One of the most common questions i’m asked is how I’m able to afford long term travel.
In the past year I've lived in one of the most picturesque honeymoon destinations in Queensland, did a month of #vanlife down the coast of Australia, traveled for 4 months around Bali, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines, and somehow managed to not go completely broke.
People tend to think I must either make bank as an instagrammer, or have some epic trust fund from my parents, but i’m here to bust those myths. As it turns out, i’m much more ordinary than people think. The main difference between me and others, is that I try to ONLY spend my money on traveling.
Yeah, I have unavoidable expenses like student loans (gag), insurance costs (double gag), and general life stuff, but when i’m not traveling, i’m not “living the dream” like Instagram portrays. Right now as I write this, i’m living in a shared house on the outskirts of London that i’m renting a room in, eating beans on toast for lunch, and spending as little money as humanly possible. If you truly LOVE to travel, you just learn to make sacrifices.
So, if you’re someone who desperately wants to travel the world long term like i’ve been able to, then buckle up because i’m about to give you my step-by-step budgeting tips I took to save $11,000 to travel on.
SAVing YOUR MONEY
I feel like this should be pretty self-explanatory, but at the same time, i’ve met people who were “budgeting” who were still dropping $150 on a Friday night out at the bar.
You have to make some serious cuts in your lifestyle if you want to build up enough money to travel. Before I quit my full time job in 2016 to travel, I made some big lifestyle cuts. Now, some of these things you might think you can’t bear to live without, but just try it.
Scientifically speaking, it takes 21 days to build (or break) a habit, so if you try really hard to cut back on things you don’t need, you’ll start living frugally and it won’t seem so hard anymore. This is what I did, and still continue to do, to save enough money to travel the world 6+ months of the year:
Cut out the coffee
Ditch your daily $5 latte. If you do the math, that’s almost $1800 a year, AKA enough for 2 months in SE Asia. I would only buy a couple coffees a week, but cutting those out of my weekly routine still saved me tons of extra cash!
Money I saved: $800 per year
Alcohol & Going Out
If you live in a city, chances are, drinks are expensive. I’ve never been big into partying, but my friends tell me they often spend an average of $150 on a single weekend. ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY FREAKING DOLLARS. Now, that’s enough money to cover 3 whole weeks of accommodation at a hostel in Thailand.
Between the cost of buying drinks, taxis/ubers, entrance fees, and whatever else you may recreationally spend money on, that can give you a good chunk of change, so you might want to think about cutting back on the partying or even cutting it out entirely.
Money I saved: roughly $400 per year
Going Out to Eat & Grocery Shopping
This may or may not apply to you, but chances are, everyone can manage to save money when it comes to food. I get it, after a long week, sometimes it’s nice to treat yourself to a nice dinner, but this is one of the easiest ways you can actually save extra money for traveling.
For me, I would go out to eat at a restaurant once every weekend, and spend around $20-30 each time. While that only adds up to an extra $100 a month saved, I actually saved the most through changing up my grocery shopping habits. I became a master grocery shopper, checking the weekly deals from the magazines and buying what was on sale to get the deals. I cut back on all the useless snacks I would buy, and I ended up spending less than $50 each week on groceries.
Money I saved: $1,200 per year
stop buying so many Clothes
I used to go clothes shopping out of boredom. I think in my mind, if I wore a brand new outfit to work, it would somehow make the day a little more bearable and less boring. But buying a new outfit every-other week can seriously halt your savings and you just end up with a closet full of STUFF that makes you cringe when you look at it.
These days I can’t even look at my old work clothes without dying a little bit inside. Stop buying the extra clothes - you can’t fit them in a suitcase or backpack anyways, so just wear what you have and if you do buy a new outfit, buy something practical for traveling that will motivate you to keep saving.
I bought myself a new bikini that I obviously couldn’t wear in freezing Rochester, New York, but every time I saw it hanging there in my closet, it would give me extra motivation to save up enough money so that sone day soon, i’d be able to wear it somewhere tropical. It was a damn good motivational tool!
Money I saved: $600 per year
netflix > Cable
This was one of the best things I learned when I was starting to save. I had THOUSANDS of channels that I didn’t even watch because I preferred Netflix, so literally the only thing I was using the cable for was Monday Bachelorette nights. It’s just not worth it. If you have a smart tv, you can hook it up to your Netflix, or do what I did - cancel your cable, sell your tv, and just watch Netflix on your laptop. Cancelling my cable saved me an extra $100 a month that I wasn’t even using, and I just learned to stream tv shows and movies online to keep up with the Bachelorette. Problem Solved!
Money I saved: $1,200 per year
Sell things that you don’t need
This past year, I sold my car. If you’re heading off to travel the world for who knows how long, you don’t need 99% of the things you currently own. I sold the majority of stuff in my apartment: my couch, my tv, my appliances, and finally, my car. Together, that was an extra $5,500 or so, which is a HUGE amount of money. Whenever (or if) you come back from traveling, you can always buy a cheap car to get you from A to B, but by selling your car, you can also save on insurance and other unnecessary costs.
Money I saved: $5,500 *I only sold my car right before I left, because I still needed to get to work and back!*
Ditch your lease, and rent a cheap room
I went from paying almost $900 a month for my own apartment that I was miserable and lonely in, to paying $500 for a room in a shared apartment around the corner. And another perk: I LOVED my new roommate. I didn’t quit my job yet - instead, I used the 4 months in my new apartment to save up money. Getting out of my old lease saved me $1,600 over those four months, and my roommate kept me sane during the crazy last months at my office job. If I had done that over the course of a full year though, that could have saved me an extra $4,800!
**Pro tip: you can always move back in with the parents for a while. Yeah, you might feel like a child, but think of all the money you’ll save for traveling!
Money I saved: $1,600
If you’ve added all up all those things above, not considering other expenses, it ends up being an extra $11,000+ in my bank account over the course of 1 year, which quite frankly is more than enough for a full year in SE Asia if you travel cheap. Now, for full transparency, this worked for me because I had a $30,000 per year job that I was working at the same time I was saving, but these tips can still help anyone save extra money. I bet you don’t even realize the things you’re mindlessly spending money on each week - I definitely didn’t!
I’ll be writing a blog this week on how to stick to a budget while you’re traveling, so until then, if you have any questions on all things budgeting and traveling, feel free to shoot me a message!
Other Blogs You Might Like: Finding Budget Accommodation
Check out my instagram @backpackwithme for more budgeting tips and tricks.