We saved £30,000 for our first RTW trip and it was hard. Like titanium alloy hard. Titanium alloy edged with diamonds hard. We swore that we’d never be that frugal again – what possible reason could anyone have for putting themselves through such an ordeal TWICE?
Six months after the end of our last amazing trip we were at it again.
There’s a travel bug going around and we got a bad case of it. We wanted more – we wanted to do it forever and we wanted to start immediately. So we reduced our living expenses right down and managed to live off just 25% of our combined salaries, sending the other seventy-five percent straight to our savings accounts.
This time, we managed to save over £23,000 in just 9 months and it really wasn’t that bad. Having had a taste of what’s out there, owning an iPod Touch suddenly doesn’t seem as important as getting to the party capital of Brazil.
We aren’t rich by any stretch. We both earned below average salaries for the UK, but we chose to prioritise travel over buying ‘stuff’ and spending money on big nights out. Many people say they want to travel but they can’t afford it. We think everyone can if they want it enough. It may take some people longer than others, and you’ll have to make sacrifices, but the trick is simple – start saving now!
10 Steps to Saving for Travel
1) Record your spending – Start a spreadsheet and write down EVERYTHING you spend. Do this for at least a month (although I recommend it as a permanent habit). You can then see what you are spending a lot on and what you can cut out.
2) Create a monthly budget – Allocate money to each essential area – mortgage/rent, insurance, utilities, food and transport etc. This is the minimum you can live off. Then allocate a ‘fun budget’ for each month for anything inessential (gym membership, meals out, socialising, buying clothes, gifts etc). It’s up to you how much this is, but keep it to the minimum. Ours was £50 between us, but you might not be able to go that low initially. Add up your essential and fun budget, and subtract this from your income. This is how much you have left to save.
Salary – (Essential Expenses + Fun Budget) = Savings. (if this comes out as a minus number, you’re in trouble…)
3) Set up a bank transfer – Once you’ve worked out your monthly savings, set up an automatic bank transfer from your current/checking account to your savings account for the day after pay day. This is an essential step – if the money isn’t in your account you can’t spend it. Your savings account must be untouchable.
4) Increase the interest on your savings – Research the best savings accounts to maximise the interest you earn on your savings. In the UK Money Saving Expert is a fantastic resource for finding the best accounts. In the US try Get Rich Slowly. We earned over £1000 in interest on our first trip. We used tax free ISAs along with high interest regular savings accounts, and when these reached the limit, then the highest paying normal savings account.
5) Stop buying things – It’s very simple, just stop. No more clothes, CDs, DVDs, whatever it is you’re currently spending your money on. If you want to go travelling, you don’t need any more stuff. Get creative – dig out clothes from the back of your wardrobe that you haven’t worn in years; join a library; borrow DVDs from friends; mend things rather than re-buying. It actually becomes really liberating as you start to realise how little you need.
6) Socialise cheaply – You don’t have to give up your social life, but look at ways to have fun for less. Invite friends around for dinner rather than eating out; go for walks; visit free museums; attend art gallery openings (free wine and nibbles!); go to the pub but only have one drink; look for free local band nights and festivals; keep an eye out for discount vouchers at restaurants and cinemas – the options are endless. Drinking less alcohol will really help reduce your spending. Use your fun budget wisely and prioritise what’s important to you.
7) Reduce expenses – Keep going back to your budget. Is there any area you can reduce further? Switch utility and broadband providers to a cheaper deal; cancel gym membership and go for a run; eat less processed food and downshift your brands to reduce your food budget; cancel cable TV, magazine subscriptions and anything else inessential. As time goes on and spending less becomes a habit you should be able to reduce your fun budget too. Read Money Saving Expert’s Money Makeover for lots more tips to reduce your expenses.
8 ) Sell your stuff – Boost your savings by selling your possessions. We all own things we don’t need, and you don’t want to waste money on storage while you’re travelling. Read our three part series on How to Sell All Your Stuff for our tips and favourite selling methods.
9) Work together – Couples need to work together towards joint saving goals and support each other to reach them. I’ve always been a good saver but Simon certainly wasn’t. If he had money he’d spend it. But he made a commitment to saving for travel and let me take control of his finances. Joint accounts make this a lot easier. Baker from Man vs Debt is a passionate believer in the benefits of couples combining finances.
10) Keep motivated – There are times when saving is hard. When you are struggling with your austere lifestyle, focus on planning your trip. Read blogs and library books about the places you want to go, plan exciting activities, look at photos on Google Images, and remember that it’ll be worth it!
Saving may seem difficult at first but over time your mindset changes. You start to not want to buy things anymore, and spending money becomes a rare occurrence only for things that are worth it. It feels liberating to live simply because you are no longer so dependent on your salary – your stuff doesn’t own you.
Travel is one of the most rewarding things you can do, and once you are on the road all the hard months saving will be worth it.
Are you looking for Christmas gift ideas? See our guide to the 50 Best Gifts for Travelers. They are ideal for travel lovers who want to pack light and include something for every budget.