So you’ve been drooling over cheap flight websites or daydreaming about Greek island cruises, and you go to your bank account and BAM!, back to reality. You’re not going anywhere, because you’ve got no cash. Never fear, this is not the huge problem you think it is.
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I’ve already decided that the “I don’t have enough money” is one of the four most common excuses people give for not traveling. In other words, it’s just an excuse, and you can do something about it. I might be naturally pretty good with money (the bank manager father had a big influence there), but I think anyone can handle their money better when the motivation is a trip you’re dying to take. In fact there are plenty of ways to combat the “I can’t travel” blues and get together the money you need to hit the road, and here are some of them:
Skip the Cinema and Read a Guidebook Instead
There are quite a few entertainment expenses you can cut down out without cutting down on your quality of life too much. Think how much one movie ticket costs, and how long the joy lasts — a maximum of two hours, and the film might not even be any good — and compare that to the hours of pleasure devouring a guidebook can give you. If you’re like me, you might even borrow a guidebook or three from your local public library to get a taste for your destination, and only later buy the newest edition of one you especially want to take with you (or not!). And of course, there is a ton of information you can read online while you’re researching your trip as well, and a lot of it will be more up-to-date and practical than what you read in a guidebook.
Give Up One Special Treat in Exchange for Another
Say you especially like Mars Bars. Every time you go to buy a Mars Bar, stop, put the money aside in a safe place, and tell yourself that when you’re traveling, you can spend that money on exciting new treats instead. If I was planning a trip to Switzerland or Belgium I could very easily stop myself from buying that Mars Bar, knowing that I could soon be able to chow down on some of the most delicious chocolate in the world.
Even if you’re not a chocaholic, this system still works. You could stop at one or two beers at the pub instead of having three or four, and put the extra money away for a real German beer at Oktoberfest in Munich or a scarily strong vodka in Eastern Europe. Whatever your habit, stop and think about how you could spend that money on your trip instead and put the cash back in your wallet (or better still, into a bank account that you can’t touch). The added bonus is that if you’re giving up a few Mars Bars or beers, you’ll be doing your health a favor too (because chocolate and beer while you’re traveling is much better for you, right?!).
Cancel Subscriptions and Send the Dollars to a Savings Account
Take a look at your recurring expenses and see if there’s something you can cut back on. For example, if you have a bunch of magazine subscriptions but don’t always get to read the whole magazine, then cancel your order and immediately set up a direct transfer so that the money you used to spend on the subscription is automatically saved in another account, ready to spend on your big trip. This is a great way to save because you know you’ve been able to get away with spending that money every month, so you won’t miss it when it diverts into your savings account instead.
Other recurring expenses you might want to reconsider are cable TV subscriptions, scaling down your cell phone plan or internet service or ditching the gym membership and exercising in the great outdoors instead. All of these recurring expenses are stuff you’ll want to cancel if you go traveling for any length of time anyhow, so why not get in early?
Sacrifice a Bit of Comfort and Prepare for Your Trip
If you’re contemplating any medium to long-term travel, you probably already know you’re going to have to give up many of your daily comforts in exchange for the wonder of being on the road. For example, you may not have a great shower or bed every night, you won’t be able to eat all your favorite foods and you’ll miss out on your regular TV shows. All of that, once you’re traveling, seems like a very, very small price to pay for all the amazing new experiences you’re having.
So if you need to save some serious dollars to get started on your dream trip, try cutting down on the comforts a bit sooner. For example, you could move into a smaller apartment and put away the savings you’re making in rent towards your trip. Take public transport more often instead of the luxury of driving your car and save the gas costs and car maintenance expenses towards your trip — you might even find it’s possible to sell your car completely and be without wheels for a few months or a year while you’re saving up for your trip. I can assure you it’ll be worthwhile.
It’ll All Be Worth It When You’re on the Road
If you’ve cringed at any of my suggestions so far, you’re probably quite normal. But I promise you, as someone who’s spent a lot of time away from home traveling, you won’t regret giving up a few things now in order to have the trip (or trips) of a lifetime. I never once regret missing out on a few movies at the cinema in the months leading up to one of my trips; I don’t even really remember that I missed anything. But I spend a lot of time reminiscing over my trip across Russia on the Trans-Siberian or about my backpacking trip around Tunisia. Compared to moments like those, spending money on everyday stuff at home suddenly seems pretty trivial.
Have you got any other ways you save money for your trips? Please share them in the comments so we can all get back on the road sooner!