When I asked my Facebook network to tell me their biggest personal obstacles to traveling, unremarkably the top answer was money. Does this surprise anyone? It’s pretty much common knowledge that wages and living costs have not exactly increased at the same pace over the past few decades, making it a lot harder these days for Americans to save up for life’s luxuries like vacations.
But don’t let this get you down! Have you heard this quote before? “If it’s important, you’ll find a way. If it’s not, you’ll find an excuse.” –Ryan Blair. Obviously most of us can’t afford to do or buy everything we want. But with some discipline and saving strategies, you should be able to manage the top item or two on your priority list. Is one of those priorities traveling? Even if it takes you five years to save up for every week-long trip, that could still be 10 or so great trips in your lifetime! If you have a good memory, a camera, and/or a journal, then that trip will stay with you long after you get back; it makes your life richer permanently. So if it is important to you, you will say no to other money draws that don’t mean as much to you. You just have to be firm, have discipline, and be content with some sacrificing. And by the time you hop on that plane, train, or automobile, it won’t even feel like a sacrifice at all! You will never remember the hundreds of local coffees you skipped, but you will remember the one you had at a Paris café on the sidewalk while people-watching.
So what kinds of money-saving strategies are there? Of course, you can find advice all over the internet from more qualified money experts than me. I’ll just give you a quick list of my favorite tricks for saving for the next vacation, to hopefully inspire you to realize that anyone can do this if you care enough!
- The cliched saving hacks that get talked about everywhere: Eat meals and have your coffee at home, skip the hairdresser and manicures, cancel cable, etc. Classics because they work. If this is hard, keep a photo of your dream destination in your wallet, right in front of your cash or cards, to remind yourself of the why in times of low self-control.
- Sell something: For the serious traveler, consider selling some furniture, a valuable collection, equipment, or even your car! Tell everyone you’re going minimalist if that helps! Obviously this is only feasible if travel ranks higher on your priority list than these items/hobbies.
- Similarly, put off a purchase you think you “need,” and make do with what you already have: Get as much mileage out of that old washing machine as you can, find a way to modify a tool that isn’t working quite right, or handwash the dishes when the dishwasher kicks the bucket. When you think about it, most big purchases aren’t really a desperate “need.”
- Buy used: when that hypothetical purchase does turn into a real necessity, see if you can find it used somewhere for much cheaper. No one will ever know or care. You can also buy used clothes if you feel up to it. These days people donate clothes that hardly show any wear.
- Find a supplemental income that is reserved for travel savings only, even if it’s small, like taking online surveys or even working a part-time position. You’re already used to not having this extra amount, so it shouldn’t make any difference to your budget to put 100% of this extra into a savings for later. Even if it grows slowly, it’s still something.
- This one might seem pretty dramatic, but you can downsize your living space: This tip is reserved for the traveler who just can’t bear to not travel. Either downsize what you already have, or make the conscious choice NOT to upgrade once you could afford to. This will allow you to live under your means and grow your travel savings quickly.
- Be content with a shorter trip or less spending during the trip: If you are struggling with saving for your dream month-long voyage around the world, consider doing “less.” The experts might tell you that New Zealand absolutely cannot be enjoyed in less than four weeks, but screw them! Go for a week if that’s what you can manage. You won’t see everything, but it’ll still be amazing. Maybe spend the first several nights at a hostel and only the last one at the fancy hotel. You still get the experience, but it’s much more doable. All locations have sights and activities that can be enjoyed for free. Don’t think you’ll have less fun if you have to travel this way. It is still absolutely worth it, and any trip is better than no trip!
I hope these tips inspire anyone who wants to travel but doesn’t think they have enough financial resources. You should always be smart about your money and not blow it irresponsibly, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have any fun. Life is short; if travel is a dream of yours, start working on making it come true right now! You can do it!