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How to Save Money for TravelPeople always ask me this: How do you afford to travel so much? Like, I don’t know how to save money for travel.

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 money for travel.

When I moved to the UK in 2005 and actually started traveling 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 to seriously save money for travel.

Bang Bao Beach on Koh Kood

Over the years I have become better at it and have learned a few tricks to save even more money to travel. A lot of these budget tips are also tips to help you become an eco traveller. Saving money and the environment!

So here they are you lucky people, my tried and true tips on how to save money for travel.

I fully understand that not everyone has the privilege to travel, and not everyone has frivolous expenses that they can cut because they are just trying to survive.

This post is for people who spend a lot of money on non-essential purchases and includes tips on how to cut down on these purchases so that more of their expendable income can be spent on travel instead.

How to Save Money For Travel

Food and Beverages

Drink Water

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).

how to save money for travel - pack a water bottle

I would rather just get it straight from the source. Helping the environment and my wallet. An environmentally conscious way to save money for travel.

If you are concerned about the chemicals added to tap water, invest in a water filter pitcher – they are relatively inexpensive, and I love my Brita water filter pitcher.

Cut Down on the Expensive Coffee

Although I love my vanilla lattes and flat whites, I restrict myself to only having 1 – 2 per week – if that. This way it is a treat and I really enjoy it when I do have one. I drink coffee using my Aeropress 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, I stick to the cheaper options such as beer, cider, house wine, or single-shot spirits. I also take advantage of happy hours.

Ursa Minor Beer in Duluth

As much as I would love to go crazy on the cocktails, I really don’t want to be drinking my money away, I would much rather be saving money for travel.

Use Vouchers for Dinners out

I buy a lot of deals off Groupon and Living Social, mainly for dinners and lunches out at drastically reduced prices. This is a fun way to try new restaurants you maybe wouldn’t have otherwise too.

Gjelina pizza in Venice

Socialize 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 and a great way to save money for travel.

Take a Lunch to Work

When I was working in an office, I took my lunch to work almost every day. Leftovers, canned soup, homemade salads – they may not be the most exciting lunches but it saved me at least $40-$50 per week and that money adds up quickly.

how to save money for travel - bring a packed lunch to work

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 hungover the next day! Cafes are generally a lot quieter than bars so you can actually hear what your friend is saying too – win-win!

how to save money for travel - go for coffee dates

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 be eating meant that frequently.

Eating Vegetarian is a great way to help be an eco traveller

Choose a More Affordable Supermarket

Depending on where you live, there are usually a few options in regards to supermarkets and choosing the most affordable option will very quickly save you a ton of money.

In the US, shop at Aldi if there is one near you and compare prices at other supermarkets to see what is the most affordable option for your needs.

Choose Food Deals

I always look out for deals when I’m supermarket shopping and buy expensive meat such as 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.

Retail

Buy Second-hand

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, markets, and online at websites like Poshmark and Facebook Marketplace.

how to save money for travel - buy clothes at secondhand shops

I even furnished my last apartment with second hand furniture off an online marketplace. Use Craigslist in the US and Canada, Gumtree in Australia and the UK, and Trade Me in New Zealand.

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 favorite stores as there are usually members-only bargains to be had.

Free Activities

Living in Colorado, my favorite activities are mostly free – hiking in the mountains, exploring mountain towns and cities, and hanging out with family and friends.

View from the Olivine trail - one of my favorite Golden Hiking trails

The Janet Jackson 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. Being a member of the cinema can also reduce costs or you can earn points towards a free movie ticket.

how to save money for travel - get discounted movie tickets

Buy Refurbished and Seconds Items

My current laptop was reduced massively because it is slightly used although it has been completely refurbished and has a one-year guarantee. My phone is an older model purchased new so it was also a fraction of the price of a newer model.

I recommend Back Market for refurbished laptops and phones.

Dye my own Hair

I dye my hair dark which is easy to do myself. I buy a good quality hair dye 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 an inexpensive barber to get my hair trimmed rather than an expensive stylist.

how to save money for travel - get budget haircuts

It isn’t rocket science so the $20 haircut from Supercuts will do just fine and saves me the $40+ I could be spending.

Travel

Sign up for Alerts from Airlines

To keep on top of the airline sales I have signed up to get alerts for sales. You can also sign up for websites like Scott’s Cheap Flights and Secret Flying which publish incredible deals and error fares.

Book 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.

how to save money for travel - get cheap flight alerts

These tips have served me well so far and I have nabbed some amazing deals.

Camping

We camp a lot, and Colorado has some great free-camping spots as well as tons of affordable campgrounds. It doesn’t have to cost much to get the supplies you need either, especially if you wait for the sales.

Camping at natural hot springs in Idaho

Target and Walmart both have a good range of camping items at affordable prices and check Facebook Marketplace for second-hand items too.

Finance

Air Miles Credit Cards

When I lived in Sydney, I had an Air miles credit card and I managed to rack up quite a few points as well as the 50,000 I was entitled to after spending $1500 in the first three months.

My goal was to pay for a return flight from Sydney to Hawaii purely on air miles which I did, as well as miles paying for two short-haul (but expensive) flights within Alaska.

Beautiful Kailua Bay in Kailua-Kona on Hawaii

I also got free travel insurance for any trip up to 6 months long and the annual fee was waived for my first year.

I really need to build up my credit here in the U.S. so I qualify for all the great options here because travel hacking is massive in the U.S.

For my Kiwi readers looking for an airpoints card, then this is a good site to compare all rewards credit cards.

High-Interest Savings Account

It is definitely worth opening a high-interest savings account and the more money you have in there, the more it is worth it.

If you are comfortable, you could also look into investing some of your savings in the stock market or in cryptocurrency – I have investments in both.

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 Cash 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.

how to save money for travel cash

When I am not traveling, I allow myself a set amount of 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 a Tax Return

This is definitely worth doing in Australia and in other countries with a tax free threshold too like the UK and New Zealand, especially if you haven’t worked the full 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 in Australia. I have also sold old clothes and even my wedding dress on Poshmark in the US.

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

If you have the time to spare, you could look into getting a second job. I have worked second jobs as an event waitress, indoor paintball receptionist, babysitter, and copywriter among other things alongside a 40-hour a week office job.

how to save money for travel - get a second job

Participate in Market Research Focus Groups

This is an easy and flexible way to make extra cash. 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 the US 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 Airbnb

I rented out my spare room when I was living in Sydney and loved it – I even became a Super Host! We hosted travelers from Australia and from around the world, as well as making some extra cash, allowing us to save money for travel. 

When I have a home again I definitely want to be an Airbnb Host once more.

Transport

Buy a 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 the cheapest ticket is, I will get it.

how to save money for travel - get discounted train tickets

Walk to Work

You can save a lot of money on transport when you walk to or from work a few times 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.

Exercise

Walk Everywhere

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?

Walking everywhere is a great way to save money for travel

Cheap Exercise Classes

In the past, I have nabbed a number of great deals on Groupon and Living Social 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, and ultimately, save money for travel.

how to save money for travel - introductory yoga classes

So those are all my tips and tricks on how to save money for travel!

These methods have worked well for me and have definitely helped me a lot to 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 for travel 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 money for travel. Life is to be lived and enjoyed, all of the time, not just when you are traveling.

Exploring the temples of Bagan

Don’t cut out all of the things that give you joy now to save money for travel – 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 tips on how to save money for travel can help you save? Do you have any other tips that you would like to share?

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Ultimate Guide to Saving Money for TravelHow I Save Money to Travel

29 Comments on How to Save Money For Travel

  1. Great article and so useful. Thanks for sharing. I’m going to be living frugally in 2015, so this has helped lots.

    P.s Aldi is great!

  2. Can’t tell you how useful this post is, I’m going to be travelling and living a frugal life, so these tips are perfect. Thank you for sharing.

    P.s I read every word 😉

  3. There are definitely good tips! I live in China and we’ve been told not to drink tap water, so even though I hate the waste involved in bottled water we do drink it, but I try to buy it as efficiently as possible, in 5 liter bottles my husband carries home instead of individual bottles. We also don’t drink alcohol so that saves a bunch! For us ,eating at work is cheaper than making my own food (I know, it shocked me too!) because we’re teachers and can have a free breakfast and a 2 RMB (oh, about 35 cents in USD) lunch. Food is where we find ourselves able to save the most amount of money on a daily basis, and we love coming across great deals on soon-to-expire groceries at the market!

    • You definitely can’t avoid drinking bottled water in some countries for sure. I found that in some places in South and Central America it was cheaper to eat out too and we definitely took advantage of that.

  4. Awesome list. It’s really about making travel the priority and keeping it at the front of your mind when spending cash! It’s amazing how the little things add up – ie, coffees and a round of drinks. I agree re Aldi! I wished I lived within walking distance from one. The closest to me is IGA where you basically have to take out a mortgage to do a weekly shop 🙂

  5. Great tips! Saving money by not buying drinks is something I do religiously. I never order sodas at meals — i mean they cost money and they’re not exactly good for you. Also, bringing your own coffee and lunch to work is a big money saver. Love these tips!!

  6. certainly finding the happy hour spots helps 🙂 Walking or cycling to work I tend to do. Really good list you have here. Aldis I would have to say is my fav supermarket for cheap food

  7. Love it Katie,
    Great reminder tips as well as new…got my saving happening again…getting excited for another trip…big or small! xx

  8. Great list! I do or have done most of these and it’s amazing how much you save over time. As a couple we also do things like sharing a meal when we go out to eat which saves money and calories. We also try to only buy produce that is in season and when traveling we stick to local foods rather than imported.

  9. I LOVE this list! So many great ideas! It’s funny how frugally you can live when it becomes a priority. Hitting my 30’s and cutting down on drinking has definitely helped save on some of those bar bills. And I actually go one step further with saving on hair cuts – I cut my own and sometimes have a trusted friend make sure it’s even. Yes, I’m that cheap 🙂

    • I have cut my own a lot in the past too Amy! When I was travelling through the Americas I did my own, I only worry about doing it myself now because I was scared it would look obvious when I straighten it. Nothing wrong with being cheap 🙂

  10. This is such a great list. Using cash instead of cards is the tip I always suggest as well – it makes it so much easier to keep track of what you’re spending if you can actually see what you’ve got left every time you open your purse. (Though I admit I do use card for all the non-negotiables, like petrol, and council tax, and when I had to pay for my glasses.)

    And I also agree with your point about not making yourself depressed while you’re saving. I think ‘ordinary life’ should be an extension of ‘travel life’, so there’s no point making yourself miserable just because you’re not travelling. There’s a difference between saving scrupulously and scrimping yourself into the ground.

    Great post, Katie! 🙂

    http://www.secondhandhedgehog.com

  11. Buying refurbished items is such a good idea, can’t believe I’ve never really considered it before.

    Tax refunds are one of my favourite parts of quitting a job. You miss out on the interest you should be getting, but the lump sum is a great last minute boost to a travel fund!

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