as well as swapping with friends. I shop for clothes at Charity Shops and Markets and I even furnished my house with second hand furniture off the online Marketplace: Gumtree. I’m in the market for a push bike so I will be browsing gumtree for that also.
Buy during sales
When I do buy my clothes and shoes new, I definitely take advantage of Sales. You can also sign up to become members of your favourite stores as there are usually members only bargains to be had.
Living in Sydney, my favourite activities are all free: Walking the coastal trails, swimming and sunbathing at the beach, wandering around markets and exploring the different neighbourhoods in and around the city. The Sam Cooke song is right: The best things in life are free.
Cheap nights at the movies
I love going to the movies but I would never pay full price. Instead I go on the cheap nights (seems to usually be Tuesdays in Sydney). Being a member of the cinema can also reduce costs or you can earn points towards a free movie ticket.
Buy refurbished and seconds items
My current laptop was half the retail price because the box had been opened when it was sent to someone. A multi-point check was performed on it and everything was running fine so it was resold at a reduced price. When I am upgrading to a MacBook Air in the next few months I will be purchasing it from Apple’s Refurbished Store. All items purchased from there even come with a one year warranty. I will be getting a new camera from a seconds store also.
Dye my own hair
I dye my hair dark which is easy to do myself. I buy a good quality hair dye for $15 and redo it every month. Easy and cheap.
Have an easy to maintain hairstyle
I also have an easy to maintain hairstyle. I have only got simple layers so I am able to go to a cheap barber to get them trimmed rather than an expensive stylist. It isn’t rocket science so the $18 hair cut from Supercuts will do just fine and saves me the $40+ I could be spending. And I used to only pay $9 in Vancouver!
Sign up for alerts from airlines
To keep on top of the airline sales I have signed up to get alerts for sales. I managed to nab flights to Melbourne for Australia Day weekend in January next year for only $115 return – not bad for a holiday weekend considering I paid $330 to Melbourne over Easter this year. I also got return flights to Adelaide for $90 return. Bargain.
Book at flights at the optimum time
I have read a lot about the best times to book flights. Apparently the best day to book is Tuesday or Wednesday and the optimum time period to book is 6-8 weeks before your trip unless your trip is over a holiday period. These tips have served me well so far.
We camp a lot. It is absolutely the cheapest form of accommodation in Australia (other than couchsurfing) and I actually really enjoy it. Well, as long as it isn’t raining. It doesn’t cost much to get the supplies, especially if you wait for the sales. We got our 3 person tent for $65 and our extra warm sleeping bags for $30 each on sale.
Air miles credit cards
I just signed up for my first Air miles Credit card recently and have already racked up quite a few points as well as the 50,000 I am entitled to after spending $1500 in the first three months. My goal is to pay for a return flight from Sydney to Hawaii next year purely on air miles which I am well on track for. I also get free Travel insurance for any trip up to 6 months long and the annual fee has been waived for my first year. I only wish I had an Air Miles credit card sooner!
High interest savings account
In Australia it is definitely worth opening a high interest savings account. With my account, as long as I deposit $200 per month I receive an interest rate of 4.2%. The more money you have in there, the more it is worth it.
Create a budget
This is possibly the most important tip to saving money – keeping track of it in a budget. I have been budgeting my money since I was about 12 years old. I still write everything in my notebook that I carry everywhere – outgoing expenses, earnings and savings per week. I have also had excel spreadsheets in the past which I am thinking about starting up with again. If it’s all written down I find it so much easier to reach my savings goals.
Use money instead of cards
Another key way to control your spending is to only get out the money you are allowing yourself to spend and leaving the cards at home. I allow myself $120 spending money per week – this includes coffees, dinners and drinks out and entertainment. I get it out in cash on Sunday and that way I easily track how much I have spent.
Do tax return
This is definitely worth doing in Australia and in other countries with a tax free threshold too like the UK, especially if you haven’t worked the full year. I should be getting about $2500 back this year.
Make extra money
Sell stuff online
I haven’t done a lot of this lately but I have sold books, DVDs, concert tickets, old backpacks and furniture online before, mainly on eBay and gumtree. It is a fantastic way to get rid of stuff that you don’t use anymore as well as making some extra cash for your travel fund.
Get a second job
I am currently just working in the one job (Education Officer) but for the past 8 years I have usually held 2-3 jobs at a time. I found that Event Waitressing worked well as a second job as it is flexible, with different shifts each week that you can accept or turn down depending on your availability. I actually enjoyed the buzz of the work too. I have also worked as a waitress in the Director’s Lounge at Chelsea Football Club, a Receptionist for indoor Paintball and a Babysitter.
Participate in Market Research Focus Groups
This is something that I found out about last summer in Vancouver and I have since attended four focus groups in Sydney too. You are generally asked your opinion, either in a group setting or one on one, on various topics. It could be about your thoughts on a new ad campaign, a new product or a revamped website. Sometimes you could even be taste testing products. Focus Groups are such a great way to make some extra cash, as long as you are chosen that is. In Sydney you usually get between $80 – $150 for 1-2 hours. Also, there are a lot that are in the evening so you can still participate even if you have a 9-5 job.
Rent out your spare room on Air BnB
We haven’t done this yet but we will be registering to rent out our spare room once we move in to our new place next week. I am excited as I want to meet other travellers and show them what I love about Sydney and it will help a lot with our savings.
Buy weekly or monthly pass
Whenever I move, I always work out what the most cost effective way is for me to get around on public transport. Whether it is single trips, weekly or monthly passes, whatever is the cheapest is the ticket I will get.
Walk to work
You can save a lot of money on transport when you walk to or from work a few times a week. At my current place, I have been walking the 1 hour and 45 minutes to work three days a week. In London I used to save money on my weekly transport pass by only catching the train to Zone 2, rather than the expensive Zone 1. I would then walk the 20 minutes along the river to my workplace located in Zone 1. This saved me over £50 a month which definitely added up.
As mentioned above, I walk a lot. This is enough for me to stay fit and healthy. I would much rather be outside enjoying nature than stuck inside a stuffy gym. Wouldn’t you?
Cheap Exercise classes
When I was in London I nabbed a couple of great deals on Groupon for Bikram Yoga passes and short-term Gym memberships at a fraction of the regular cost. There were also some great introductory trial offers for Yoga Studios and Gyms that I took advantage of too. If you don’t mind moving around a bit, this is a great way to save money on exercise classes.
These methods have worked well for me and have definitely helped me save money for travel over the years. Some of these methods might strike you as being too extreme or maybe not extreme enough. Everyone is different and you have to find ways to save money that are right for you, figuring out what sacrifices you can make without taking the joy out of your everyday life.
Too many people scrimp and save, sacrificing joy for future travel which is all they can think about. No wonder they can’t wait to leave.
I think that the most important thing you can do is allow yourself to have a life while you are saving. Life is to be lived and enjoyed, all of the time, not just when you are travelling.
Don’t cut out all of the things that give you joy now to serve your future happiness. Just cut down on your spending while still treating yourself to the things that make you happy now.
Because you can never know what is going to happen in the future.
Do you think that any of these money saving tips can help you save? Do you have any other tips that you would like to share?