How I Saved Up Enough Money To Travel For A Year
Some advice to make long-term travel a reality.
Swapping your everyday routine for a life of travel is an aspirational idea for plenty of people, but it can also easily fall into the pile of plans labelled “too hard” or “too expensive”.
Deciding to go travelling is exciting and terrifying in equal measure, whether you’re counting down to a quick getaway or hoping to escape for an extended period of time. And while it’s thrilling to think about all your upcoming adventures, waking up whenever you feel like it and not having any responsibilities, the reality is that there’s a fair bit of work that goes in behind the scenes before that final farewell.
For me, long-term travel meant almost two years of planning and saving, making sure my fiance and I could support ourselves for a year on the road. Of course, travel is a privilege that not everyone can afford, but if you’re in a position to start saving, here are some tips we picked up that’ll hopefully help when it comes to stashing that cash to get you overseas.
Make a plan
Figure out what kind of saver you’re going to be. Should you go cash only? Get appy and track all your spending? Do you trust yourself with a monthly budget or are weekly allowances more realistic?
It’s actually a lot easier to save money if you can track where you’re spending it and how much you can realistically put away on a regular basis. For me, I had a monthly budget and savings target that I tried to stick to once we knew we needed to get serious with our saving. A spreadsheet that I updated weekly helped me see when I had good weeks (and bad ones) and estimate how much I would save throughout the year. It wasn’t sexy or fun, but it worked and was a good way to understand what I’d have to live off once we got overseas.
Your morning latte, lunch at work, the gym, fancy dinners… take your pick. Pretty much every advice piece you read when you’re trying to figure out how to save more of your monthly pay cheque is going to tell you to quit one (or more) of the above. And yes, you can totally save $50 a week by bringing a bagged lunch instead of splurging on a fancy sandwich in the office each day, but you need to figure out what’s going to work for you and what you can swap rather than quit altogether.
I love dinners out with friends so that was 100 percent out of the question when trying to figure out what to cut. Instead, I ditched my expensive gym in favour of free YouTube workouts, learned to love leftovers from Monday to Thursday and used the office coffee machine each morning to save an extra $75 a week. And because I didn’t feel like I was missing out, I managed to keep it up for more than a year.
Find free activities
If the idea of months on the couch fills you with dread, find some free activities around you. I think I lasted a total of two weeks (in winter) of self-imposed solitude before I was ready to crack, but as going out is one of the biggest budget-busters, I really relied on free activities instead.
Sydney, my hometown is great for free events and activities. From Vivid to museums and weekend markets, there’s so much stuff going on that it’s easy to avoid shops (see tip #2), movies or ] expensive activities that’ll eat into your budget. I found some great walks, like Bondi to Bronte and Bradley’s Head to Balmoral which were a cool, free way to see more of my city and also improved my fitness.
My point is, don’t feel like trying to save means you have to miss out. Figure out what you like doing and find a free or cheaper alternative that still gets you out of the house (and seeing the people you’re going to miss terribly while you’re away!).
This is probably the least fun part of saving up to go travelling (at least it was for me). You can’t really stop paying rent or bills, and you still need to eat and get to work, but you can massively cut your discretionary spending if you stop shopping for clothes.
Even if you’re not a big shopper, you’re probably spending more than you’d like to admit, whether your weakness is the latest ASOS 50-percent-off sale, wandering around the mall on the weekends or even getting a bit too excited in the supermarket aisles.
It’s really easy to talk yourself into buying stuff that you don’t want or need, so while I have to admit I wasn’t totally successful on this one (hello post-Christmas sales), I saved so much money and didn’t actually miss out that much.
Don’t beat yourself up when you break your budget
Serious saving is hard. Squirrelling away every spare dollar, skipping the fun stuff your friends are doing, eyeing off other people’s shiny new toys (clothes, gadgets, whatever your weakness) kinda sucks sometimes. So it’s completely understandable that sometimes you might give in and break your budget. Other times, it seems like no matter how hard you try, there’s always some reason that’s out of your control that undoes all of your hard work.
But don’t throw in the towel or try to compensate by giving yourself $22.50 to last the next three weeks (it will only force you to repeat your cycle of failed saving). Instead, save what you can and move on, while keeping an eye on what you can do to reduce your spending next week.
And finally, once you’ve done all the hard work of saving up for your adventure, you’ll need to make sure it will last long enough to see you back to the arrivals hall. Don’t feel like you can’t have fun while you’re away (after all, you are on holiday) but figure out a daily or weekly goal so you can keep your spending in check.
There will be once-in-a-lifetime experiences that you should definitely splurge on – so far we’ve enjoyed $200 lobster dinners, hot air balloon rides over Cappadocia and I’ve bought some seriously expensive souvenirs (worth it). Most of the time you’ll find just experiencing somewhere new, different and amazing is worth more than anything you had to skip out on while you were busy saving back home.
(All images: Rod Gotfried)