So, you want to travel the world. You want to burst your bubble, meet new people, experience a completely different world to your own. You want to drink from a coconut, reach new heights trekking among the clouds, dance the night away in a salsa bar, talk till the sun comes up with someone you met just a few hours before.
But you can’t afford it.
And you have no idea how you ever could.
Let me help… I’ve been saving for travel since I was 16 years old. I’ve hiked to Machu Picchu, lazed on beaches in Zanzibar, tried cigars in Cuba and fallen in love with Colombia. I’ve had friends tell me I’m too tight with my money, laughing at me for eating the same curry day in day out for months. But then I go away, and I’m enjoying the world, and they’re still at home spending as much on their Friday night out as I do on a week at a surf camp in Panama – accommodation, surf lessons, fresh lobster dinners and all. Legit.
So read on, I did it, and so can you.
The needs vs. wants list
This is the first thing to do when you start your saving journey. For one week, write down every cent you spend. And what you spend it on. Then get some pretty highlighters (but don’t buy them, find them) and highlight which are NEEDS and which are WANTS. Then get brutal about those wants. Cross them out of your life. You have a different want now. You have beers on beaches, scuba diving courses, treks to Machu Picchu, trips to the Amazon, a whole smorgasbord of joy that will bring you more happiness than another jumper or new pairs of shoes. Trust me – memories beat mimosas. Sunsets beat sneakers. Every. Time.
(P.S. the needs vs. wants list also works wonders while packing.)
Take a look at your habits. In this world of fast fashion and consumerism, the world is telling you to spend spend spend, but instead of having a mindset where you buy a new outfit for each social occasion, go to charity shops or borrow from your friends. See the purchase of new clothing or a new pair of shoes as a luxury, not a norm.
The Butterfly Effect
Not only is this a classic Ashton Kutcher film, but also a key concept in the saving world. Small things add up – those daily coffees seem like small costs at the time (and they also feel so necessary!) but considerable savings can be made by eliminating many small costs.
Another simple but key area for the butterfly effect: food. Cook in bulk and take your lunch to work with you – it’s a huge money saver (and might also be healthier for you). Plan your week’s meals ahead of time and go into the supermarket with a shopping list, rather than selecting random items that may end up never being used. Which supermarket are you going to – is it the cheapest? Do you need the branded items? Sometimes cheaper versions of the same product taste just as good, just without a pretty label.
Banking and budgets
Here’s a simple but important one: move money into your Savings Account immediately after you’re paid. (If you don’t already have one, open a Savings Account!)
Once you’ve calculated how much money you’re going to need for your trip, set yourself monthly targets. It’s very satisfying watching your money grow, and it works better to plan these things instead of just moving some money now and then.
Another important one: have a weekly budget. And stick to it – be strict with yourself. I break my spending into weekly amounts, and then have a mental daily spend. If I know that I’m only allowed to spend $10 each day, I feel guilty when I go over it. Equally, if I spend less than $10 a day (which is possible with meal planning and home-brewed coffee), I can carry the extra over to the next day, and it feels good to have $14 to play with. Allow for your daily spend to be higher on weekends, otherwise you’ll disappoint yourself.
Keep your eyes on the prize
I have a friend who was also saving for travel at the same time as me, and when I moaned about not spending money, or even about hating my job, he would say: “Keep your eyes on the prize”. Keep your dream destination in mind as you save.
When you’re looking at a gorgeous pair of jeans, or a jacket with a fluffy hood that feels so essential in the winter cold. Stop. Think. How much is this worth in your destination? This potential purchase could equate to the cost of a week’s street food in your destination, or the cost of one night’s accommodation in a European city, or 10 beers with new friends. More often than not, the material goods that tempt you at home make up a significant percentage of the money you’d spend on your travel experience, so put it back down, and visualise yourself in your destination.
Another top tip: set your phone background to a photo of your first stop. I stared at the white sand beaches of Isla Mujeres in Mexico for about six months, and imagining my toes in that sand got me through the grizzly English winter.
Do you take public transport? Have a car? Could you cycle instead? When I started cycling to work instead of taking public transport, I saved over $50 a week. And furthermore, it’s exercise, so alongside some running and YouTube yoga, I don’t have to pay for a gym membership. Two birds, one stone.
As well as redefining luxury, you might want to redefine fun. That’s not a subtle way to say you should be boring, but you can get creative with how you use your free time.
Here’s some examples: invite your friends over for a home-cooked meal and BYO booze instead of paying hiked up prices at a bar – you get to choose your own music at home, winning! Instead of going to the cinema, search through Netflix and make popcorn at home – listening to popcorn pop in the microwave is way more satisfying than paying $20 for a trip to the cinema anyway. If the weather is good, go chill in the park with a football, or in someone’s garden.
And you might need to recruit allies for this endeavor, because there will still be plenty of social events tempting you to spend. But it’s still possible to participate and not go overboard. Have three glasses of wine instead of 10 (or enter more appropriate numbers – but ensure it’s a reduction). When forced, you realise that you don’t NEED (there’s that NEED/WANT mentality popping up again) to spend money to have fun.
And it’ll all be worth it in the end. There’s nothing more magical than saving up for, and then loving every second of your next adventure.
Saved up and ready to travel the world? Check out Intrepid’s top destinations in over 100 countries!