Here’s Exactly How I Saved Over $20,000 For Travel

Slava Bowman

In the last few years I’ve been on some amazing holidays.

I lived in Montreal for 4 months (which included a lot weekend adventures and a month of traveling after). I backpacked around Europe twice. I traveled to Vietnam, Singapore and Fiji and I’ve also been on a lot of weekend trips around Australia (in the last year I’ve been on 3 weekend trips to north Queensland and my first ever trip to Melbourne).

And while all this traveling has been incredible, it means I’m also pretty familiar with how to save money for travel. 

I saved over $20,000 for my trip to Montreal (which took about 18 months of hard work and was totally worth it). Each trip to Europe cost me just a bit less than $10,000. Weekend trips around Australia aren’t as expensive (thank god) but are still at least a few hundred dollars.

And I was able to save money for travel all of that while living out of home, studying full-time and working either part or full-time hours (depending how desperate I was for cash).

In a month I leave for another big adventure – 10 weeks exploring Peru, Europe and New York City! Being on a graduate accountant’s salary with no annual leave to use, I really had to get on top of my saving situation to make this trip happen – and I did.

So, since I’ve been saving pretty much this whole year, I thought now would be the perfect time to share how I’ve done it.

BEFORE I GET STARTED…

Firstly, don’t get caught in the trap of thinking that you should wait until you earn more money before you start traveling. It’s so easy to think that earning more will make it easier to save more (I’ve fallen into this trap way too many times).

Sometimes it can feel really nice to live in this little fantasy land, thinking that we’ll magically have completely different habits in the future to the ones we have now without actually having to change anything. I’m definitely not saying we can’t change our habits, but if we don’t actually do anything to change them then we’ll have the same habits in the future as we do now. I know that sounds obvious, but all this ‘new year new you’ crap can really make it easy to think that things are just going to change.

We all think that we’ll save more when we earn more, but most of us will just spend more unless we actually make an effort to do otherwise.

So I just want to remind you that you don’t need to wait until you earn more money, you just need to start saving some of the money you’re earning now.

And another thing – saving money is as simple or as complicated as you make it.

We all know ‘how’ to save money – we just have to spend less than we earn.  The thing that makes it complicated is what goes on in our minds.

This means that saving really has a lot to do with managing the way we feel and the beliefs we have around money. Whether we believe we have to buy everything on sale. Whether we believe we can’t resist a bargain. Whether we believe we need that mascara our favorite Youtuber wears. Whether we believe we’re bad at saving money.

All of the things I’ve just listed are beliefs, not facts, and they can be changed. I think it’s important to recognize that (for almost all of us) it’s our beliefs, not our income, that stands in the way of traveling.

So on that note, here are the tricks I used to save money for travel:

1. I SET UP AUTOMATIC SAVINGS

Setting up an automatic transfer to my savings account has probably been the best thing I’ve done when it comes to saving money for travel.

I’ve tried to save what’s ‘left over’ at the end of the week SO many times and there’s always nothing left – saving money for travel only works when I make it a priority.

So I set up a bank account that was purely for my travel savings and absolutely nothing else. 

I set up this account with another bank so that it was completely separate to my everyday money and wouldn’t tempt me when doing my online banking. The account I created didn’t have any kind of card attached to it so I couldn’t dip into it directly (and it takes at least one business day to transfer money to my usual bank account so I couldn’t impulse buy that way either).

Then I set up an automatic money transfer (using online banking) to send money out of my main account and into my travel savings account on the day I got paid.

I picked a set amount of money that would get saved out of every pay. At the moment I’m saving $800 from every pay for my upcoming trip (which is over half of what I earn). But I didn’t start by saving this much.

At first, I just started with what I knew I could save – maybe $100. Then I start looking at whether I can change a few things here and there to save a bit more and put the auto-transfer amount up a little bit. And then a bit more and a bit more. I slowly got used to living with less and, if I found that when I repeatedly made the decision not to dip into my savings, my spending habits began to change (because it felt like I was earning less than I actually was).

But none of this works without deciding that this money is for travel, not that you ‘hope you won’t dip into your savings to go shopping’. Decide that you’re going to do this no matter what. Decide that you can.

All of the above is easy to set up – just make sure you don’t get caught up too much in researching different bank accounts (which can be used as an excuse to procrastinate on this for months).

Just spend one hour looking up some stuff and then fill out the online forms to get something set up. I just asked a few of my friends if they knew of any good high interest savings accounts and a few of them mentioned the same thing, so I went with that. (In the grand scheme of things, losing 1% interest on your savings isn’t as bad as never saving at all because you couldn’t decide which account to open).

This tip is really all about setting yourself up for success. Do things that will make it easier for you to save money for travel.

2. I DIDN’T GIVE UP SHOPPING

In articles about saving money there’s almost always talk of all the sacrifices we’ll need to make, and I believe that’s one of the reasons we really struggle to save money for travel.

While pinpointing some things that we can ‘give up’ in order to save a little extra cash might be helpful when we’re thinking about the formulaic side of saving (spend less than you earn), it often isn’t that helpful when it comes to the mental/emotional side of saving money. As I mentioned before, we all know ‘how’ to save – it’s what goes on in our brains that is the difference between it being easy to save and it being impossible to save money for travel.

So when I’ve been saving money, I haven’t told myself that I’m not going to go shopping. I haven’t told myself that I’m ‘bad’ if I do. I haven’t made myself feel guilty for it (most of the time – I’m not perfect).

Of course, if you’re a big shopper then you’re probably going to have to reign in the amount of things you’re buying. But if you’re a big shopper there’s also a high chance that you’re buying a lot of things that you don’t really love.

If you can’t even remember what you’ve bought in the last month or you’re already thinking about what you’re going to buy next before the thing you’ve just bought has even made it to your wardrobe, then you can probably afford to buy less stuff. And even with that, you can still buy the things you love.

Don’t give up shopping, don’t create that sense of deprivation or lack.

Give yourself to permission to go shopping and buy things that you love. But just have a look at your spending habits – get curious.

Question whether you’re spending all that money on things that you really love and things that are adding value to your life. Or whether you’re just buying those things because you’re scrolling through instagram and you feel all this not-enoughness and that you would be happier (like the girl in the photo must be) if you just had nicer clothes. But the things you buy don’t make you feel the way you want to feel, so you buy more things.

I’m definitely not any kind of expert with any of this stuff (I’m just sharing what I’ve learned), but in my experience giving up shopping is not the way to go.

I think a good way to approach it is to figure out why you’re buying all of these things in the first place and then getting into the habit of only buying the things that you LOVE. I’ve written a few posts about that kind of stuff already on the blog.

3. I USED SOCIAL MEDIA TO MY ADVANTAGE

This one follows on from what I talked about above – not giving up shopping.

So saving money means spending less than we earn. We know that. And we really want to travel and have all of these amazing experiences.

But then we feel like going shopping and buying everything we even remotely like (even though we know we’ll probably be over it and thinking about the next purchase by the time we get home/it arrives in the mail).

I’ve found that trying to save money for travel while following all my favorite brands on insta and getting all their enticing emails makes me feel like I’m on a horrible diet.

It makes me feel like I’m on this diet but for some sick reason I’ve decided to fill my fridge with all of my favorite junk foods and I’m telling myself I can’t eat any of it. I’m relying on ‘willpower’ not to have any but then I always crack – how am I meant to resist?!

When I’ve decided that I’m going to go traveling (which means I’ll need to save some serious money), I’ve found that having constant reminders of all the things I ‘can’t’ buy isn’t really helpful.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m definitely not saying we can’t buy anything when we’re saving money, but seeing reminders all the time about sales (which makes us feel like we’re going to miss out unless we buy that new bikini right now) means that we’re probably going to be wasting our travel money on things we don’t even really want.

So when I’m saving money for travel, I make the decision to reduce the number of fashion accounts I follow (and interior design accounts too). I don’t cull them all at once, but I just try to take a lot of them out of my feed (especially the ones that make me immediately want to buy things).

Unfollowing or unsubscribing can really make it feel like we’re going to miss out. But trust me, that feeling soon wears away (after a couple of weeks of staying strong) and you really get used to not having a constant stream of things you ‘want’ always in your face.

If I feel like looking at my online shops, I can search for them – no problem. But having their sales constantly in my face wasn’t helping. And I’ve found that when I don’t have their sales constantly in my place, I don’t remember to look them up nearly as often.

But we all know that the best way to change a habit is to replace it, so I subscribe to heaps of travel accounts and anything that will keep me really excited about what I’m saving for.

Please let me know in the comments below what your favorite travel insta accounts are!

4. I COMMITTED 

I’ve found that it’s a lot easier to stick to my saving goals once I’ve actually committed 100% to going on the trip.

One thing I really don’t want to happen when I’m traveling is not having enough money to do all of the amazing things there are to do. I hate the idea of having worked so hard to save enough money for a plane ticket (which is not cheap if you live in Australia and you’re trying to get anywhere other than New Zealand) but having to skimp on things when I’m overseas.

But I’ve found that if I book something (anything) for my trip as soon as I possibly can, I have so much more motivation to get my ass into gear.

So book something for your trip as soon as you can. It doesn’t have to be the flight – just book something.

And tell people that you’re going traveling. It can really create the feeling that you have to actually follow through with it once you’re boasting to everyone about how amazing your trip is going to be.

5. I BELIEVED THAT I COULD SAVE MONEY FOR TRAVEL

This might be a bit woo-woo for some people, but believing that you’re good at saving money is going to make it a lot easier to do it.

If you think about it, it does make sense – if we’ve spent our whole lives telling ourselves that we’re ‘bad’ at saving, then, of course, it’s going to be a struggle.

But believing that we’re bad with money doesn’t mean we’re actually bad with money. We only believe it because we’ve focused on all those times that we haven’t done what we ‘wanted’ to do with money and we’ve made them mean something about ourselves. We’ve focused on those times that people have made comments about how ‘bad’ we are with money (or how we couldn’t live without shopping) and believed them to be true.

And we’ve written off all the times we’ve been good with money as a fluke or ‘out of character’. We’ve dismissed it whenever someone has commented about how good we are with money.

But we can start to create the belief that you are good with money (which may seem impossible if you’ve believed the opposite your whole life, but trust me on this one).

In my experience, the easiest way to start cultivating this belief is to look for evidence of it.

We’re going to find what you’re looking for, whether it’s evidence that we’re good with money or evidence that we’re bad with it.

Think about all the times that you’ve been able to save money. Have you gone for a big holiday before? That probably means you’ve saved money to do it – that’s evidence that you’re good at saving. Have you bought a gift for someone? Have you saved up for an expensive bag that you’d love?

Have you saved money to pay off your credit card bill? Even that can be evidence that you’re good at saving money.

Saving money for travel is as simple or complicated as you make it, so why not start to create the beliefs that are going to make it easier?

SAVING DOESN’T HAVE TO BE HARD

When it comes down to it, this whole post is really just about setting things up to work in your favor.

So often we’re told that saving money is ‘hard’ and so we make it hard (subconsciously of course). We complicate it. We overthink it. But it really doesn’t have to be, just start to set things up that are going to make it easier for you.

Pick one of the things I’ve listed above and decide to actually start doing it.

It’s so easy to read dozens of blog posts about things you want to do, but at some point, you actually need to start putting them into action if you want to see any results. I’m definitely guilty of taking ‘passive action’ (thinking that learning about something is the same as applying it, when really it’s not even close) and if you find that you are too then take this opportunity to start applying what you read.

Just pick one thing on this list. Just one. And start doing it today, right now. Put something in motion. TC mark

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