Do you want to finally take that long vacation you’ve always dreamed of? Maybe you’ve even thought about traveling around the world. Everyone wants to go somewhere, but few people have the tools to make it a reality. I am currently traveling around the world for six months on a $10,000 budget. Yes, you read that correctly. It took me three years to save the money that I needed to leave my job, terminate my lease, and fly wherever I pleased!
And you can do this too if you are filled with the same wanderlust. You don’t have to make six figures or have an inheritance to travel long-term. (Trust me, I live on a social worker’s salary.) All it takes is some commitment, research, and budgeting. You can start by checking out my top 10 budgeting tips below.
1. Track Your Spending
You can’t target the amount that you will spend per month without actually knowing what you spend. My best advice is to make a spreadsheet and track every single thing you purchase in a month. Look at the totals, look at the weekly spending, and account for anything that was atypical spending (Christmas gifts, birthday parties, etc.). From here, create a goal of what you hope to spend each month and cut down on the expenditures you don’t need.
2. Make Coffee At Home
If I had the money, I would go to Starbucks at least once a day. Alas, I don’t have money, but I sure as heck have a caffeine dependency. I highly recommend finding coffee grinds that you love and making your own coffee every morning. Not only does it become a calming ritual to kickstart the morning, but it saves a lot of dollars! Especially when Pumpkin Spice season comes around.
3. Cut Back Drinking
I can hear some of you groaning from across the internet. First coffee and now alcohol? Unfortunately, yes. Alcohol is one of the most expensive things we frequently indulge in. If you need a Sauvignon Blanc after a long day’s work, I hear you and I see you. But I also will challenge you with this: Do you want the wine now? Or do you want the Mai Tai in Maui?
4. Cook Your Meals
Have you ever noticed that you can spend as much on groceries for a week as you do eating out twice a week? That’s a lot of money! The grocery store is on your team, and meal prep is the most valuable player. If you aren’t already doing this, start your week off by planning what you’d like to eat for all of your meals. Don’t go crazy—you don’t need to spend 3 hours making a lasagna. My go-to meal preps are bagels, salads, and roast chicken with vegetables. This can also be a fun way to relax with a travel buddy and do something creative in the kitchen.
5. Stop Impulse Buying
We all have something we can’t say no to. My thing is rings. My husband has literally had to stop me in the middle of a store, hold my hand, and walk me away from rings that I wanted to buy. My advice? Use the buddy system. Tell your friends to stop encouraging you to buy things you don’t need. Also think about this: If your belongings will need to go into storage when you travel, then anything you buy has to fit into that unit. Don’t let having too much stuff stop you from traveling!
6. Selling Your Stuff
It’s bonkers how much stuff we accumulate over the years. Traveling can be a great excuse to declutter and make some extra cash. Ebay, Facebook Marketplace, and Craigslist are some of my favorite websites to sell. I’ve also had luck with specialty stores such as Poshmark for selling clothes and sellbackyourbook.com for all those dusty books from high school that I will never read again.
7. Get A Cash Rewards Cards
If you already have one of these, you are ahead of the game. I got my first cash rewards card as a way to save extra for the trip. If you have never heard of this, it is a credit card that rewards you with money for choosing to spend with that card. However, please be cautious with a credit card. You should ideally be able to pay off your bills each month. It takes a bit of organization, but it really helps. I have made $300 in a year of using this card and increased my credit score!
8. Flight Tracking Sites
Thanks to the internet, there are tons of resources for finding cheap flights. The main ones I use are Hopper, Skyscanner, and Google Flights. Hopper is an app that notifies you when low-cost flights are available. Skyscanner has become popular in recent years and provides the same service, as well as offering deals with hotels and car rental companies. Google Flights is particularly good for the traveler who is unsure where they want to go because of its “anywhere” feature. You can literally search from your current location to “anywhere” and see what the fares are on a map of the world. When using these resources, be sure to do your homework. Check if you need to fly between destinations or if buses and trains are less expensive (and better for the planet). Another option is to fly cheaper with stops versus one-way flights.
9. Sign Up For Airline Memberships
At the beginning or end of almost any flight purchase, you will be asked if you would like to become a member of that airline (this is also true for car rentals and trains). The answer is yes, you do, if it’s free (it usually is). When you become a member of the airline, they begin to track the number of miles you fly with them. As a reward, you get points with the airline. Enough points will get you a certain dollar amount, which can eventually become a free flight.
My favorite way to save money! If you love pets, I can’t recommend this enough. Housesitting is an exchange in which house sitters receive free accommodation for taking care of pets while the homeowners are away. I have already saved $330 by using this service instead of staying in hostels for the first two months of our round the world trip. I had to do a few local housesits before we could travel to the more popular places, but now I can vacation with dogs for life! What’s not to love? I use TrustedHousesitters, which costs $120 per year, but considering a hostel costs about $20 a night, it’s been more than worth it.
11. Travel Hacking
Travel hacking is a term used in the backpacking world for people who are hardcore at saving money. But if you are adept at paying off credit card bills, this could be you! Essentially, travel hackers sign up for three to twenty credit cards that give them rewards specified to the areas of travel that they most value. For example, if you fly a lot, you might want to apply primarily to airline credit cards. If you like staying in fancy hotels, you could buy the hotel cards. Unfortunately, I just started my first credit card when I began this journey. I applied for a couple of the airline cards, but I had not acquired enough credit history to be eligible for the cards. Otherwise, I’d probably be using this strategy as well! But who knows, there is always the next adventure.
And that’s it in a nutshell! You may be reading through this and thinking, “This is a lot.” You are right, it is a lot! In fact, it is literally learning a new skill. But think of it as building muscles at the gym. The only way to go to the gym is to go. So, if this is anxiety-provoking, try one thing that will put you on the path and go at your own pace. It took me three years to gather and apply all of this information, and it is absolutely okay if it takes you time to put these budgeting tools to use. Good things are worth the wait, right? Just remember: Mai Tais in Maui, Mai Tais in Maui, Mai Tais in Maui.